Fiddlehead - the punk powerhouse featuring members of Have Heart, Basement, and more - are back with their second album, ‘Between The Richness’. Singer Pat Flynn and guitarist Alex Henery do a deep-dive into the release.
Alex: I remember casually jamming a guitar riff with Dow, which would become the crescendo part that we build to in this song, and instantly Pat's brain starts whirring and begins to explain his idea of it as an intro to The Years. At the time, I didn't really understand it, but once we were in the studio and I could hear the transition with both tracks next to each other, it was a no brainer. It's a great intro to start the record and compliments the next song really well.
Pat: This song is, in a way, primarily meant to address something I was rather apprehensive about - which was writing another record with some heavy themes of death. As much as I'm past worrying about what the public thinks of me, I still knew I'd probably struggle hearing any person complain that I was trying to profit from grief or make a show of it. That's one of the big challenges with being vulnerable - the alienating idea that the public may not perceive your pain as authentic clashing with the alienating reality of pain you're currently experiencing that you know is only going to get better through health expression. So, in a way, this song, and its lyrical repetition serves as both an honest expression of the eternal sorrow from losing a loved one and a real F.U. to any shadow figure in my brain threatening my sense of authenticity.
Alex: Probably my favourite song on the record. It's one of those songs that came together really naturally and quickly. I had the intro and verse written and sent a voice memo to Pat, and he instantly was excited about it. As soon as I played it, we all were contributing, and the song formed instantly. I didn't expect the song to be as catchy as it is because Pat didn't share any vocal ideas until we were in the studio, so I was blown away watching him do takes and hearing the melodies for the first time.
Pat: I see these first two songs as entirely interdependent and almost operating as a 'mission statement' for the whole record, really. The inseparable nature of this song and 'Grief Motif' was intentional. While 'The Years' can skate without 'Grief Motif,' the same isn't true the other way around. Both lyrically and musically, 'Grief Motif' can't really really make sense without 'The Years'. Musically, 'Grief Motif' comes off as random, nonsensical and arbitrary without The Years. Lyrically, 'Grief Motif' gets its point across, but the larger album theme of 'life IN death' doesn't ring through without 'The Years' following. This song, 'The Years' is kinda designed to acknowledge and honour the broken-soul nature of 'Grief Motif,' but also send the signal that life must continue as it will regardless of our grief. The one-two punch of its beginning and content hopefully make that message clear to the listener.
Metaphor and simile are wonderful literary devices. For me, I'm happy and almost intent on being crystal clear with what I wanted to say as my primary aim, lyrically, was to think of this whole record as a 'Decade in Review' spiritual gesture of communication with my father. The remainder of the songs really serve as references to landmark changes and crucial continuities in my life that I constantly wonder what my father would have to say about. Whereas the first record ('Springtime & Blind') was an attempt to understand my mother's grief, this was more of a first-person take. Equally instrumental in the healing process. So, the big hope with this 'Grief Motif' → 'The Years' opening was to establish a lyrical / musical theme of light within in darkness as opposed to the previous record's theme of darkness in light. I think we pulled it off.
Alex: This song has an interesting story because after we tracked everything and had time to listen to it in its final form, we weren't 100% on the direction of the vocals. After listening to an instrumental iPhone demo for months, it's natural to have an expectation of what it might sound like. Pat now had the incredibly hard job of reworking some of the melodies, specifically the chorus. I didn't know how he was going to do it, since those original melodies are so hard to shake once you've heard them let alone sung them 50+ times. But he did it, and we demoed the ideas with Jesse Weiss, and it sounded amazing. The song was completely transformed, the lyrics and title changed, and it ended up being the first single. Looking back, I'm so glad we didn't just accept the song as it was or scrap it because it didn't feel good enough. We had the hard conversation, and Pat was willing to do the hard work, and it paid off. I'm really proud of this song.
Pat: I completely fucked this song up. I came in way too confident with an idea and a melody. I didn't even really check to see if it would work on an actual recording until we hit the studio. Originally it was titled '55' and was going to be about the weird alienated feeling of one's childhood home being sold. In hindsight, I'm so glad that plan didn't work out as what emerged was a song to fit one of the major events of my life in the ten years since my father passed, which was the breakup and reunion of my high school sweetheart and total love of my life. Our ups and downs are pretty symptomatic of two people who truly love each other, but met way too young, setting up a long road of self-discovery and discovery of each other by way of breaking up and reuniting. The world never seemed to spin like it should in our off-times. The flavour of life felt off. Not that we are the "meant-to-be" soulmate types, but - we've always struggled with knowing that our union is worth the effort. We're able to laugh at the past now, which is a total gift. The sombre but unserious yet not silly vibe of the song catches the reality of how we look back on our journey from high school dorks in love to being in love and married with children.
