In a relatively quiet neighborhood of Los Angeles known mostly for the corner where Biggie Smalls was shot, a bunch of museums, and a stretch of about 4 blocks known as Little Ethiopia, sits a small Irish pub and music space named Molly Malones. A little over ten years ago a group of musicians played their first shows of rowdy, celtic roots inspired punk rock to small crowds which would eventually lead to naming themselves Flogging Molly. Earlier this year, that same band – who has since garnered a substantial following worldwide – released a brand new live DVD titled Live at the Greek Theater, ,that was recorded last fall at LA's massive outdoor amphitheatre, The Greek Theater, in front of a sold out audience of nearly 6,000 fans. Punknews' own Scot Barrett recently chatted with bassist Nathen Maxwell about how the band got to be so popular, how LA has influenced them, and what they set out to accomplish with this DVD.
Iâm sitting here watching some preview footage of the DVD, and all I can think about is how huge of a show that is. Iâm wondering first - when did you guys get that big? And second, when you set out to make this DVD - was the Greek an obvious choice or was it a bit of a lofty goal?
It was a lofty goal. You know being a band that formed in LA, being a kid that was born and raised in LA, Iâve known about the Greek my entire life and to play the Greek Theater is a pretty massive deal. I think most musicians would probably agree. Someone kind of mentioned that we could pull it off, and we were like, "Really? Wow. Ok, letâs go for it. Why not?" At the same time we were like, "This is a once in a lifetime thing. Letâs film it and record it and have this to remember by." So thatâs kind of how that came together.
As far as when do I remember it happening? I kind of donât remember it happening. Its been such a gradual build with our fanbase, that it was kind of hard to notice. But at the same time I remember the first time I saw people having a circle pit to Flogging Molly. It was when we were in Minneapolis opening up for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. And I remember being on stage and being like, "Oh yeah, thatâs right!" The Bosstones really gave us our first break. They took us on our first national tour. From there we never looked back. We just stayed on the road. We collectively bought a van, hit it and became friends with bands like Bouncing Souls who took us out on tour and then Anti-Flag took us out on tour. And we just kept going and right around 2002 when Drunken Lullabies came out and we went out on our own. I guess that wouldâve been the point where we realized, "Oh shit, this is actually happening."
Iâd imagine that through festivals or as an opening act you may have played bigger shows, but as far as a Flogging Molly headlining show - is that as big as itâs gotten? .
As far as a headlining show, thatâs right up there with absolutely as big as its gotten for Flogging Molly. We have a few cities around the world that are absolutely fantastic for us - St. Patrickâs day we do really well wherever we go. In general these days weâre playing anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 person rooms - which coming from where we started is a very nice, big level to be at and Iâm pretty stoked to be at the level we are at.
Which cities specifically do you guys do well in? Also, whatâs your reception like in Ireland?
Iâm not going to say my favorites. I donât know if itâs ironic or not, but it seems like the biggest cities for Flogging Molly are also my favorites. Vienna in Austria is great for us. They have one of the best venues in the world called Arena and we have a great time playing there. Denver is massive for us. In fact we just played Red Rocks which is probably the most comparable to playing the Greek.
Red Rocks is pretty amazing. And thatâs from a fanâs perspective.
Just being up on that stage and looking up at those monolithsâ¦and the fact The Beatles and Bob Marley and so many greats have played that stage is pretty epic. I could go on. Weâre playing St. Patrickâs day this year in Phoenix. People there are great and show us a lot of love. As far as Ireland. Yeah I actually met a guy last night who flew in from Dublin to see us play because weâre on the East Coast. A lot of people would imagine that we would be massive in Ireland, which is not the case. Just like anywhere else, weâre playing underground music. Itâs not mainstream over there. That being said, we have our hardcore Irish fanbase over there. But letâs say we go over to Galway - weâve only been there once, but we played a bar to 200 people and probably 100 of them were Americans.
