Good golly, It's Mollyview image
By Willie Clark
No matter how many great things have been said about Flogging Molly and their live show, it will never come close to being there. It takes one kind of band to cut a good album, but it takes a totally different animal to have that album explode and take off on the live stage.
Flogging Molly takes the energy of the punk rock scene, smashes it into traditional Irish music and creates a live show that will knock you on your face. There is just something about hearing a fiddle turned up as loud as an electric guitar alongside a blaring bass and an ever-moving accordion that makes a person want to dance and sing. Flogging Molly, with four albums and over 10 years of constant touring, is still playing just as hard, if not harder, than when I first saw them almost five years ago. I said it then and I’ll still keep on saying it: There isn’t a live band today that has either Molly’s live shows’ intensity or their deeply seated passion and love for the music they are playing.
And it isn’t just for the kids either. At the show I, was dancing in between two people whom I estimated to be in their 30s, and I was smashed behind an older gentleman with pure gray hair who was rocking just as hard as I was. There is camaraderie to that, and it isn’t often that a band can bring together so many different people across all ages and groups and still mean so much to all of them.
Combine that with the fact that the band breaks the fan barrier, coming down from the stage after shows to meet fans (and even stopping at a local bar to continue the party later), Flogging Molly is a band that doesn’t come along very often. If you care at all or think you care at all about live music, you owe it to yourself to check them out.
As soon as I saw that Flogging Molly was coming back to Rochester on their annual Green 17 Tour, I knew I had to work to get an interview. I had a great one with bassist Nate Maxwell last year and could not wait to get the chance to try again.
Unfortunately, their press person whom I had worked with last year left the company. And despite e-mailing her for months, I found this out just shy of a month before the show. Not being discouraged, I got a hold of their label’s press contact, and thanks to Jon at SideOneDummy in California, was able to set up an in-person interview.
The day finally came over spring break. After double checking that my tape recorder worked, going out and buying a second set of AAA batteries (because they always die at the worst times) and bringing a back-up tape cassette (who records to digital, anyways?), I arrived at the venue slightly before doors opened for the interview.
People were already lining up outside, eagerly anticipating the show, but I was of course on business.
My phone rang (ringtone: Flogging Molly, of course), and it was the band’s tour manager, asking if I could change plans and do the interview on the tour bus instead of inside the venue.
Yeah, I could deal with that.
After months of phone calls and e-mails, it all came to fruitation as I walked aboard their tour bus (which was very awesome). As people walked by the bus screaming “Flogging Molly!” I sat down with accordion player and professional skateboarder Matt Hensley to talk of Molly’s touring, how he got involved in the band and about how you can never be too old to get involved with music.
I’m here with Matt Hensley, the accordionist for Flogging Molly. Just to start, this is the fifth-annual Green 17 tour. How has the tour been going so far?
It’s been going excellent. We’ve had a really good reception almost everywhere we’ve been.
And you’ve even placed some new places, some new towns on this tour as well?
Well… towns that we don’t play as much as the bigger towns. We really try to at least once a year go to smaller cities and play there.
So how did Flogging Molly get together and how did you become involved with the band?
We got together at a bar called Molly Malone’s, and that’s where we got the name for the band.
I got involved; personally, I went to Molly Malone’s and had a couple of drinks. I went to the lavatory, and while I was in there my friend talked to Dave and said, “Hey man, if you ever start the band back up,” because the band that he had had previously wasn’t really a band anymore, and he asked him if he was going to do the band again and said if you need an accordion player then my man plays it.
When I got out of the restroom, Dave met me and gave me the tape and said, “All right, I’ll see you in a week and we’ll see if you can make it.” I went to practice and was totally out of my league, and it was over and I’m like, “What do you think?” and he said, “You’re in, no worries, you’re in.” So I was like, all right, cool.
How long had you been playing accordion before that?
Only about a year and a half before I met Dave. So I had to step it up really quick.
What made you want to pick up the accordion?
I just love the sound of the accordion. I mean, why does anybody pick up any instrument and start to play? I’ve played the guitar over the years here and there, but I mean, the accordion — I just love that sound, it’s very international, not just Irish. It is almost like the working-class sounding instrument.
Reviews, YouTube and other concert goers alike have been all abuzz now with you guys bringing back songs people haven’t heard for years and bringing a lot of new stuff into the mix as well. It’s great for long-time listeners, but what brought this about, and how do you decide which songs to bring to the live show?
Well, we have all been talking about it, and during the end of our last tour we were like, “We have been playing the same kind of set almost for a while now, and it’s ridiculous. We have enough records — four now — and enough songs where we should be able to completely change the set and still have great songs.” I think that 99 percent of all our songs on all of our records are good f*cking songs and will stand up. And it’s just a matter of sorting that all out. And Dave is the main guy behind that. I mean, we all go over it, but at the end of the day, it is Dave who has to sing it, so he has to figure it out.
Do you have any personal favorites that you like to play live?
I like playing “Life in a Tenement Square” right now. My favorite song to play is “Beggar’s Bush,” but we don’t play it.
