Interview: Flogging Molly drummer (and Crew season ticket holder) George Schwindt

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Flogging Molly will rock Crew Stadium after this Saturday's match between the resurgent Crew and their bitter rivals the Chicago Fire. It's the Celtic punk band's biggest show ever in Columbus, but drummer George Schwindt is no stranger to the venue. The Columbus native has been a Crew season ticket holder since he and his wife moved back here from Los Angeles five years ago.

In advance of the soccer/rock double bill, I talked to Schwindt over the phone for a feature in this week's Alive. We chatted about how his path to rock stardom and soccer fandom intertwined; the full text of our conversation is below.

Alive: My understanding is you're a bit of a Crew fan yourself.

George Schwindt: Yeah, I've been a season ticket holder since I moved back from Los Angeles. We moved back in 2007 and I got season tickets in 2008.

Alive: Oh, good timing.

Schwindt: Yeah, it was good timing.

Alive: So you grew up in Columbus, then? Or you spent some time in Columbus before?

Schwindt: Yeah, I grew up on the West Side. I went to Westland high school.

Alive: So how did you go from the West Side of Columbus to joining Flogging Molly?

Schwindt: Well, that's long and convoluted - the answer is, I mean. But I had been in a band in Columbus after I graduated from Ohio State. We moved to L.A., and we lasted about a year, and then the band broke up. And I just stayed out there for a couple years and moved to London for six months and back to L.A. And I ended up being in L.A. for 14 years total. And I just happened to see Flogging Molly and the Dave King Band at Molly Malone's. I think I joined the band in late '95, I think November of 1995. And then the lineup as it is now has been together since '97. So basically the band all met at Molly Malone's in L.A. We were all fans of the band, basically, before we were in it, I mean excluding Dave.

Alive: So what were the circumstances for moving back to Columbus?

Schwindt: At the time I had been living in Los Angeles for quite a few years, and my wife of two years, we were living in Hollywood at the time and really wanted to buy something out there, and that was the peak of the market. And it was just crazy prices. I could barely afford rent, let alone buying a place, and I was just like, "This is crazy." We wanted to start a family, and my mom and sisters are in Columbus, and her mom and sisters and brother were in Columbus at the time, so we said, "Alright, let's just go back." At that point we were touring so much, it didn't matter. Nobody lives in L.A. anymore. We all met there and lived there for years. Now everybody's gone back where their families are from or their wives' families, and we just get together to rehearse or make a record.

Alive: Yeah, it seems like a lot of bands, when they get to the point where they can afford to do it, they tend to spread out, people do their own thing.

Schwindt: It wasn't really intentional as much as it was just a financial reality of seven people in the band. I think people wanted to be able to afford to buy something. And the fact that we tour so much, we still spend more time with each other than we do our families. You know, you get together that much - our real downtime is like December and January and that's it. We're usually somewhere together. So nothing has really changed except when people go home. When we were in L.A., it's not like we were hanging out together when we were off the road.

Alive: So you moved back in '07 and got season tickets in '08. I assume you were a soccer fan before that. Did you follow a certain team before the Crew?

Schwindt: Well, I mean, I kind of grew into it. When I went to Westland High School, there was basically no such thing as soccer. There was American football, baseball, basketball, wrestling, tennis. It just wasn't anything, really. And then, when I lived in London - and I didn't live there a long time, but I lived there long enough to be exposed to the Premier League, and that kind of opened my eyes to what the game is about and what it looks like. I had some friends who were Arsenal supporters. It's an amazingly intense sort of thing. I mean, it's all about the sport there. It's pretty great, and I started getting into it.

I have a friend who works in the Fire's front office now, but he played in Crete, in Greece. He was a team captain. And he played in the Belgian league and the Dutch league. He came from Greece to play for Kansas City before it was Sporting KC, when they were the Wizards. And now he's in the front office for the Fire. And he's going to be there on the 26th with a bunch of Fire people. And he's a Flogging Molly fan, believe it or not. Nick Kounenakis. And he became a friend. Somehow he knew about Flogging Molly when he was playing in the Greek league. And they used to listen to it in the locker room, the team. And so we used to go to those matches in the summer when we were in Crete. And when they'd start up in late summer and early fall, I used to go to the practice fields and watch those guys work out. It was a good experience, you know?

And then when I was in L.A., I used to go to the Galaxy when they were still playing at the Rose Bowl, which was cool, way back in the beginning. So you know, I've been around it. And when you're in Flogging Molly, Dave, our singer, is such a huge Man United fan, you're always exposed to it. He's Dublin born and bred, Dublin, Ireland. So he grew up with it, unlike me. But I'm a fan now. It's a great game.

Alive: With being on tour so much, I imagine that with the nature of your job you don't make it to as many games as you'd like to.

Schwindt: That's funny because I don't get to nearly as many as I'd like to, and I always try to use my seats. When I can, I give them to somebody. Last season I sat down and there was a woman in my seat. I said, "Listen, you're in my seat." And she said, "You don't come to the damn games anyway." And I'm like, "What the f--- does that have to do with anything? I paid for the damn thing!" Which is true, I wasn't there. I mean, we were really busy last year because we had a new record out. So I didn't get to go back as much. This year I've seen a few matches already, which is pretty great.

Alive: So how do you feel about the team this year?

Schwindt: Let me ask you something. So they're signing this guy from Costa Rica, right? (Jairo Arrieta) Did they get him yet?

Alive: He can't come until the transfer window opens June 27.