This might be a lot to answer. Would you describe Flogging Molly as Celtic influenced punk, punk rock influenced Celtic music or something else entirely?
I think itâs probably different for every individual in this band. If you asked Dave, our singer, he brings a whole lot to the table and part of that is being a Dubliner and the experience that he went through. Because he came from a different generation than I did and if you ask him about punk rock, he doesnât give a fuck about punk rock. He loves a lot of the same bands that I do, but as far as the concept of that, he is punk rock, but he doesnât give a shit. Me on the other hand. I grew up in LA as a punk rock kid. Thatâs my culture, thatâs my identity. So for me itâs like, "Hell yeah Iâm a punker." As far as the genre? Is it Celtic punk? Is it Irish agro? I donât know, dude. I donât really worry about it.
Speaking of being from LA, and what you guys sound like. How has being from LA influenced you as a band?
I donât think that thereâs any way that we would sound the way we do if we didnât meet the way we did, or if we didnât form in the environment that we did. Weâre from all different parts of this country and Ireland. Two us are from LA - and one guy from San Diego. So there were three of us who didnât leave home to pursue music. But that being said, it is this chemistry and it is this place that was the catalyst for this to happen. But I think without a doubt we are an authentic Los Angeles band. I donât know if youâre aware, but me and my father, and the original guitarist from Flogging Molly, Ted Hutt, we recorded and released a record [Nathan Maxwell and the Original Bunny Gang] and itâs basically my version of Los Angeles folk. Itâs a little more relaxed. It doesnât have an Irish element, more of a reggae back beat.
Going back to the DVD. You worked with Kevin Custer, a director more notably known for his music video (Gaslight Anthem, Hatebreed) and commercial work. How much direction was actually involved? Was it mostly for the lighting guys and camera guys? Or was it more direct? "Stand here" or, "Look there."
Zero. There was no direction for us. I can only guess as to what that direction implies because it really had nothing to do with our show. You know, we just set out to be conscious that this was just like any other show. Like we were stoked to be playing The Greek but at the same time, we didnât dress up for it. We didnât change the performance. We just went out there and did what we do. We wanted to capture what we do. So I donât know what went into it on the camera side. I know before the show we were having dinner at The Greek and a couple of the camera guys were asking what to look for, but otherwise we really just did our thing.
How involved were you with the final product? Was it something where you guys sat there and picked what shots were used or anything like that?
Yeah. Absolutely. I was given a reel online of hundreds and hundreds of shots. All of us are very active in the art but at the same time none of us are visual artists. We donât have one guy - we donât have our Arturo Vega - whoâs doing all of our art. It would be cool if we did, but thatâs just not how we do it. Other than that weâre all very much involved with the final product.
What were you trying to capture with this DVD? Were you looking to show fans something different than going to see you live?
You canât duplicate the live experience. I donât care what anyone says. Nothing, nothing online is going to take the place of the real thing. We just simply wanted to document where weâre at in our career. Weâve been touring our asses off for a long time, and weâve definitely changed over the last 13 years as far as what our stage show looks like so we just thought, "Hey letâs put this one down on the record books." This is where weâre at. This is what weâre about. In a way it gives us a chance to look at it and go, "OK. Whatâs next? Are we going to keep doing the same thing? Or are we going to change it up a bit to be free and have fun with our music and our career?"
Is there something that you want your fans to take away from a Flogging Molly show?
Yeah I would just want them to feel joy. I think what people need sometimes is just to get their heads popped out of the reality that theyâre in. Everybodyâs got problems. Everybody has fucking problemsâ¦some are worse than others but you canât walk a mile in another manâs shoes. But sometimes those problems get peopleâs heads so wrapped up that they end up doing something stupid and they hurt themselves or they hurt other people. I hope that you come to a Flogging Molly show and for a minute you can escape that. Have a good time, let your hair down, dance, drink, and have some fun with people that have something in common with you. And maybe change your perspective, to go back to your live with a clearer head or a little more joy in your heart.