The Irish folk-punk band Dropkick Murphys did not get their name from a rehab center in Connecticut, contrary to popular belief.
According to Matt Kelly, current drummer of the revolutionary band, former guitarist Marc Orrell was drunk when he made the claim, and it just stuck with fans.
The name, Kelly claims, came from John Murphy, a professional wrestler in Massachusetts.
“[Murphy] was known for his dropkick, ended up coaching boxing and found himself dealing with a lot of boxers who had drinking problems,” Kelly said. “This was back in the early days of [Alcoholics Anonymous], and he basically opened his home up to drunks as a place to dry out.”
Murphy was one of those typical Bostonians: He carried, with extreme pride, his Irish roots as well as an unfaltering loyalty for his home state of Massachusetts — much like the Dropkick Murphys.
Founded in 1996, the Dropkick Murphys have flown under the radar for years but have developed a small, loyal fan base attracted to its intriguing mix of Irish folk and punk, making the band one of the more popular American bands today.
The band members believe it’s vital to keep the tradition of folk music alive.
“Traditional music is important,” Kelly said. “[Folk] shows where we come from. Punk has only been around since the ’60s but folk has always been there — it’s the voice of the people and you never want to silence that.”
Kelly also wants to make clear that this isn’t your grandmother’s favorite band.
“We’re a punk-rock band — almost a gateway band for a lot of kids to find more obscure bands and also traditional music,” Kelly said. “We can turn our fans onto something from their neck of the woods and reconnect them with that.”
What’s interesting about the band is that not every song is an equal mix of folk and punk. On any of its seven albums, it’s easy to hear the songs feature dramatically different styles.
“There’s a bit of variety,” Kelly said. “There’ll be straight up old-style hardcore on there, but then also have a folksy-sounding tune. We don’t have a homogenous sound. We’re not bashing people over the head with folk and punk; it’s just how we write tunes.”
The band’s particular writing style has enabled it to consistently sell out arenas even after 15 years on the stage. Success, however, took some rearranging and time.
“It was hard in the beginning, trying to get guys to play in a punk rock band on tour in a small parochial town in Massachusetts,” Kelly said. “So we went through a few guys throughout the years and it took a while for the sound to evolve.”
Once the band found its sound, the Dropkick Murphys found a place in listeners’ hearts. And even though their music seems tailor-made for the boast-of-their-roots Irish in Massachusetts, most of Dropkick Murphys’ fanbase comes from outside of the members’ home state.
“People weren’t aware of what we were doing in our own backyard,” Kelly said. “We’d play in front of thousands in Germany but most people back home had no idea who we were. It was sort of a secret club.”
At long last the change came. In a state obsessed with Red Sox baseball, all it took was the team to start using the song “Tessie” during games — and like that, the band’s popularity surged.
And it certainly didn’t hurt that the song “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” was used in the award-winning film The Departed.
Though the band found major success in its hometown, the group didn’t let fame get to its head.
“We’ve seen a lot of bands come and go and do something like The Departed and skyrocket into the mainstream and alienate their fans,” Kelly said. “We’re very aware and appreciative of our fans. We’re not about the easy buck or the easy fame. It’s about our fans.”
And those fans have been with the band for 15 years — and hopefully 15 more to come.
“In 15 years, we’ll probably be in wheelchairs. We’ll still be doing it because we love doing this,” Kelly said. “Between all us guys, we probably have 700 more songs and riffs we need an outlet for. It’s the best job in the world. And we’re going to do it until people are sick of us.”
The Dropkick Murphys will perform at the Hollywood Palladium on Saturday.