Are there any places that you haven’t gotten to tour yet that you hope to tour one day?
Poland. I’d like to go to Poland, New Zealand, Mexico City — I’d love to go there. There are a couple countries in Europe we haven’t gotten to go to yet. And I’d love to play in China. We’ve played a lot of places, but there are still tons of places to go.
Do you have any tour horror stories or gotten stuck anywhere traveling?
nbsp; I could go on for days about that. I’ve been stuck in every airport in the world almost. Overnight, for a couple days, you name it. It comes with the territory. When you travel nine months out of the year, sometimes we’ll be flying three, four or five times a week. It’s only a matter of time before your flight gets cancelled.
For point in reference, we had a show in Spain and drove from Spain to f*cking London, which, if you have ever driven the drive, it’s like two days, 48-hour drive, nonstop, in a tour bus. Then we went to France and took the ferry and drove to London, and we missed our flight to L.A. by like 20 minutes. And after traveling for 48 hours, all you want to do is go to sleep on the plane, and the next flight wasn’t until the next morning. I was this close to spending like five grand on that flight to get home. I called my wife and she was like, “Don’t even bother coming home if you have to spend $5,000.” And we all had to spend the night in the airport. And after that far, it’s very irritating.
You left Flogging Molly for a little bit and then came back. How does it feel to be back and how did that decision go about?
It feels great to be back.
And as to how it came about, I was one of the first guys in the band besides Dave and his kids were much older, and then nobody had kids in the band. I mean, not now, now everybody here is a goddamn daddy at this point. But, I don’t know, after the years of being on tour, I was hit with this guilt for being gone as long as we had. And it just started eating me up. And it always tricked on my brain, and Bob has a young child now so he can probably testify that it’s a little bit tricky when you have kids and you start thinking a little bit differently. And it ate me up to the point up where I couldn’t ignore it any longer and I split.
In doing so, I realized and figured out a lot of life lessons and figured out a lot of shit, and I really wanted to come back. And I was lucky enough that everybody in the band wanted me to come back and it worked out really good.
Do you still skateboard as well?
I do. If you see the new Transworld, I have an ad in there doing a kick flip on a seven-foot ramp.
So you had “Float” last year, which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts, and now you are on a practically sold-out tour across North America. What is next for Flogging Molly? Is there something you haven’t done yet with the band that you have always hoped to accomplish?
You’re probably going to get a different answer from pretty much everybody in the band. But for me, we keep on going and keep on touring and try to just keep it real.
There is talk of doing a Flogging Molly live something, not like the documentary, but like us filmed playing in different places around the world. We haven’t had a live record like that. But not so much I guess a record as much as a live documentary or live movie.
Like “Whiskey on a Sunday”?
Well, that was more like a documentary. I mean more like, look, here are 15 songs that you can see and hear from maybe 15 different places around the world and see how that goes.
Do you have a favorite album out of the four?
I think “Swagger” is probably my favorite record and then “Drunken Lullabies.” It depends. Those are my favorite in terms of the most rocking and I have such memories of playing all those songs.
But “Float” I’m very proud of. I think “Swagger” is very, it’s not pulling any punches, and it’s there, mistakes and all. It’s a f*cking explosion. Where with “Float” we spent a lot of time trying to master and getting better at what we do. I mean, every year I’d like to think I become a little bit better of an accordion player… Personally I’m always driving, I have a banjo problem now, I play the concertina, the button accordion; I’m always playing and that is the way I make my life make sense by constantly trying to get better at things and better at what I do.
Hopefully that translates into making a better record, and it sounds better, more professional. So in that regard, “Float” is the most proud production record that I was a part of.
Do you have any advice for starting musicians or kids who are just starting to play and want to get involved with music?
I would say two things. One, don’t hesitate and just do it. I mean, people are always like, “I don’t really know and I don’t know how to read music,” but that’s all a load of malarkie.
Read music, it will take you like a week. Seriously, it would take somebody four days to be able to read music. I mean, you don’t have to be Mozart and write like a crazy person. You could make it happen within three to four days. And then pick an instrument, whatever it is you want, and do it.
The other thing I would say is no matter how old you are, it is never too old. I ended up picking up the accordion at a relativity late age, all things considered. I haven’t been playing sessions since I was 8 years old; I was 24 when I picked up the f*cking thing. And it’s made a huge impact on my life and it’s been a major part of what I’ve been doing for 13 to 14 years of my life. So those are the two things I would say. The sooner, the better, get on it. You’ll be dead in 100 years — you might as well do something sweet until it’s over.
And last, if you could say anything to all of your fans, what would it be?
Just thank you very much for supporting Flogging Molly. We wouldn’t be shit without our fans. We have some of the best, most ferocious, serious fans of any band that I’ve either gotten to see or see their crowd or whatever. Our fans are just diehard. I wouldn’t be talking to you if we didn’t have them. So I would say thank you and keep the faith, and we’ll attempt to keep the faith and keep it real.