Celtic-punk act Flogging Molly hitting San Antonio to support new, back-to-basics album

The band will perform at the Aztec Theatre Sept. 10 with The Bronx and Valdoliers opening.

click to enlarge Flogging Molly is back on tour supporting the new album Anthem. - Katie Hovland
Katie Hovland
Flogging Molly is back on tour supporting the new album Anthem.

This year marks Celtic-punk heavyweights Flogging Molly's 25th year as a band. At least that was when singer-guitarist Dave King and fiddle player Bridget Regan — also King's future wife — began putting the pieces together.

Having survived the pandemic, the veteran rockers are back on tour supporting their new album Anthem. They'll perform at San Antonio's Aztec Theatre Sunday, Sept. 10 with The Bronx and Valdoliers opening.

The road has always been a second home to the seven members of Flogging Molly. Indeed, the group steadily built its large following and stable career the old-fashioned way — by touring and word-of-mouth raves about its raucous and entertaining live shows.

"I remember when we first started — I won't mention the radio station — but they did a battle of the bands, and they'd play four songs by four bands. Whoever had the most requests at the end of the week would be immediately put on their playlist," King recalled in a recent phone interview. "And we won hands down, and they refused to play the song on the radio. Their excuse was, 'Well, it's only your fans that are calling in.' From then on, we knew we were never going to get any favors. There was nobody going to be going, 'We'll put you on the radio for this and that.' That was never going to happen with Flogging Molly. Everything Flogging Molly had to do with the help of our fans. We were going to have to do it ourselves."

He added: "I feel very proud, to be honest. I think we all do. I think we're very proud that we have done it the old way."

The talk of the early days is appropriate, not only because Flogging Molly reached a milestone this year, but because Anthem marks a return to the group's roots in tangible ways. For one, it marks a reunion with producer Steve Albini, who recorded the first two Flogging Molly albums, Swagger (2000) and Drunken Lullabies (2002).

During the four studio albums that followed, King and the rest of Flogging Molly embraced a wider variety of tempos, instrumental settings and musical styles while retaining their foundation in punk and traditional Irish music.

But having been forced off the road and into isolation by the pandemic, King, Regan and the other band members — Dennis Casey (guitar), Matt Hensley (accordion, concertina), Nathen Maxwell (bass), Spencer Swain (mandolin, banjo, guitar) and Mike Alonso (drums) — wanted to go back to how Flogging Molly started. That meant recording together live with no attempts to dress up the sound with studio finesse.

They wanted no outside input filtering into the project from a producer, record label or any other source. And that meant Albini, who's famous for simply recording bands live with minimal overdubs, was the man for the job. 

"We wanted to go back to our first couple of albums we did with Steve," King said. "The band is always in control when you're working with Albini. It's not like you're bringing in somebody [to produce] and they put in their little two cents, which is great sometimes. But we felt that we didn't want that this time. We felt we wanted to put all of our energy into the album and not be — I don't want to say hindered — but we have seven opinions in this band [already]. And for right now, those seven opinions were what we wanted for this album."

By the time Flogging Molly arrived at Albini's Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago, the band had composed and arranged nearly all the songs for Anthem. The sole exception was the closer, "The Parting Wave," which was written and arranged during the session.

In the end, it took just 14 days for Flogging Molly to record the 14 songs on Anthem. Mission accomplished.

"As a band, we're really, really happy with it," King said. "Working with Steve has always been a great experience, and then we got Atom Greenspan to mix it. He did an absolutely phenomenal job, absolutely above and beyond, a brilliant job."

Chances are Flogging Molly fans will agree with that assessment. Plenty of Anthem's songs — "A Song of Liberty," "This Road of Mine" and "(Try) Keep The Man Down," to name three — continue the band's tradition of crafting rowdy Irish-accented punk songs with strong melodies and solid playing. Those tunes are balanced out by ballads including "No Last Goodbyes" and "The Parting Wave," which share the Irish feel although with a sturdier grounding in folk.

Flogging Molly won't be shy about showcasing songs from Anthem during the current tour.

"We're going to be doing new material from the new album because we feel very strongly about it, and I think [other] people will as well," King said. 

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