Alex: Casey brought this super fast riff to practice, and it was a refreshing to write a high tempo song that was noticeably a bit more aggressive sounding than the other songs we had written for this album. I really love the little detail in the guitar part at 0.55 that dow does to exit the chorus, just gives it some character. I think it was Pat who suggested the song should abruptly go to a very soft and sombre outro. I think Shawn nailed the transition part with the drums; it makes that part so enjoyable to listen to.
Pat: I try to let the music inform the lyrics, hence a song with a mad-dash and crash into retirement musical orientation that is about an enduring friendship from childhood into adulthood. Originally the song was going to be called 'Side-Car,' as my best friend Ryan (who the song is about) and I have this plan to buy a motor car with a sidecar when we retired and just cruise around Massachusetts in it every weekend in the Fall like we did in his shitty car when we were pathetic losers in high school listening to At the Drive-In and eating orange creme savers on the way to a hardcore show. I sometimes stop and realize I've been friends with him for about 80% of my life having met in middle school. The relationships we keep from childhood have a way to mess with our perception of time: making it seem wildly too fast or sluggishly too slow when looking into the details of each day with each passing year. I like to think the listen enjoys the turbulent ride of the first half of the song as they look forward to the relaxing ending as much as I look forward to the Sunday afternoons with my dog Ryan when we're old geezers cruising the mean streets of Acushnet as the wind destroys our wrinkly faces in the autumn light.
Alex: Another Casey riff that we started jamming at a practice; we played it through first time and just improvised it. I don't think I've ever written a song in one take before, but that's what happened this time. We played it three times, just getting more intense each time until the ending was just insanely loud dissonant guitars both soloing over each other. We eventually refined the guitars a bit but kept the structure. This is probably the most fun song to play on the record and also is the first time I've ever recorded a guitar solo.
Pat: I've never written a straightforward, traditional 'love song.' I figured I'd go all the way home on this one and let the public make no mistake about the intention behind the lyrics. As indicated in 'Million Times,' the big love of my life and I have been on what has felt like a lifelong journey together and sometimes apart. I suppose this song highlights the lovely outcome thus far in our story, one I wish my father could have been around for as he loved my best friend now-wife so much and thought our time as teens was a worthy cause to make work.
Alex: When Pat first told me he wanted a high school cheerleading chant moment in this song, I was sceptical about how it was going to work. But once we roped some friends into the studio, it came together so well. I think it adds a really interesting dynamic to this song and gives you something you weren't expecting.
Pat: I entered second grade in a small catholic school in Massachusetts as the new kid from Maryland after my father retired from the Army and returned to, he and my mother's native state of Massachusetts. Being new was difficult enough. Not knowing how to read made the task of acculturation seem insurmountable. On the first day of school, the teacher, Ms. Brunelle, unknowingly asked me, the new kid, to start off a reading exercise in front of the class. I still remember the sting of anxiety when I think back to the story. Luckily for me, Sr. Louise gave me all the love, patience and attention in the world to help me get on reading level, thus beginning a lifelong love for learning, as I knew the terror of being on the outside of the learning experience while others enjoyed the discovery of new ideas through reading.
I offer this story as context for understanding the underlying cause of writing this song. I've walked through my entire academic life with both a love for learning and deep insecurity of my potential. Fortunately, my parents protected me from the bullshit social Darwinian obsession of attaining some ridiculous level of elite status by way of education. I was always told my education was for my soul, the enrichment of my life and how it can contribute to building a world better than the way I found it.
However, the forces of the outside world found their way into my brain shortly after my father passed as I looked to continue my education at the graduate level in History & Education. My father came from intense poverty and was able to rise above the great challenges of an impoverished start to life and enjoy a decent middle-class life through the forces of the American public education system, a story that is sadly too rare in this country. After he passed, I, somehow in the weird perversions of grief, became overly obsessed with attaining some BS level of "prestige" via my education. It was not healthy for my soul to have such a warped sense of self-doubt and excessive standard. I became crushed at the prospect of having anything less than a perfect resume featuring the best schools.
I received a wonderful education, completing two master's degrees that truly prepared me incredibly well for becoming the History Educator I am today and I am grateful. But, the process along the way was unenjoyable and only in recent years was I able to become more in touch with the original message of true education of having nothing to do with social status that my father set for his children. So, this song was somewhat of an expression of catharsis for the weird way I got all up in my head in such a terribly stupid way.
Get My Mind Right
Alex: I remember Dow showing me this riff years ago, and eventually, the band jammed it in the UK at a soundcheck in Manchester. That set the idea in motion and once we were back in the states we ended up recording it for a 7". The lyrics slightly change on the outro, but we kept the claps, originally an idea from Jesse Weiss who recorded the track first.
