Returning with their eighth studio album, 'Signed And Sealed In Blood', Boston Celtic punk titans DROPKICK MURPHYS have recently trodden the boards on a rowdy UK and Ireland tour and seem tighter with each other and their fans than ever. Ian Chaddock and Emily Haider join their party...
“IT has a double meaning,” Dropkick Murphys co-vocalist, bassist and founding member Ken Casey says of the band's new record, 'Signed And Sealed In Blood'. “It reflects the passion and commitment and importance of the band to us. And also it shows shows the same commitment our loyal supporters give to us, as most evident in the fact that so many of them do us the honour of tattooing our logo on their bodies.”
Dedication is certainly something that Dropkicks fans have plenty of, shown by their rabid response to their recent live shows – the Dropkicks playing in Dublin is one hell of a show – but, as Casey explains, many of them are such die hards that they get permanent odes to their favourite band. With their new record they released the first single, 'Rose Tattoo', and posted the artwork for the album, asking fans to get a tattoo of the logo to appear in their video and album inlay. Unsurprisingly the response was massive. “When we released the cover artwork for the album, within three weeks we received close to one hundred pictures from dedicated fans who had tattooed the album logo (a red rose in the middle of a crest) on themselves. The dedication blows our minds and makes us proud to have such amazing fans. I have my favourite band tattooed on my arm and I know what that means to me, so I think it makes me appreciate it all that much more,” stresses Casey. “Coincidentally at least half the band has some sort of a rose tattoo, but nothing that is exact to the logo.” The new album was a good time for the Dropkicks, completed by Al Barr (vocals), James Lynch (guitar), Tim Brennan (guitar, mandolin, accordion), Matt Kelly (drums), Josh 'Scruffy' Wallace (bagpipes, tin whistle) and Jeff DaRosa (acoustic guitar, banjo, bouzouki, keyboard, accordion, mandolin, whistle, organ). Casey explains that it was partly due to the freedom of being free from a concept.
“We had lots of fun making it. It was a reaction to the last album ['Going Out In Style', 2011], which was complicated in nature, in that we were trying to follow a story line throughout the writing process. On this album, we had the freedom to write catchy, fun songs.”
So is it fair to say that this album was a party in the studio then? “Every day is a party with the Dropkick Murphys!”, laughs Casey. That partying and unrestrained approach is crystallised into personal and varied songs, drawing on their heritage. “We tend to write from real experiences and emotions as opposed to abstract ideas and references. I think the influence of Irish music has had a strong impact on our writing style where it’s very much based around storytelling and mainly experiences of our lives or family members' lives.”
Cutting loose and kicking out the jams has also resulted in Casey's favourite track on the record. “My personal favourite at the moment is 'End Of The Night'. Just because it's a fun anthem... it's not gonna change the world but maybe it'll stop 'Closing Time' from being played as much,” he chuckles. Elsewhere on 'Signed And Sealed In Blood', 'Prisoner's Song' is a sea shanty-esque folk song with a surprising special guest in the form of English folk rockers Mumford & Sons' Winston Marshall. Is Casey a fan and how did this unexpected pairing of Boston punks and English indie folks come about?
“Yes, I'm a fan. I have respect for anyone who can bring real music and folk instruments, such as they do, to the mainstream. We met last summer on the European festival circuit. Winston and our Jeff hit it off. We share some of the same musical sensibilities, although we come from two opposite angles. They invited us to play their festival, and we had a great time! We recorded Winston's banjo while we were up there.” But any fears that the Dropkicks, who have been blasting out their punk since the mid-'90s, are softening should be instantly dismissed. “I think from the beginning of the band's career, we've always had some songs that were harder than others and some that are on the soft side. However, I think we never tend to write a song that is soft musically and lyrically. If it is a mellow song, the lyrics usually have some type of bite to them. We do not plan on mellowing with age.” He concludes, “We write songs from many different angles, sometimes it might be complete lyrics in a vocal melody other times it may be a banjo or a guitar riff that sparks an idea. It's a fairly democratic process where most of the people in the band take part in writing songs to some degree.” Raise your glasses and sing along, the Boston boys are back and they'll be playing loud until the end of the night.
'Signed And Sealed In Blood' is out now on Born And Bred