AVILA BEACH – As part of the “From Boston to Berkeley tour,” punkers Rancid and Boston Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys will be co-headlining in Avila Beach Resort at Friday, Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. We caught up with Dropkick Murphys lead guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Tim Brennan (who, by the way, is single ladies) for an exclusive Q&A. Here’s what the veteran of the punk scene had to say:
PRP: Was ‘Darcy’ from the song “Dirty Glass” based on an old fling or just fictional?
TB: I don’t know if it was based on an actual person, but it was based on an event of, you know, (laughs) of Ken [Casey] working his way into bars when he was underaged. I think that’s something we can all relate to (laughs), but as far as it being an actual person, I don’t believe that it’s an actual person. I think it’s more of a scenario that was elaborated upon and turned into song, you know what I mean?
PRP: What made you chose to tour with Rancid?
TB: We have known those guys for a long time. The band has had a relationship with Rancid even before I was around. Tim [Armstrong] signed the band to Hellcat Records and Lars [Frederiksen] produced the first two records that the band put out, so they’ve been friends with those guys for a long time. My first tour ever with the band was the Warped Tour in 2003 and that was with Rancid, so you know we’ve done stuff with them in the past but we’ve never done anything like this, where it’s just like a ‘legit’ tour of the two bands. And we just thought that it would be something that people would want to see. The Rancid guys haven’t been on a tour of the States for a while and they just put out a new record. We just put out a new record in January and so it all worked out, thankfully, and it’s been great.
PRP: What is the West Coast/East Coast dynamic like?
TB: I haven’t really noticed many East Coast/West Coast differences. We all get along pretty well. We all play music for a living so we have that in common and so far it’s been great. There’s been no hip hop rivalry so far. Every night we flip-flop who headlines the show, then every night we join the other band for the encore, so the last, like 20 minutes of the show is all of us on stage together.
PRP: What made you choose Avila Beach for your ‘From Boston to Berkeley’ tour? Have you played SLO county before?
TB: I don’t know if we’ve done San Luis Obispo before. I can’t say for sure. But we love getting out to the West Coast. We have so many friends out there. I mean, it’s one of the places where the band first went when they left Boston, you know, and started touring and stuff and so there are a lot of friends who have been around for a long time and we always have the greatest time out there, not to mention the weather is a lot nicer out west than it is than where we come from.
PRP: Do you jump in the ocean?
TB: Oh yeah. Given the opportunity we will, absolutely. We were in Asbury Park [New Jersey] the other day and it was a pretty hot one on the beach and we just waded on in there. Look for us in the ocean. Shark bait.
PRP: You’ve been with Dropkick Murphys since high school right?
TB: Since about half-way through college. I’m 35. Ughph. (laughs) It feels old in comparison, you know? And I always used to be the young guy in the band and people would say, ‘Oh, you play so many instruments, how old are you?’ and I’d say, ‘23’ and they’d go, ‘Get outta here!’ And now they go, ‘How old are you?’ and I say, ‘35’ and they say, ‘Ahh, that makes sense.’
PRP: What’s it like growing up punk? Have you ever wondered what it would have been like if you hadn’t been adopted by the band?
TB: Of course, yeah. I was getting ready to go back to the high school that I graduated from and teach English and coach basketball. I mean I always knew that music was the thing that I was good at and ultimately what I loved to do, but who knows when an opportunity like that is gonna come up? I’ve always played in bands since I was probably 14-years-old and it’s always been the thing that came easiest to me. I was never good at school or anything like that and for whatever reason I was able to pick up whatever instrument and figure out how to play it without anybody teaching it to me, and so I just kind of hoped all along that I’d be able to fall into something like this, and luckily I was. It happened the opportunity came when I was a junior in college and I had to make an executive decision to leave school and join the band, despite the fact that I knew that my parents were going to KILL me. But now we don’t have two bigger fans in the world than my parents. So obviously I think I made the right decision as far as what I wanted to do and it’s very nice that we’re down the line now and my parents agree with me that I made the right decision.
PRP: Back in the Mike McColgan era, before you were in the picture, your band was named after Dr. John ‘Dropkick’ Murphys alcohol detoxification facility. Is alcohol or alcohol detox still a defining lifestyle for your band members? What are your vices? Tell us how you’ve been involved in the Claddagh Fund and other nonprofits that support alcohol and drug rehab.
