This is an interview Jeff did with Have Heart in 2005
Words and most pictures by Jeff Lasich.
This interview took place on 3-4-05. It was originally going to happen at a show in NJ in late December, on the third day of their 3 month tour with VERSE and GUNS UP, but due to us not having enough time, we decided to put it off until after tour.
How are you doing?
Pretty sweet. Last week we played with Bane. That was probably one of the best shows we have ever played. It was a perfect crowd; all of our friends were there, a bunch of young kids. Everyone was packed up front. It was a good turnout, great people, great vibe. There was a good feeling in the air. Every band had an amazing set. Learn went on first. We played here a week later, in New Jersey. It was a little tamer; it shows how the balance in hardcore keeps you humble. If we have a crazy show every time, it’d be hard keeping things balanced. The balance is good. It’s always good playing to people you don’t know.
I was surprised you got the response that you did here. I wasn’t really expecting a lot of these kids to know Have Heart.
New Jersey has always been fun; we’ve always had a good time. There are a lot of younger kids. That is one thing that puts me in a good mood about hardcore, play to a lot of young kids. They aren’t trying to be popular; they just really like the music. To answer how I am, pretty good.
You guys did a tour with VERSE and GUNS UP after Christmas, how was that?
There has never been a 3-week span that I have had a smile on my face as consistent as I did then. Usually on weekend trips or other tours that go on, there have been times where people have gotten to me. But everyone was in a good mood. The vibe and chemistry of Guns Up and Verse meshed perfectly. Everyone moshed for every band. There was funny shit to do every night. We had shitty drives, but it was totally worth it. Great conversations between all the band members. The tour was amazing. There were some really great shows, reaction wise. Florida, San Francisco, it was great playing San Francisco, because we had never been out there before. Some great shows where maybe the reaction wasn’t the best but you could tell there was a good vibe in the air with lots of young kids was in Texas. There were a lot girls down there too who were actively into hardcore and singing along. In short, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my entire life. The chemistry of all the bands, it matched perfectly.
Last winter, you did a small tour on the east coast. You were still relatively unknown. A year later, you go on tour and kids can’t seem to get enough of you.
I think what helps, and what I believe is an ethic that always works in hardcore, is the whole doing it yourself thing. We worked really hard to get our demo out. We put our demo out in November 2003. about a week after that, we decided we were going to go on a two week tour on the east coast, not knowing anybody, not having any merch, not knowing anyone who could set us up with shirts, records. About 3 nights before tour, Justin and I spent 23 hours straight making demos. We made 1200-1300 demos on cds and tapes. We didn’t stop. We had 3 computers and 4 tape players for recording. We sat there for about 20 hours straight. We packed everything up and went on tour. We played a bunch of random shows. Luckily we got on some sweet shows. We played with The First Step. We played a lot shows with One Up. We were fortunate to play a lot of the shows that we played. We’ve also been given a lot of help from our friends in Verse. We got a lot of support from bands in the scene. I think a big factor was we gave out so many demos. We practically threw them at people. Our main goal was for people to hear us. Our goal was never to get this huge reaction. It was to have fun and share music. We busted our asses because we wanted to have fun; we wanted to give something out. We toured on nothing. We toured on free demos. We got into a huge van wreck. We lost about $400 as a band. The band had no money. It was one of the best times of our lives.
Was there a story about a bb gun and a window?
After our tire popped in our 15-passenger van, we did a 180 across 3 lanes of highway and ended up in the woods. Miraculously we didn’t hit any trees. Everything was fine. It was just a popped tire. The van didn’t flip or anything like that. We’re at this Wal-Mart in the middle of Alabama; the van is getting fixed in one of the super center Wal-Mart’s (which is going to be the end of the world now that Wal-Mart has a grocery store, but that is a whole different note.) Briggs buys a bb gun. A week goes by and we are driving to Connecticut. This is the only day it snowed or rained on the tour. We hated the van that we took., so we’ve hit it, spit on it, and occasionally shoot it with the bb gun. We’d shoot the steel part, not the window or anything. We got lost going to the show in Connecticut with The First Step, Verse, Look Alive, Breakthrough (first show.) I’m coming out of a 7-11 after getting directions and I see the old guitarist of Have Heart, Eric, shaking his head. I looked around and there was this huge hole in the window of the sliding door of the van. There was no window; we had to put cardboard over it. It wasn’t even our van, it was a van we borrowed from some kids we didn’t even know. When returned it, it was quite the sight.
What do you think of the response you got at the Verse benefit show in Connecticut?
