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Have Heart interview

By Alex
Wed, August 22, 2007 5:12 PM PT20,514 views

Earlier this month our newest staff member, Devin Braden, caught up with Have Heart frontman Pat Flynn in Denver for some Q&A.

Have Heart are easily one of the most passionate bands in hardcore. Their recent show in Denver, CO was a well-attended affair that featured eight more-than-competent hardcore bands on the bill. Have Heart were, of course, able to steal the show from them all. There were times during their set that saw more audience members onstage singing along than on the floor of the club - not too shabby considering this was only Have Heart's second show in Denver. After the show, I had a chance to speak with lead singer Pat Flynn about his thoughts on the show, straight edge, and the state of hardcore in general. We found ourselves frequently interrupted by fans looking to thank him and congratulate him on playing such an incredible set. I didn't feel the need to intervene, though - having attended the show along with them, I fully understood their excitement.

So, you're headed home from the Sound and Fury festival. How did it go?

It was a great time. It was kind of miserable waiting through the entire weekend, though. We played last - dead last. But it was fucking great. It's so awesome that I got to see all my friends that we've met over the past five years all in one place. The only complaint I had was that I was miserable waiting for our set -- I had been waiting since last year to play it. It was just the waiting and the butterflies feeling I had waiting to play. It was fucking great, though - no stupid bullshit fights or anything like that. I had a fucking awesome time.

Do you prefer playing bigger festivals for an audience who may not know your band, or do you like playing smaller shows with a more familiar fan base?

I can't say I have a favorite. I like them both the same. I love playing to new people - we played this fest to 6000 people in Germany and it was so great because I knew only a handful of people had maybe heard us before. Even if 1000 people had heard us, we got to play to 5000 people that had never heard us before. That was a wonderful feeling. I also love playing a small show in Boston or somewhere like that - it's always a fucking great time. I definitely need a balance - I have no favorite.

Relatively speaking, you guys have been a band for a fairly long time, but you've only recently begun touring out West, and you guys waited awhile to record a full-length.

We did, yeah.

What was the thought process behind not putting out a full-length right away?

We believe that you've got to take things slow. Also, a lot of bands start out with contacts and connections. When we started out, we didn't know anybody. It's easy for some bands in the Boston scene because they know the right people. We made it our purpose to never bow down to that, to kiss someone's ass to get somewhere. I would humbly like to emphasize our humble beginnings and note that the ride along the way has been so much more enjoyable for us because it came in small segments. We've been able to appreciate our hard work - maybe that's why is seems like it took so long.

Well, it was only a long time relatively speaking.

It was hard, too, because we were all still in school - most of us just graduated from college. It was hard to put together long tours financially and time-wise for a while, so it maybe just took us a little bit longer than most bands.

The artwork and lyrics of These Things We Carry - as well as the artwork used in your t-shirt designs - seems to be somewhat removed from the modern hardcore paradigm. Is there a conscious reason behind this? Do you feel it's important to maintain a unique image as a band?

I hate the word "image" - it's such a dirty word. With our record, we wanted to do something that we all liked. It just came out the way we wanted it. We never really set out to stand apart - we just didn't want the cover to have a bunch of random, meaningless shit on it. Nothing on that record is just a random, cool looking design. The actual image - the idea of having a tree - comes from the fact that I wrote most of the lyrics in my room back home where I grew up. I don't have this giant field in my backyard or anything, but outside my window, there's a tree, and the sun rises behind that tree. Nights when I couldn't sleep, I'd stay up writing lyrics. That was the image I'd see while writing the lyrics for the record.

And the symbolism of the tree appears in the lyrics, so it's not just random bullshit. There's meaning behind everything - the tree, the birds, the sunset, the mountains. Everything has a meaning to it.

Do you think it's more important for hardcore bands to observe the traditions of the style, or to push the genre's boundaries? Is there a way to achieve a balance between progression and tradition?

That's a good question. Um, one tradition that I feel should be sustained and preserved and always kept in heart of the scene is the spirit of hardcore. To me, the definition of that would be to have a subculture with substance. The opposition to the mainstream and using mainstream ethics -- mainstream ideals like getting somewhere through who you know, or viewing people as consumers and dollar signs as opposed to people. It's like baseball games in Boston right now. I feel like the magic is gone.

[Laughs] That's what I hear.

