Dropkick Murphys Spill 'Blood': 'This Album Was Like Taking the Chains Off'
On their eighth album, Dropkick Murphys are finally ready to be a radio band. The Boston-based group, which fuses elements of punk, folk and Celtic music, released "Signed and Sealed in Blood" today (Jan. 8) via its own label Born & Bred, which is handled by ADA Label Services, and it's the band's first release to garner significant radio play.
The album, a follow-up to 2011's Going Out in Style, which bowed at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, represents a combined promotional effort between ADA and the group's new manager, Jeff Castelaz, the founder of Cast Management and president of Elektra Records.
"We started setting up the record a year ago," Castelaz says. "It was all about engaging their fan base around the world, which is a rabid, utterly dedicated fan base that buys concert tickets, T-shirts and lots of music in all formats available. The idea was to go to radio early-first to the NPR format to tell the band's story, which has not been told well enough in the past, and then go to modern rock and show the programmers that they can add Dropkick Murphys on their eighth album."
The project, which was recorded with producer Ted Hutt during the summer, culls together Dropkick Murphys' many influences and stylistic tendencies, making the new push to open them to a broader audience particularly timely. Going Out in Style, which Hutt also produced, was a concept album; this time, the band felt free to tool around to find the right tone and aesthetic.
"This album was like taking the chains off," singer Ken Casey says. "We wanted to keep expanding the sound. I think we were always this band who had multiple personalities. We were all over the map from song to song, and I think the last two albums have kind of refined it into one sound."
The first track to emerge was "Rose Tattoo," a number Casey says the band felt was "a great combination of a slow chorus [and] something that's in your head after you hear it once." The song yielded a fan-assisted music video released in early November. But it's been the album's holiday number, "The Season's Upon Us," that has made inroads at radio in the past month. The song was the No. 1 most-added track at Alternative the second week of December and, according to Castelaz, one of the most requested songs at KROQ Los Angeles mid-month.
ADA senior VP of A&R and label services Kenny Weagly says this is the first time that Dropkick Murphys have charted at Alternative. "Season's" debuted at No. 33 the week of Dec. 29 and has risen to No. 28. It's also rare for a holiday song to chart at the format: Adam Sandler's "The Chanukah Song," for instance, debuted in January 1996 and reached No. 25. "We're excited to open new doors for the band at multiple radio formats with such an amazing track-and one so appropriate for the holiday season, at that," Weagly says.
ADA and Cast Management will follow "The Season's Upon Us" with a more traditional single, "The Boys Are Back," which is currently in rotation on SiriusXM Alt Nation and is set to impact Alternative on Feb. 5. The single will coincide with the band's St. Patrick's Day tour, a stateside spring trek that will fittingly culminate with the Dropkick Murphys Irish Festival in Boston on March 15.
Casey, who feels experiencing the group's rambunctious live show is integral to fully understanding its music, isn't necessarily concerned with the idea of singles, but does feel that there could be a larger audience for the band at this point in the game.
"We're not striving to be Green Day or something, but I do think, with the nature of what we do musically and what our lyrical message is all about, there's definitely a wider portion of the population that can relate to us," Casey says. "It'd be nice to see people actually hear about us, and I think that will happen with this album."