Every Saint Patrick’s Day, the bagpipes come out, silver-haired gentleman in thick sweaters grab their guitars and sing the traditional ballads, pints are raised, corned beef is consumed. Then on March 18, the songs and the sounds of Ireland are put away in the closet, on hold until next Saint Patty’s. This is the way it normally goes throughout the country.
But within the past decade, the traditional sounds of Ireland have become a popular inspiration and infusion into American music. Bands like The Dropkick Murphy’s and Flogging Molly have ignited a sense of Celtic pride amongst the youth of America — which is evident by their slew number of sell-out shows, inclusion on major movie soundtracks (e.g. Dropkick’s “Shipping Up To Boston” is the theme to The Departed) and big merchandise sales — all without major label or commercial promotion.
With the commercial success of these bands, the national Celtic punk scene has become a hotbed for young and upcoming talent, like the SoCal based band The Mighty Regis.
They’ve come a long way from their early pub days. The Mighty Regis have played packed gigs at Flogging Molly’s former haunt, Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles, and they’ve been officially added to the 2010 Warped Tour.
Armed with an array of rollicking Irish ballads and cleverly named members — Gabby Byrne (drums), Ben Wise the Brave (lead guitar), Gavin McLoud (mandolin), Paddy McRib (accordion), Ryan O’Neill (guitar, tin whistle, vocals), Darby (bass) and Franky McNorman (vocals) — we are predicting this band could be the next Celtic-inspired band to break out into the mainstream.
We recently spoke with TMR’s lead singer and co-founder, Franky McNorman for a St. Patty’s Day Q&A.
Bill Bodkin: Who and how did the Mighty Regis form?
Franky McNorman: We actually started out as a small pub band that would do more talking then playing. We would start a song and then randomly stop and argue about something or break the balls on someone in the audience. We always like to be sure that we got people laughing. We take what we do very seriously but never take ourselves too seriously. After a while, Gavin (mandolin) said we should start to write original music and have a go at being a live act like The Pogues. So we did.
BB: Why form a Celtic punk band?
FMcN: We love Irish music and we love punk. There are a lot of bands out there that are looking to sound like Flogging Molly or The Dropkick Murphys. We wanted to put out our own take on the music. Everyone in the band listens to a wide range of music, and it really helps us expand on what we want to sound like. There can only be one Flogging Molly and DKM, so we figured we try to be the best TMR we can be … and and being in an Irish punk outfit is a blast.
BB: Does performing this style of music limit the amount of gigs you play? And is this a bad thing?
FMcN: It does and it doesn’t. When bookers hear Celtic punk, they try to get you to play their venues on or around March 17, so we are always busy that time of year. It’s great to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a packed house, but we are a year-round band. The more we play with punk and ska acts, the more club owner see us as a band that can play on all sorts of bills. I actually prefer to be the only Irish-influenced act on a bill. TMR sets out to put on a great show no matter the month, day or year. So yeah, it can hinder us at first, but it makes us work harder to prove St. Patty’s day is a state of mind — it can happen any day of the year.
BB: Talk about the initial shows. Were they filled with covers or originals?
FMcN: We played some traditional Irish songs like “Reilly’s Daughter,” but most of our sets were original music. I am a fan of a good cover band but never wanted to be in one. We’d rather do our own thing. Our first few show consisted or seven or eight songs, so they were short shows, but ya gotta crawl before you can run.
BB: Talk about landing the gig at Molly Malone’s. Was it daunting to play the same venue as the legendary Flogging Molly?
FMcN: Not at all. The one thing we’ve learned from the guys in Flogging Molly is to fear no one and just do your thing. I was talking with Matt Hensley (Flogging Molly’s accordion player) last fall and told him, “We are coming for you guys.” He was really cool about it and simply replied, “Bring it on, man.” It is a really cool thing to share that history with them. They are an amazing band and really some of the best people we’ve met. Molly Malone’s is home, and we will always be back there the night before St. Patrick’s Day to ring it in.
BB: Where are most of your gigs? As an East Coast blog, our bars are filled with cover and tribute acts, while original bands are relegated to opening acts at local concert venues. Is the original scene in California more prominent in the bars?
FMcN: We play all over SoCal, pubs and clubs. We really feel more like San Diego band. We play there a lot and love the venues and people. L.A. is a bit of a clusterf&%# when it comes to getting playing time. We have a great residency gig at The Universal Bar and Grill in North Hollywood now and love that place. We have been lucky to play a lot of L.A.’s best venues, but it’s Hollywood, so it’s a fight no matter what you play.
