Matt Kelly’s to-do list on the day he calls Metro includes grocery shopping, quarterly taxes and trying to come up with song titles for the Dropkick Murphys’ eighth album. The drummer says the challenge of the last task is figuring out which of the temporary titles they have are worth holding onto.
“We had one called ‘Van Morrison Choppy’ at one time and that became ‘The State of Massachusetts,’” he says of one of the finer tracks from their 2007 album “The Meanest of Times.”
On the chopping block this time around is one they’re calling “Scrubber Lang” for now.
“Like Mr. T’s character in ‘Rocky III,’” says Kelly. “But instead of Clubber Lang, it’s ‘Scrubber’ because during the verses the guitars and bass scrub through it.”
It’s good to hear you’re working on new stuff. Surely people thought that by titling your 2011 album “Going Out In Style” that it might be the last.
I guess it’s sort of a double entendre, like getting gussied up and literally going out in style with some sweet duds. But yeah, the double entendre does make people talk, I guess. I don’t want to say if it was calculated or not.
Coming off of that album, which had a conceptual arc, does that up the ante for a follow-up?
Well, this isn’t a concept album. The other one was a concept album almost by mistake. About three-quarters of the way through, we realized when we were writing the lyrics that a lot of the stories had a common ground, and it’s something me and Ken [Casey, singer and bassist] talked about for years, since like the very early days. And you have limitations with a concept album, because if you start with a concept, you can only work within those parameters.
In the time since you released “Going Out in Style” you’ve graduated to bigger venues. Does that change the way you approach songwriting? Is there a more conscious effort to say, “What will get a whole stadium of people singing along?”
Well, that’s the thing: We don’t tailor our songs for that, but ever since “Barroom Hero,” which was the first song the band ever wrote, it’s been, “What’s going to sound awesome being shouted out live?” We’re influenced by bands like Cock Sparrer, Stiff Little Fingers and The Clash, and that’s all sing-along stuff. That’s the kind of stuff we cut our teeth on, and that’s like the natural stuff we want to emulate.
What’s been the biggest sing-along you’ve inspired? Was it at the Fenway gig last year?
No. That was a big one, but we did Hellfest in France. That was 50,000 people, something like that. We also played Rock Werchter [a festival in Belgium] the last tour we did, and I don’t know how many people were there, but there were people beyond what the eye can see just singing along, and it was spine-tingling!
Which song do most people sing along to? “I’m Shipping Up to Boston”?
Nah, it was probably “The Wild Rover.” Our version of that apparently charted very high in Belgium, so that was a big one. You know, I think “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” goes over well, but it’s almost more of a States thing. ... You see one or two kids in the front row who are bored out of their minds until that song comes on, then they leave. But in a lot of other places, like the non-major markets in Europe, where we’ve been established for years and years, people are just singing every word to every song. It’s so cool to see that kind of loyalty and that sort of memorization, for crying out loud. It’s a lot of songs, and a lot of words.
What else can you reveal about the new album?
In general, I think this album has a little more of a harder edge to it than the last one, but it definitely has the same style. It’s more fiendish, musically, a little more aggressive and muscular. More aggressive, let’s say, than “The Meanest of Times,” but it has the melody and styles of the last album.
Follow Metro music editor Pat Healy on Twitter @metrousmusic.