I used to go when tickets were $10 and it was all just people who liked baseball. Now, everywhere you go, it's all these fucking people in Red Sox shit. You go there and everyone looks exactly the fucking same. It's a total marketing scheme and I think that it's taking away from the real magic. I remember when I used to go to games as a kid and it was all real Red Sox fans - it was a real dirty, "let's go Sox" type of thing. Now it's just yuppie idiots who only see the city once a year. That's a mainstream type of thing, and I hate it when hardcore reflects that - [opposition to the mainstream] is a tradition that I feel needs to be preserved.

Sure, yeah - I can agree with that.

Musically, though, if it's a progression - I mean, can we push the boundaries? I wouldn't want to stray too far off the path to the point where we're playing Techno or something like that.

Integrity 2000-style?

[Laughs] Yeah, right. But as long as the subculture with substance is there, then I think you can push the boundaries some. I mean, realistically speaking, if you're really playing Techno or Rock or whatever, it's not going to come off as hardcore in the traditional sense. As long as you keep those ethics, though, hardcore at its heart is going to be preserved. Musically speaking, you can push the boundaries some.

The song "Something More Than Ink" seems to suggest that the ideologies explored in hardcore are too often shrugged off as just a phase to those involved. What are your thoughts on the importance of exploring ideologies in hardcore?

Wow - that's a loaded question. Well, I wrote that song about Ray Cappo [of Shelter, Youth of Today], actually. We have another song called "To Us Fools" that I wrote when I was, like, 14 - before Have Heart was even a band. I was really bummed because I had read this interview with Ray Cappo where he said he wasn't straight edge anymore. It crushed me - I was like "fuck you!" But then I read some more interviews, and I actually got to see Youth of Today, and I think I developed a more personal definition of straight edge -- it's something for me. I realize that everyone has their own path that they have to follow, and sometimes it can be dangerous if you ignore that path if you feel and think that it's right for you. That song is really just about living your own life.

Do you have any methods that you use to help convey the significance of an ideology like straight edge to younger, more fickle fans?

Well, when I'm talking into the mic, I like to just be real. I don't want to be an entertainer. When I'm listening to bands, that's how they get their message across to me. I mean, I understand that there are some people who like to rehearse what they say onstage - it's helps it come across more fluidly. Maybe I should do that - it'd probably help me out some. When I'm trying to get something across, though, I just like to be as real and honest as I can be - especially to younger kids. If we're playing a show and there's a shitload of really young kids acting like idiots and I get the general vibe that they don't really care about hardcore - which is something you can't always judge when you're just watching a show, by the way - but if I get that vibe, I'll talk about the reasons I fell in love with hardcore and what it's meant to my life. I'll give them examples, lots of things they can relate to.

How do you feel about advertising your beliefs - for instance, do you think it's important for someone who's straight edge to display Xs, or should it be more of a personal choice with no outward propagation or advertisement?

See, I don't really see it as advertising - it's really more of an expression. There's definitely a fine line between the two, though. One thing that always pisses me off are those fucking straight edge company shirts that are trying to sell shit like "Straight Edge - It's a Lifestyle! Buy this shirt for $15!" That's fucking retarded - that's advertising a belief. I don't think you can sell your beliefs. It should be a matter of expression. I've never been opposed to anyone X-ing up at a show because, I'll admit, when I first got into straight edge when I was 11 or 12, it was something to belong to. It was something that, because I had no friends, I'll honestly admit that I saw straight edge as a group that I could belong to. I wasn't in it for life, but that's natural for an 11 or 12-year old - I got into straight edge because it looked so cool. It drew me in because it was this kind of rebellious lifestyle where I got to wear Xs on my hands and I thought it looked cool. To the 11-year old eye or the 12-year old eye or the 13-year old eye, as long it's just expression, then it's cool. If it wasn't for that cool logo or those cool two words, I wouldn't have found straight edge. To be perfectly honest, I'm the kind of person where I don't think I would have been straight edge if straight edge didn't exist. It was taught to me.

What about people who don't outwardly advertise straight edge?

I don't have any problem with people not X-ing up. Personally, I hate washing off Xs. To be realistic, I can't walk into my job, or try to get a job, or go to school and be taken seriously with marker all over my hands. It's so annoying to scrub that shit off - I understand why people don't want to do that. I don't give a shit. Like I said before, straight edge is my path. I have a weird definition of straight edge in a personal sense. I believe that the only person to whom straight edge matters - the only person who is straight edge in this world - is me. Other people are just doing whatever they want to do. I mean, I understand that other people are straight edge, but I'll try to remind myself that I'm the only one who is straight edge. If someone doesn't want to X up, fuck it - I don't care. It's cool. I'll worry about myself.

