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Staying true to their roots 

Dropkick Murphys remain grounded despite movie boost

Dropkick Murphys may have gotten an increase in record sales and popularity because of a well-placed song in a Martin Scorsese movie, but one song doesn't make a band. The Boston-based septet has been making a name for itself for the last 11 years through heavy touring and a unique sound. After all, how many bands mix punk with bagpipes?

That doesn't mean the non-Irish aren't fans. The band's themes that come across as tributes to the working man resonate through all types. "It's being proud of your roots and where you come from and not having to be Irish," drummer Matt Kelly says by phone from his Boston home. "I think it brings that out of people and not alienating anyone who doesn't have a clover tattoo."

The band is getting set to release their sixth studio album, The Meanest of Times, in September, but they're still enjoying increased record sales of the last one. Warrior's Code, released in 2005, features the song "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" which was in last year's The Departed. The bagpipes and shouted vocals of the song gave the film an energy boost. While some people may think "sell out," Kelly says fan reaction has been the opposite. "Anybody, long-time fans, too, say, 'That's so awesome.' It doesn't get more legitimate than that. Hell, even our families think it's great. It was getting over the initial shock of your song being in a freakin' Martin Scorsese movie."

He said the band didn't change their setlist after the movie, noting the song has been played almost nightly for years. "The reaction has spiked quite a bit since the song has been in the movie, and I don't know if it takes people back to an exciting scene or if half the crowd only knows that song -- which would be pretty damn sad," Kelly says. "The fickle fans will just go on to the next big song when it comes along, but you don't want to leave your core fans behind."

The song is not only special for its inclusion in a movie, but for the story behind the lyrics, which were written by Woody Guthrie. Kelly says Guthrie's daughter, Nora, contacted the band because her son is a fan. They were then invited to go and look through Guthrie's lyrical archives. They found the lyrics for "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" written on scraps of notebook paper.

The band is now focusing on the upcoming release. Kelly said reaction to songs that have been played live has been great so far.

"You hope the new material is your best," he says. "You ride the crest to shore, but you hope long-time fans are as excited about it as we are. They're the ones who come to the shows and travel for hours to see us." He says the band has remained true to their roots on the new album and haven't changed to find a new style.

They've been writing for the album since last summer and went into the studio with 23 songs. Kelly said 15 will be on the album -- 13 of which are originals and two are reworkings of traditional songs. "There are a couple of very special guests on the album that I think people are going to be pretty excited about," he says without revealing any names. "They are legends in their own right and very cool for us to have them involved. I won't give anything away besides that."

After the album's release, they'll continue with touring, but plan to take October off for Kelly's wedding. The band, once known for a grueling touring schedule -- "We once toured for 11 months out of the year." -- is now only touring for about six. Kelly attributes that to the "advent of guys having children." He says band members want to witness their children's first steps and that in the past, it "was a bit excessive."

He also notes he's the same "mundane guy" he's always been. "I'm the same jerk, but maybe I grew as a person," he says. "After this interview, I'll go walk the dog and start marinating some food for supper. It's not coke and strippers for this band."

Dropkick Murphys plays Amos' Southend on Sunday, Aug. 5. Doors open at 7 p.m. It is a 16 and up show with tickets for $20 in advance and $23 on the day of the show.

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