One more round
Flogging Molly is back on the road with its traditional Irish/punk rock
Anyone who has ever seen Flogging Molly live can tell that the band leaves everything on the stage. Perhaps it’s because the band’s mix of traditional Irish folk and modern-day punk rock really can’t be performed any other way. Traversing the globe and inciting riotous energy wherever they go doesn’t come without a price, however, to the members of the band.
Flogging Molly’s accordion player, Matthew Hensley, is no stranger to life on the road. In fact, even before his time with the band, he made a name for himself as a professional skateboarder. Though his musical life is quite different from his former one as a pro skater, the two worlds are not without their similarities.
“I’ve already lived my life in hotel rooms and buses and everything else, so to get in a band and do it all over again, it’s like, you know, I’m used to that lifestyle,” Hensley said. “I’ve tried to get out of it before in my life, but everything I do seems to keep me on the road. I think I’m destined to be a road dog.”
Whether it is his fate or not, Hensley seems to have an uneasy relationship with his lot in life. In January 2007, overcome with road weariness, Hensley left the group to spend more time with his 10-year-old son.
“After a while the guilt and never knowing if I was doing the right thing—even though I felt like I was doing the right thing—started eating me up,” Hensley explains. “I snapped. I said, ‘I got to stop.'”
His absence was short-lived. Though he enjoyed the time he spent home with his family, the “carnie” lifestyle of a touring musician proved to be too much of a draw. He acknowledged that when he’s on the road he wishes he were home and vice versa. “You get addicted to loneliness,” he said of the long hours away from home.
“It’s weird, but the road is a great and terrible place,” Hensley said. “I missed it like crazy. I missed getting in front of people and playing music.”
Though his departure was amicable, he said he had to make amends for not being able to “hang on” and “freak[ing] out like I did.” But he was welcomed back with open arms, and even got the blessing from his son to return to Flogging Molly.
“In a roundabout way, he kind of let me know that it was fine even before I made the decision,” Hensley said of his son. “He wears Flogging Molly shirts all the time still, and he still loves the band. He looked at me like, ‘I never asked you to leave. You just kind of did it.’ Hopefully it will be a good influence for him, so that whatever he does in his life, he’ll follow his dreams.”
The timing of Hensley’s return could not have been better. Flogging Molly was getting ready to record their latest album, Float, which was the band’s first effort to be recorded in frontman Dave King’s home country of Ireland.
Float is a noticeable departure from the band’s previous albums. Their gutsy performances and immediately intoxicating recordings—such as their debut Swagger—were characterized as “a Guinness-soaked musical body blow.” On Float, the band has made the transition from brawler to boxer, showcasing a more deft understanding of their instruments and the studio. Hensley admitted he misses the rawness of the group’s earlier releases, but he seems happy with how Flogging Molly has progressed over the years.
“My favorite records are probably our very first record, Swagger, and Drunken Lullabies, and that’s just because they’re raw as shit and they’re not recorded right at all,” Hensley said. “We’re getting bigger and we’re getting better.”
Float was released in March 2008, and the new album has once again sent the band on tour, and Hensley has embraced the road ahead.
“I appreciate my life that much more right now,” he said. “It takes a lot more to get me down than it used to, because I still get to do what I want to do.”