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Fourth time around is a lucky charm

The Baltimore Sun

Largely by word of mouth, Flogging Molly has established a strong reputation as an explosive touring act.

The 10-year-old independent Los Angeles septet - which is led by vocalist-songwriter Dave King and also features guitarist Dennis Casey, pianist and accordionist Matthew Hensley, bassist Nathan Maxwell, violinist Bridget Regan, mandolinist Robert Schmidt and drummer George Schwindt - uniquely fuses traditional Celtic instrumentation with thrashing punk rock. Over the weekend, Flogging Molly played a sold-out show at Rams Head Live and did a meet-and-greet with fans at Sound Garden in Fells Point.

The activity was centered on Flogging Molly's new album, Float, released today by the L.A.-based SideOneDummy label. The 11-cut CD - ablaze with punchy, beer-mug-raising tunes - is the band's fourth studio album and the follow-up to 2004's well-received Within a Mile of Home. Underneath the assured, vibrant musicianship, the lyrics mostly convey stories of spiritual perseverance.

King, calling from a tour stop in Norfolk, Va., talked about the band's evolving musical direction on Float.

It's been four years since the last time you guys were in the studio. What took so long?

Touring and touring. All of it is touring. We tour all the time. You really have to put time aside to write and record an album. On the road, it's hectic all the time. The new album was written in the countryside of Ireland. It was a different atmosphere. We were altogether and so focused. We did one song a day. We worked with [producer and engineer Ryan Hewitt], who did the Red Hot Chili Peppers' album [2006's Stadium Arcadium].

What was that like?

It was great, a great way to do it one song at a time. We'd do the track in the morning and all the overdubbing at night. We wanted it to be like an old album where you just had, like, 10 or 11 songs and you listened to the whole thing. You don't need to be doing 15, 16 songs on an album. You lose focus that way.

The music is so grounded and energetic, but the album is called Float, which conveys suspension or something surreal. Why did you call the album that?

That particular song on the album was very personal. The band was like, "Wow! This is how we have to go. Let's call the album Float." The song is simply about keeping your head above water. It really emphasizes what the album is about. The title can conjure a lot of different images, which is kind of the beauty with the title and the music on the album.

How did you arrive at the Flogging Molly sound?

I met Bridget like 14 years ago, and she plays amazing fiddle. We thought we could revisit Ireland in our identities. All of us in the band have different influences. We have the Pogues, of course, but then there's the Clash and Johnny Cash and so many influences. I think we have found our own sound on Float.

I know the record is just out, but do you all have any thoughts about the group's next musical direction?

Oh, man, it's really too early to tell. The focus is the tour and to see if we can survive it.

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

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