Pat: This is possibly one of my favorite Fiddlehead songs. We wrote three weeks after my son was born and it came together so easily. Dow, Costa and I were futzing around at a gig we had in Manchester a few months prior. He was just noodling on the opening riff and we tinkered around for a second and I knew there was something there. Fast forward seven months later and we banged this song out within 45 minutes really. I kept listening to the demo and the line 'Get My Mind Right' just came to me, which I loved as it was a fun spin on fellow BHC Waste Management's song 'Get Your Mind Right.' I was looking down the prospect of moving out of the city and back into the suburbs, thinking about my sister who has been back there for a few years now. I suppose the song is a classic woe-is-me-in-the-suburbs type of song, but with the spin of some reference to the importance of interpersonal relationships in the process of pursuing mental health. I switched up the lyrics at the end from Tess (my sister) to Pat (me) just to offer something fresh as we were re-recording it for the lp. I look forward to playing this song with an ape-shit crowd once we finally get back to playing live.
Alex: For a while every time we met up as a band for a practice we would write at least one song. There was always a natural flow of ideas and this song is a good example of that. Everyone was bringing parts to the song or had an idea and it became a really strong song naturally. I love the intro riff Casey wrote, it's slightly creepy and ominous but also bright and catchy. Which compliments the tone of the lyrical content.
Dow's abrasive guitar part at 2.06 that just runs through the breakdown really stands out to me, I remember hearing that on the original demo and loving it.
Pat: It only occurred to me after the record was done that this song perfectly complemented 'Eternal You' - which features a spoken word verse from me about my love for my best friend who I'm lucky enough to still have around and call on at a moment's notice. The complementary nature of the two songs stems from the fact that my wife is the person who is reading her eulogy for her best friend from childhood who sadly died from an overdose and is, in contrast to my best friend, no longer around to call on and catch up.
I was so moved by my wife's response to the terribly lifeless announcement in the newspaper that Heather had died. I recall the page simply saying "DEATH NOTICE: Heather Elizabeth Johnson of Hyannis died at the age of 34." One's life deserves so much more poetry than that. So, in response, she pulled together what would be a big gathering of friends and family to commemorate her life and the tragedy of her way to passing.
The effort inspired me to put some music to her life, especially in recognition of her now motherless daughter and tragic way of passing. I took parts of her eulogy and what I knew of Heather myself and put it to music. Heather was actually the one who informed my deeply insecure 15-year-old that my wife had a crush on me, giving me a boost of confidence to say hello and pursue a relationship with her. She was also one of my father's AP English and Latin students. He always remarked on her special contribution to class. She was just so central to so many people and critical junctures of my life, and I therefore felt compelled to get the triumphs of her life into song in a way that could push back on the darkness of her death.
Alex: Having a softer song on the record was definitely important to us, but always hard to navigate as we predominantly have more energetic songs. Most of the time, I just question, does this work for Fiddlehead? But I think this song is really important in the pacing of the album. There's a moment to breathe after the chaos of 'Life Notice', and it prepares you for the closing song. We used the mellotron on the outro, and that added a really nice dream-like feel to it.
Pat: This is, quite possibly, one of the more complex ideas I've ever tried to convey in a song. I spent so much time in the first year of my son's birth wondering what my father would be like around my son. Countless days and nights staring at the abyss of the sky, wondering where the hell my father has gone. This song is really an imagination of how he may feel observing the two of us together, unable to be with us, in the way that I play with my son and pause to wonder about the sadness of his absence. The music had a terribly brokenhearted, bittersweet tone to it. I almost instantly knew that this would be the sound to put such an idea too.
It, for sure, was the last song I recorded, as the vulnerability was as high as it could get. I'm not really all that sure of myself when it comes to singing in more subdued, add the nakedness of the lyrical content, and you have a tall order for an inherently insecure guy like myself. But, I suppose what I love the most about this band is the relationship between myself and the fellas in it. In any moment of insecurity, I just have to remind myself that I'm surrounded by four of the more strange and loving oddball creative people I've spent time with in my music writing journey. Very grateful for the fellas.
Heart to Heart
Alex: Similar to 'The Years', Pat had a strong reaction when I showed him the original riff to this song. He had it all in his head instantly. It took a second to write as the outro is pretty specific with timing, and we weren't relying on vocal cues to know how long we should go for. We actually ran out of time at the studio and had to record the final vocals in the basement of our friend's Matthew Alexander's house. Since there had been a month or so in-between both sessions, pat had demo ideas for the vocals, and I think that's why they have such a dynamic sound to them.
Pat: I vividly remember the practice where we wrote this song. I knew it'd be powerhouse upon its completion and that whatever I'd produce lyrically that it'd have to be a powerhouse as well. So, I went big and decided to write a song that could either be interpreted as a letter from my father to me on how to connect with him or a letter to my children on how to find me when I die. I remember telling Dow, "The song is going to be a letter to Richie for him to read when I die." All he said was something like, "Oh Jesus. Well, you can do it". I like to think we made this one work as imagined from the jump and hope to give some people some light in the listening experience.
Taken from the June issue of Upset. Fiddlehead's album 'Between the Richness' is out 21st May.
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