Celtic-rock band Flogging Molly raises a voice for the down and out

Toben Shelby
Photo by Dan Monick

It's been about 15 years since Flogging Molly got its start in Los Angeles, playing weekly gigs at Irish pub Molly Malone's. Alternating between rowdy Celtic rock and more soulful, reflective songs, the former pub band now reaches a worldwide audience.

Flogging Molly's recent travels found the group in places like Greece and Russia. After visiting Anchorage and Fairbanks, the band sets its sights on Brazil.

So how does a seven-member Celtic-rock group end up in Greece, Russia and Brazil -- locations that, at least on the surface, might not seem like hotbeds for Flogging Molly's sound? Singer and guitarist Dave King credits the Internet for the group's international fan base.

A self-described non-expert on the subject, King said that in places like Russia, "there's no way anybody

would've heard of us except for the Internet." Of course, like most bands in the digital age, Flogging Molly has to deal with diminished album sales because of online sharing.

"Would it be nice to sell a lot more albums?" King asked. "We've never been that type of band anyway; we've always been a live band. I'm sure it does affect album sales, but for bands like us who are primarily a live band, it does help us in getting the music out there."

And what King wants to get out there are the issues he thinks people relate to and connecting the dots between a raucous drinking song and one about living in economic hardship.

"Greece is stricken right now, but you'd never tell that with the people that come to shows," he said. "The spirit of the people walking around the streets of Athens, you'd never think they're going through a crisis right now."

For the band's latest album, 2011's "Speed of Darkness," Detroit -- often the poster child for America's recent financial woes - served as inspiration for an album full of frustration for those left without work in the wake of a recession.

"The neighborhood that we live in -- you walk around and see so many houses that are just boarded and see a city that's been absolutely devastated," said King, who has a home in Detroit with wife and bandmate Bridget Regan.

"But you still see that resilience in the people, and that was something that affected me lyrically. It reminds me of when I was a child in Ireland," King said. "It was the same thing. There was no money; there was nothing."

He doesn't think that the messages in Flogging Molly's songs are necessarily political, but said he wants to express the feelings of people who might not have many others speaking out for them.

"That really does affect you when you see it; you see people's livelihoods being affected by things that happened to them that was not totally in their control," the frontman said.

"It's really, really sad and I'm not saying we have the answers, but by Jesus we raise our voices."

By Toben Shelby
Daily News correspondent