"We all have friends or family who have been touched by the horrors of addiction..." - Dropkick Murphys talk their new album 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory
Bostonian punks Dropkick Murphys return with a brand new album today, their first since 2013’s Signed and Sealed in Blood. The album is titled 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory and we spoke to the band's Matt Kelly about how they made it...
When did you start working on the songs for 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory?
"Well, we’ve been writing and throwing around ideas for the last couple years. We actually had played the songs 'Sandlot' and 'You’ll Never Walk Alone' in the live set for quite some time before even recording them, luckily to great reception. However, we really started buckling down about this past January if I remember correctly, just coming up with tons of stuff, and picking the best stuff to flesh out further."
You worked with Ted Hutt on the album, what does he give you as a producer?
"We’ve been working with Ted for this and the last two albums. It had been some time since we’d worked with a producer, and that strange mixture of seventh member and outside-of-the-box guy is great. We all love Ted as a person; he’s a great guy and as a producer he has both a critical ear for all the minutae and working parts of songs."
"He knows how to see the big picture and simplify when needed. He basically does what a good producer does best: he gets the best takes out of each band member and helps us play to our strengths; he knows what the band is about and neither stifles creativity nor comes out of left field with ideas we have no interest in; he understands how to meld our vision and his as far as the sonic properties of each song the album as a whole entity. Basically, he’s exactly what we look for in a producer."
What was the song on the album that took the longest to get right?
"Well various songs took different amounts of time due to touring, time away from each other, or other reasons, but the song that was the biggest challenge to get just right was 'You’ll Never Walk Alone'. The chord structure is insane, and we tried it in various keys before eventually the boys really got it right. Then it came down to singing the thing! It’s a really, really tricky song to get right. Sure, everybody has belted out the chorus now and again, but the verses have subtleties to them that took a long time to get just right. It was a really, really tough one, but I think the end result is just beautiful. Ken (Casey, bass/vocals) and Al (Barr, vocals) really gave it their all on that one."
And which came together most quickly?
"I think 'Until the Next Time'. The basic vocal melody and 'vibe' of the song took about fifteen minutes to come about. We talked about a fun 'closer' type song, maybe something everybody could sing, like the Faces or the Kinks. A couple chords were strummed, pen hit paper, and a basic outline came together."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Does it have a common theme?
"Three of the songs on the album deal with different aspects of the opioid epidemic in New England and, to some extent, across the nation. We all have friends or family who have been touched by the horrors of addiction, some of us closer to home than others. The songs 'Rebels With A Cause', 'Paying My Way', and 'You’ll Never Walk Alone' are all different facets of that problem, whether they’re themes of kids stuck in the rut of addiction who might surprise you with their strength to climb out of that rut, the guy who is taking it day by day and putting one foot in front of the other to keep his act together, or the fact that you don’t have to go it alone and don’t be afraid to ask for help because you have people who want you to succeed."
"That all being said, there seven other lyrical themes on the album which deal with various other subjects, but if we had to pick a theme, and what’s been happening in everybody’s world the last couple years, the three above mentioned tunes would hit it."
When did you settle on the title of 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory? And why?
"The title came out kind of late in the game but we wanted a title disembodied from song titles or lyrics of the album, but one that would encapsulate the themes. The 'stories' part is something that we’ve done since our first-ever original song, 'Barroom Hero'. Storytelling has always been a thing we’ve done through our songs. The album has highs and lows as far as lyrical content, so the title just seemed to work!"
Were there any other titles in contention?
"Yeah but they basically involved song titles or lyrical excerpts."
You’ve covered ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ on the album, why did you decide to do that?
"We cover it as an anthem of hope for those struggling with opiate addiction."