Interview with Have Mercy: A Place Of Their Own

Since the release of their 2013 debut full-length, The Earth Pushed Back, the Baltimore, Maryland-based indie rock quartet Have Mercy definitely made a long-lasting first impression with their undeniably crushing and melodically-driven approach to emotive music. With slight similar queues that may often remind their fans of precursor acts like Brand New and Manchester Orchestra, standalone songs like “This Old Ark,” “Let’s Talk About Your Hair” and “Weak At The Knees” were guaranteed tracks that would constantly rip your heart into a thousand pieces time and time again with each listen.

After a dedicated series of extensive touring throughout the year—sharing the stage with many rising pop punk torchbearers including the likes of Pentimento, Seaway, Major League and Gates—Have Mercy recently hit the road once again in support with Real Friends on their headlining fall tour with Neck Deep and Cruel Hand, just in time of the release of their sophomore LP, A Place Of Our Own, a beautifully innovative and heart-wrenching release that truly exemplifies where the band currently stands on a personal and musical note since The Earth Pushed Back.

While Have Mercy spent a brief period of time in New York City during the week of this year’s CMJ Music Marathon, I had the opportunity to speak with the band about the natural progression of their sound during the writing process of A Place Of Our Own as well the things they’ve looked forward to the most about their time at CMJ right before they left for their tour with Real Friends.

You’ve played several showcases for CMJ Music Marathon in the past. How will this year’s CMJ be different for you compared to the past?

Andrew Johnson (guitarist): Umm… every year is kind of different. Our first CMJ was at this tiny … not really tiny, but this weird “DIY” spot and we were asked last minute to play and that was cool. Then last year, we did two showcases and they were both total opposite than this year. I don’t know, every year it’s different. Like, every show is completely different.

Brian Swindle (vocalist/guitarist): This is the first year that we’re doing press stuff.

AJ: Yeah, this is our first year doing press stuff, so yeah.

After your time here at CMJ, you will be on the road in support with Real Friends on their fall headlining tour. What will you be looking forward to about these shows the most?

AJ: Umm… the tour of the Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery in Milwaukee, even though I don’t drink anymore (laughs). I think I might take a one-day break and just have like, a beer there.

BS: Take a break of sobriety.

AJ: Let’s take a break from sobriety to have one of my favorite beers.

I guess that’s another story for another day I assume?

AJ/BS: Yeah (laughs).

BS: Yeah, we’ll catch back up with you on that.

Considering the vast diversity of this lineup with bands like Cruel Hand and Neck Deep in the mix, what kind of dynamic does Have Mercy bring to the table for this tour in particular?

Nick Woolford (bassist): I’m excited for it. Because when I was going to shows, that’s how it used to be. It was like, you would have a “hardcore” band play with a “pop punk” band and that was what you just expected. And then it all just kind of like … the past couple of years, it all changed. Like, “Oh, only pop punk tours and only indie bands would go on tour together.” So it’s a really cool throwback kind of feel.

BS: It’s getting back to that way though. I’ve seen a lot of tours that are more diverse and not just one … like a whole “pop punk tour.”

NW: It’s cool though because it opens up kids to different things they’ve probably haven’t heard before and just different cultures.

AJ: It’s like, for example, one of the first times I ever saw Alexisonfire when I was in high school, All Time Low opened up for them and that’s how I found out about All Time Low and I was like, “Holy shit.” And also Emanuel was on that tour. It was so weird because Alexisonfire were like these “Canadian hardcore kings” and you have these like, high school pop punk kids opening up and then you have that rocking skate-type stuff that Emanuel was.

Your sophomore record, A Place Of Our Own, will be officially out right when you start the Real Friends tour. How does it feel like to be playing CMJ this year right before the release of this record? Do you feel like your time here at CMJ will be an appropriate warm-up for people to become familiar with the new material right before your tour?

BS: Umm… yeah, well, it’s cool I think because we were playing New York on the tour and we’re also playing CMJ, so people will get to hear some new stuff and then learn the record, come back and sing everything.

