In the case of Baltimore’s Have Mercy, what wins out-and what ultimately astounds-is raw, unfiltered passion. The band’s debut “The Earth Pushed Back” LP, was one of the most honest records of 2013. It was an album that fans of punk and emo from Brand New to Tigers Jaw and Taking Back Sunday simply couldn’t afford to miss out on.
Produced by Paul Leavitt (All Time Low, The Dangerous Summer, many more), their first “A Place Of Our Own” album, was subsequently released in 2014. It was a refined, more muscular version of what they did well on “The Earth Pushed Back”. It’s an organic, sometimes subtle and sometimes very noticeable type of growth. Everyone simply sounds better from an instrumental perspective, and Swindle’s gritty vocals have become only more defining. Be on the lookout of what’s to come in 2018.
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Mehnaz Ladha: Kicking it off with your hometown area of Baltimore, what really stands out and makes it special to you? Where would you send a first-time visitor to get a real sense of the surrounding area?
Brian Swindle: Baltimore is a really small town. It seems like a big city, but everyone here knows each other and we all know the same landmarks. If you are going to come to Baltimore, you definitely have to get some steamed crabs. There’s a place that we go all the time called Crab Town, and it’s like an arcade and seafood place. It’s where I would tell anyone to go.
ML: How does the music scene of Baltimore compare to other cities you have performed in?
BS: It’s very eclectic here. For a while, we were a very big “emo” scene, but now we have a lot of hardcore music. It varies. You can go to a show around here and have a country act of four bands and a pop band on the same bill. It’s very eclectic.
ML: Perhaps that might have something to do with Baltimore’s proximity to Washington, D.C. That culture of coming and going in DC seems to have come to Baltimore.
ML: What was your first real exposure to music? How did you get inspired to create your own and eventually pursue it as a career?
BS: I grew up trying to be in bands and I was never a good musician. I ended up starting a band when I was 20 and this was my first band. Have Mercy is my first band and this is all I know. It’s all I’ve done.
BS: I contacted the drummer I knew at the time and said, “Hey, do you want to write some songs?” We ended up releasing an EP and right after that EP came out, we got signed to a label. It was very quick.
BS: Yeah, it’s been crazy to look back. It’s only been five years, but we have three albums out and we’ve been kicking it.
ML: To create music, and traveling to promote it, must be such a feeling. What’s the most impactful and meaningful part you cherish about it? Does the travel help inspirationally?
BS: I love seeing different parts of the world. I love seeing different parts of the US. Everyone has their own unique culture and it’s cool to see that even though we are all from different places, everyone is so similar. Everywhere you go, everyone has their own ways of living life and it’s kind of neat to compare them.
ML: What are your top three favorite cities you have been to either for the band or for leisure?
BS:Chicago is my favorite city next to Baltimore. It’s a big city and there’s a lot to do there. The transit is pretty nice too. Reykjavik in Iceland. That was awesome when we got to go there. I don’t know the third one though. I like the West Coast a lot like Los Angeles, but I don’t think I could live there.
ML: L.A. is actually the next one on my list but I couldn’t see myself leaving the East Coast long term either.
BS: Yeah, every time I’m in LA and I get why everyone loves it, but I don’t think I could live there.
ML: You are very well traveled both in the US and abroad. Has it affected your music style in any way?
BS: I keep the Baltimore roots in my music. I could take some influences from different scenes all over the US and different parts of the world, but it all just comes back from being from Baltimore and everything that I grew up around being here.
ML: What’s one of the signature characteristics of Baltimore roots?
BS: It’s weird. If you listen to a band that’s from Baltimore and not know that they’re from here, you would kind of get it. It’s hard to put into words. I was with my buddies last night from a band called The Dangerous Summer and we were talking about how similar our styles are, but we don’t know why. There’s a feel to it.
ML: Have Mercy is weeks away from going on tour with Senses Fail. Describe your excitement to perform your music live. What city are you most looking forward to performing in?
BS: I’m so excited to tour with Senses Fail. We did Warped Tour with them a couple of years ago and that was great. I never saw them wanting to take us out on a full U.S. tour. I’m stoked because it’s a lot bigger rooms than we normally get to play. I’m excited to see them in Jersey, because it’s their hometown and it’s a really huge show.
ML: What’s been the most memorable performance for you yet?
BS: Probably when we played Riot Fest in Chicago because we played for 4,000 people and they were all there to watch us, which was just mind-blowing. We hopped on stage and look out. We were like, “This is insane.” I can’t believe this happened in our career.
ML: One of our core objectives at SCP is to bring people together while traveling, not only to influence people to see and appreciate our beautiful world, but to also minimize cross-cultural divides. What effect does traveling, specifically surrounding music, have on humans in this regard? How has it broadened your perspective of the world?
BS: You get to see all different types of life. Everyone on our crew that we travel with is very personable so we love to meet other people from different towns and experience their local dive bars, favorite places to eat. I feel more accepting of people’s cultures and lifestyles just because we have been out there and seen things.
ML: Definitely! Whether you’re traveling for the band or for leisure, what are you most excited about when visiting a new destination?
BS: We have this thing that we always go and find a margarita the second we get to any city. Our bassist and I always go out and find one. We have had one in almost every single state.
ML: Sounds like a fun tradition. Where have you had the best margarita?
BS: We had a really good one in Salt Lake City one time, which was odd. It was the weirdest spot. It was a little dive bar where we went in and had the greatest margarita I can ever remember.
ML: When you’re relaxing on a beach or just have some downtime are you listening to music? Or do you like to switch up the tunes?
BS: If I’m hanging out on the beach, I like to listen to a lot of my friends’ bands or jam out to the stuff everyone I know is listening to. I love the band A Will Away. I was sitting on the beach in LA a couple months ago and that’s what we listened to for an hour.
ML: Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations?
BS: That’s the toughest question. When I think about song structure, I love listening to Manchester. They’re actually one of my favorite bands. But, what I’m listening to at the time influences whatever I’m writing. I’ve been listening to a lot of weird pop music recently, so I’m sure the next song that I’m going to write is going to be completely absurd.
ML: What are some of the destinations you hope to perform in or travel to in the future?
BS: I really want to go to Australia. That’s the next goal and then after that, Japan. So hopefully in the next year, I can get that done. Those are the two places I want to go. It’s a hop, skip and a jump. They are just places that I haven’t been. I have only been to the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Europe. But I want to see everything and go anywhere.