WhenÂ AL BARRÂ took over as frontman ofÂ DROPKICK MURPHYSÂ in 1998, the band had only one full-length to their name and were yet to become the Celtic-punk institution they are today. After a decade of playing special St. Patrick's Day shows in their hometown of Boston, they've now become nearly synonymous with the holiday for many fans. Now you don't even have to wait for March 17 to revel in their Irish spirit--Dropkick Murphys are about to releaseLive On Lansdowne, a CD/DVD documenting seven shows performed in six days during last year's Boston event. In addition to premiering footage from the DVD (see below), we got Barr to talk about how things have changed since their early days, and more importantly, how they've stayed the same.
INTERVIEW:Â Lucy Albers
You're finishing up a tour before your St. Patrick's Day shows in Boston. How has that been?
We've been doing this kind of tour every year for the past few years now. We've done the St. Patrick's Day shows for a while, but we found out a few years ago that touringÂ intoÂ the shows makes it a lot more seamless to get through. It's going fine though. We did 14 shows basically in a row and have a day off on Thursday and then start playing seven shows in six days on Friday.
How many years have you been doing the St. Patrick's Day shows?
This is the 10th year we've been doing it in Boston. It started with one, and there was just such a demand that we added two and then three. Every year, we seem to add one more. For the past four years we've done six to eight shows for St. Patrick's Day. Last year, we did seven in six days and this year, we're doing another seven in six days. It seems to work all right. We seem to just barely get through it. [Laughs.]
How has the audience and energy grown for these shows during the past decade?
It's become such a staple. People come to Boston and do the bars and the parade and everything and then take in a show with us and make a week or a weekend out of it. People come from all over New England and all over the country. We've had people travel in from all over the world--from Europe to Japan to Australia. It's great.
Has there been a year that you've considered not doing it?
Yeah, every year. [Laughs.] Obviously, we do it because it's great. But at the same time, it's like every family member and friend is calling you at that time of year and the guest list is just insanity. The shows are actually probably the mostÂ saneÂ part of the weekend as far as having to do some radio thing or function we've been roped into. There are seven different families and a bunch of family members. It's crazy.
How do you plan the set lists? Do you try to play something different each night?
There are the staples that will be in every Dropkick Murphys set, but we try to mix it up as well. It's another reason why touring [into the shows] works so well: We take a lot of the sound checks on the way in to get ready for the St. Patrick's stuff and, as we call it, dust off some of the songs we haven't played in awhile and make it interesting for some of the repeat ticket buyers. A few years ago, we thought maybe it's the same people coming to the shows and we should change everything. But we kind of did a search and found out that very few of the same people are coming to multiple shows. It's more for our own sanity that we mix things up--when you're doing two shows in one day, it's so close together you feel like [you're in the movie]Â Groundhog Day. I've been on the second show and forgotten which songs we've played and which we haven't.
You're about to release a live CD/DVD compiled from last year's show's. What made the 2009 version something you wanted to capture?
We had done three studio albums since [2002'sÂ Live On St. Patrick's Day], and there had been a lot of changes in the band and we just thought it was kind of time to archive where we were in our career. It was something that we thought would get out right away and then just start working on our next studio album, but it took longer than we thought.
So you're also preparing for a new album?
Well, we're gearing up. We're writing and demoing and getting ready to hopefully record in the fall and get a new studio album out late this year or early next year.
What does the material sound like so far?
Well, it's Dropkick Murphys, you know? We go by the motto, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." What we do is what we do--you're going to get your American folk and your Irish folk and your punk and rock all swirled together.
The band have 14 years' worth of material. Does any of the older material bother you when you play it now?
I think that it's fun to pull out old songs from time to time because it brings up old memories. But going on 14 years, a lot has changed and a lot has been realized. I didn't have kids when I started with this band, and I've got two kids now. My whole world changed when I had kids--how I write songs and how I interpret the world and what inspires me to write. That all changed. I think that's a natural progression of things. I think it's different for everyone. I don't regret anything as much as I'm trying to move forward. Our writing is focused on a lot of daily life, so in that aspect, it hasn't changed. But I think how wefilterÂ that has changed.
There are so many fans that claim they've been with you since the start. Do you think that natural progression has helped them stay with you?
I like to think so. I like toÂ hopeÂ so. I know that I've done a lot of interviews with people who say, "I've been a fan since I was 15 and now I'm 25." I can't even think of a band I've stayed with for 10 years. I mean, there areÂ some, but your average Joe doesn't really stay with them. When you're a kid and growing up, you go through so many changes and so many different styles that you listen to. I like to think that the band's growth has sustained our longevity.
Are there any songs in particular that you like to play live?
There are certain staples in the set. We usually end the set by inviting people onstage. The whole thing with us is that it's really about incorporating audience participation--that's where we shine. So that's what it means to go to a Dropkick Murphys show. I think that's what it's all about. It's not a particular song but the overall spirit of the show.
What has changed about the band during the years?
Aside from the audience growing, we went from [being] a purist punk act to having a punk crowd and incorporating all walks of life and all ages. I always said when the band first started it seemed like a boys' club, and now I think we have just as many women as men at our shows. So I think we've found our craft, and it's more of the punk and the folk. You're getting both of those styles in one instead of the separation of the two. You're kind of getting both of those styles served up with the newer stuff so it's not what the band have always been known for, but it's a natural progression.
After this tour, you have U.K. dates planned. How are shows over there?
They're a lot of fun. Europe is really good to us. Germany is really in love with the bagpipes thing and Ireland is really great, but the U.S. is definitely our biggest market in terms of touring and everything. It's harder in England just because I think you can't really play Irish-influenced punk rock there. There are a lot of fans who get it and there are a lot of people that don't and don'tÂ wantto. In Ireland, we have a good fanbase, but there's the fact that we do draw on traditional Irish groups and all of the generations. The youth in America might not even hear [those influences], but you put Dropkick Murphys in Ireland, where they've heard those songs while growing up, and they abhor it. So Dropkick Murphys, in some cases, are just too much of a stretch outside the punk world and they're just not having it. It's too, I don't know,Â cheesyÂ for them.
Then Warped Tour this summer?
Yeah, we haven't done Warped Tour since 2005, so we're looking forward to that. I was a fan of the Warped Tour more in the early days when it had a little more of the punk-rock thing going on. Over the years, the geography of music has changed and the audience is changing. The people at Warped have to be more conscious of that and can't just put the bands that they would like to see on. They have to get asses in the seats. At the end of the day, it's a business. I understand that. So I'm psyched to do it. It's been awhile. In the early days, it was a great way for bands to get cross-listeners. People would come for someone else and watch us and maybe pick up our CD or something. That's a great thing about playing any kind of festival.
Fans at Warped are obviously younger. Do you get a lot of young fans at your own shows?
Yeah, definitely. We had a kid in a kilt onstage yesterday sitting on an amp during "Kiss Me, I'm Shitfaced" who must have been 7 years old. [Laughs.] We see all ages. It's a great thing. It leaves me hoping for the future.Â altÂ
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