BB: Can you describe a Mighty Regis concert experience?
FMcN: The best way I can describe it is a “full-on show.” We play hard and fast and try to make the audience laugh when we have any down time. I have always said that The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are the best live act I’d ever seen in terms of putting on a great show. I am really inspired by them and try to do the same. The other six members of TMR are all amazingly funny and love to put on a show, so we always have fun on stage and try to make sure the crowd does, too.
BB: When did you know that this band had “it”?
FMcN: I don’t know … it’s hard to say we have “it” with a straight face. We all believe in what we do so much, and I think that has translated into a feeling of “We WILL get where we’re going!” After a while, all kinds of people started to show up to shows. We had punkers, college kids and older folks and people you would never expect to see at a punk show. I think that is key for us. We cross over groups. You don’t have to be Irish or punk to get into us. We have had people come up and say, “I don’t listen to punk, but I really dig your show.” That just might be the key to the kingdom.
BB: Talk about recording your two original albums, Co. Sligo and Another Nickel For The Pope. What inspired the subject matter?
FMcN: Co. Sligo was recorded in two days. The songs were story songs and modern-day Irish blarney. We were focused on just getting a record done. It will always be special to me as it is my actual family on the album cover, and you always remember your first anything. Another Nickel For The Pope was a more serious record. We worked a bit harder, took more time and the material was a bit more polished. The songs ranged from a tongue-in-cheek jab like “Scotland” to a song about struggling and finding life can be harsh like in “Them Bastards.” We had also had a lineup change in the band and the sound grew up a bit. We are really looking forward to the new record with the seven we have now. [Editors Note: The Mighty Regis' music is available on iTunes.]
BB: Can you talk about the craziest events to take place at a TMR concert?
FMcN: We have had a bunch — never a dull moment. I think my favorite was a couple years ago we were playing a show in L.A. We will often bring a young lady on stage to be our “Murphy’s Girl.” In the song “Murphy’s Broken Heart,” we tell people to follow the pretty girl on stage and drink any time the name Murphy is sung. This one night, a real tough guy got up to show the ladies how it’s done. He was decked out to the nines and looking sharp. He downed six pints of Guinness during the song — not a good idea. Afterwards, he pounded his chest took one step off the stage and puked about three weeks of meals all over the floor. Needless to say, the ladies were less than impressed, and the poor bastard was very lonely the rest of the show. We did give him a T-shirt, thoug. He ruined his button-down, jacket and Kelly green tie Pride comes before the fall.
BB: Has the band opened for any national acts or have a major musician sit-in on any shows?
FMcN: We have played with The Young Dubliners, Spider Stacey of The Pogues, The Filthy Thieving Bastards, Voodoo Glow Skulls. Matt Hensley has played accordion with us a few times. This past summer, we played in Boston with James Lynch of The Dropkick Murphys and his other band, Side Effects, which was a blast, and one of our favorite Ska bands, The Boston Jolly Pirates. We hope for more in the coming year after we wrap up the Warped Tour.
BB: Speaking of the Warped Your, how did this opportunity come about?
FMcN: We had been really looking to be on the Warped Tour and set it as a goal for the year after last summer’s DIY East coast tour. So we sent in our stuff and contacted Kevin Lyman (creator of the Warped Tour, Taste of Chaos Tour and co-owner of Side One Dummy Records). Later that week, we got his response, asking us to be on this summer’s Warped Tour lineup. We are really excited to get out there. The tour is always a great and exhausting time.
BB: What’s the ultimate goal for TMR? Record deal? National tours? Or are you satisfied playing the California scene?
FMcN: We want to be a national act with a record label behind us. We get comparisons to Flogging Molly and wouldn’t mind to reach their level of success. They worked so damn hard to get it, so we know it won’t be easy, but anything worth doing is worth doing all out.
BB: Who’d win in a bar fight: Dropkick Murphys or The Pogues?
FMcN: They’d buy each other a few rounds, team up and go beat the holy shit out of Oasis and make Coldplay watch, telling them, “Toughen up, fellas, or you’re next.”
BB: Best Irish Movie?
FMcN: In The Name oO The Father and Darby O’Gill And The little People are neck-and-neck with me. That Banshee scared me out of my mind as a kid … and still does.