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September 24 - 30, 2009
Shamrocks on the Rocks
Flogging Molly plays Red Rocks and Bob Schmidt talks with the Weekly
by Gary Zeidner
Flogging Molly, the seven-member Celtic-rock powerhouse, is another example of an overnight success that took 15 years in the making. Formed in 1993 in Los Angeles by expatriate Irishman Dave King, Flogging Molly used a do-it-yourself approach to building their fan base as they grew from the house bar band at Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles to the gold standard for Celtic-rock groups playing around the world today.
Their most recent album, 2008’s Float, landed at number four on the Billboard Top 200 and showcased the continued maturation of Flogging Molly’s unique sound. Earlier this year, their seminal 2002 release, Drunken Lullabies, went gold. Flogging Molly is set to add another notch to their collective belt this weekend when they play Red Rocks for the first time.
Flogging Molly’s mandolin and banjo player — and Boulder resident, Bob Schmidt, talked with the Boulder Weekly about the Red Rocks show, the band and Boulder.
Boulder Weekly: It’s been a couple of years since you last sat down with the Boulder Weekly. What’s new and interesting in the world of Flogging Molly?
Bob Schmidt: These days it’s just been kind of gearing up for the record. You know, trying to carve out some space to do some writing and figure out what the next move is. We played the Greek Theatre [in Los Angeles] over the weekend, and then we have Red Rocks coming up, so we get to play some of the more historic venues that we’ve always wanted to play.
BW: With the band hailing from Los Angeles, how was it to play the Greek Theatre?
BS: It was great, actually. It was a fantastic crowd. We filmed the show just to have some stuff in the can in case we want to do anything with it in the future, so we’re all waiting to be able to check that out and kind of see how that thing turned out. I grew up in Los Angeles, so it was a pretty exciting for me to go to because I’ve seen a lot of shows there. I saw Elvis Costello there. I saw Earth Wind and Fire there. It was a pretty historic event in my life.
BW: That’s very cool. It must be amazing to play a venue where you grew up seeing bands that you loved.
BS: Oh yeah, and Red Rocks is the same thing. All of us in the band, I think, grew up watching the U2 at Red Rocks video and, you know, I’ve seen Radiohead up there. I’ve seen Robert Plant play Red Rocks. I went and saw Foo Fighters when they were back in town last time and got to tool around backstage a little bit, so I know what I’m in for when I get there. It’s definitely exciting to play another one of those historic venues across the country.
BW: Your most recent album, Float, is about a year and a half old now, and it was a bit of a departure from Flogging Molly’s “established” sound. How has it been received?
BS: I think it’s been received really well. Sales-wise, it’s been our fastest selling album. On the one hand it seems like it’s selling faster, and it’s hard to tell if it’s because it’s that much different or that much better or that much whatever, or if it’s just, you know, that word of mouth has helped the band grow over the years.
BW: You mentioned that you’re starting to think about the next album. Can you give any insight on where in the process you are?
BS: We’ve carved out some time at the end of the year, which is when we’ll start writing. Then we’ll probably get together for some rehearsal sessions next year. It’s still too early to tell where it’s going or what it’s sounding like but we’re thinking about it which is happening about a year earlier than it usually happens with us. You know, we’re hoping to have it out maybe the fall of next year.
BW: Well, your hand’s not on a Bible, so no worries if the date’s a bit off in the end. It does sound like, sort of organically, the band is getting to the planning phase earlier than it has in the past though.
BS: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s been nice that we’ve been fairly successful over the last couple of years, and it’s afforded us that breathing space a little bit more where we don’t have to tour endlessly in order to make ends meet. That we can kind of play a little bit bigger shows so that we can space them out a little bit more and not have to be out for as long. It’s affording us the ability to take time out and write and not have to worry about where the next meal is going to come from so much.
BW: So how are you feeling about playing your first show at Red Rocks?
