This winter, Flogging Molly return to the environment they know all too well -- the road.
And while the group can be expected to log another 200-plus dates over the next year, at least guitarist Dennis Casey can say touring has become less of a burden for the seven-person group.
"We travel around with a bigger crew now," he said. "The van's gone. We've got a tour bus. Yeah, it's definitely easier for the band."
The more luxurious mode of travel (not to mention the extra stage hands) are sure signs of the growing popularity of Flogging Molly, who through near non-stop touring behind their three CDs -- 2000's Swagger, 2002's Drunken Lullabies and the recently released Within a Mile of Home -- have gained a reputation as a boisterously fun live band.
That energy is apparent on Flogging Molly's three CDs, which feature an infectious collision of punk rock and traditional Irish music. But Casey said the band has yet to truly replicate the live experience in the studio.
"The live show is definitely what ... sells the band, ... we sell more tickets than we do CDs. So it's a live band. It's a live experience," said Casey.
That may be true, but especially on Within a Mile of Home, songwriter Dave King and his bandmates in Flogging Molly show they are becoming more accomplished and versatile as songwriters and performers. The CD features the group's strongest and most well-rounded collection of songs yet.
The story of the band began with King, a native of Dublin, Ireland who had what amounts to an entire rock music career before Flogging Molly came into existence.
King started his career in the mid-1980s as lead singer of Fastway, a bluesy melodic metal band that also included Eddie Clarke from Motorhead, then endured a frustrating stint trying to start a new band called Katmandu.
King then moved over to Epic Records to make an ill-fated solo album before being dropped by the label.
This left King back at square one, at which point he went back to basics by starting to write songs on acoustic guitar that fit his own tastes and interests instead of a record company's formula for success.
In doing so, King was drawn not only to rock music, but to the Irish music he had heard growing up in Dublin. In the late 1990s he began doing gigs and a Los Angeles pub called Molly Malone's and this is where Flogging Molly not only got their name, but came together as a band.
The band has grown musically with each album, and with Within a Mile of Home, Flogging Molly tried some new approaches to writing and recording.
Producer Ted Hutt encouraged the band to try songs in different tempos and instrumental settings. But Hutt's approach didn't take the edge off of Flogging Molly's music, which rocks on with typically tuneful abandon on songs like "Screaming At The Wailing Wall," "Wander Lust" and "To Youth (My Sweet Roisin Dubh)." But several other songs bring fresh dimensions to the group's sound. "Factory Girls," is a rollicking country-ish tune featuring a guest vocal from Lucinda Williams, "Tomorrow Comes A Day Too Soon" has a Cajun-Irish feel, while "Whistles The Wind" is a stately ballad.
Flogging Molly will play the Fillmore in Denver this Saturday night.
-- Alan Sculley
Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson St., Denver
Saturday, March 12, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $20 in advance, $22 at the door. Go to any Ticketmaster outlet, or call (303) 830-TIXS.