That was totally surprising. The reaction we got was beyond belief. I think it was a great combination of lots of young kids, lots of energetic kids, lots of our friends, good bands, good atmosphere, and sweet stage. I had no idea things were going to explode like that. It was one of the most mind-boggling shows. I didn’t even know what to say after it. It was a fun time to be able to dive on kids while I was singing. It really felt like a good connection with the crowd, with our message. All in all, it was great. So many people went and it was all a benefit for a great band that got fucked over.
Have Heart started as a project band?
Yeah, Ryan and I were in this other band and they wanted to get into more technical things. They wanted to sound like Throwdown and stuff like that. Ryan and I were the singers in the band; we actually had two singers. We got kicked out because our lyrics weren’t poetic enough. In the meantime, we had started Have Heart because we wanted to do something traditional, more in the style of Youth of Today. We started in the summer of 2002 and then we got kicked out of the other band. We practiced every now and then and recorded the demo and played our first show in November. It went pretty well.
Did you have goals for Have Heart? What did you want people to get from the band?
Something I had in mind, people were caring too much about style and the mosh part of a song, it seemed like there was a lack of substance within the music. There was no message, no motivating message. I had just barely missed the rebirth of hardcore, where it seemed the music was a bit more heartfelt. There was a lot of motivation, a lot of positivity, not just this shit about your girlfriend dumping you. It was too stylish. What I wanted to do was basically have a song (Lion Heart) and have that message going. Being a band that has something to say, with intense music behind it. Have fun, but not have it be wasted fun. Make sure it has a point.
Did the band start out, as 5 friends who wanted to do a band or was it like “I can sing, Ryan can play guitar.” Were you looking for people or was it friends that kind of all came together?
We started out it was me, Justin, Briggs, our friend Ryan Willis, and my good friend Eric. Briggs, Justin, Eric and I have been longtime friends. Our friend Ryan is pretty talented at guitar. The four of us wanted to something traditional and Ryan mainly wanted to put some talent in. We just wanted to start a band where, we were listening to Youth of Today and Mouthpiece one day and we were like “fuck our bands right now, we have to do a band that sounds like this.” That is how we got inspired to do a band that has good energy, a good mssage.
How did you get hooked up with Thinkfast!
We sent the demo out. Our friend Sean from Verse knew Larry. He is from Florida and had never seen us live. Sean told him how we are live and Larry started talking to us and asked if we wanted to do it. He seemed like a great guy, he still is. He has helped us out. He seemed like a perfect label. He wasn’t too big that a band would blow up just because of the label. He seemed like a very modest label where they serve their purpose. That is not to create hype for you, but to create a record for you, help you out financially.
I hear there are some bigger labels interested in doing an lp with you.
We’ve gotten some cool offers from people. Our main goal has never been to blow up. There are some labels out there in which the band would blow up simply because of the hype around the label. The labels are well run, there could be kids who are just in for popularity and hype and don’t look too into the band, they just kind of go with the flow. Those are the type of kids who like a band for a little bit, but are more interested in your shirts than what you are doing as a band. If there are any huge labels asking us, we’d want to make sure the label would cater us to the right crowd. We want to make sure we’d be getting reaction because of us, not because of the label behind it. We want to write a really good lp and focus with no distractions. We don’t want to decide to do anything with any label until we have the lp written. It’s not important to us to have a huge label behind us, getting us to be the biggest band in hardcore, that’s not our thing. We just want to do something good as a band. We could be on a no name label, that could be fine
What would you change about Have Heart?
I was actually thinking about that the other day. There is nothing I would actually change. I’d like to practice more. In all honesty, I’m very lucky to be in a band with the dudes in the band. Each person, Justin is like the spirit of the band. Ryan is the modesty of the band. Briggs is the certainty of the band. Ben is a very persevering dude. Today we drove to New Jersey with the five of us in a car, the whole time we were laughing. No one was arguing. We’d argue, but it was sarcastic arguments. I’ve learned a lot just being in a band with them. I’ve noticed a lot of bands don’t have a good inter-band connection. We don’t hang out all the time, but when we are together, it’s great. I love playing shows with them. We have fun writing music. It’s a good time. There is really nothing I would change.
Lyrically, you seem different, the words you write. It seems as if you actually care about what you are saying, they are not just words to fill up a song.
