Have Mercy have not had an easy go at it. From lineup changes to poor management in the past, to tour vans breaking down. Alongside boundless calamities, both personal and otherwise, Brian Swindle, Andrew Johnson and Nick Woolford have known struggle intimately. If anything, hardship informs their creative process in every capacity. Swindle was kind enough to share some of his thoughts about the creative process, how Have Mercy exists outside genre, and the creative process of their new album.
Before the current version of Make the Best of It, Swindle went into the studios to try and pursue a vision of the album that just wasn't meant to be.
"We went in with ten or fifteen songs and scrapped all of them...they didn't sound right, didn’t sound cohesive," he told CL. In this instance, this lack of cohesion ended up being a strong point, as the album was written and recorded at the same time during a seven-month period, a rather grueling and intense process that led to some powerful developments sonically.
Former producer Paul Leavitt and legendary producer Brian McTernan joined together to help shape the sounds of Swindle and company. Swindle shared, "Paul’s a great engineer and songwriter. Never had a chance to work with Brian before, and we got a chance to work together... he can't sing or play an instrument but he can tell what to sing and what to play and pump out hits. He would tell us what to change, and it was genius."
Have Mercy continues to deny genre categorization, it's a point of pride for them. When asked about the easiest way to describe their style of music, Swindle offered a simple response, "Rock. I hate when people dig in and pinpoint people's genres...why can't music just be that broad term again? Not pop punk, not indie, just a rock band." Yet, Have Mercy has existed on the fringes of the emo revival, often sharing tours with prominent members of the community. On the outside, looking in, Swindle remains resolute, " It's hard, it slows our growth, it's been almost six years since the beginning and we don't want to be lumped in...we took the slow route and we're gonna stick to our guns. You don't have to sit and be lumped in...we have to stay out of that. We're very smart songwriters and I want to show people that."
Make the Best of It shows just that, with tracks like "Begging for Bones" with its delicate piano layered over sweeping chords, it's melodic fervor seemingly impossible to get out of your head. In contrast, "American Bliss" is a twinkly and robust track, dreamy and distilled, whose soundscape transitions from near contemplative silence to swelling guitars. "American Bliss" coincidentally, took the longest to record according to Swindle. The dreamy sound of several later tracks is reminiscent of their earliest work, and regarding the cult love behind their first album he mused, " I think it's great, some of the people that say A Place of Our Own is the best work, I'm like man you're crazy, The Earth Pushed Back was written over a couple years, we wouldn't be anywhere without that record."
"Every single song is my baby. I love each of them for very specific reasons..."
Swindle stated towards the end of the interview that, "Every single song is my baby. I love each of them for very specific reasons, there was a moment where we didn't think it would be finished...we finally have it done and we get to see people start to react to it." And Swindle has every right to be proud of his work, the opening track “Smoke and Lace” possesses an enthralling, anthemic chorus, as Swindle's voice tears through with conviction. The passion that's there is enough to make anyone who isn't familiar with the loud/soft dynamics of the band into full believers. McTernan and Leavitt's pitch perfect production shines throughout.
Have Mercy throughout their career are not strangers to dynamism and experimentation, and Make the Best of It perhaps best represents their interests in moving forward and progressing as a band that isn't content to retread the similar path of so many others. Have Mercy has always been on the periphery, outside genre, outside community, outliers devoted to catharsis and devoted to writing real music. There's something admirable about that. Something proud and fierce. Just like their signature style, fluttering between gritty and gentle, profound yet relatable. Make the Best of It is out now via Hopeless Records.