By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
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Other than the city of Boston, the 2004 Red Sox curse-breaking World Series win and Martin Scorsese's 2006 Oscar-drought-breaking film The Departed had something else in common: Both prominently featured songs from Beantown Celtic rockers the Dropkick Murphys. The band's anthemic rewrite of the 1902 showtune "Tessie" fueled enthusiasm for the Sox, and later, its raucous "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" brilliantly scored the jail scene in The Departed, perfectly setting the tone for the movie about rough-and-tumble Irish-American toughs.
Could you call it luck of the Irish? Not exactly, as the Dropkick Murphys have had their share of tumult—particularly with personnel changes, from the departure of original lead singer Mike McColgan in 1998 to the replacement of lead guitarist Marc Orrell in January.
Besides, not all the Dropkicks are even of Irish descent.
Along with other topics, singer Al Barr opened up about the recent acquisition of longtime band friend, multi-instrumentalist Jeff DaRosa, and Tim Brennan's transition from mandolin, whistles and banjo to lead guitar.
How is it working out with Jeff so far?
We just did a three-week tour in the U.K. with Jeff, and he did a great job. We never really missed a beat. That's really the intention with the lineup change. We go on as the Dropkick Murphys, you know what I mean?
Did it have any unintended positive effects, like maybe making you re-examine how you play some songs?
We wanted to keep things status quo in terms of our sound. That's what's good about Jeff, is he doesn't come in and make any waves. He did what he needed to do to keep things going. He's doing a brilliant job.
Do you do a pretty similar set list on tour as you're gearing up for your St. Patrick's Day shows in Boston, or is there a totally different show for your hometown?
We try to keep it interesting. When you're playing multiple dates and multiple nights, we do a main body of similar music, but we try to incorporate different songs, both when we're touring and when we're doing multiple nights in places. It keeps it fresh for us and also for the people that come every night.
I heard you were lobbying for Championship rings. Have you heard anything about them from the Red Sox?
That's actually not true. We never said we wanted rings; we never expected rings. What it comes down to is, before Game 7 [of the 2004 World Series], we were asked to come play Fenway. We were told that we were overlooked for rings, and that if lightning strikes, we would get rings. I mean, we wouldn't have turned them down, but we were like, "We'll believe it when we see it." But none of us expected rings or thought we deserved rings. We're not on the team.
The song in The Departed was a brilliant use of music in a movie, which Scorsese is so excellent at. But I wonder if you worry that it pigeonholes you as a Southie-type band when that's not really where you're from, or what you're about.
That's one of the negative side effects of getting recognition in such a mainstream way. There's going to be people that don't get what the band is about. But overall, it's a positive thing, so we'll take the negatives. There's always been an element of people, even before The Departed, that think we hang out with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and frickin' his gang in Southie. There's this romanticism that's always followed the band, that we're from Southie and bathe in Guinness and blah blah blah. You just kind of educate people where you can and deal with it.