BS: It’s a big joint, so there is the challenge of getting enough people in there to fill it up a little bit. So, you know, that’s a little nerve wracking, and you definitely feel a little bit of pressure on that but then there’s just the excitement that comes from being able to play a place that’s that historic and that much of a beautiful venue. You know, when you’re on the stage looking at the rocks jutting out on either side and the sun’s starting to go down, it’s a pretty phenomenal experience I think, and we’re looking forward to being able to do it with our own band.
BW: Where does Flogging Molly head after Red Rocks?
BS: Red Rocks is the second to last date on this tour. Then we’ll have a couple of weeks off, and then we’ll head off to Canada. It’s our first kind of not-quite-coast-to-coast – because we’re not going up to Newfoundland – but as close to coast-to-coast tour as we could get in Canada. We’ve never really done a bulk Canadian tour, so it’s another exciting thing. We’ve had a lot of talk about it for years. It’s been one of those elusive goals.
BW: Your first album, Alive Behind the Green Door, is now about twelve years old. What are the biggest differences in the band from then to now?
BS: We probably drink a little less. I don’t know, I think when we were doing all that stuff we still had day jobs. We weren’t going out on the road together, and we weren’t living together for half the year. So, I think that our relationship to what the band did was so different back then. There’s such a reward to be able to connect with people on a daily basis and have that feeling that your music moves people and that it means something to people. To be able to do this for a living is really a gift. There’s a real sense of gratitude that comes with it — making music for a living — because you are really reliant on your fans and you’re really reliant on other people’s interest in what you do to be able to do it.
Back then, I think it was more, “Wow, we get free beer on Monday nights!” and enough scratch to be able to, you know, continue to have dinner for the rest of the week. We did it for fun and we loved doing it, but I think that that sense of gratitude and that sense of awe in our ability to do this is much more present now than it was back then. I think musically we’ve established who we are as a band and what we sound like. I think you’re always trying to really narrowly define what it is that you do to set yourself away from everybody else when you first start a band, and I think that we’ve done that successfully enough that over the past couple of albums we’ve been able to not be afraid to tackle whatever it is that we want to do. We have so many influences [among] the seven people in the band that now we’re at this point where we know that we can do an album full of Abba covers. We could do a-ha all night, and it’s going to sound like Flogging Molly.
BW: You’ve lived in Boulder for the better part of a decade. How’s that working out for you?
BS: I love living in Boulder. Waking up and seeing the Flatirons every morning; you know, it doesn’t suck.
BW: No, it does not.
BS: Doing what I do, I get out all over the planet, and I see all these great cities, and [Boulder is] still such a pleasure and such a refreshing, peaceful place to live. I can’t fault it in any way, shape or form. And it makes coming to Red Rocks all that much more exciting because it’s, you know, like a home town show.
BW: Over the past couple of weeks we passed the eighth anniversary of 9/11 and saw a member of Congress heckling the President. Are there any social or political observations you’d like to make or opinions you’d like to share?
BS: It’s a weird time right now. I think there’s still a lot of hope out there, and I think that maybe the entire economy and system right now is pretty much based on hope more than anything else. I think Obama’s a really great guy, but he is a politician, so I think you have to be guarded with how much of your interest you’re going to put on him. You’ve got to keep yourself involved with the process.
Just because we voted him in and we’ve given him the power to make some changes, you’ve got to keep your hands in the stew. Just like anything, if you have a vested interest you’ve got to stay vested.
I guess it’s just… stay involved. Keep your thumb on what’s going on out there. Don’t hand it off to somebody else ‘cause that’s not what this country is about. This country isn’t about hiring somebody to take care of everything; it’s about keeping your nose in the business of the government. We’re the people, and no one’s looking out for the people but the people.
BW: Well put. Hey, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.
BS: It’s been great man. And thanks to everybody in Boulder who has supported us over the years. We’ll do our best to keep delivering.
For More Info:
Flogging Molly with Hepcat and Fitz and the Tantrums play on Sept. 26. Doors at 6:30 p.m., set starts at 8 p.m. 18300 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison, 720-865-2494.
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