"Punk started as a youth movement, and I think it should continue to be that."
Fiddlehead have just released their new album 'Between The Richness' via Run For Cover Records.
A fast and beautifully frantic release, the record serves as a vessel for vocalist Pat Flynn to talk about his observations and emotions at a time where his life was shifting. It's a greatly personal snapshot of a distinctly poignant period that will linger on the ear long after it has faded away.
We jumped on the phone to chat about it with Pat, and the result was a conversation that covered all aspects of life, music, family and the special things that we cling to when we need them the most. This is that very conversation...
It feels in a lot of ways like this record has a sense of spontaneity about it. It felt like the right time to return to Fiddlehead because of what was going through your mind. Is that how this collection of songs came about, or is it something you always knew you would do?
“I hadn’t ever considered the spontaneity. That’s great, though. It is fairly spontaneous, I would say. It was born out of a particular coincidence of the incoming tenth anniversary of my father’s passing. I'm not too fond of anniversaries personally. Not for the emotional and authentic way, but am I supposed to care about it more because there’s a number attached to it. It’s inescapable, though. But this one was good as it gave a chance to pause and consider the changes that have taken place over time. I would think that also if my son hadn’t have been born when he was, like if he were born two years prior, this record would have sounded different because of it. It’s very much a lyrical and musical product of a particular moment.
“We first started writing this record three to five weeks after my son was born. The last thing I wanted to do was write ‘With Arms Wide Open’ by Creed or something. Having a son now was definitely on my mind, but it wasn’t at the forefront. I never said that I was going to write about this particular concept. It all came very organically. So, where the last record was about death in life, this one became more about life in death. We wrote it pretty quickly. The first LP was written over the course of two and a half years, as we weren’t designed to be a serious band then. I don’t think we are now. But it’s purely a product of where we were in life.”
That’s an exciting position to be in when, as you say, Fiddlehead was never really set to be a band that worked as an actual band…
“I think that one of the reasons that we decided that we should write another record is because we were very surprised at the reaction to our first one. People liked it. Like really liked it, in the form of some really powerful expressions. Head walking and mic grabbing and stage diving. We started by playing some pretty casual indie rock shows with the expectation of creating a level of gravity in a room without people doing things like stage diving. A literal turning point was a show we played a show in Anaheim, California. Packed show, 150 people, all going nuts. It feels like there was some writing in the sky from there which said, ‘IT IS OKAY TO STAGEDIVE AT A FIDDLEHEAD SHOW’. I think that things like that speak to the power of single moments and power of people’s emotions.”
Have you considered that the things that you’ve written about here have the power to help others in the way the realisations helped you? I’m sure it’s a conversation you’ve had thousands of times throughout your career…
“This record being a positive listening experience for people is very much a cool bonus, but it’s made all the more meaningful when I realise that nowhere in the lyrical content am I prescribing any actual advice. I’m always quite wary of advice and direction. Maybe that’s part of my life experience. You know, when you’re chatting to a friend, and they are going through a tough time, I always feel terrible weighing in and saying, ‘I think this is what you should do’. I think it comes down to the fact that nobody has ever actually given me good advice.
“I think there was a point within my musical career where I started to feel a bit stupid about being explicit in saying what I think needs to be done. I know a lot of that comes from being young and having a platform on stage, but it started to feel weird. First off, nobody else has a microphone, so it’s a pretty unfair advantage. But it became more about reeling it back in, asserting my experiences and then leaving it there for whatever people want to make of it.
“I’ve never thought of this album in those sorts of explicit terms, though, but if somebody is finding some positive aid in their life through the lyrical or musical content I have made with friends in a band, that’s awesome. Though I’ve started to recognise that when people say, ‘You really helped me out’, I didn’t. Perhaps I supplied the conditions that made it so, but you were the one who used those conditions to your advantage. You’ve processed the thoughts of another human being, and you decided to make sense of that.”
Do you feel that being able to convey the emotions you want, especially when it considers such personal subjects as exist on this record, is something you have got better at over the years? Has being a part of a band helped that?
