Folk and punk don’t seem like they’d be friends. Punk rages against the establishment, a wild and raucous statement of defiance, while folk melodically tells stories using traditional instruments.
Surprisingly, however, the two genres have been fused into a highly effective musical style that a wide fan base is raging about.
In this article, we have 13 of the most famous folk punk bands who have selected the best aspects of punk and folk to create powerful and impactful music. Read on to learn about them!
1. Violent Femmes
Up first, we have the Violent Femmes who are legends and have probably done more to create the modern folk punk sound than any other band.
The band burst into the music scene in 1981. Brian Ritchie, Victor DeLorenzo, and Gordan Gano played in cafés and on street corners until James Honeyman-Scott of the Pretenders discovered them and helped launch their careers.
The Violent Femmes released one of the most influential and successful debut albums of all time with their self-titled record. This album, including “Kiss Off,” “Gone Daddy Gone,” and the band’s biggest hit, “Blister in the Sun,” is a touchstone of folk punk.
The Femmes built their sound around Gano’s idiosyncratic vocal performances, paired with playful but spare instrumentation. As of 2022, the group has released ten studio albums and five live records.
2. Against Me!
The fearless folk punk band Against Me! formed in 1997 and has evolved and shifted over the years; however, the group never fails to release interesting and socially conscious music.
Against Me! burst onto the scene with righteous, angry songs about revolution. Fronted by Laura Jane Grace, the band has survived personnel changes, two van accidents, and record label switches.
The group dropped a few good albums throughout the 2000s, but 2010’s White Crosses had one of their best songs. “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” ranked in US charts and topped Canada’s Rock Music chart.
Against Me! soon released Transgender Dysphoria Blues, following Grace’s coming out, and to date, it is the most successful album, peaking at #2 on the US Independent Albums chart.
3. The Pogues
Our next band, the Pogues, achieved the most international attention through their holiday song “Fairytale of New York,” but their impact on folk punk greatly transcends that single.
Started by Shane MacGowan, Peter Stacey, and Jem Finer in 1982, the Celtic band fused the melodies of their Irish backgrounds with the fiery lyrics of their punk influences. Members used various classical Irish instruments to create the band’s signature sound.
Like many long-lived bands, the Pogues underwent multiple lineup changes between their formation and their final breakup in 2014. The band released seven studio and five live albums over the course of its career.
4. The Gaslight Anthem
New Jersey is a breeding ground for great American bands. While the Gaslight Anthem hasn’t achieved the status and acclaim of Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi, the band’s distinctive blend of folk and punk has drawn scores of fans.
Brian Fallon formed the Gaslight Anthem in 2006. Mike Volpe, Benny Horowitz, and Alex Levine rounded out the original lineup.
The band spent their early days opening for heavy hitters like Springsteen and Social Distortion. They recorded four albums before releasing “45,” their biggest hit.
They create their sound from a hodge-podge of influences. Their songs are uniquely American, taking inspiration from national troubadours and icons like Tom Petty and the Boss himself. The group grounds its music in folk-rock but spikes it with bursts of inspired punk.
The Gaslight Anthem has undertaken several hiatuses and reunions. Since inception, they have released five studio albums and two live records.
5. Mumford and Sons
Ironic to its name, Mumford and Sons contains one Mumford but none of his sons. Marcus Mumford, Ted Dwane, Ben Lovett, and Winston Marshall formed the band in 2007.
The group exploded onto the music scene in 2009 with the release of their debut album, Sigh No More, which contained their biggest hit, “Little Lion Man.” The next three albums they released were also chart-toppers.
The band’s lively, raucous melodies, paired with folky, bluegrass inspiration, drew in fans and garnered them two Grammys, two Brit Awards, and several Billboard Music Awards, among others.
6. Dropkick Murphys
Massachusetts band Dropkick Murphys fuses their Irish and New England lineage into a unique folk-punk sound. The band’s raucous drinking songs appeal to a broad demographic.
While the Murphys feature their punk influences more prominently, their Irish backgrounds add a hint of folk to their repertoire. Their most successful song, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” shows this.
Dropkick Murphys are strongly political. They espouse liberal viewpoints and support unions and have also supported veterans’ rights and various non-profit organizations.
As of 2022, the band has released eleven studio albums and three live records.
7. Flogging Molly
The Irish historically endured great hardship. Perhaps that’s why they make such compelling punk music. Flogging Molly continues the tradition of marrying Irish and punk influences into great folk songs.
