Have Mercy have been steadily rising in the ranks of the “emo revival,” thanks to their gripping debut LP The Earth Pushed Back. The band has showed no signs of slowing since then, as they released a split with Daisyhead earlier this year with two new tracks. No journey is without struggle, however, and the band certainly learned that on their recent US tour with Major League, Seaway, and Better Off. On the tour’s final stop at GameChanger World in Howell, New Jersey, we sat down with the vocalist/guitarist Brian Swindle and guitarist/vocalist Andrew Johnson to talk about how they were holding up, how they feel almost a year after the released of The Earth Pushed Back, and what we can look forward to from the band in the coming months.
Keep Calm and Carry On: This is Donald Wagenblast, and I’m here sitting in a couple of bean bag chairs with Brian and Andrew from Have Mercy. Guys, how are we doing today?
Brian Swindle: Good, we’re doing good.
Andrew Johnson: I’m feeling full, they’ve been feeding us too much today!
Keep Calm: So you guys are on tour now with Major League, Better Off, and Seaway. How’s that tour been going for you? I know you’ve had some issues along the way, with sickness, and your van getting broken into. How difficult has this tour been for you?
BS: It’s been hell. Other than not being allowed into Canada, and our drummer being deathly ill…
AJ: Our van. The transmission went out. We blew a tire in, like, the crack district of Arizona, there was like a bunch of dope heads around our van, that was scary.
Keep Calm: You mentioned something about your drummer, I know he was admitted to the hospital a couple of days ago. How’s he doing currently?
BS: He was there for about three days, and then he just got back home to Baltimore today, but now he’s back in the hospital down there.
Keep Calm: And we obviously wish him a speedy recovery. What were the adjustments that you guys had to make when he had to leave the tour?
BS: I played acoustic in Canada, and then came back to the states and found out that he was in the hospital. So I played acoustic a few nights, and then [Andrew] joined on, and last night were in Amityville, and Luke from Major League played with us. He played light drums. And tonight, we’re doing full band to close out the tour, because everybody wants to have a good time. We’ll see how it goes.
Keep Calm: That’s awesome! It should be pretty memorable.
On the brighter side of things, you guys just had a split with Daisyhead come out. The songs, sound great, you guys had two songs on there, “Pawn Takes Rook” and “Pete Rose and Babe Ruth.” How did that split come about?
BS: We met Daisyhead on the Fourth of July, and we partied at their house in Tennessee. And we broke their couch, we removed their door to make a beer pong table out of it, a lot of college stuff.
AJ: I fell asleep in one of their beds…
BS: So then we left, and about six months later they called us up and were like “Hey! Remember that party at my house, and you broke our couch?” And I was like “Yeah! That was wild.” And he was like “Yeah… Do you want to do a split with us?” And we were like “Yeah, definitely!” So yeah, we recorded it with Paul Leavitt in Baltimore.
Keep Calm: How was it, working with Paul Leavitt? ‘Cause he’s had some big records. Was there an intimidation factor, or anything like that?
BS: Not really. I think it was before we went in. Because I didn’t know who he was, and I’d never seen him, and I thought he was going to be an old dude.
AJ: Yeah, like a hippie-looking dude. I thought he was going to look like the guidance counselor from Freaks and Geeks.
BS: But no, he was like a few years older than us, and he makes great f***ing records. And he’s funny, and he’s like a regular Baltimore guy.
Keep Calm: In comparison to how you guys recorded the songs on The Earth Pushed Back, was there anything that you did differently? Because the songs do sound like there was a real tightening of the screws.
AJ: We did everything differently. When we recorded The Earth Pushed Back, we recorded it live, with all of us in the room recording, and then we went back and touched and polished things. We only had four days to record it. When we did the split, we did like a song a day, essentially.
BS: Yeah, it was three days, two songs.
AJ: Three days, two songs, and the way Paul recorded it, we just did everything at different times. Aaron recorded, then Nick recorded, and Swindle recorded, and I recorded. It was a lot of fun.
Keep Calm: This actually wasn’t even your first split in recent months. You guys also did one at the end of 2013 with You Blew It!, Dikembe, and Kittyhawk.
AJ: I always forget about that one.
Keep Calm: That one’s actually got a special story behind it, doesn’t it?
BS: Yeah, so all the proceeds that came from that went to Toys for Tots. Our buddy Michael, who runs Soft Speak Records did that.
AJ: And he just took us to the studio in New Jersey, got us drunk, and had us record a song. That’s exactly what happened.
BS: We didn’t know that song before we went in there. We learned it in the studio, and then it was like 6 hours, and we pumped it out.
That’s something that we’re starting to see a little more in the scene. A lot of bands are doing more and more splits, 7″s, you guys and Daisyhead did a 12″. Do you see that trend continuing into the future, where after you put out a record, you do a couple of splits before you go back into the studio for your next album?
BS: I think it all depends on who comes to us asking us to do it, or if we meet a band that we really like, and we want to do it. I feel like with splits, it’s just friends who want to put out records together. So it gives us a good opportunity.
AJ: You can’t be in a band with them, so you might as well record something with them.
Keep Calm: This is all after the release of The Earth Pushed Back, which came out in May of 2013. That’s almost a year now.
AJ: Holy smokes!
BS: That’s crazy.
Keep Calm: So looking back, how do you think it’s been received so far?
BS: It’s awesome. Better than I ever expected.
AJ: Yeah. When we went into record it, when Topshelf was like “Hey, we want to put out a record!,” my life goal as a musician was to just hold a vinyl record with my name on it. And then, I did. So I can freakin’ retire happily! If it all just ended tomorrow, I’d be fine. But I don’t want it to. Please, don’t let it end.
Keep Calm: In talking with a lot of people I’ve showed the album to, they all seem to say it’s a great “break-up record.” It just encapsulates the feelings of any type of break-up. Is that something that you guys were intentionally going for, or is that just how it organically came out?
BS: It just happened. I mean, it’s not like we wanted to write the saddest music ever, but that’s the songs that are coming out, so we kind of went with it. But it does just seem like a break-up record.
AJ: Yeah, because Swindle composes most of the lyrics. When it first came out, everyone was like “Oh, man, that kid went through a breakup,” and we were just like “No…”
BS: I was in a relationship at the time, and enjoying life. And then just sad f***ing songs came out.
Keep Calm: That’s interesting that you’re actually in a relationship when those songs came out.
BS: Not anymore! Get ready for a sad, sad record.
Keep Calm: I know it does seem like it just came out for you guys, but are there thoughts for the next full-length? Are there songs written, or plans, or anything like that?
BS: Oh yeah. We have about eight songs written. We go in the studio, we’re shooting for May and June to record another full-length.
Keep Calm: And I’m sure that doesn’t have a release window yet?
BS: Probably Fall. Not like a specific date yet.
AJ: November 18! I’ll just start throwing dates out there. October 4. Wait, is Halloween on a Tuesday this year? That’d be sick.
We would like to thank Brian and Andrew for taking time out of their schedule to sit down and talk with us. Once again, WTSR wishes the band’s drummer, Aaron Alt, a speedy and healthy recovery. Be sure to listen to our show this week (3/21) at www.wtsr.org at 9:00PM to hear the full interview with bonus coverage!
Author’s Note: This interview was originally published on The Garden Statement’s parent website Keep Calm and Carry On. All content of Keep Calm and Carry On is now property of The Garden Statement. A letter explaining the switch in sites can be found here. Cheers!