TB: We have a lot of friends and meet a lot of people who struggle with alcohol addiction and drug addiction and stuff like that. Specifically up in New England right now, there’s a really bad problem with opioids going on. And as far as the Claddagh Fund, we had been asked a lot in the past if we could do things for charity, to donate things, to play acoustic shows, whatever, and we were always happy to do that, but it came to a point where we were being asked to do it so much, the idea was like, ‘Well, why don’t we start our own thing?’ and then we can give money directly to the causes we wanna support and everything like that, so the Claddagh Fund was born and, I gotta tell ya, it was born out of knowing that our fans are the most charitable and willing to help that we’ve ever met and it has been unbelievably rewarding to have that established and see it flourish. All of us guys in the band are pretty well behaved these days actually. You go through different periods and stuff. Like I said, I’m the youngest guy in the band, and I’m 35, so we’re all a little bit older now. Certainly for me, long gone are the days where you could, like, play a show and get drunk at night, and then wake up the next day and feel well enough to want to do it again? (laughs) I think those days are pretty much gone. When we’re out here on the road, it’s like we’re playing sports every night. Everyone’s gotta stay in shape. Everyone’s gotta get their rest. As far as vices out here, Unfortunately I still drink a lot of Coca-cola, but… (laughs) that is definitely my vice and I’m aware of that just because of the few times that I’ve said to myself, ‘Why don’t I stop drinking soda for a while?’ and then I go nuts. It’s unbelievable. There are worse things that I could be mentioning, I’m sure (laughs).
PRP: What has been the most awesome, or weird, or unexpected moment on the tour so far?
TB: When we were in Bangor, Maine, the first night, actually, Stephen King walked into our dressing room and sat down and hung out with us and was the coolest, nicest, most down-to-earth dude ever. He walked in and said, ‘Call me Steve.’ He was talking about music and it was unbelievable. I was blown away. He came to see us and Rancid and he was like, ‘I can’t believe you guys are playing in my hometown!’ It was awesome. A lot of times we meet people like that and walk away thinking, ‘Eh, I wish I hadn’t met that guy,’ but totally not the case with Steve King. He was such a gentleman, and such a cool guy.
PRP: You have personally been described as a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, drums, accordion, tin whistle, banjo, mandolin, bouzouki and piano). How did you learn all those instruments? What is the engine that fuels your creative mind?
TB: That’s a good question. As far as learning different instruments, once I got the hang of playing music, that was just always something that interested me as far as being able to work out the differences between different instruments and play them. I am self-taught and everything. My main instrument is the drums, but being that I play guitar for the band, that’s come in at a close second. I’ve been doing that for a while. I don’t know, I got super-interested in music when I was in, probably, fifth grade and my brother, who’s a year older than me, about at the same time started getting interested in music and then for whatever reason we started talking about how we wanted to get our hands on something – guitar, bass, drums, whatever, you know, a couple of Christmases later he got a cheap bass and I got a hand-me-down drum set and we were off to the races from then on I think. I would hear a song or something like that. I would hear something that I would want to learn how to play and then apply it to whatever instrument I had. Like when I was probably 15 I was playing drums in a band with this kid whose dad was a musician and the dad had an accordion and it sat in the basement that we practiced in forever. I never saw it move from the spot that it was in, so one day I asked if I could borrow it. He said, ‘yeah.’ I took it home, and there was like a bunch of Pogues songs that I wanted to be able to play along to, so I sat down and just started figuring out the basics of it, and started to figure out a couple notes here and there and then started playing the long stuff. It was so rewarding for me to be able to figure something out like that on my own. That fueled me to keep going and keep trying to figure out more stuff, you know? Every once in awhile I come to something where it’s like, ‘I’ll never be able to learn how to do that,’ but (laughs) it’s still fun to try.
PRP: Woodie Guthrie’s daughter called your band to ask if you wanted to put any of her father’s unused lyrics to music. So you sang Woody’s ‘I’m Shipping up to Boston’ over some music you had written. What was it like collaborating with one of your idols?
TB: It was amazing because they got in touch with us because they asked if we wanted to pick through his unused lyrics that he had, and that yielded ‘Shipping up to Boston’ as well as another song called, ‘Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight.’ And we actually still have a couple of things and lyrics that we picked out that we haven’t used, that never got music put to them so it’s possible we could do something else down the line, but that was amazing. As music fans and musicians, to be afforded an opportunity with Woodie Guthrie lyrics is beyond our wildest dreams. We never thought we’d be playing to more than 20 people a night so the fact that we’re 21 years into it and we’re out here with Rancid playing these sold out places to 5,000 people a night is unbelievable.
Check out the video below to see the lyric video for the song "Blood" off of the Dropkick Murphys' newest album "11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory":