It takes a strong work ethic to reach the peak of the Punk Rock world. Bodies litter the rocky road to the top, and though it never really looks much different than base camp, many still make the journey.
It also takes the release of consistent, quality music to reach the level of the Dropkick Murphys. Sporting blue collars rather than Mohawks, the Murphys stand out from a lot of other punk bands out there because of more than just success. Adored by professional athletes, Joe Strummer, weird little emo kids, Keith Richards and US soldiers alike, the Murphys really are “a fun, dysfunctional family-type band.” Guitarist Marc Orrell explains:
MVRemix: Have you been on the road since Warped Tour?
Marc Orrell: No, actually we went home for a couple of weeks. We just did the Warped Tour and we did a couple of weeks in Europe. We did that straight and then took a couple weeks off, went home to relax. Unfortunately, [singer] Al [Barr] had Budweiser-ticulitus, and had to have some kind of fucking surgery in the hospital. We didn’t get to go to Japan. We had to cancel that but he’s out here rocking out. He’s doing great, he sounds great.
MVRemix: Did you enjoy playing Warped Tour?
Marc Orrell: Did I enjoy it?
MVRemix: Yeah, really?
Marc Orrell: Yeah, it’s a good time. There are a couple weird bands out there. Before we went out on the Warped Tour, it was kind of like, “Oh god, who are these kids?” I never heard any of these bands before. It’s been MTV-infused and all that shit. And now it’s become sort of this Saturday morning cartoon thing. I watched the shit the other day and it was like some My Little Pony shit. There was, like, rainbows, and people turning 16. It was weird. It’s for little kids and stuff. I’d never heard of Fallout Boy or My Chemical Romance. But then once I got on the tour, it was like, “Oh I know this band.”
It’s not my cup of tea, [but] they’re nice guys, and if anybody sticks out their hand I’m going to shake it. The only thing between us is queer music.
MVRemix: I was wondering why you chose to play the Commodore [Ballroom] when you came to Vancouver, because I know you generally try and do all-ages shows, and this is the only date on the tour that isn’t one.
Marc Orrell: I don’t have a hand in that. It’s our manager. I just get up there and play guitar. They say “Play an A chord,” and I go “Okay,” and play an A chord. Most of the time, we’re all about having all-ages shows, because we’re like a fun, dysfunctional-family type band.
MVRemix: Other than all being from Boston, how did you pick the bands you’re touring with?
Marc Orrell: They’re all really good friends of ours on this Boston Invasion Tour. First we got Darkbuster. We’ve been really good friends with them. They’re a great, great band. The Lost City Angels are also good friends of ours. Two years ago, actually, I think we were together with them in LA. So it’s like old times with them. Then of course you have Gang Green, one of the greatest Boston punk bands to ever come out of Boston. It’s a cool selection. You get a little bit of everything. You get your punk with the Darkbuster, and you got your spooky punk with the Lost City Angels, and then you get your Boston hardcore with Gang Green. Then you got us. I don’t know what we are.
MVRemix: Coming up you’ll be touring with The Pogues. How did that come about?
Marc Orrell: That should be real cool. Especially at Christmas time, you know, with the whole “Fairytale of New York” thing. I think I’m going to be the fake snow guy. When they play the song, I’ll be the guy up top shaking all the bits of paper. We played a show with them actually, in June of 2002 –– some Guinness thing in London. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros were playing. We headlined on the other stage, but I just wanted to play the fucking show and get over there.
We went over and watched Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, and they were fucking awesome. He got off the stage and there were a whole shitload of people around and I didn’t really want to bother him, but Al was like, “Fuck this, I’m going over there.” So we went over there and said, “Hi, Al and Marc from Dropkick Murphys,” and he was like “Dropkick Murphys!” He cleared everyone out of the way and brought us into his dressing room, and just chatted with us a while. It was amazing to hear that guy’s voice. That voice you hear all your life, and that’s him.
Then I hear The Pogues going on, so I’m torn: Joe Strummer [or] The Pogues. I’ve never seen [The Pogues] before. I’m sorry I got to go see The Pogues. So he says “Don’t worry.” I’m going up there and there’s a shitload of people and I’m jumping just to try and see. So fuck this, I go over to the other side and who’s there? Joe Strummer and his wife sitting Indian-style drinking wine. So I just sat down casually next to him and he offered me some wine. And we just sat, me and Al, and him and his wife just sat and drank wine and watched The Pogues. It was real cool.
MVRemix: How long does it take you to get homesick once you leave on tour?
Marc Orrell: A split second. As soon as I get on the airplane. I’ve got a dog at home, Keith Richards. He’s a little sheltie. I kind of miss him sometimes. He knows what’s going on as soon as I pull out the suitcase. He’s like, “What the fuck. How long you going to be gone?” I love playing in front of people. We all love playing in front of people, so it works out well.
MVRemix: Your fans are intensely loyal and often show up to your concerts with flags…
Marc Orrell: The flags are so cool. I’ve seen someone cut out a picture of Johnny Cash’s head and put it on a dude with a kilt. That’s cool. I like Johnny Cash. All of these kids come out with these flags and some of them are really fucking good, man. It’s so cool from our point of view to see all these flags everywhere, though it must suck for all the kids out there. “Yo, I’m just trying to watch the show and your giant-ass flag is in my fucking way,” you know.
