Flogging Molly Interview

30th May 2008
Live photography by Zac

Flogging Molly have long been one of our favourite bands at Crossfire, and if you’ve ever witnessed any of the Irish-American septet’s raucous live shows, you’ll probably understand why.

The band are set to return this month with another folk-punk stormer in the shape of new album ‘Float‘ released on June 2nd. Alex Gosman recently caught up with the band’s accordion/concertina/piano player and pro skater, Matt Hensley for a chat.

Hi Matt! How are you doing, and what are you doing right now?

We’re good, thanks! We’ve just finished a five-week tour of the US and the east coast of Canada. It was great – almost every show was sold out, so it was a great response. No complaints here!

Could you give me a brief summary of what Flogging Molly have been doing since you last played the UK (at the Reading/Leeds festivals in 2006)?

Up until we went to Ireland to start on the new record, we were mainly just touring a lot. It’s a short answer, I know, but all that touring was hard work! Then we spent about three weeks in Ireland, recording ‘Float’.

You briefly left the band at the end of last year – what’s the story there?

Well, Flogging Molly have been almost constantly touring for ten years now, and that lifestyle was starting to take its toll on me. I have a ten year old son, too, and it was hard for me to be away from him for so long. Our last tour before I left was very long and intense, and I just kind of let the negativity of the situation get to me – so by the time the tour was over, I was mentally exhausted, and decided that I just couldn’t do this anymore. So I left the band, because I really just needed to spend more time with my family.

So what made you decide to rejoin the band?

After I’d left, I figured I had to find something else to do, so I opened my own pub near where I live in California…and about five months into it, I realised that I missed the band like crazy – I guess I didn’t realise what I had there until I lost it! And my son was like “I never asked you to leave, you know!” – I mean, sure, we miss each other, but he said he’d never wanted me to leave the band. So I talked to my family about rejoining the band, and then discussed it with the band. They were more than happy to have me back, and I was extremely happy to be back – and every since that day, my life has made a hell of a lot more sense!

So how does the new record sound, in comparison to Flogging Molly’s previous albums?

Well, it is a Flogging Molly record, so there are elements of our previous records that you’ll hear in the new one! But we recorded it in Ireland, which was beautiful, and made sense on many different levels – not least that Dave (King, FM singer/songwriter) was born and raised in Dublin. The recording itself was a great experience; we used this rural, remote studio – I think even the nearest supermarket was 20 minutes’ drive away – and there were no distractions at all.

Previously, we’ve recorded in LA and Chicago, and that was great too, but when you have friends in places where you don’t get to stay for very long, you always want to get together with them whenever you’re not working – or, in our case, recording an album. But the studio in Ireland was all self-contained, with a canteen and everything, so there were no distractions – all we did was plan and record the album, and we were able to really give it everything we had. It was a really purifying experience to be able to work that way, and I really think it shows through on the album!

Why did you decide to call the record ‘Float’? Any story there?

Because ‘Sink’ sounds like shit, haha! Seriously though…if you listen to the lyrics of the title track (“Don’t, no don’t sink the boat, that you built, you built to keep afloat”), it’s all about keeping it together and not losing faith in yourself. We just feel that the word ‘Float’ can have very positive connotations, and when Dave uses it in his songs, he effectively uses it as a metaphor for life – keeping your mind and body afloat, and not letting the world get you down, or ‘sink’ you. And for me, that’s a very uplifting idea, and it’s central to the spirit of the whole record.

When we last spoke to you in late 2004, you said you’d just started learning the concertina – how’s that coming along?

Great – I’ve been playing solidly ever since! I mainly play the piano/accordion with the band, but for most other stuff, like session work, the concertina is my main instrument. I played it last night at my pub!

Flogging Molly celebrated their 10th anniversary last year – you must be stoked…

It feels really good! Especially when I’ve had people telling me that we’ve lasted longer than bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash did. I’d never thought of it like that before, but to outlast great bands like them, it feels pretty damn good!

Does being in a touring band hinder your skating activities at all (i.e. because of the risk of getting injured)?

Oh, believe me, that shit’s already happened, and the band gets pissed off at me! So I just practise with a cast on – I’ve played accordion several times whilst wearing a cast. But the truth is, I’ve learned not to fall on my right hand when I’m skating, because it’s the most important part of my body these days! So if I fall, I might break my leg or one of my ribs, but probably not my hands.

But, that said, we have such a hectic tour schedule these days, that I don’t really have time to skate whilst we’re on the road. Often, we’ll play a show, and then have to leave straight away for the next show, if it’s going to be a long drive. And then we might also have press commitments or a signing session to do before a show, something like that. So if I do have an hour or two to spare, I won’t usually skate – I’ll probably do some laundry or brush my teeth, or various other things that normal people do on a regular basis!

What are your plans for the near future?

We’re just going to tour like crazy for the foreseeable future! ‘Float’ has just entered the US charts at No. 4, and we’re the only band up there on an independent label, which is pretty cool. Next Thursday we fly to Japan for a couple of shows, then we’ll go to Australia for about a week, then we have a week off before playing the Coachella Festival. And after that, we’ll be off to Europe – we’re going to be visiting Europe about 3 or 4 times, and we’re hoping to play as many UK festivals as possible!

‘Float’ is out now on Side One Dummy, and the band will play the following UK shows in late May/early June:

31st May – London Astoria
1st June – Glasgow ABC
3rd June – Manchester University
4th June – Birmingham Academy

Check for more info.