Scene Setters

Young Dubliners lead pack of Irish music revivalists

With the growing popularity of Irish-influenced rock and the considerable visibility of groups like Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys, Young Dubliners frontman Keith Roberts on occasion finds he has to set the record straight about his group’s place in the Irish rock genre.

“I’ve done interviews before and people are like, ‘Flogging Molly, I love them. What influence were they on you?’ And I’m like, ‘You’ve got to read Wikipedia,'” Roberts good-naturedly observes in a recent phone interview, as he remembered his band’s beginnings in the early 1990s.

“I had a bar for three years [Fair City Dublin, in Santa Monica], and every Saturday night was the Young Dubliners and the opening band was the Dave King Band,” says Roberts. “Dave King is the lead singer of Flogging Molly. The Dave King Band was a rock and roll band. He played with us for three years and his manager finally suggested that he embrace the Irish side of him. Dave is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever known, and I love him to death. We had such a great three years. But if there was any influence, it was the other way around.”

Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys may have attained greater success, but the Young Dubliners have the longer history and are also doing just fine. After raising money for recording expenses through fan donations, the group last March self-released its first studio album in four years, Nine.

“By releasing our own album, we’ve increased the profit potential now of record sales,” Roberts said. “It’s so dramatically different, the profit margin on a record that you release yourself versus on a record that [record companies] release.”

Roberts and his band mates—bassist Brendan Holmes, guitarist Bob Boulding, violinist/multi-instrumentalist Chas Waltz and drummer Dave Ingraham—took their time making Nine because they knew a self-released album needed to stand up to the group’s eight previous albums and EPs. Roberts thinks the band achieved that goal.

“We feel proud of it,” Roberts said. “It’s got depth to it, it’s got the variety of sound that we like, but it’s also very raw for us. We didn’t overdo it.”

Fans who see the Young Dubliners live can expect a spirited but also well-conceived and well rehearsed show. “I love these bands that say, ‘We never do the same set twice in a row,'” Roberts said. “And that to me is a little bit hard to believe. I want it to be structured, and we’re very kind of into playing as well as we can every night and having things being tight.”

Sonoma County Library