If you’re in downtown Lancaster prior to the Flogging Molly concert at the Lancaster County Convention Center on Sunday, there’s a good chance you’ll catch guitarist Dennis Casey riding his bike around town.
“I just read that New York Times story on the cuisine in Lancaster, so I’ll definitely be checking out Central Market and maybe Issei Noodle if I have time,” Casey says via telephone.
Casey and Flogging Molly are currently on a co-headlining tour with fellow longstanding punk institution Social Distortion, bringing the band to Lancaster for the first time. Despite both bands’ combined 63 years of experience, this will be the first tour uniting them. Rounding out the bill on Sunday are The Devil Makes Three from Santa Cruz, California, and Le Butcherettes of Guadalajara, Mexico.
Flogging Molly has brought its particular brand of fast, Irish-influenced punk rock all around the world since 1997, with Casey joining the band two years later in time for the debut album, “Swagger,” in 2000.
Since then, the band has played hundreds of shows, created its own seafaring voyage in the form of the yearly Salty Dog Cruise and inspired the raising of countless beers for toasting the world over.
“It really just never ceases to amaze me to look out into an audience in a place like Japan or Colombia, which we played earlier this year, where English is not the first language, and they’re still loving it,” Casey explains. “I know the world has changed, but still, seeing these people who know the band and bought a ticket to see us play is so interesting and humbling to me. I’m very grateful for that.”
Flogging Molly’s fervent fan base helped bring the band’s most recent studio album, 2017’s “Life is Good,” into the upper half of the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. In 2018, the band dropped two songs, held over from the “Life is Good” sessions, “Going Home” and “There’s Nothing Left Pt. 2.” Casey says that the band is taking stock of the ways the music has changed in the two decades the band has been together.
“After the cruise (in November), we’re going to take some time off and start writing again,” Casey says. “Ideally, I’d like to do both release albums and standalone singles. I think we have a fan base that is still into the idea of full records. Having said that, I’m somebody who buys records still and streams music, it really changes the way you listen to music.”
For a band that tours as frequently as Flogging Molly does — with nearly 100 shows played in 2018 and 79 already this year, according to set list tracking website setlist.fm — it helps to shake the set list up on a regular basis. Fans of bands playing lesser-known songs and album cuts, fear not — Casey is firmly on your side.
“I’ve been asking Dave (King, lead singer and songwriter) to the point of bugging him, like, ‘Let’s do this song or that song,’ ” Casey says. “I’m a big fan of deep cuts. Not necessarily doing a full set of them or anything, but it’s always good to bring some back now and then. With this tour, we’re definitely pulling them out.”
In November, the band departs for the fifth annual Salty Dog Cruise, which sets sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Bahamas. This year, luminaries such as Frank Turner, Pennywise and Stiff Little Fingers will join the band aboard the Serenade of the Seas. In previous years, the band has used the cruise to test out new material and, on one occasion, play its debut album, “Swagger,” from start to finish. Coincidentally, that album celebrates a 20th anniversary in 2020, which Casey admits might be a clue to one of the bands’ many plans heading into the new year.
It’s been a long journey for Casey, who quit his job as a house painter to join Flogging Molly 20 years ago.
“The last house I had, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to paint this thing myself,’ ” Casey says with a laugh. “By the end three weeks later, I told my wife to never let me do that again. But I can still do it!”
Flogging Molly and Social Distortion perform at Freedom Hall on Sunday, September 1. Tickets can be found online here and will be available at the door.