UTG @ CMJ 2014: Have Mercy Discuss Taco Bell, Their New Record, And Plans For 2015

have mercy

Baltimore breakthrough alternative outfit, Have Mercy, played Big Picture Media’s CMJ showcase this year. Under The Gun got to sit down with the band and talk about their fantastic Hopeless Records debut, A Place Of Our Own, which comes out today, October 27.

The band also talked a bit about their plans for 2015, which includes new music and upcoming tours.

Follow us below to read our entire conversation, and stream the band’s newest album, A Place Of Our Own, right here.

Let’s start with your names and what your roles are in the band.

Andrew Johnson: I’m Andrew, I play guitar.
Todd Wallace: I’m Todd. I play drums.
Nick Woolford: I’m Nick. I play bass.
Brian Swindle: I’m Brian. I play guitar and I sing.

I would say, over the past couple of years, you guys really blew up in the scene. What would you say were some of the highlights during the timeframe between releasing The Earth Pushed Back and now?

AJ: We did the Knapsack reunion Show. That was a highlight.
NW: We did the Braid show.
BS: A lot of the reunion shows were really fun.
NW: It is really loud in here…

You guys toured this summer, correct? How was it?

BS: It was good, until our van got broken into. [Laughs] It was a lot of fun.
TW: We went with Pentimento and Gates. It was really short, like two and a half weeks, but it was dope.
NW: And it was our first headlining tour. So that was a cool experience.

Onto the bigger and newer things. You guys have a new record dropping soon. What is it called and when does it drop?

BS: October 27th, Monday! It’s called A Place Of Our Own. I’m excited.
AJ: It got really loud in here all of a sudden… [Laughs]

How was getting signed to Hopeless Records? That’s pretty huge.

AJ: Oh, that was awesome. They’ve been really cool and really supportive of us.
BS: They have the means to do everything we wanna do in music. I’m stoked. Couldn’t ask for a better label, honestly. They just throw money at us!
All: [Laughing]

How was writing this new record different from writing your last record, The Earth Pushed Back, in terms of working with a new label?

AJ: Well, for the first album, we only had like four days to write and record it. This album, it was just really nice having a whole month in the studio with Paul Levitt. It was really comfortable. It was almost like having a mentor there in the studio. He would make fun of us and yell at us, but to just get the best performance out of us. He pushed us a lot, is the best way to put it. He didn’t want us just to put out The Earth Pushed Back: The Sequel. He wanted to push us farther as musicians and writers, and kind of show off what we were capable of doing.

Is there anything that would stand out if you were to compare TEPB with this new one, whether sonically or lyrically?

BS: I feel like lyrically it’s about the same, but sonically, it’s almost more structured; it sounds bigger, there’s just better production on it all together. We also went in with a better attitude making this record. I think it’s noticeable.

The album artwork. It has a red couch. Was that a random couch, was it significant?

AJ: It was our buddy Charles’ couch. We were just like, “Hey, you do album artwork! Can you do it?” And he just sent us a photo of a couch. So we we’re just like, “Run with it!”
All: [Laughing]
TW: It just had a homey feel.
AJ: Because like, Baltimore… You’ve seen The Wire. It’s sort of like a blue-collar, grunge-y kind of city. Everyone just knows it as Camden Yards or the Ravens’ stadium or the Inner Harbor, but like, where we’re from in the city, when you walk in, it’s just a dirty city and that was the kind of feel we were going for. We wanted to show the real part of where we’re from and not just this Hollywood, He’s Just Not That Into You-style of Baltimore.

Were there any sort of expectations going into writing this record beforehand?

BS: I really didn’t have any expectations. We went in with hardly any songs written.
AJ: I think the most structured song we had was “Spacecrafts” because we wrote it a year ago before we went into the studio. Every other song was between twenty and forty percent done and we were just like, “Hey! We have these little parts! Help us put ‘em together!”
NW: Before we were on that tour and before we were with Hopeless, we all kind of knew that we wanted to release new music some time in the fall or whatever, but we weren’t really sure who it was gonna be with or anything like that. Then Hopeless kind of just came in and took over everything really nice and quickly. We got home from that tour and there was that.

When you guys were in the process of making this record, were there any bands that you either were listening to at that time or were kind of just thinking about that maybe influenced bits and pieces of A Place Of Our Own?