AJ: I’m just excited to play these songs just see how kids react to them and stuff like that because…

NW: We’ve played the same songs for two years now…

AJ: Yeah, yeah, exactly, we’ve been playing the same stuff for almost two years now and it’s just kind of cool to be able to throw some new jams in there. Also, it’s kind of hard because we were trying to pick out a setlist for this tour and now that we have so many more songs, we’re like, “We got to play like, the ‘hits’ and we got to play the ‘fan favorites.’” It’s not like, “Oh, we get to play this one song that we really enjoy playing, but the crowd fucking hates it” (laughs).

When you were working on A Place Of Our Own, were there any pressures to live up to or surpass The Earth Pushed Back in any way? Or was it more of a natural writing process where you didn’t let the stress get to your head?

AJ: All natural baby!

BS: Yeah, it was definitely natural. We were smarter when we were writing these songs; we definitely second guessed a lot before. Like, on The Earth Pushed Back, every song was written in one practice and we were like, “Never trying it again,” and, “Never trying to fix anything,” so this is definitely more well thought out and more adult.

AJ: Yeah, for example, when we wrote “Let’s Talk About Your Hair,” we wrote it in one practice and then we were like, “Alright, period on that one. Move on to the next song.” And then like, the song “Pete Rose And Babe Ruth” was a totally different song the first time we played it. It was more of a straightforward rock thing and now it’s this weird jammy, like spacey thing. It was really cool to kind of look back at videos of us first playing that song last year and just being like, “What the fuck happened?” (laughs) “Like, my baby’s all grown up … it was really into the Misfits and now it’s into This Will Destroy You.”

“Pete Rose And Babe Ruth” and “Pawn Takes Rook” were two songs that you’ve featured on a split you released with a band called Daisyhead. Since these were two songs that you physically put out earlier in the year, how do these tracks fit into the new record? Did you plan to originally incorporate them into A Place Of Our Own from the very beginning?

BS: Well yeah, the original plan was to put it out on the album and then when No Sleep Records contacted us about doing the split, we were like, “Okay, we have these two really good songs that we will put on there.” But at the same time, we really wanted to include them on the album because we know that the next full-length is going to sound completely different. So it kind of just creates a feel for where we are at in our career.

Leading up to the release of A Place Of Our Own, you’ve slowly released a handful of singles like “Spacecrafts” and “Howl.” What made you want to choose to release these singles first and how do they reflect the direction of band from a musical and personal perspective?

BS: Well, the first two songs I feel like just appeal to a bigger audience, like, not just to the “Topshelf Records crowd.” It was like a whole different feel.

AJ: Yeah, I also feel like “Spacecrafts” was kind of easy because it was like a more … like, a step up from what we did, and it wasn’t completely off the ball. And then with “Howl,” it was like, “Okay, you got ‘Spacecrafts,’ which is like, Have Mercy evolving, and now you got ‘Howl,’ where they’re at their final form.”

Considering lyrical and musical themes that come into play throughout A Place Of Our Own, what is the one thing that you hope for your fans to take out of the most from this record?

BS: It’s definitely a “break-up record.” I don’t know … I guess the theme in the A Place Of Our Own documentary was, “Things get better.” I guess that was kind of like the whole … when I was writing the album, that was kind of what I was going for. Because I had to make myself feel better about everything, so that was the message that was conveyed throughout.

With that being said, would anyone like to add any further comments?

AJ: Just kind of hang out with your bros and cry over it (laughs).

BS: Yeah, you got to do it.

AJ: Grab some non-alcoholic beers and just sit in a basement and feel it all out.

Have Mercy will be playing at the Theater Of Living Arts in Philadelphia on Nov. 21, the Marlin Room at Webster Hall in Manhattan on Nov. 22 and at GameChangerWorld in Freehold on Nov. 24. A Place Of Our Own is available now on Hopeless Records. For more information, go to