Dropkick Murphys

author PP date 23/05/21

It's a Tuesday afternoon in Copenhagen, Denmark and I'm about to sit down with Tim Brennan from Dropkick Murphys to talk about their latest record and what else is new in the Celtic folk-punk legends' camp. Where these interviews used to be done via the phone in the past, we've agreed to do a Zoom interview to get the video on, which is a nice touch being able to see who you're talking to in person as well. In this case, Tim has fixed his phone next to his steering wheel, so he's able to take the full interview while driving to wherever he was going that morning, presumably somewhere in the Boston area. We go through a swathe of topics ranging from Covid-19 financials to specific songs on their brand new record, "Turn Up That Dial", and finish off with a little something for the Danish fans. Read on to find out more!

RF.net: Hi! Thanks for doing this interview. Could you start by introducing yourself to the readers?
Tim: My name is Tim Brennan, and I play guitar and accordion for the Dropkick Murphys.

RF.net: How's it going right now in the Dropkick Murphys camp?
Tim: Oh, it's going fine, you know. Not too much going on. We just got the record out, which is very exciting. We're starting to look towards the end of the summer for maybe a time that we could start going out again. Obviously, that's up in the air, we're not gonna do it until we can be assured that everyone will be safe - us and the fans. But hopefully, we can start getting going again fairly soon. And until then, we'll get together and practice so that we're ready to go when we can go, and that's about it.

It was a long lead-up to the record coming out. It felt incredibly long because we started working on the record in December of 2019, and then with all the Covid stuff there were massive delays in getting it finished, and everything like that, so to have the record out at this point feels wonderful. And we're all so excited about it. So currently not too much going on, but we're hoping that the engines are starting to fire up, you know what I mean?

RF.net: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, the whole Covid thing has had a lot of impact on all the bands, but especially professional bands such as yourself, who are doing this full time and for a living, it's been quite a long time since you've played shows last time. What kind of impact does this kind of crisis have on a band like yours from a financial perspective, being able to make a living, and so on?
Tim: Yeah, financially speaking we are so lucky in that all we do is tour, really. We've been doing it for a long time, so we were okay. It's obviously not great when your entire business model is built on traveling around the country and playing shows and you can't do that, you know? But luckily, we were alright.

As far as the playing and mentality and everything. Like I said, this is a band that's been on the road for 25 years. We know how lucky we are and we don't take things for granted, the fact that we get to play music for people for a living. But having to take this step away from it, it gave everybody a new appreciation for what we do. We've never been a band to be shitty about the position we're in. We're so grateful and so lucky. But it has been a lot of time away from home during the band's history, and so while it was nice to take a step back and to be with our families. We had a summer vacation for the first time ever, that was great. But all that having been said, I think it really solidified the fact that this is the greatest thing that we could possibly do for a living. The fact that this is what we get to do for our "jobs" is just ridiculously fortunate (laughs)

RF.net: You are renowned for the St. Patrick's Day show that you do every year, and now you had the album release here on Friday. Both of these events were streamed online as a live performance. How was that from your perspective? That's gotta be a totally different experience to performing in front of a roaring crowd.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. It's certainly a different experience. We'll be in Europe a lot of the time, and as you live in Europe you know, they have a lot of great music TV shows, where you'll see a band on a sound stage type of thing. Sometimes there's a small audience, sometimes there's not. We've done things like that before, so I just try to convince myself that that's kind of what we were doing, you know what I mean? That's how I kept myself from getting bummed out about the fact that there weren't fans there. Because we had done that sort of thing before, and so I recalibrated my brain and said alright, this is the type of thing we're doing.

So that first one was sort of strange because we'd just gotten off a tour where we're used to be in front of people. So that first one was a little weird like that, I guess. The second one, which was Fenway Park, it was impossible to notice anything other than the fact that we were playing on a field in Fenway Park. So the fact that there were no fans there didn't really affect us because we were so blown away just by the surroundings.

And then this past St Patrick's Day show, it was set up in a very nice way. We were all sort of facing each other, it was kind of like a practice, and again, kind of like we were doing one of those Europe TV show things. And of course, then we did the album stream in the same sort of format. So I just had to trick myself into thinking that it wasn't unusual what we were doing, you know what I mean? And then, on the other hand, I was just so excited to play and to do anything. It's gotten to the point where I'll play my guitar in an empty parking lot, you know what I mean (laughs). It's been so long since I've gotten to really do it that I'll play in front of fans, no fans, whatever at this point. Obviously, I can't wait 'til the day when the fans are back. But until then, as long as I get to play, I'll make do with fans or no fans. You know what I mean.