Dave King founded Flogging Molly in Los Angeles. The Ireland-born singer got his start in metal bands, but in 1997, he formed the group with Ted Hutt, Jeff Peters, Paul Crowder, and Bridget Regan. The resulting band set out to play punk rock songs with traditional Irish instruments.
Flogging Molly often uses their music to make political statements, as in their song “What’s Left of the Flag.” The band pairs King’s insightful lyrics with raucous melodies.
As of 2022, Flogging Molly has released seven studio albums and three live records.
8. Gogol Bordello
So far, most of the folk punk we’ve looked at has Irish roots. Gogol Bordello is more Eastern European in their lineage, and they tell you precisely the music they will create with their name.
Hailing from Manhattan, Eugene Hutz, the band’s frontman, formed the group in 1999. Since then, they’ve cleverly fused erudite lyrics with jubilant music.
Their song “Start Wearing Purple” popped up in a variety of media, garnering a wide cross-section of fans. They then band built a solid and devoted fan base through near-constant touring and quickly became celebrated for their energetic live shows.
With nine albums already released, Gogol Bordello is still active and continues to provide folk punk music to fans.
9. The Rumjacks
From the UK and US, we now move to the Land Down Under. The Rumjacks formed in 2008, originally from Sydney, Australia. However, the group has since relocated to Europe and has been touring there.
The band is known for the roaring, lively performances, mixing Celtic folk and punk styles in their music. This can be seen in their most popular work, “An Irish Pub Song,” from 2011. The song became a YouTube sensation, with over 70 million views.
Though the Rumjacks has five well-received albums since their start, they gained most of their following from touring and collaborations with other punk icons.
Originally Andrew Jackson Jihad at their start in 2004, the group made the wise decision to change their name to AJJ in 2016.
The first members were Sean Bonnette, Ben Gallaty, and Justin James from Phoenix, Arizona; and together, they released political songs to punky folk tunes.
The band’s signature fusion of angry punk elements with folk sensibilities is best exemplified in their song “Loudmouth.” The striking tune relates to fans on a personal level.
The group’s extensive touring helped AJJ develop a devoted fanbase, as listeners relate to the band’s handling of heavy themes in their lyrics.
The band has changed labels multiple times, and Bonnette and Gallaty are the only members of the original lineup remaining in AJJ’s present incarnation, but the group is still making punk folk masterpieces to this day.
11. The Dreadnoughts
We now go north of the US to Canada and present the Dreadnoughts. The group was formed in 2006 and has since created sounds where European folk music meets street punk. This style can be heard in “Katie, Bar the Door,” one of the band’s popular songs.
The Dreadnoughts have released two EPs and six studio albums, but gained their popularity through extensive tours in Canada and Europe.
In 2011, the group went on an indefinite break. Every now and then, however, the still get together to perform for shows.
12. The Mahones
Inspired by the Pogues, Finny McConnell created the Mahones as a band to perform for a St. Patrick’s Day party. Due to positive reception, he decided to make the group permanent, and they have since been making punk music fused with Celtic folk.
They’ve dropped a total of 13 albums, two of which won awards, and some of their songs have also been featured in several movies. You can hear “100 Bucks” in Dog Park, “Paint The Town Red 2010” in The Fighter, and “A Little Bit of Love” in Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy.
The Mahones have gone on tours with other folk punk legends like the Dropkick Murphys, Against Me!, and Flogging Molly.
There were some lineup changes over the years, but the Mahones is still dropping songs and albums, the last called Unplugged in 2020.
13. Skinny Lister
Founded in 2009, Skinny Lister claims members from across the United Kingdom. Their original lineup included Dan Heptinstall, Sam Brace, and Dan Grey.
Skinny Lister creates their unusual indie-folk-punk sound on songs like “What Can I Say?” with many different instruments. The band also often invites guest musicians to add unexpected flair to their songs.
Skinny Lister is prolific. Their output is as intensive as bands twice their age. With a little lineup change between 2012 and 2015, the group has released five studio albums since their start and are still going strong.
Summing Up Our List Of The Best Folk Punk Bands
Punk and folk make strange bedfellows. In the right hands, however, the pairing creates powerful, effective music. As evident in the list above, these folk punk bands mastered their art to fuse the genres seamlessly.
We hope you enjoyed our list and perhaps even gained a new favorite folk punk band or two.
Have we missed a group that should be on this list? Let us know and we’ll add them!