There seems to be a fine line between encouraging the adoption of an ideology and encouraging conformity. What do you feel is the best way to deliver your message without closing off the minds of the people you're addressing?

What I always do - or try to do, anyway - is, before I ever say anything onstage, try to say "in my humble opinion" or "it is my personal belief that" - I get it out there and say that this is just what I think. And if I don't do that, I've at least written lyrics that are, in my own opinion, very open-minded and very communal. Really, I think that's the best way to get across an ideology without saying "THIS IS THE WAY!" Everyone has their own way.

There are some hardcore bands that focus their lyrical content on what some might call "tough guy" posturing. Many of your lyrics, on the other hand, seem to speak to the power of the mind and positive thinking. Do you feel that hardcore is in danger of losing a more intelligent element, or do you feel there's room in the genre for both aggressive as well as so-called "posi".

I hate that word.

Yeah, it's a pretty terrible word. But for our purposes, "posi" lyrics (in the parlance of our times) versus the standard "I wanna break your face" tough guy lyrics - is there room in the genre for both lyrical styles?

You know, sometimes I get really bummed out. When you go on tour, you see more and more of the hardcore scene and you sometimes get disillusioned. You see so many kids not giving a shit. And then you hear these stories about the 90s or the 80s - well, maybe more so about the 90s - that people gave more of a shit about the bands. If a touring band came through, there'd be at least 200 kids. It really bums me out. I think what has deterred a lot of people from coming to shows is the violence and the adoption of mainstream ideologies - this whole overly-rugged individualism, this whole "I stand on my own" lack of togetherness. Sometimes, I really feel like it sucks. Other times, though, when I look beneath the surface, it's different. I guess I get disillusioned sometimes because I feel like kids don't give a shit, because people have adopted this popular idea of treating each other like shit. Not that the hardcore scene is this Utopian club or anything like that - it never was, it probably never will be. It's just that at one point, it stood apart from everything else. That's why I feel like it's important to convey positive messages - focus on the good and address the bad, but not in a negative way.

A song like "Armed with a Mind" seems to be, at least in part, a reaction to increasing violence and increasing shallowness in the hardcore scene. There are some who might suggest that those aspects of hardcore have been around since the beginning - like you said, hardcore's not a Utopian club. Do you think that aggressive forms of music necessarily influence aggressive behavior? Is it possible to ever fully rise above that "meathead" contingent?

Well, that's what I love about hardcore - it's aggressive music. It's pushing people to the limit, putting them right on the edge, pushing them right up against the obstacle of reacting in a violent manner. You can act violently and let yourself go, but you're really missing out on the opportunity to let out those aggressions that, in terms of your mental health, need to be released in a different way. That's why I love hardcore - it walks a tightrope that you don't really find anywhere else. There are so many things that don't challenge us in society. I feel like hardcore is such a wonderful thing because it can really push us to the limit. I feel like that's also the problem with it, though. With any shit like that, violence is going to happen. From what I'm told, [the level of] violence has definitely gone down since the 90s. Of course, so has the number of people at shows, so I don't really know.

Ok, now I've got a few stupid questions for you.

That's fine - I'm going to be a teacher, so there's no such thing as a stupid question.

Well, I don't know - if you knew the sources, you'd probably think these are pushing it.

[Laughs] Well, let's see.

What are your thoughts on Kelly Clarkson?

Didn't she rip off a song by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs?

Did she?

Remember that big Yeah Yeah Yeahs song "Maps"? Yeah there's a riff. That "Since U Been Gone" song is ripping off that "Maps" song. Last I checked, I think the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were on an independent label. I just find it funny that the mainstream is constantly ripping off stuff from the subcultures. Fuck Kelly Clarkson.

Do you still haev respect for the Dillinger Escape Plan?

You know, I've never listened to them.

Do you feel that brutal music is essential to daily life?

Uh, no.

Would ever drive 600 miles to see Kittie play with Scars of Tomorrow?

Oddly enough, when we were leaving Europe, our driver was dropping us off at the airport and picking up Scars of Tomorrow. As we were leaving, they were just getting to Europe. We met them and I think they were having a little feud with each other or something like that, and apparently they broke up.

Yeah, I remember reading that.

Uh, yeah - "later!"

Seriously speaking, though, is there any band you'd drive 600 miles to see?

