When Flogging Molly arrives in Irving to play the Toyota Music Factory on Aug. 13, fans of the long-running band will be treated to the group’s trademark mix of Celtic-inspired arrangements of punk-infused rock. They’ll also be greeted by an artist more at peace, more centered and just all-around happier, in the form of frontman Dave King.
When the Dublin-born King took time off in late 2016 to work with the band on the 2017 release Life is Good, it coincided with a personal loss for the vocalist that led to an album decidedly more optimistic in nature. The album still carried with it the social commentary that Flogging Molly has traditionally touched on and explored in their songs, but it also delivered its message in softer hands than some previous outings.
“Life is Good is about memories of my mother, who died just before we recorded the album,” King says. “That changed my opinion a lot about life itself. My mother had a very, very hard life. She lost two husbands, and she had a hard life. But you know what? One of the last things she said to me was, ‘Enjoy yourselves.’”
King does admit that the politics and world events that have happened since the June 2017 release do inspire him to create new music in the studio, but Flogging Molly doesn’t write on the road while they tour. With seven band members and six crew traveling on a bus together, personal space takes priority. King does however always record new thoughts and ideas to listen back to and be prepared for the next recording session.
A new album shouldn’t be too far off though, according to King. He says that once the band finishes the current tour, they'll be dedicating some (much-needed) time off to recharge their batteries and explore ideas for songs that all the members of Flogging Molly want to work on.
Before they can turn the audio mixers on, though, they still have one last thing on the calendar to cross off —their annual Salty Dog Cruise that the band headlines Nov. 8-12. This will be the fifth year for the cruise, an extended weekend operating as a sailing concert, with stops in Fort Lauderdale, Key West and CocoCay to give fans a chance to regain their land legs for a moment. The cruise has proved to be a successful enterprise for the band, turning work into a vacation for a few days, even if King was initially not so sure about the idea.
“It was always in the back of our heads that it’d be fun to do,” King says. “I was very skeptical about the whole cruise thing, but after doing it for one year, it was a blast. I mean, people came from all over the planet, from Europe, Australia, everywhere. And people have fun. It’s one of those things you can go away for a few days, be on a boat, there’s free food, and have a blast, and forget about life and its problems for a few days. It’s good to do that. Everybody should have a chance to do that.”
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The lineup for the Salty Dog Cruise this year will see artists like Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls and Pennywise joining them at sea, along with a winding list of other bands set to play shows all around the ocean liner throughout each day. The past lineups are as impressive as they are eclectic, with acts ranging from Rancid to NOFX and DeVotchKa. King says the bands that show up end up loving it as much as the fans, asking when they can come do it again the moment the ship docks at the end. The cruise allows the ticket buyers to get a more intimate experience with the performers, who have no real retreat other than their cabin, and that face-to-face interaction energizes both sides as a result.
“You’ve got your cabin and that’s it,” King says. “And that’s one thing I was kind of a little bit worried about in the beginning, but now it’s like, I put on the captain’s outfit and off I go, and enjoy the festivities.”
The cruise, and the welcoming spirit that accompanies it, speaks to the current incarnation of Flogging Molly, and to King himself. It speaks to a less stressful worldview that states simply that there are problems, and there are bad situations, but every day is a chance to find happiness wherever it may be.
“Enjoy life. What you have, enjoy it and have fun with it,” King says. “I think that’s very important. I think I’ve always been that way a bit. I think, yes, I want to talk about serious issues of life and love and loss and death, but it’s all part of it. I think that’s what Flogging Molly has always been about really, is taking the good and the bad and having a good time with it. Trying the best you can.”