A lot of times people say things and they don’t really know what they mean. They’ll just say it from tradition. There are a lot of accusatory songs in hardcore, in the traditional hardcore sense. It’s always been songs where you accuse the other person. Where I found the best time to sing a song, is to sing a song about problems within yourself, how to beat them. You’re always going to get pissed at someone in life, but it is good to look at yourself first. It’s also good to have something a little deeper in the message of hardcore. Care a little bit more, have something to say rather than just accuse someone about the problems. Look around and see what is going on. If you feel certain about something you believe, never be afraid to stand up and say that.
What impression do you think kids have of you? What do they think when they think of Have Heart or Pat Flynn?
As for Have Heart, I hope people see an example of sincerity. We’re not just doing it to be a band and get the perks; we’re doing it because we love to do it. Playing good shows and writing good music, just to see that we are sincere in the music that we are writing.
As a person, I don’t know how I might come across. I’m always keeping in mind, especially in tour, to always be as friendly and as courteous as I can be to new people that I meet. I remember being younger and meeting the singer of a band and being let down because they didn’t seem that friendly at the moment. Especially on tour, it’s really hard to keep a good attitude. I’m always on friendly watch and make sure I am very approachable. That is what I always hated about being a younger person in hardcore.
You see the band and they are hanging out and seem almost cliquish.
Totally. And they seem very unapproachable. I always try to come across as the most approachable person as I can be, never try to be the quiet dude who shuts himself off to people he doesn’t know.
I don’t think I have ever seen you not smiling and having fun at a show.
It’s true. It keeps me happy. When kids come up to me and say, “thanks, it was an awesome set” or “I love your band” it is always great to hear that people are enjoying us.
I know at the Youth of Today shows, you must have bounced off my head at least 5 times.
That show was one of the best times of my life, the intensity. The drive up was good, the drive back sucked. That band has always created a good sense of individuality with me, making me stand firm. It reaffirmed that I love Youth of Today and I am glad I am the person that I am.
Do you get shit for being a “straight edge band?”
No, we’ve actually never got any shit for being a straight edge band. We try our hardest to keep things open minded. Personally, I don’t care whether you are straight edge or not. It doesn’t affect me. My main philosophy on straight edge is if you are an asshole, I’m not going to like you. You can totally be a cool guy and drink. A lot of my friends drink and smoke weed and they are totally cool. I’ve come across people who are drinking and that brings out the asshole in them.
I’ve come across straight edge kids who are huge assholes.
That’s another thing. I don’t care too much about edge breakers or anything like that. If the person is still a good person, that is all that counts. If you are living a healthy life, to yourself and others, that is the main point to me. If you are a straight edge dude and you are an asshole, you’re not getting the point in my opinion. One thing I have noticed is our treatment of ourselves and our bodies and stuff like that, you see a lot of dudes being quite promiscuous with girls and girls with guys. It is a total lack of respect for ourselves. It’s hypocritical. There are straight edge kids who claim to be so pure, like the Judge lyric “a slave to sex and you tell me you’re pure.” How can you be pure when you’re fucking everything left and right? It’s about being a good person and living a healthy life. No one can be pure, that is a fact. No one is perfect. Generally we have to strive to be perfect. There is nothing wrong with trying to be the best. Think about it. You took tests in high school and you studied really hard. There is nothing wrong with trying to get a perfect score. That is what we should be trying to do in our daily lives; trying to get a perfect score with every day.
Sometimes I see you as a less institutional Shelter. For example, your songs are a lot about soul searching and self-questioning that seems to have somewhat disappeared over the last 10 years.
Totally. That was another reason I wanted to do this band; to give other people a chance to hear the words that we are saying. They think about it and apply it to their own lives. I love the Krishna bands, getting away from the institution of it; it’s great. It was a positive message. There was nothing negative about it except for the controlling part of it. Bands like 108 and Shelter were all great bands with great messages.
Anything else on your mind?
A quote I recently heard. “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I think that is a good thing to think about. Always look to yourself, which is pretty much the main message of Have Heart. Look to yourself about situations and that helps with growth. Thanks for doing the interview and putting out our demo. I also want to talk about some new bands coming up. Aaron from Bane was talking about it during their set we played with them a week ago. There are a lot of new bands, a lot of young bands. They all have something good to say. The fact is they are not on these huge labels that are dominating hardcore financially and economically. They are these good bands that are getting awesome reactions without the back of a super label. It’s pretty natural. Bands like Hammer Bros from Massachusetts, Learn from Rhode Island, Fired Up from Connecticut these are new, young bands that are on their way to something great. Next year, if these young bands keep the same ethic of doing things by themselves, straight from the heart and the kid see that, hardcore is going to be amazing. It’s already looking that way. Check out those bands.