Beyond the tunes, success in the music industry often hinges on an excellent live show. And no band has toured as hard or has consistently poured its heart out onstage as Flogging Molly. What began in 1997 as a Los Angeles bar band has become an Irish-American cultural institution.
Flogging Molly broke out with its debut album, "Alive Behind the Green Door," which captured a night at Molly Malone's Irish Pub, and has followed it up with a string of increasingly successful studio records, including "Drunken Lullabies," "Within a Mile of Home," and "Float." The albums and concerts — crammed with exuberance — deliver a rich diversity of traditional Irish music and Celtic punk that has earned the band acclaim the world over.
The band's longevity is a testament to its perseverance; it has not only beaten the odds for 20 years but has managed to survive and thrive. "Life is Good," Flogging Molly's sixth studio album and its first since 2011's "Speed of Darkness," will be released June 2.
Flogging Molly will be in Rochester to perform at the Dome on Saturday, April 1, so CITY Newspaper got a few words out of guitarist Dennis Casey — an Irondequoit native, in fact. An edited version of that interview follows.
CITY: How has your day been?
Dennis Casey: My day has been great. I'm in Miami now. We're rehearsing for our tour and our cruise that we do every year.
I saw the cruise lineup. You're playing with bands like NOFX, Bouncing Souls, CJ Ramone, and The English Beat.
There's going to be a lot of great music this year. It should be a really great experience. I actually played on CJ's record, so hopefully I can jump onstage and perform with him.
How has being from Rochester affected your music?
I learned a lot in Rochester. I was into playing original music, but that was hard to do in Rochester at the time. I got a job at the House of Guitars, and I was exposed to a lot of different kinds of music.
The House of Guitars was the perfect place, and I spent all my money on new records. I would work in the back with Greg [Prevost] of The Chesterfield Kings and he had a huge wealth of knowledge that opened me up to a lot of music. Rochester also taught me a work ethic, and when I moved to LA, that work ethic was very handy and helped out a lot.
Our mutual friend Stefan Murphy is a House of Guitars fan. When he came into town, he wanted to meet [House of Guitars co-owner] Armand Schaubroeck because he loved Armand's "Ratf***er" album.
[Laughs] We've toured with Stefan over a half-dozen times. We're big fans of his; he's a great guy. I have Armand's records from when I worked there, and I always thought how far ahead of his time he was. He is very unique and known all over the world.
You left town with singer-songwriter Joe Brucato in the 90's to form a band in Los Angeles.
Actually in 1990, and we didn't leave together; he went out there first. Joe's father, Chuck, had a music connection in LA, and Joe stopped in Las Vegas and then I went out. We really gave it many years — struggling and trying to make things happen.
Did you ever have a plan B?
No. I painted houses when I was in Rochester and learned how to do that, but I didn't want to do it for a living. When I went to LA, there was no fallback plan. It was either do or die.
How did you hook up with Flogging Molly?
I was into playing with a lot of different people. This one project I was playing in was at a venue in LA, and one of the people in the audience was a friend of Dave [King], our lead singer. She came up to me and said, "You would be perfect for my friend's band, Flogging Molly. Check them out." And I did.
It was a perfect fit when I joined the band. The band was playing at Molly Malone's every Monday; they weren't touring and didn't have a record out. When I joined we took off to do a West Coast tour. All of my dreams came true. The first couple of years of touring were really rough: sleeping on floors and not making any money and that kind of thing.
What has contributed to the band's success?
The chemistry of the band, the love of the music we have, and the work ethic. We've worked really hard, especially in the beginning, touring almost 275 nights a year or more and going all over the world. We really paid our dues, and we love what we do and we love our fans. It's a second family for us; I think that's a big part of it.
What lessons have you learned being a part of this group?
I learned that music is a business if you don't want to do your day job. It's not all tons of booze and parties — that's there; although when you don't have any money, it's not there as much. You have to work hard, be dedicated, write great songs, and stick to it.
Can you tell us about Flogging Molly's new album?
It's completely done; we're working on the artwork now. On this next tour we'll preview a couple of new songs. We recorded the album in Ireland, which was really cool, and at a place called Grouse Lodge. It was a great experience.
What made the experience great?
Grouse Lodge Studios is in the middle of Ireland. It's very secluded; surrounded by farms. We could focus on playing music all day and night. There is a pub at the studio where we would end the day by having pints of beer and playing music and talking about what we'd do the next day. There were many animals, too. You'd walk out the door and a row of ducks would cross your path. While we were recording you'd see a herd of cows walk by the window. We had a few bonfires as well.
Who are some of your music heroes?
In the beginning it was all the obvious ones: AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin. The Rolling Stones were a big influence on me. After that, I dug into the roots. I got into early blues records like Big Bill Broonzy, John Lee Hooker, and Lead Belly.
Can you describe one of your favorite concert experiences?
When I lived in LA, Rage Against the Machine just came out with "Evil Empire," and I saw them at a venue called the Palladium, which is a little smaller than the Dome Arena or the Main Street Armory. I'll never forget how the whole floor from front to back was this big, crazy mosh pit. The amount of energy that band put out, it was really something else.
I read somewhere that you have a Local 85 union tattoo; can you talk about that?
My father was a union carpenter. Local 85 is a carpenter's union in Rochester. My father, all my uncles, and my cousins worked as carpenters in Local 85. I support unions; it's a great way for workers to be represented. I don't want to get too much into a soapbox political thing but it's taken care of my family for generations. I wear it proudly.
Anything else you would like to add?
Rochester has been a wonderful place for our band and it has embraced us, taken us in and supported us. It's so much fun to play there and we've had nothing but great times from the time way back in the beginning when we went to my parent's house and slept on the floor. I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of friends and faces and hopefully new people that I haven't met before.