BS: Whenever we record an album, I make sure I listen to all my favorite albums before we go in there to know why I listen to it all the way through and why I don’t skip a track. The Starting Line’s album, Direction. Amazing album.
TW: Fall Out Boy’s Take This To Your Grave all the way through.
AJ: When we’re about to record, I don’t know what it is but I get into really weird phases where I’m all about a genre of music that people typically don’t get into. I was listening to a lot of Italian disco on our last tour. But whenever we’re getting into the studio, I’ll start listening to stuff I got into in like high school and college and be like, “Oh, that’s really cool. I’ve never noticed that before.” We were able to use them as like, “Oh, I want this guitar tone that Wade had on this Alexisonfire song,” and give us examples of what I want to do. Not emulate it, but build off of that.

We could go around for this. What would be your favorite song from the new record?

BS: Uh.. mine’s changing.
AJ: Mine’s “Plastic Covered Furniture.”
TW: Mine is “Lean.”
NW: Mine’s “The Places You Love.”
BS: Ah, yeah. Because Ace Enders is on that track.

Is there any particular song from this new record that you guys are stoked to play live?

TW: “Howl!”
BS: “Plastic Covered Furniture” and “Howl.” “Spacecrafts” is fun.
NW: They’re a lot more fun than the older songs we’ve been playing.
AJ: The older songs, we’ve been playing for so long that we do little live tweaks to them to make them still interesting to play. But with the new songs, we just have to go in and play them. Just really stoked for it.
NW: Can’t wait to make changes to those guys… in like a year.

I know a lot of your fans, especially over Twitter and Tumblr, are very supportive of you and your music. I think a lot of it is because of your excellent online presence. Would you say that contributed a lot to it?

NW: Oh yeah.
AJ: I feel like we’re just very approachable people. We’re very down to earth. If, say, a show has a green room, I’ll probably take a fifteen-minute nap in there and go out and hang out at merch. Also, if someone asks us a question on the internet, we make it a point to get back to them very quickly.
BS: We treat our fans the way we wanna be treated, as humans.
TW: And as music fans.

So, you guys just got together with Taco Bell for Feed The Beat.

All: OH, YES!
AJ: Fucking stoked for that.

What have you guys been having? I think this is the most important question.

NW: We’ve been saving it.
BS: Yeah, we leave for tour on Friday. So we’re saving it ’til then.
AJ: I’m just telling you, I’m only eating off the dollar menu and the breakfast menu.
BS: Save that. Make it last.

You guys are supporting Real Friends soon, correct?

BS: Yup.

Are you guys stoked?

NW: I’m stoked.
TW: These are gonna be some of the bigger shows we’ve played. It’ll be nice to show up to a show and know that kids are gonna be there and not worry every time.

Any particular cities you guys are excited to hit?

All: Chicago!
NW: I like Boston a lot.
TW: I’m stoked for Portland.
AJ: Denver.
All: DENVER! [Laughing] For, reasons…yeah…
TW: We’re secretly Broncos fans.
AJ: We loooooooove the Broncos. [Laughs]

You guys have had a solid couple of years! It’s impressive. What’s next for Have Mercy in 2015?

BS: We have a split coming out in 2015 that we can’t really talk about too much. It’s coming out early next year. A few tours lined up.
AJ: But again, we can’t really talk about that. But the first half of 2015 is stacked pretty heavily. Or, well, the first quarter, if we’re using terms.

To cap this off. A couple more random questions. What are your bagel preferences?

BS: Oh, I got a new one. Cream cheese and pepperoni on an everything bagel. Amazing.
NW: I’m an everything bagel guy. I like onion and chive cream cheese. It’s really good.
TW: I’ve always liked cinnamon raisin.
AJ: I’m a plain guy. I go for the plain bagel with extra cream cheese. Don’t cut it, either. I wanna eat the whole thing. Sandwich style.
All: [Laughing]

Last one. If you guys were able to tour with one or two bands, dead or alive, who would it be?

NW: Brand New.
TW: Right now, I’d probably say Against Me! I listen to them all the time. Huge fan of Laura as a songwriter. One of my favorite drummers, Atom Willard, is playing drums for them now.
AJ: Me? Who would I wanna tour with? Dead or alive?
BS: Alive.

Dead or alive.

AJ: The band Dead Or Alive.
All: [Laughing]
AJ: I don’t know. There’s so many bands I’d wanna tour with. I can’t just pick one.

In a particular, practical setting, let’s say.

AJ: In a practical setting… Probably like, Taking Back Sunday. Blink-182 would be fun. Or even Jimmy Eat World.
BS: That’s practical.
AJ: Yeah, let’s go with Jimmy Eat World.
NW: Now we’re just throwing around bands…
All: [Laughing]

Dana Reandelar

If not hunched over her desk writing about music, Dana can be found binge-watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls or condensing long rants to 140 characters. She also writes for Idobi Radio, and is an Off The Record podcast contributor.
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