“I am a pretty normal person, you know? First and foremost, I’m a family person. Then second, I’m a teacher. Because of being able to relate to normalcy and everyday life, I am extremely grateful to have an outlet such as the band for these things. Many friends and family go through tough spots, and they have their way of dealing with it. But for me, I’ve got it good. If I want to express something enormous or profound, I have friends and a weirdly built-in audience for that. I’m very aware of how good I’ve got it and recognise the privilege within that. Fiddlehead is very much that thing for me. I hope that people can see that I have carved out this little metaphorical world to express these things. I hope that everybody has the same thing in their daily life. It’s good to carve out something in your own life that’s going to help deal with the things that leave you staring at the wall.”
Interestingly, some people have carved out their own thing in the form of expression at a Fiddlehead show, the sort of expression you thought you had moved away from. Though that must spur you on to create something that is even more potent?
“More than anything, I don’t want to kill the potential for what a single moment can mean. The meditative experiences that have lasting value. There are shows from my adolescence that I still remember to this day and am positive in hindsight. In writing this record, I was very conscientious of the live sphere and how it would sound within that. We had the chance to play a couple of these songs before, but not in the way we expected, and that was before they were released. I wanted the whole thing to connect live, so there is brightness from the very beginning. I felt the same when it came to considering a song like ‘Heart To Heart’. I wanted people to feel like they could rip apart any barrier in their mind, which was in the way of them finding deeper meaning in their own lives. That’s why that song sounds the way it does, and that’s why we made sure we released it early on. Not since Have Heart wrote ‘Watch Me Rise’ have I ever been so, ‘This song has to be exactly like this’. I wanted to go as big as possible with it, and thankfully the response has been awesome to it.
“Someone reached out to us with a really powerful offering of their experiences. It was a woman who, whilst pregnant with her now 15-month-old child, the father passed away. I was pretty struck by the story, but she said that the song had become incredibly valuable. So even if this song would never see the light of day in the live setting, her experience is more than enough. It has already served its purpose.”
It’s incredible how all of these things that you’ve discussed here could be completely different in even a slightly different environment…
"It’s about promoting an environment where people feel inspired and comfortable in taking risks. That could be musically, but it could also be psychologically. A lot can come from taking that risk. As a history teacher, one of the ideas I like to teach is that the people who ‘Make History’ didn’t do it with the knowledge that what they were doing was going to have a profound impact. You do something, you see its impact, and then you decide how you work within that impact. If it’s positive and designed to nurture the human spirit, then you want to have a free and liberated environment to do it in as much as possible. That’s not just something that exists in punk and hardcore either. That’s something that exists within life.”
When you reflect on what you have done and seen because of the music and art you have made, how does it feel to be here still and still doing it?
"A few things come to mind when I consider that. The first is being extremely grateful. Any continued success comes from the interpersonal relationship between the people who listen to my music and me. So if you take that away, I’m not going to be inspired to create within this subculture. The thing that has always pulled me towards punk and hardcore is the image of the person stood in the crowd grabbing the microphone from me. That is harmony to me.
"The second is recognising that I want it to be an experience that I don’t hog. What makes punk and hardcore so valuable is that it is in service of young people in a world that historically never really seemed to give a shit about young people. However, there is no punk and hardcore without the popularity of rock music as music for the masses. Though rock music caught on in the first place, people noticed that it was making young people lose their minds. So young people matter. Though I think a reason that punk emerged initially was that those people wrapped it up in this capitalist approach that young people matter because we can make money off them. In only very recent times, out of thousand years of history, there has only now been a genuine concern for what young people are about. Look across the world right now, in America, who is in the streets?
"I say all of this because of how punk can have an authentic contribution to human society. I’m saying because I don’t want to be hogging any space. I want to be doing things that help other young people to have the sort of influential experiences that I have had. That’s one of the reasons that Have Heart broke up. It’s one of the reasons we were apprehensive about coming back. And it’s why even now, I am looking to the younger bands, like Anxious and One Step Closer, and try and hold them up. I could only experience my limelight moment because of the older bands holding me up to it. Have Heart was asked to play the first Bold reunion, and that was massive for us. Punk started as a youth movement, and I think it should continue to be that. It’s easy to lose focus, but if you lose sight altogether, you’ve lost what made it enjoyable in the first place."