RF.net: So let's talk about your new album "Turn Up That Dial". It just came out, I've had the pleasure of listening to it for quite some time. It's really good. To me, it sounds a little rowdier and more punk-fueled than the previous two. I'm getting more the vibes of "The Meanest Of Times" or "Going Out In Style" on this one. What changed in between the records for you guys?
Tim: Thank you. Well, I can tell you that this one specifically we knew that we had to make it a very raucous kind of exciting record for people to cut loose once all of this was over. Everyone's been going through this thing and I suppose there are two ways you can go as a band writing an album in the midst of a pandemic.

One, you could write an album that reflects just how bummed everybody was. But really, who needs that? Because everyone's bummed, they don't need someone else to tell them that they're bummed as well.

Then the other way we could go was to make the most exciting celebration album that we possibly could. So luckily we went with the latter. The idea being that this record came out at the end of April, we're nearing the finish line with all this stuff, there's light at the end of the tunnel. This album is gonna be there for people to absolutely cut loose when all of this is over. So you're definitely right, we definitely leaned in the more aggressive, lighthearted, uplifting songs than we have in the past.

RF.net: Do you have a personal favorite track on the record, and why?
Tim: Yeah, it switches all the time, obviously. At the moment my favorite is the first one, the title track, "Turn Up That Dial". It's a fairly standard banjo and accordion Dropkicks song, but we found a really cool way to augment the chord progression so it's different than something that we've done before. It's a pretty heavy progression that goes underneath that banjo and accordion stuff. When I got to hear that one all finished - because you know the way that we recorded this time, normally we are all in the studio together, this time it was kind of like one of a time because of Covid-19 - so when I got to hear all of that song put together, I was so excited, and blown away by it. And the fact that it's the opening track on the album is exciting because it's such a great and exciting song, so to start and fire up the record with that one, it's gotta be my favorite.

But as I've said, day to day it kind of switches. Some days I'm more into Smash Shit Up, or I love Queen Of Suffolk County. This record, when it was all done and mixed, and I listened through from song one to song 11, I thought to myself, as a Dropkick Murphys fan, as a guy that was a fan before I joined the band 18 years ago, there wasn't one song that I wanted to skip. I was super thrilled about it.

RF.net: So let's talk about this "Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding" song. So what's the story behind The Clash dude stealing your cake?
Tim: Sure, yeah. So when we first met our producer Ted Hutt, he's an Englishman from the London area originally, he was working at a studio and long story short, the studio had a common kitchen area. Ted had brought himself a nice little dessert that day and put it in the refrigerator. Because it was kind of a common area, Mick Jones happened to be in one of the other studios, and he just made his way to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and saw this pudding sitting there, and took it, and started to eat it. And Ted walked into the kitchen and saw Mick Jones from The Clash eating his pudding, and apparently said: put that back, that's my fucking dessert! And we heard that story and fucking died laughing at it. And we knew that someday we would come up with something about it. It just took a little time but luckily we found the right music and everything for it to be perfect, and we were able to tell that story.

RF.net: What about "The Queen of Suffolk County" - who's that about, or is it about anyone specific?
Tim: It's an amalgam of a couple of different women that Ken knew when he was a young buck hanging around the bar scene in Boston. I don't know if it's about one specific person, I think it's a combination of a few people.

RF.net: And then you have this 'happy birthday song' on the record. It's a bit similar to for example NOFX who have done a bunch of these before. So is this your version of "Happy Birthday, You're Not Special"?
Tim: Yeah well, it started because we got a guy in the band where we'll be like "hey everybody around for practice for Friday?" and we got a guy who'll be like "well my birthday is on Tuesday!", so we're like well yeah? And he's like, cool it's my birthday week. And we're like "what do you mean your birthday week? You don't get a whole birthday week - you get the day that's it!" That's what inspired Ken to write that song.

RF.net: It certainly sounds like you guys have had a lot of fun writing these songs.

Tim And funny story actually. The music for that song I came up for within a dream. Which was weird. That doesn't happen to me a lot, but I had that music playing in a dream that I had, and I woke up and it was like 3 in the morning, I got out of bed because I didn't want to wake up my girlfriend, I took out my phone and I sang the music into my phone, and then the next morning I had to listen back to it and try to make sense of it. But yeah, that music came from a dream, funnily enough!

RF.net: I've noticed that on the last couple of albums you haven't really included that many traditional songs rearranged into Dropkick Murphys sound even though they were hugely popular amongst the fans. What are the reasons behind this and do you have any traditional songs you've been working on that didn't make it on the records, or that might come out on future records?
Tim: That's a good question. No, I don't think we had any traditional songs on this record. The last one we did, "I Had A Hat", which is a traditional song, but I think this one is the first one that doesn't have a traditional song on it. I don't know if there's a reason behind it, it's just one of those things, it didn't really enter the conversation this time around. Not for any reason, I don't think. We had all these songs, and we have a couple of songs that we left off the record, so we had more than enough material, you know? So I guess we weren't looking for that sort of a... not that it would be spot filler, but like I said, we didn't really need anything extra. So we just didn't do it. The past couple of years there have been a couple of traditional songs that we've been working on, and they just haven't made an appearance yet. But we've always got in our back pockets some traditional stuff that we're toying around with.

