WHEN HE was just 17, Nathen Maxwell snuck into a Flogging Molly show and, not long after, found himself onstage as the band’s bassist. Decades into playing drunken lullabies around the world with the Celtic-punk icons, he began writing his own songs of resistance and unity.
Inspired by the records of his youth—Bob Marley, The Clash, Johnny Cash, The Cure, Dr. Dre—Maxwell picked up the guitar and created The Bunny Gang, a reggae/dub/rocksteady project with a bleeding punk rock heart, bass, drums, organ, trombone, guitar, and grooves that keep audiences dancing all night.
The side project produced a 2009 LP, White Rabbit, followed by 2014’s Thrive. This month, The Bunny Gang shared a fresh single, “Problem What Problem/Protecting” (currently available for digital download with vinyl to come in the near future), continuing their breezy, upbeat sound and peaceful, revolutionary spirit.
We caught up with Maxwell to chat about honing a new sound, the influence of fatherhood on his lyricism, and an anticipated Jinx return.
The single’s your first release in about three years. How’s it been taking the new material on the road?
It feels great! And it’s been well-received. It’s fun to have fresh songs to play. We’re working toward a full-length record, too.
Everyone has so much going on—how do you balance and find time to write together?
The Bunny Gang, everyone’s songwriters in their own right. We’re constantly creating music and ideas, and we’ll get together to flesh those out and I’ll decide on what I think fits.
When you started The Bunny Gang, were these songs you had on the backburner that you brought to the band? Did you sit down and write them together?
It started out because I was developing a body of work that didn’t fit into Flogging Molly and I decided to do my own thing. We made a record and the lineup’s changed a few times; I’ve never been happier than with the current lineup’s chemistry, sound, and direction.
You describe The Bunny Gang as “conscious rebel music.” What’s that mean to you as a writer?
My favorite artists—Bob Marley, punk rock, I grew up with folk—most of those have some kind of rebel music in them, trying to expand conscious ideas into the music to make the world a better place. It’s about trying to describe the passion...and I hate classifying music into genres!
Especially with a band like y’all where you’ve got so many diverse influences going on. The B-side to the new single, “Protecting,” really has that communal, uplifting vibe that a lot of your songs have. It feels like there’s a real element of fatherhood there, too.
Absolutely, one hundred percent, I’m glad you picked up on that. It’s about being a father, a parent, and the struggle to do what you have to do to protect your kids, having to go on the road to make a living and missing a lot. It’s reflecting on those thoughts.
You’ve been touring for most of their lives, right?
Yeah, it’s a mixed blessing. I’m proud of what I do and I want to inspire my children to follow their dreams and be creative, but at the same time, I’m missing holidays, birthdays...and it’s not just following a dream, it’s making money to take care of them, too.
As a performer, do you feel like you take the stage differently in The Bunny Gang than you do with Flogging Molly?
Yeah, and this music moves in a very different way. Flogging Molly is high energy punk rock, whipping the crowd into a frenzy; Bunny Gang is a dance pulse—but we’re playing punk rock in our lyrical content.
Flogging Molly plays huge stages these days. How do you like coming back to the places you started out at, like The Jinx, with this band?
Don’t get me wrong, I like playing big stages, but living in a van is wonderful and creates a solidarity that’s different than an arena. My guys are wonderful, I love them—I’m having the time of my life traveling around with them. Flogging Molly played The Jinx back when it was the Velvet Elvis, and it’s good to come back. I love the whole thing. Living in a van beats living under one!