Any band? I guess there isn't a band I'd currently drive 600 miles to see - I don't have the money for that, and I know they'd eventually just come to my town and I could see them there. Hypothetically speaking, though, I'd do it to see Embrace. If they ever did a reunion, I'd see them in a heartbeat. I'd kill to see Outspoken again. I'd kill to see In My Eyes. And, um, Verse.

Verse? They were just here. You just missed them.

If they were doing a live show and it was 600 miles away, I'd drive the 600 miles. I would walk if I had to.

What are your top 5 favorite albums right now?

Of all time, or just hardcore?

It doesn't matter - either one is fine.

I'll give you my top 5 hardcore, then I'll give you top 5 of all time. This is albums, right? Not bands? There's a difference between my top 5 hardcore records and my top 5 favorite hardcore bands.

Let's go with records.

Ok, so - Top 5 hardcore records: Youth of Today - We're Not In This Alone, Minor Threat - Out of Step, 7 Seconds - The Crew, 7 Seconds - Walk Together, Rock Together, and fifth would be a tie between Outspoken - The Current and the Embrace LP.

Ok, now how about of all time?

Ok, Top 5 Records of all time: Rage Against the Machine - Evil Empire, Hot Water Music - No Division, Archers of Loaf - Icky Mettle, Youth of Today - We're Not In This Alone, and Minor Threat - Out of Step.

Heard any good jokes lately?

Uh, my love life? Yeah, that's a good joke.

Yeah, I've been there. Or, hell - what am I saying? I am there. Seriously, though - I heard a pretty good joke the other day: how many hardcore kids does it take to screw in a light bulb?

I don't know. How many?

Ten -- one to screw it in, and nine to say that the first one was better.

[Laughs] Yeah - that is a good one. I know exactly what you're talking about.

Any final thoughts?

I appreciate there being more women in hardcore.

I can definitely agree with that. Thank you for your time and insight!

Thank you.


Post Comment
anonymous 8/22/2007 9:01:46 PM

This shit has Devin Brader written all over it. f*ck that guy!

threexs_ 8/22/2007 9:17:49 PM

best new band in hardcore

anonymous 8/22/2007 9:25:34 PM

i haev respect

anonymous 8/22/2007 10:29:03 PM

could not care less

xdicklickx_ 8/22/2007 10:50:52 PM

i luv teh haev <3 :)::):):):):

bigego_ 8/22/2007 10:52:04 PM

i like this interview

..._ 8/22/2007 11:45:46 PM

good questions, good answers, good interview

Poop_ 8/23/2007 12:48:39 AM

Very smart man.

anonymous 8/23/2007 12:58:14 AM

aside from modern life, cursed, and oddly enough, verse, one of the only current "hardcore" bands that i'am into.

throwtheballyes_ 8/23/2007 2:04:18 AM

Not into the band but a good read

zzz_ 8/23/2007 9:55:09 PM

amazing band... saw them with verse, bane, and with honor all the way in rhode island... best show ive ever been to...

Dave_ 8/24/2007 10:44:31 AM

I agree with that kelly clarkson comment, when that song came out I thought "Thats a yeah yeah yeah's riff!" either way they both suck, just found it odd he noticed that too cause i never heard anyone else say that

gnarly_davidson_ 8/26/2007 12:55:53 AM

wow. what a lost and confused little gay

Danielle_ 8/26/2007 5:31:31 PM

They play the most incredible shows I've ever seen. I would travel 600 miles to see them, but they are from Boston, so I don't have to!

Pyrrhus Darwin Castello_ 3/17/2008 11:54:26 AM

Good interview. This part specially "this whole overly-rugged individualism, this whole "I stand on my own" lack of togetherness." For me that isnt just about HC (not much is to be honest), but about western society in general. I felt like crap today and listened to their album These Things We Carry couple of time and the lyrics are great. Positive and uplifting and most importantly, yuo focus on not dojng anything stupid: because then you wouldnt be any better than the ones who make you want to

john young_ 7/15/2008 11:21:17 PM

pat is an awesome person. openminded and accepting of people that aren't necessarily 'edge' or even into hardcore. i went to college with him. solid, friendly dude who stood by his f*cking convictions. kinda makes me feel like river-dancin'.

Ross_ 10/29/2009 7:24:27 AM

saw them in south africa with about 80 kids... was awesome! we have a small scene here and we love seeing band from overseas. toured with shipwreck ad.