By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Getting typecast as "that St. Patrick's Day band" could be a terrifying prospect.
But whereas some respond to such designation by playing down certain hackneyed elements of their culture as an attempt to avoid becoming cliché, Los Angeles' Flogging Molly, whose combination of the traditional elements of Celtic music with the energy and brashness of American-style punk has propelled this band for well over a decade now, unapologetically embraces this classification.
"Fourteen years down the road, the typecasting has already been done," says Flogging Molly mandolin and banjo player Bob Schmidt. "I don't think we're afraid of it. It just is what is. People like to look at things compartmentally and narrowly because it's easier to associate them with other things they know. It's there, and we don't want to perpetuate it, but at the same time we're not going to worry about it. We are what we are. People have to learn to love it or hate it on their own accord, and there's not a lot we can do about it."
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No, there's not: When the band kicks off its tour this week at the House of Blues, it will be doing so as part of its seventh annual Green 17 tour, which is basically a month-long celebration of St. Patrick's Day.
"We were just trying to come up with a way that we could bring our St. Patrick's Day show to everybody in the country as we were going around," Schmidt says. "We always had a ton of people going like, 'Why don't you ever spend St. Patrick's Day here?' or 'Why don't you ever come here for St. Patrick's Day?' so we came up with this concept, spreading a tour out so that it encompassed all of the cities that we could bring St. Patrick's Day energy to across the country."
In a nutshell, that's what Schmidt and his bandmates have attempted to pull off for the last seven years. And, while fans who come for the heavy-drinking good time usually find what they are looking for, they more often than not also discover a band with phenomenal chops and a knack for high-energy performances.
"We have music that appeals to a large cross-section of people," Schmidt says. "Everybody has their own experience with the music, and they all kind of share in the unifying aspects of the music, but they all like different things about it. The 20-year-olds like to get drunk and jump around, the 80-year-olds like the musical content and the complexity of the music, the kids like the energy and the excitement of it. I think we just try to write good music. We're just fortunate that we kind of have this spread that crosses over all these age boundaries and genre boundaries."
The reason Flogging Molly appear to pull this boundary-crossing off so audaciously is a testament of their ability to recognize their musical niche and, at the same time, not feel too constrained by it. This idea is evidenced by a handful of tracks on 2008's Flood, as well as in the lead single from their upcoming LP, "Don't Shut 'Em Down," which veer off-course from the hard-line punk that comprised so much of the band's earlier material.
"As you go on as a band, you just become more fearless about what you're doing, and it matters less to you fitting into a genre," Schmidt said. "You spend a lot of the early part of your development really solidifying your sound and sticking to this narrow musical vision because you really need to establish yourself and what your sound is. Then, I think, you spend the second half of your career undoing that because you develop your style and then it is undeniable that the band is doing this song or that song. I think we could do an ABBA cover album and it would probably sound like us, so it just becomes less of an issue as you get older as a band. And, for us, we're just fans of all the different styles of music. Now we're getting excited just doing what we want to do rather than what's expected."