By the time 1993 came around, Irish-born musician Dave King had already been through the grinder of the music industry via his stint as vocalist for 1980s British hard rockers Fastway, featuring Motorhead guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke. King had left that band a few years earlier and was hanging around Los Angeles after a solo deal with another major label had gone awry.
“I’d gone through the rigmaroles of the whole record industry,” King says. “Having your A&R man get fired the day your album comes out, all of those shenanigans.”
Trying to figure out his next move, King began performing solo acoustic sets at Molly Malone’s, the venerable Irish pub on Fairfax. He started working with other musicians he would meet when performing there every Monday night. The new music was a far cry from the hard-driving glam metal of Fastway, instead taking inspiration from the traditional Celtic and Irish folk music that enveloped King during his childhood in the Beggars Bush section of Dublin.
In 2017, the band that would come to be known as Flogging Molly is approaching its 25th anniversary. They returned to Los Angeles this past St. Patrick’s Day with a headlining performance at the Forum. The band have cultivated their following on the backs of songs that take the music King grew up with and infuse it with a working-class, punk-rock ethos.
Despite originating in and being named after one of L.A.'s most beloved bars, Flogging Molly are not often thought of as a Los Angeles band. Whenever a publication or music blog reflects on the great Los Angeles bands, it is rare for the wildly successful Celtic punk rockers to be included in the mix. (And L.A. Weekly, it must be noted, is as guilty of this as anyone.)
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re an L.A. band, but the crux of the whole story for Flogging Molly is Los Angeles,” King says, speaking by phone during a tour stop in New Haven, Connecticut. “Without Los Angeles, I don’t think there would be a Flogging Molly. This is where I met the other musicians I would be with, especially Bridget.”
Bridget Regan is Flogging Molly’s violin player, and was the first outside musician with whom King collaborated after he began performing at Molly Malone's. Regan would become King’s closest musical collaborator and eventually his wife; they got married in 2008. Reflecting on Flogging Molly’s early days at Molly Malone’s, King is very quick to credit Regan with helping him find his footing with the new music he was playing.
“When I was on my own playing acoustic guitar at Molly’s, I had no idea what I was doing at the time,” King says. “Looking back on it, there was no direction. But then one night I walked into Molly’s and met Bridget. She said she was a fiddle player. We got together the next day and played together in her apartment, and it hit me then. She was just playing over one of my songs, but it was like she had transported me back home. It started to make sense, and that was when all of the songs started taking on the character and passion of what our music is like now.”
Flogging Molly began experiencing success outside Los Angeles in the late 1990s thanks to their balancing act between infectious punk rock and the traditional Celtic-Irish flair of their compositions. Albums such as their 1997 debut, Alive Behind the Green Door — a live set recorded at Molly Malone’s — and 2002’s Drunken Lullabies combined with an energetic live show to make them crowd favorites, particularly on multiple installments of the Vans Warped Tour in the early 2000s. Flogging Molly’s first new record in six years, Life Is Good, will be released on Friday, June 2.
Though some of the band’s tracks address issues of melancholy (“The Worst Day Since Yesterday” from 2000’s Swagger, for example), overall on record and in the live setting, King — who currently lives with Regan in Detroit — aims for a party atmosphere that, for him, evokes childhood memories of gatherings his parents would throw on Saturday nights.
“As a young boy, I was lucky in the sense that both my father and mother were incredibly musical,” King says. “On a Saturday night, they would put a pot of pig’s feet and ribs on the stove. They would go out to the pub, and they would leave me to take care of the food. When they returned, they would bring back the entire lounge of the pub. Everyone would sit around the floor. We had a piano. I don’t even know where we got it. My mother would play the piano and everyone got a chance to sing. Looking back on it, the energy in that room was unbelievable. I always want to match the energy of that room.”
Flogging Molly's Life Is Good is out Friday, June 2, and available for pre-order via floggingmolly.com.