For the past 20 years, the Dropkick Murphys have recorded every album in their native Boston – close to family and friends. But for ‘11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory,’ the group’s ninth studio album, they decided to pack up and head down south – way down south. El Paso, Texas to be exact; more than 2,300 miles away.
“It was two-and a half weeks. But two-and-a-half weeks in El Paso, 30 miles from the nearest anywhere,” says Al Barr, front man for one of the most recognizable Celtic punk bands. “In my mind, it felt as far away as you can get (from Boston),” he says. “And that was the point. We had always done every record in the same kind of way and we’d always been home for them. When you’re doing a record at home, while it’s great to be home, the creative flow that you establish at the studio gets interrupted by your other life.”
The resulting album, ’11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory,’ was released earlier this year on the band’s own label, Born & Bred Records. Barr spoke recently about the new record and the inspiration for some the songs that made it on the album.
Innocent Words: It’s been about three or four years since the last album, but I know you are constantly touring. Did you get time off in the interim?
Al Barr: Oh, yeah, the record, ‘Signed and Sealed,’ is just about over three years old now and it feels like we never really stopped, because after the tour cycle of ‘Signed and Sealed’ was winding down then we were hitting our 20-year anniversary. So, we started a 20-year-anniversay tour and that wasn’t so much as a world tour, but we wanted to acknowledge and honor that the band had been together, so we went out on the road in honor of the 20 years and we had a kabuki set up, so there was a short film we’d show before we came out encompassing the 20 years.
Innocent Words: You recorded the new album in El Paso. Was this the first time you left Boston to record an album?
Al Barr: It sure is. In my mind, it felt as far away as you can get (from Boston). And that was the point… Our idea was, let’s see what we can accomplish without any of that and I think it scared us a bit in the sense that we’d never done that before. We all thought, what the hell’s gonna happen when we get out into the desert? What ends up happening is we were able to establish this creative embryo that we were all inside of. I think it really lent itself to the creativity of this record and I don’t think the record would have been the record it is if we had not done it the way we did it. It was all very positive.
Innocent Words: This record does seem to cover a lot of heavy topics.
Al Barr: Well, the Dropkicks have never shied away from covering heavy topics, but I think this one definitely has a thread going through it and that’s the opioid and heroine epic that’s going on right now throughout New England, especially in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and we’re speaking to that particular subject in one of the songs.
Innocent Words: And “4-15-13” talks about the Boston Marathon bombing.
Al Barr: Yes, and that’s another one. We didn’t head into the writing of the record and think, ‘well, we have to have a song about this.’ I think if that had been suggested, we wouldn’t have written about it because it’s such a heavy topic. It just kind of came about one day and the direction and the delivery of that song was inspired by the outpouring of generosity and caring that came from so many in the wake of something so horrible, and that inspired the lyrics and the music in that song.
Innocent Words: “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was also a pretty powerful addition to the record.
Al Barr: Thank you. Again, that’s a song we’ve all known for years, but the Jerry and The Pacemakers version is probably the most contemporary version and that’s the one we are all familiar with. It was inspired from hearing it again in a different light at another funeral of another friend who had died of an overdose, and in that light it struck a chord with us and it kind of personified that whole struggle of being in the grip of addiction and fighting through it. That song kind of captures that I think.
Innocent Words: One of my first thoughts was how long before the Liverpool soccer team in the UK picks that version up and starts playing that song at their games. (The song is the unofficial anthem of the Liverpool Football Club).
Al Barr: Well, every European interview we’ve done, it’s come up. It’s not just Liverpool, but it’s Celtic and St. Pauli (football clubs) use that song. There’s going to be people that love it and, we’ve released it early, and there’s already people who love it or fucking hate it. There are some who associate it with their nemesis in the football/soccer world and I think we expected that. There’s going to be fans who aren’t fans of the band or aware of us who will hear this song and think “who the fuck are these wankers?’. But again, that wasn’t the reason or inspiration for the song.
Mar 01 Cain’s Ballroom Tulsa, OK
Mar 02 Metroplex Live Little Rock, AR
Mar 03 Horseshoe Tunica – Bluesville Robinsonville, MS
Mar 04 Iron City Birmingham, AL Sold Out
Mar 06 Jannus Live St. Petersburg, FL
Mar 07 Revolution Live Fort Lauderdale, FL
Mar 08 House Of Blues Lake Buena Vista, FL
Mar 10 House of Blues Myrtle Beach, SC
Mar 11 ShamrockFest Washington, DC
Mar 12 The Paramount Huntington, NY Sold Out
Mar 15 House of Blues Boston, MA
Mar 16 House of Blues Boston, MA Sold Out
Mar 17 House of Blues Boston, MA Sold Out
Mar 18 Agganis Arena Boston, MA
Mar 18 Official After Party with Pro Boxing & DKM Acoustic Boston, MA
Mar 19 To Be Announced Boston, MA
Jul 02 Rock Werchter Werchter, Belgium
Jul 06 Rsurrection Festival Lugo, Spain
Jul 14 FESTIVAL DES VIEILLES CHARRUES Carhaix-Plouguer, France