Interview with Flogging Molly’s Bob Schmidt

By | January 23rd, 2011 | 2 Comments
Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly posing amid the peat with mandolinist Bob Schmidt up front in green galoshes.

Set to release a still untitled fifth studio album in May, Flogging Molly will bring their hard-charging Celtic Oi! punk to the Fillmore Miami Beach on Feb. 12. The show is part of the band’s 7th Annual Green 17 Tour, a 29-city countdown to (or extension of) St. Patrick’s Day in March. Following two years of touring and Float, the septet’s 2008 album, Flogging Molly’s upcoming release is the result of a four-month recording session in Detroit and should manifest the adrenaline and heartbreak of Motown, past and present.

I recently spoke with Flogging Molly’s master mandolinist Bob Schmidt about the Motor City’s influence on the upcoming album and how a crew of Irish-American punks can pull off songs that conjure Queen.

You guys hunkered down in Detroit for four months to write the follow up to Float. Knowing the city’s depressed condition, did Detroit play a part in your writing process?

Absolutely. I think it’s probably the primary focus of the writing on the album — the kinds of struggles that people are going through. We had started to move into that on Float, talking about how screwed up things are getting and how we have to stick together.

I think that this album is that next step, coming from “Things are getting kinda crazy, but if we stick together it’ll be alright” to “Alright, people are losing their homes, communities are falling apart, it’s even more reason to stick together and support each other.” And … the fact that they aren’t talking about it on the news, they don’t talk about it in the papers — they talk about the economic recovery and they’re trying to gloss over the fact people are still losing their jobs and companies are closing down and that people’s businesses are disappearing. It’s important stuff and it’s not just happening in Detroit — it’s happening all over the country. If you live in L.A. or New York, you’re not really seeing it. But in a lot of the smaller towns and a lot of the industrial towns, it’s happening in a big way.

Yeah, I think that’s great because it plays into the original voice of the band, calling on Ireland’s historical struggles.

Yeah, the other thing is the same thing is happening in Ireland. The economy is falling apart and there are riots in the street and people are upset about it. The funny thing is that in Ireland, it’s in the news and it’s in the papers. We hear about all the European stuff here, but nobody wants to talk about how sales are down here and that companies are closing. Everbody wants to pretend like, “Oh we’re gonna be fine” or “Obama’ll fix it” or “the economic bailout will fix it”. But it’s pretty grim in reality.

You guys always combine traditional Irish songwriting and a hard punk sound while incorporating other styles. What can fans expect from your May release?

I think it’s more what we’ve been trying to do over the last couple of albums. We have the ability to do the Irish thing. We’re one of the bands that kinda took it from where The Pogues left off and started what’s become a genre of music. It’s us and the Dropkicks [i.e. the Dropkick Murphys] and a handful of other bands who do it. So, I think it makes us feel free to go off and do other things that we like because we can always do this style of music. It’s not gonna disappear from our repertoire.

But other bands can’t do what we do. We’re capable enough musicians where we can do straight rock or blues. So at this point we’re like, “Man, I love Queen, let’s do a song that sounds more like Queen.” And we love all kinds of music. We love country, we love reggae, we love all this stuff. Let’s just bring it all in and write whatever music we want, ‘cause we’ve been the same lineup for 15 years!

The title track off of Float, Flogging Molly’s fourth studio album.

Did you go into the studio wanting to emulate certain bands?

Not really. I think it was more about just not caring. We didn’t say, “We can’t do that kind of thing ‘cause it’s not what people expect of us” or “We can’t really do that because it’s not a Flogging Molly song.”

Does the album have a name?

It doesn’t. That is this week’s job

How did you choose Ryan Hewitt as your producer?

He was our co-producer on the last one, and I loved the sound of that record. I think everyone really loved the sound of the last record, so bringing him back in seemed like the natural thing to do. We really liked working with him last time. So he came in and co-produced this one with us as well and hopefully we get the same quality. From what I can tell, everything sounds great.

I hear you guys started your own label called Borstal Beat Records after being with SideOneDummy for the last decade. What’s the deal behind that?

Yeah, we’ve been with SideOne since we started and the opportunity kinda arose for us to be able to do it on our own and we could afford to do it. And when it was presented to us — the amount of artistic and fiscal control we’d have over our career and our music and our creative output — there was no reason to say no to the opportunity to do it. And you know, if it doesn’t work, we’re on good terms with SideOneDummy, so we could always go back to them. But we figured it was worth a try, and it’s a bit of a thrill to be able to do that.

Would you guys look into signing other bands?

Yeah, I think so. If everything works out and we get our feet wet and understand the ins and outs of it — yeah, I think that’s in the cards. We’ve got some bands that we know that are great and don’t have deals.

Any particular bands in mind?

Nobody in the works right now. We’re gonna try and get our own stuff under our belt first before we try and drag anybody else into the deal.

Flogging Molly’s countdown to St. Patty’s Day — known formally as the Green 17 Tour — has a major following. What are some of the crazier things that have happened in the seven years you’ve done the tour?

You know, we get all the people who paint themselves green, and there’s obviously the kilt-wearing contingent that always comes out in full regalia. There are countless bagpipers entertaining the crowds outside the show before we go in. So, there’s a lot of that stuff going on.

Any special guests this year?

I don’t know. You know, we’ve got a lot of friends around in different cities … so it kinda just depends on where we are and who’s around. But we have people that we know in a lot of different places that’ll just pop up on stage with us, [like] Reverend Peyton and his Big Damn Band when we’re in Indiana. It’s mostly just people we know [who] come out of the woodwork when we come through town.

You’re playing Coachella and there is an amazing lineup as always. Who are you going to be checking out?

I would really love to see PJ Harvey, frankly. She’s on Sunday, so I’ll have to stick around the desert for a couple days if we get the chance. And the Black Keys. I love that album Brothers. I’m pretty intrigued to have the opportunity to see them live.


This version of “The Seven Deadly Sins” comes from Flogging Molly’s 2010 release, Live at the Greek Theatre.

2 Comments on “Interview with Flogging Molly’s Bob Schmidt”

  1. 1 foster said at 8:56 pm on January 23rd, 2011:

    he’s right. detroit is one of the great untold stories in the usa today.

  2. 2 Jordan Melnick said at 10:07 pm on January 23rd, 2011:

    Foster, you and I should rendezvous there and take a look around, cowrite an article for Apocalypse Now Quarterly.

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