Originally hailing from Boston, Dropkick Murphys are, literally, a religion where I’m from so this was a treat. The Murphys are preparing for their latest album, 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory, to be released this week. Lead guitarist Tim Brennan talks about the new record, plans for the next album, Dropkick Murphys taking time off during the holidays, how he joined the band, and his personal feelings on how this record stacks up to the last one.
I’d like to start right off with your new album which comes out on Friday, 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory.
We’re all very excited for it to come out especially at this point. I think the lag time between actually making an album and it coming out is a little bit shorter than it used to be, but it still seems like forever since it’s finished and then people actually get to hear it. So, we’re very excited that it’s only a week away.
With the shows that you’ve been playing lately, have you started incorporating any of the songs off the new album into the set like “Blood” or any others?
We haven’t done any shows really. We played one show that was a benefit on Veterans Day and that was not the day that “Blood” was released but shortly after. So, we played it for the first time live in a big arena. The show was at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut and so, we got to play this giant rock song in what was a fitting setting and it was awesome. Apart from that, before we even started recording we were playing a couple of songs live. One called “Sandlot” and one called “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and apart from that we don’t typically play to many new songs before they’re released but we were playing around with those and there was actually one other one that we were playing live a lot that won’t be on this upcoming album but will be on the following one.
Obviously, with the new album coming out, you’re not going to be putting a whole lot of talk or major effort into promoting the next record but do you have a rough idea for when you’d like that next album to come out?
Yeah, initially we were thinking that we’d love to have two come out in a year but at this point, I think we’re shooting for around the same time in 2018. So, basically a year after this next one is out, putting out a new one. What happened, which was sort of out of the ordinary, was normally we’ll go into the studio with the amount of songs that we know are going onto the album plus a couple that we probably already know are going to be B-sides. With this one, we went into it with more than enough songs that were definitely album tracks. So, we recorded everything and then by the time we decided that we wanted to put eleven songs on this one, we had half of another album already done and recorded with the other songs that didn’t make in on to there. So, in the spring we’re going to hunker down and write another five or six songs and we’ll get those all together and hopefully get into the studio sooner than later and see if we can get another one out.
With the title for the album, 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory, is this a concept album at all?
No, no. I think the idea of that is more inspired by the folk music that we’re so into, both playing and listening to. There’s a lot of stories in that, a lot of great rock and roll stuff. You’re average Bruce Springsteen song is a novel in and of itself so I think we were just, sort of, looking at each one of them as a short story in the sense, not that they’re all tied together, but in the tradition of storytelling and folk music and that sort of stuff.
Absolutely, you said that you haven’t played many shows since Veterans Day. Have you been taking some time off to enjoy the seasons? Are you going to hunker down for touring to push the new album? What do you have planned for the current and the future?
A little bit of both. We typically take the holidays off, a couple guys have their kid’s birthdays around that, everybody like to be with their families around that time and everything but we’ve still be getting together. Once you get the record done and everything the next step is actually learning to play the songs again after they’ve been written. So, we spent a couple of weeks making sure that we can play the new album front to back and that everyone knows what they are doing and just getting ready to hit the road in 2017 with the ability to play all these new songs live.
Since you mentioned the difference between writing an album and playing it in a studio verses learning to play all the songs live, when you joined the band and started out, you were playing the accordion and then transferred into lead guitar. Was the difficult for you or were you always solid with your guitar playing before then?
Well, drumming is my main thing but I’ve always been the type of person that I can pull a sound out of any instrument if I’m given a couple of minutes to figure it out. Guitar is something that had always been around, when I was growing up playing drums my brother was a guitar player so there was always guitars lying around. So, I just taught myself along the way. There was definitely a period of, I think, two months or so when it was the holidays, we didn’t have any touring or anything to do and we were making the transition between Marc (Orrell,) our old lead guitar player leaving and me stepping up into that role and our new guy, Jeff DeRosa, coming in to take over my stuff and I had plenty of experience playing guitar but had never been a lead guitar player before. So, within those couple months, I taught myself how to play solos and just got myself as familiar with the neck of the guitar as I possibly could. After that, with the amount of touring we tend to do and getting used to playing guitar every night and when I was still teaching myself how to be a lead guitar player I would just spend the days figuring parts out and making sure that I could play them accurately and along the way you get used to playing like that and you pick up things here and there from watching other people or asking other people things or even just learning how to play along with songs.
