Take a healthy dose of punk, more than a little rock-and-roll and a heaping cup of traditional Irish music. Now crank up the bass, mix and repeat. The end result — the soulful lyrics, fast rhythms and driving melodies of Celtic-punk band Flogging Molly — is sure to send listeners to Ireland and back by the end of the song.
The band will perform at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel Feb. 22 as part of its seventh "Green 17 Tour," the band's annual countdown to St. Patrick's Day. This year's performance will include a preview of the band's newest album, "Speed of Darkness," to be released May 24.
Flogging Molly has been together for over a decade, combining their Irish roots with punk rock sounds to create a kick-up-your-heels-and-do-a-jig — while moshing at the same time — sound.
According to accordionist Matt Hensley, the new album will "definitely sound like Flogging Molly, but it's definitely different also." It recalls more punk rock and rock-and-roll influences, Hensley said. That does not mean the beats are faster but that the arrangement of the instruments lends itself to this sound.
"We are continually trying to change ourselves," Hensley said. The sound of the new album calls to mind good music from 20 or 30 years ago, but that is new for Flogging Molly, he said. "It has an old, sentimental vibe that I like, but I'm so close to it," he explained.
According to a Jan. 19 article in Alternative Press, the fans can expect to hear some blues and influences from the 1960s on the new album as well.
The band began working on "Speed of Darkness" in Detroit, hometown of the band's fiddler Brigdet Regan. "We spent three months there," Hensley said. "Some of the songs definitely have a Motown vibe."
"Lyrically, we are all affected by the world around us," Hensley said. The new album "talks about where we are at in the world and what we want to see happening."
"Don't Shut 'Em Down," the first single released off "Speed of Darkness," definitely has a different feel to it. Punk and rock influences are prevalent, but the song begs the question: Has the band lost some of its signature sound?
The change in sound after "Float" — the band's previous album, which reached the number one spot on the Billboard executive chart — is surprising but not altogether unwelcome. It highlights the band's versatility and growth, though diehard fans may be skeptical upon first listening.
Regardless of the musical arrangements, the lyrics of "Don't Shut 'Em Down" are powerful and carry with them an important message for today. They sing, "Lately, the 21st century's been crazy / It's a sign of the times / Buildings decomposing in slumber / There's no work for all till they wake."
One of the best qualities of Flogging Molly's music is the group's storytelling ability — their lyrics do not purely aspire to be catchy but also to weave together a message that is relatable and true for its listeners. The group succeeds here again.
Though the band wrote the music in the heart of Motown, "Speed of Darkness" was recorded in a converted church in North Carolina. And though the chuch was not a traditional studio, the atmosphere did have its perks — including beautiful stained glass windows and exceptional acoustics, Hensley said.
The band also chose to record one of the songs on the album together as a group, Hensley said. "When you record together, you can't help but hear or feel ambient sounds," he said. "We are a better live band than a recorded band," he added, explaining that recording together lends that live sound to the album as well.
Flogging Molly welcomed back producer Ryan Hewitt, who worked with the band on "Float." "He's really excellent at hearing stuff with his ear," Hensley said. "He'd come in and rearrange things, manipulate it — and when he was done, it was just so much better." Hewitt also joined the band during their writing process in Detroit. "We're all so close to it that it's good to have outside ears that say, ‘Try this,'" Hensley added.
"Everybody's my brother and sister," he said. The band has its good days, bad days and its struggles — "like a retarded, boozy family," he added.
A boozy family perhaps — but it is one known for its energetic live performances, meaningful lyrics and unique sound. Though that sound has undergone some changes recently, "Speed of Darkness" captures that Flogging Molly spirit.
"We are Flogging Molly at the end of the day," Hensley said, "so we're going to sound like Flogging Molly."