RF.net: We see a lot of bands these days do album shows celebrating the 10,15 or 20 year anniversaries of albums. I know that you played in the release show the whole new album from front to back, but do you see you guys doing album shows at some point. I'm thinking like "The Warrior's Code", "Sing Loud, Sing Proud" or something like that?
Tim: There have been times where we've done for St Patrick's Day, where we've done whole albums, entire records. I love doing that stuff because we have so many songs. There are so many that don't necessarily get played a lot. So when we've done "Gang's All Here" front to back, or "Sing Loud, Sing Proud", there's a handful of songs that we don't get to play. Again, up until "Blackout", and I was still a fan at "Blackout", but I had joined the band at that point, I was just a big fan of the band. So getting to play things all the way through like "Do Or Die", "Sing Loud, Sing Proud", "Gang's All Here", that throws me back to when I was in college, listening to the Dropkicks. I love doing stuff like that.

And for the ones I was on, I love doing it because we get to play songs that we never ever get to play.

RF.net: So it would obviously be really cool to see that on a European tour, because obviously we don't have the same opportunity to go to the St. Patrick's Day shows as such. But that's maybe us as fans stating that.

RF.net: You categorize yourself as a Celtic punk band, so that's everything with mandolin, bagpipes, accordion and whistles, and so forth. Some might even call it a 'gimmicky' style, or definitely a special style, right? So it does lock your band into this, which is also what fans expect. Do you ever get sick of the traditional stuff, where you'd like to try something completely different, but where the boundaries are preventing you from doing so because of the format you are in?
Tim: Sure. There are definitely some things like that which we can't do as Dropkick Murphys. Musical styles and so forth. That being said, we've done a fairly good job of having a pretty wide range of song types. Luckily we love the traditional stuff. Personally, when we play the traditional stuff, I'll play a lot of accordion. There was certainly a time where I... it's not that I disliked it, but I hadn't learned anything new to do on the accordion in a while, and so when we'd play the Irishy songs, I'd find myself doing the same sort of thing. And something felt like it wasn't as exciting as it could be.

Years and years ago, we got to go on a tour with The Pogues for their Christmas tour in the UK, and I was lucky enough to become friends with James, the accordion player, which is the reason why I played accordion in the first place. Over the past few years, James has been instrumental in teaching me a couple of tricks that he's picked up along the way. Things that I hear him do on old Pogues records and stuff, where I'd send him a video of my hands playing accordion, and be like "is this sort of what you're doing?" and he'd send me a video back with his hands playing the accordion showing how it goes. So over the past couple of years, he taught me some things that were so great, so it's opened up a whole new door as far as the Irishy stuff, for me personally. So on this record, when we just played through the album, there were three songs that I played guitar on, and the rest was all accordion. And a lot of that was basically because I was coming up with a lot of Irishy songs based on the fact that I learned this new stuff from James from The Pogues. It just sort of blew these doors open for me in that aspect.

So the folkier songs on this record are much more exciting to play because there's a lot more technical stuff going on. But you know, if we were to ever get tired of doing the Irishy stuff? Like I said, luckily we have a pretty large swathe of types of music that we play, so we could always do a record that's a little heavier on the punk stuff or the rock stuff if we wanted to. So luckily we have a pretty wide berth as far as what kind of songs we can do.

RF.net: So you've been in Denmark quite a few times over the years. You actually have a show coming up next year. Do any of the previous shows here stand out in any way, and if so, why?
Tim: That's a good question. We've had a couple of really good sets at Copenhell. And at Vega, we've played some amazing shows. We've had some nights at Vega where it's been classic hot, sweaty, packed to the gills, just amazing shows. And that club is on the smaller side. I remember when we were there with Against Me!, I think that must have been in 2009, that was a particularly amazing show, I remember. But Denmark is one of those countries where we always know it's gonna be good, so we never have to worry about the Denmark fans not giving us everything they've got.

RF.net: What should the fans be expecting from the show next January?
Tim: The fans should be expecting just all-out party zone. So luckily the last place we got to play before the world shut down was in Europe, in the UK. We were left with that amazing taste in our mouths with those fans that just go above and beyond in every show. All I can say is that when we get back to Europe, it's gonna be so exciting for us. I think they'll be some of the loudest, sweatiest, craziest shows we've ever played when we come back there in January. I can't wait!

RF.net: Thanks for the interview! Any last words for the fans?
Tim: We have the absolutely greatest fans in the world, thank you for sticking by us this whole past year, waiting for the new record, being excited about the new stuff. We cannot wait to see you guys again, we can't wait!

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