I think one of the most important things when I was learning how to do that was finding songs that I liked that had guitar solos in them and trying to figure out how to play those because even if it wasn’t me playing along to a previously recorded Dropkick Murphys solo I was, at least, learning how to play like that.
What was your relationship to the band leading up to becoming a member?
I was good friends with Marc, the old lead guitar player. It’s a long, long story but the short version is, when he and I were teenagers, I played drums in bands in Connecticut, he played guitar for bands in Massachusetts and our bands would play together frequently. So, he and I became friends when we were teenagers and then when he joined the Dropkicks we lost touch. Before cell phones and he was tour all the time and the I went to college up in Worcester, Massachusetts and became friends with this girl who happened to be dating Marc at the time and we randomly reconnected and started playing music together. He then, sort of, found out that I could figure out whatever I could get my hands on essentially and I think he brought that to the attention of Ken (Casey) and the rest of the band. When it became time that they needed someone to be a dedicated, strange instrument player, initially they had a guy that played mandolin and a couple of other things so when they got in touch with me they had me come out on the Warped Tour for three months and sell t shirts while simultaneously playing one or two songs on the accordion for the set and then that started turning into a couple more songs and eventually the guy that was playing mandolin and that sort of stuff left and they needed a new full-time guy. So, Ken called me and asked if I’d be interested in joining as an actual member.
That’s awesome, man. That’s really, really cool. Being the holiday season and you mentioned that you all take an extended time off due to family and kids and birthdays and all that fun stuff, it was actually, kind of, a trip because as I was driving home to prepare to call you, your guys’ song “The Season’s Upon Us” came on to the radio.
Oh yeah, really? Nice!
Have you ever been able to play that song live? Were you able to do some gigs around the holidays where you could play that song?
Yes, actually, right before that album came out (Signed and Sealed In Blood) and I feel like that album came out in January as well so the lead up to the holiday season before that came out was spent going around to New York and Philly and places like that and doing a bunch of acoustic performances. All of which we based around the fact that we were playing “The Season’s Upon Us” pretty much. [Laughs] So we got to play that a lot and then there have been times when we’re on tour in November and stuff, it’ll be the last tour before we’re shutting down for the holidays and we’ll play that song. It’s been a while at this point but we actually practiced it the other day because we have some acoustic stuff coming up so that was the first time in a while that we had actually done it. It’s funny you should say that, I was out picking up some food for dinner the other night and the place that I was in, the song that was playing on the radio.
From the release of your last album to this one, how would you describe that the two albums differ?
I think there’s a definite difference phonically. I love the way that this one sounds. Not that I don’t like the way that Signed and Sealed sounds, I think that one sounds amazing as well but this one, to me, is a little more punchy and maybe this is getting a little to into it but to my ears, the last album, mixing-wise and everything I think there’s a little more mid-range to it where as this one is a little more grittier, a little more treble-y in an awesome way. I think that the guitar sounds that we got on this one between James (Lynch) and I some of the best sounds that we’ve ever gotten on a record. The drum sounds are amazing and our producer, Ted Hutt, I can’t say enough about him as far as he being super dialed to what we should sound like as a band. Both in songwriting, lyrics and also production-wise and he’s become like another member of the band and he did such a great job. Much like we tend to grow with ever record that we do as far as our songwriting and the way things sound and everything, I think similarly, Ted’s the kind of guy who with every album he produces for somebody else he’s picking up things here and there and always improving on what it is that he does and when I got the first mastered version of this album I was so psyched at the way that it sounded. Again, not to say that Signed and Sealed didn’t sound good or anything like that, I just personally think that this is the best sounding album that we’ve done.
Tim, thank you some much! Enjoy your holidays, go spend some time with your family and I’ll talk to you next time.
Alright, thanks, take care and happy holidays.