Schwindt: Oh, OK. I was reading about it, and I thought, "When are we going to get this guy?" I feel like, I think the injuries are killing them. And I don't know if that's a trainer issue or a training issue in the offseason, in the preseason. But you know, how do you say his name, Meram? He's lit it up the last couple of games, which has been great. I mean, they don't play bad defense, they just put the ball in the net, you know?

Alive: Yeah, it just seems like they've got to find the right combination of guys who actually want to shoot.

Schwindt: Yeah. You just need more shots on goal. I mean it's remarkable on Saturday that they tied San Jose with so many shots on goal (by San Jose). I mean, they had a chance to win that game. And I think they probably had three times as many shots on goal, San Jose did, as the Crew. If I remember, it was something like that I was reading. I mean, I try to follow it as much as I can. Get on the internet, look at the highlights, see who we're playing next. But I'm looking forward to this Fire game when I can actually watch the game and play music. That'll be great.

Alive: Do you have any favorite Crew players from your time following the team?

Schwindt: I always liked Frankie (Hejduk) when he was playing. He played hard. A lot of people around me, I know we're loud where I'm sitting, they'd give Robbie (Rogers) a lot of grief, but I liked Robbie. I think Emilio now, Renteria, I think he's great. And I like that this Meram kid's coming in and letting it fly. I love that. I always like Lenhart too. I always thought he played hard. I think Chad's done a good job. I haven't really seen enough matches this year to get a handle on who's doing what. I've just been reading about it. You know, trying to stay caught up.

Alive: I hear the official after party for your show Saturday is at 4th Street Patio. Is that official official?

Schwindt: Yeah, it's official official. As many of us will be there as we can. And hopefully the whole band will come. I think we'll get everybody down there. I went in there and met the owner of the place. Really great. It's just a good vibe in there. I like it.

Alive: I know Flogging Molly has played the Dublin Irish Festival before. Since you've been living here, have you been tuned in to any of the Irish music or Celtic rock that goes on in Columbus?

Schwindt: Not really. You know, when I'm in town, I'm usually at home working from my house, and I don't get out that much. We've played the Dublin Irish fest a few times, but we've played a lot more at like the Newport and LC. And when Little Brother's or whatever it was called was there, we used to play there before we jumped up to the Newport. And then Newport to LC. And I think last summer or two summers ago we played an outdoor LC show, and that was great. We've done a Low Dough Show with CD101, 102.5 now, a few years ago. In terms of what's going on in Irish music there, I'm really out of the loop, honestly. But then again, I never really think what we're doing is Irish other than we have Irish instruments, and the people playing Irish instruments tend to incorporate some traditional Irish lines into the music. But at least from a drumming standpoint I never really thought it was different.

Alive: Tell me about the band you were playing with when you first moved to L.A. That band was originally based in Columbus?

Schwindt: The band was called Eurogression. Yeah, we were based in Columbus. We had played around a bit in Columbus, and we'd gone to New York and played CBGB's when that was still there, and that was great. It was different then because in order to get to where people could help with your career, you had to go to one of the music markets. That was before Seattle. And then when all that stuff started happening in Seattle, I mean, you couldn't be in Seattle and not run into a label guy from somewhere. Whether it was L.A. or New York or London - everybody. I mean, they were all there. It was just saturated. That kind of changed, along with technology, I think changed the way the labels look at the world and who's doing what. But back then, you said, "OK, well, we're going to have to go to New York or L.A." And I voted for New York, and everybody else voted for L.A. (laughs) So in that band democracy, we got in the moving van and went west. We played in L.A. for about a year, and then the band broke up, and I stayed out. I kept working with people, auditioning for different things.

Alive: Is there anything I didn't ask you about that you wanted to talk about?

Schwindt: I think this is going to be our only show in Columbus this year, and it's the one-year anniversary of the new record. So we're excited to play in the stadium. We've kind of been working on this for the last couple years with the front office of the Crew. We feel like there's a natural fit there between Crew fans and Flogging Molly fans. We feel like there are a lot of Flogging Molly fans that are probably Crew fans and just don't know it. And the same thing, there are probably a lot of Flogging Molly fans sitting in Crew Stadium, they just don't realize it yet. So we're looking forward to seeing how this goes. I mean, I don't know of any bands that's done this kind of thing before. It's the first time for Flogging Molly, that's for sure. We're stoked.

Alive: So did you guys approach the Crew about it?

Schwindt: No, they approached us a couple years ago. I don't remember who my rep was there when I bought my season tickets. It was a different person than is there now. And we started talking about it then. And my brother Gary who manages the band, we walked out of the stadium, I guess right after they built that stage, and just had the idea that Flogging Molly cannot fill this stadium on our own. So we were trying to find a way to cross-promote it. At the end of last year, we had meetings with the front office, me and my brother and the Crew, and said, "Yeah, what if we did this or did that?" And yeah, I talked to Erica from the Crew this morning and I guess there's 30 tickets out of 1,500 left for the VIP package, so that's a good sign. They're going to sell them all this week. And then it's the second highest selling game of the season behind the Galaxy, which the Galaxy-Crew always sell out. It's great. Whatever we contributed to that, I'm happy for, and I hope everybody who comes becomes a Flogging Molly fan. I know most of the guys in Flogging Molly don't really have a team except Dave, and that's Man United. But Dave and Bridgett have a house in Detroit, where she's from. And there's no team in Detroit. So they want to come down and start watching matches, pull her into it.

Alive: Well, I hope everything goes just how you envision it.

Schwindt: (laughs) I just hope people have fun.