Dropkick Murphys Frontman Ken Casey On Releasing Two New Singles & Opening Another Restaurant

What started out as a bet more than 20 years ago has turned into a worldwide music sensation better known as The Dropkick Murphys. Throughout the years, the band has grown both individually and collectively addressing intense subject matters now that range from opioid addiction to the Boston Marathon bombings. With nine studio albums to their credit and a tenth on the way later this year, Boston’s Celtic punk rock band sets out to prove they aren’t going anywhere.

The band is currently on a European tour that wraps up at the end of February before they prepare for their five-day “Boston Blowout” celebration in March. We caught up recently with frontman Ken Casey to chat about their two new singles releasing tomorrow, when we can expect to see a new album and the secret to the band’s staying power.

Photo Credit: Gregory Nolan

The Dropkick Murphys have been performing for more than 20 years and still have sold-out shows wherever you go. How does it feel to have made that lasting impact?

Oh man, I am surprised every night that we go out on stage and see the crowd that showed up. We had low expectations back when we started the band as a dare. The Dropkicks actually started out on a bet. One of the kids I was working with at the time dared me to put a band together. We did it as a joke just to win $30. Now, 20 years later, we are getting to see the world so I am eternally grateful for that. We’re also kind of still shocked. This is all we know, but to get up on stage and feel the enthusiasm from our fans, there is really nothing like it.

You’re in a unique situation in that many bands that are around that long often don’t continue to produce new music, but Dropkick fans love the old songs and are just as excited about hearing new music. What do you think is the secret to the band’s staying power?

I think some bands may take their eye off the prize or assume they are changing by adding their own personal taste and putting it into their music. I obviously don’t listen to as much punk rock as I did when I was a kid. I want to give people what they came to love us for in the first place. You are only as good as your last album. A lot of bands tour and get caught up in the cycle putting out something sub par. We had the great pleasure of never having to be under a timetable, so we were able to put extra care into all of the music that we have produced.

Photo Credit: Gregory Nolan

Tell us about the new music you guys have coming out tomorrow.

We are really excited about that. It has been a while since we have put out some new music. We have two singles coming out – “Smash Shit Up” and a cover of “The Bonny” by Glasgow, Scotland’s Gerry Cinnamon. I think releasing singles is a good way to make people not have to wait for a new album and you get excited about those songs. The video we did for “Smash Shit Up” is super high energy. I have a friend who happened to be demoing a house so he legit let me drive the excavator. It was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had. Another let us sledgehammer the walls, which made for the title of the song. The other song is a cover from Gerry Cinnamon of Glasgow, Scotland. He has his own label and he’s just a guy and his guitar, and he sells out a 60,000-person stadium in Scotland. No one knows him in the states yet, but we love this song.

When can we expect to see a new album?

We will be coming out with a new album in August or September, but will be releasing a series of songs up to that point.

Photo Credit: Gregory Nolan

Your most recent and ninth studio album, “11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory,” with songs like “Paying My Way,” “Rebels With A Cause” and “Kicked To The Curb” sounds like it was really a personal one for you. Can you elaborate on why you decided to have this album tackle social issues like the opioid crisis?

I feel like we always wrote about what was around us and what was going on in our lives individually along with our take on what’s going on socially. Leading up to that time in a two-year period or so, I had been to 50 wakes for people I knew, many of whom had died due to the opioid crisis. With our foundation, The Claddagh Fund, we help people get treatment. There are varying degrees of closeness with personal relationships that almost leaves you speechless. It was amazing to see how it opened a lot of communication.

When you were writing “4.15.13,” it was more a cathartic experience and you weren’t even sure if the song would make it to this album?

Obviously, the song is about the Boston Marathon bombing, so the song is about all of the feelings everyone in Boston went through. It’s about love and hate, and why did it happen. I don’t want to say the song is out of character for us, but it wasn’t planned for us. It’s a long song, about five minutes. You need to have ebbs and flows, but ironically, we didn’t play it live a lot, but it’s actualy really nice to play live. That song let us grow more as musicians. People have responded to it well. When the band does something from the heart, people react to it worldwide. They relate to it on their own personal level. It’s great to get feedback from a listener who tells you how a song touched them in their own unique way.

Photo Credit: Gregory Nolan

In addition to music, the band does an impressive amount of charitable work through your Claddagh Fund raising millions of dollars for charities. Recently, we have seen you everywhere from hosting a benefit for fallen firefighter Lt. Jason Menard to the private window show for the Mighty Quinn (a three-year-old battling cancer). Why is the work the foundation does so important to you personally?

In talking about how the band started as a joke, we were brought up to be regular working people. We used to practice at 7 a.m. because it felt like we had a real job. Music can be self-indulgent, but we wanted to be a part of the community and get a lot of fulfillment from the work we do with The Claddagh Fund. Bobby Orr has always inspired people to do good stuff. I was fortunate to get close to him over the years. He said if we started a foundation, we could capture our own fan base and he couldn’t have been more right. It lets the fan base feel like they are a part of it. We have also been able to bring that on the road. It has been nice to bring The Claddagh Fund along with the band. The band has such good people working with us.

You also have a new restaurant opening next month?

Yes, next week, Brian (O’Donnell) and I will be opening our second Yellow Door Taqueria in the South End. People right now are so into tacos. The original is located in Dorchester. I have been doing restaurants for a while. We reopened a replica of McGreevy’s a few years after the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. This was where Babe Ruth-era teams would hang around. That was my first venture into the restaurant industry.

Photo Credit: Gregory Nolan

Tell us a little about Murphys Boxing and how you first got involved.

I was friends with this kid Danny O’Connor from Framingham and was a fan of his career. He was an Olympian with a record of 14 and 0 as a professional. I wanted to introduce him to the Dropkicks fan base. Six months later, I’m his manager. I figured if I can do that, I might as well become a promoter. Now, we have 15 fighters signed. The Dropkicks will be playing a matinee show at the House of Blues on Saturday, March 14, followed by boxing at night. On February 8, Mark DeLuca (of Massachusetts) has a huge fight in England. He has 24 wins and one loss. If he wins, it will be a massive thing for Boston.

Everyone looks forward to the Dropkicks returning to Boston for St. Patrick’s Day. Why did you decide to host a five-day “Boston Blowout” celebration this year?

We have been doing this for over 20 years now. I think the first ever St. Patrick’s Day show was in 1997 at The Rat in Boston. We were a different animal back then. We were told by Mayor Menino that we shouldn’t play on St. Patrick’s Day so we played everywhere from Seattle to New York and then snuck back into Boston. At the old Avalon, we played something like eight shows in six days. The House of Blues is our new kind of venue. For this year’s Boston Blowout, we will start off at Encore Boston Harbor on Friday (March 13). They are giving us their first-ever show in the round. They have never done that before so it should be interesting. Hopefully, it’s good. On Saturday (March 14), there will be a matinee show at the House of Blues and another show on Sunday also at the House of Blues. On Monday night, we will be at Big Night Live. That night is also the Bruins Irish-American night to benefit our charity, The Claddagh Fund, so the show starts after the game.

Photo Credit: Gregory Nolan