WORKING behind the bar in his home town of Boston in the mid-’90s, a friend bet Ken Casey he couldn’t form a band and play a show.
And more than 15 years – and eight studio albums – later, Dropkick Murphys are still going strong.
LIVE caught up with the Boston Celtic rock icons’ lead singer ahead of their Aussie tour, which includes Byron Bay Bluesfest and a show in Newcastle at the end of March.
‘‘It all started on a bet and I won the bet and, 17years later, I’m still winning,’’ Casey explained in his strong Boston accent.
‘‘I hadn’t done a thing: I wrote our first song Barroom Hero in my head and I was kind of kicking around and I thought, ‘Some day if I start a band, this’ll be the song’. I had the lyrics and melody and my friend challenged me.’’
A little thing like having never played an instrument before didn’t stop him.
‘‘I’m a leftie so I took a bass and strung it backwards and taped the notes on the back of it and taught myself how to play, and three weeks later we did a show. I’m not going to say it was a good show, but it was a show,’’ he laughed.
‘‘The bet was to put together a band and play a show; it wasn’t going to be judged on how good it was, thank God.’’
It’s safe to say that, 17years later, Dropkick Murphys have proved their live credentials, with fans and shows across the globe and their legendary annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations in their home town.
Never known to celebrate lightly, the Irish community in Boston extends the day’s celebrations over a week.
Luckily, Dropkick Murphys will have a few weeks to recover before heading Down Under, a place Casey clearly loves.
‘‘It’s my favourite place to go on Earth; I would move there in a heartbeat if you’d let me in. My only gripe is we never stay long enough, it’s always in and out,’’ he said.
What is it that he connects with – the Aussie crowds, our stellar weather or a bit of both?
‘‘The weather, and the people are just friendly and really welcoming, honest and down-to-earth,’’ Casey said.
‘‘I just really hit it off with you folks.’’
Why does he think the band has such a strong Australian fan base?
‘‘I think it’s probably that same thing that meshes with the personality down there. We’re not trying to be pop stars, not trying to be anything, just playing music and having people enjoy a good time,’’ he said.
Those fans will be happy to hear that the band puts plenty of planning into their shows and set lists, going to great pains to offer fans something different at each show. They even save set lists from the past five years to ensure fans get a different taste of the Dropkicks each time they take to the stage at a particular venue.
The Newcastle set list is likely to include about ‘‘eight or so songs’’ from their latest studio album, Signed and Sealed in Blood, and a selection from their back catalogue.
Casey said keeping set lists not only kept fans happy, but gave the band reminders of times past.
‘‘There are obviously quite a few surprises, sometimes we say, ‘Wow I can’t believe we were playing that’, but yeah, it’s nice to go that extra step to make sure people don’t get bored,’’ he said.
‘‘We might have the sets from the last two Newcastle shows to make sure we play at least 10 or 12 different songs from the last time.’’
It’s a formula that has paid off for the Boston band as they’ve developed a reputation for a raucous live presence, taking to the stage with equal amounts of sweat and swagger to entertain the crowd. That, in the end, is what it’s all about for Casey.
‘‘When you get on stage and see fans that are excited to have you there, you wake up and no matter how bad your day might be or how tired you are, when you hit that stage, you can’t help to have a smile on your face,’’ he said.
Dropkick Murphys play at Newcastle Panthers on March 31. Tickets at Moshtix.