MVRemix: Why do you think your fans are so dedicated?
Marc Orrell: I have no clue. Sometimes I feel as though our fans come from a rough background and sometimes we speak to them. Kids are loyal that way, to music, and punk rock fans in general are loyal to their music. It’s engrained that way. I know lot’s of Bouncing Souls fans that really are True Believers. I don’t think our fans are different from their fans. It’s in punk rock to be true, true fans.
MVRemix: More so than a lot of punk bands, you guys are highly involved in and influenced by sports.
Marc Orrell: Me, I got picked on by jocks in high school. I play the guitar, you guys sing about what you want, but the whole sports aspect does come in. I love the Red Sox and the Bruins, and we get some good perks out of that too. We get to go to games and its fun, and sometimes dudes run out of shit to talk about. So fuck it, let’s go for the Bruins.
MVRemix: Are you glad hockey’s back?
Marc Orrell: Hockey is definitely back in town. My dad is excited. I used to play hockey when I was young, which is why I have such good balance on stage.
MVRemix: How much fun was the whole “Tessie” experience? That’s you playing the piano, right?
Marc Orrell: Yeah. That was a blast. That’s something out of history right there. I hope some fucking stud plays me in the movie in 20 years. It’s really cool to be a part of history like that. The whole season we were like, “Imagine if they actually win,” and everyone said “You guys’ll be famous. You guys’ll be on the cover of Rolling Stone.” Yeah, okay. And they did come along and win, and here we are… still not on the cover of Rolling Stone. We didn’t care, we were behind the Sox totally. I had a party in my basement and we were eating chicken wings and throwing beer once we found out they had won.
And it really didn’t matter about them winning the World Series, it was that we beat the fucking Yankees. Once we beat the fucking Yankees, that’s what it was all about, because Boston Red Sox fans and New York Yankees fans do not get along. They head butt so bad up in the east cost its crazy. One time, [frontman] Ken [Casey] and a couple of our guys, we got into a little tizzy with the guys form Agnostic Front. Ken actually wanted to go down to Yankee Stadium and play Tessie on a flatbed nonstop with chicken wire around us. Better [yet], bulletproof glass. God, this is 2005, motherfuckers are pulling out guns. That whole experience was so, so cool. To be a part of the greatest comeback in sports history, I mean everyone was rooting for the Red Sox. People not even from Massachusetts were like “Fuck the Yankees.” It was definitely cool to see people rooting for the underdog.
MVRemix: How did Micky Ward end up on the cover of the new album?
Marc Orrell: Ken became really good friends with Micky Ward and decided to use him for the cover. He’s just this boxing legend out of Lowell, Massachusetts, about an hour east of Boston. Or north. Anyway, Ken was inspired to write a song about him. He started boxing when he was really young and Ken really admired that.
MVRemix: On all your albums you have these traditional Irish songs that you rearrange in a punk rock fashion. How do you choose which songs to cover, or more specifically, the ones on the new album?
Marc Orrell: We have a long list of songs we like, we think would be kind of cool or we could completely fuck up. “The Green Fields of France,” which is on this new album, we actually wanted to do it on Blackout, but nobody could play the piano yet so we couldn’t really do it then. We generally have a long list of songs, but its trial and error mostly.
MVRemix: The Warriors Code has a real variety of songs. On one end, there is the song “Last Letter Home,” the lyrics being taken from Sgt. Andrew Farrar’s last letter home before he was killed in Iraq. The memorial fundraiser single is out now…
Marc Orrell: It’s like we say at every show: you don’t have to support the war, but you got to support the troops and their families. It’s the least we could fucking do. I’m sure you know the story of Andrew Farrar and his last request for us to play “Fields of Athenry” at his funeral if he should die. It was the least we could do for anyone grieving over the loss of a loved one in a stupid war.
MVRemix: On the other end of the spectrum is the song, Wicked Sensitive Crew. What was the motivation in writing that song?
Marc Orrell: Ken took the lyrics on this one. He just tried to bash on anybody to get as much press as he could. That song is totally tongue-in-cheek, but it has its truth in there. Every joke does. It’s our little stab at some queer bands out there… I just play guitar! I’ll show you the chords!
MVRemix: Out here [in Vancouver], recently there has been a lot of labor movement and job action, and you guys have always identified very strongly with the working class. Why is that?
Marc Orrell: Me personally, I can’t identify as much with the working class. This band picked me up at a Blockbuster video, so I don’t know much about working. But my mother and father, and everyone in the band comes from a real blue-collar background. We’ve seen the shit, and our families have been through it, so we have always tried to support the union as much as we could and support people that were trying to make a decent living. That’s always been our humble way of identifying with the crowd. Rich kids, you guys can come out too, but we don’t really identify with anyone with a Rolex on their arm.
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"It’s so cool from our point of view to see all these flags everywhere, though it must suck for all the kids out there. “Yo, I’m just trying to watch the show and your giant-ass flag is in my f**king way,” you know."