Thursday, April 28, 2011
"If It’s Not Political, You’re Playing Speed Pop": An interview with Steve Patton of the Have Nots
Boston ska-punks the Have Nots, have a new album titled "Proud" coming out May 3rd on Paper + Plastick Records. I had the opportunity to talk with drummer Steve Patton in the following interview:
D: When was the band started and was it always the four of you?
S: We started in 2006, but I’d consider the real start of the band like 2008. That was when we got our shit together and started recording and touring and such. It’s always been the four of us, fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it).
D: Is there a primary songwriter or does everyone write together?
S: Jon and Matt write the songs for the most part. Jameson and I help with the arrangements and tell them when the songs aren’t good.
D: Are you all originally from the Boston area?
S: Matt, Jameson and I all grew up in suburban Boston in the towns of Lincoln and Sudbury. Jon grew up in upstate New York. I'm not quite sure how he ended up here, probably something to do with bike messaging.
D: Why was your first release a full length instead of an EP?
S: Well we released a four song demo early on, so I guess we kind of looked at that like an EP. We just had a lot of songs written and were chomping at the bit to put out a record. It’s a good thing we did, knowing how long it takes us to do things, if we’d only put out an EP we’d probably still only have five songs out in the masses.
D: Is this demo available anywhere?
S: I'm honestly not sure. You might be able to find it somewhere if you look around a bit.
D: Did you guys release "Serf City USA" yourselves before Paper + Plastick picked it up, or were you with a different label? I remember there was a gap in time between when it came out and when you signed with them.
S: Yeah we fucked around with this other label for a little while but that wound up being a huge pain in the ass, so we wound up borrowing some money and putting the record out ourselves before Paper + Plastick signed us.
D: You released that album as a free mp3 download (in addition to physical formats), any plans to do this with "Proud", or maybe just an EP/Single or outtakes?
S: I think we might need people to pay for this one. Turns out being in a band is real expensive these days, what with gas prices and all. We might try to think up something creative though.
You can download one track, “Louisville Slugger” for free now at havenots.bandcamp.com. We might have some bsides and such up for free download soon.
D: I really liked Louisville Slugger when you were playing it live over the paste year. What's funny is I thought the lyrics were "I got a Louisville Slugger bat to the heart" and it was some unrequited love song; I'm not sure if it had all those upstrokes in it, especially at the end, and I told you it sounded like a Green Day or Screeching Weasel-esque pop punk song. Then I hear the recorded version and I sort of sour on the actual lyrics because they seem to be advocating violence against violence, and the band issues a statement against that notion. Finally everything comes full circle because on the bands twitter you re-tweet a joke about the song being written about Ben Weasel.
S: Haha yeah, I asked Jon to write that blog because I think the lyrics are really interesting, but it's not a pro violence song. I think we all find the Ben Weasel saga to be pretty fucked up.
Will the other songs on the record be more diverse than Serf City was, or are most of the songs based off that original sound?
S: I’d say the record is more diverse overall, while still retaining that Have Nots catchy ska influenced punk rock sound that you’ve come to know and love. There are some slower numbers, some faster numbers and some in between numbers. We fucked around with acoustic guitars, organs, pianos, harmonicas, and background vocals a bit more this time around. But, at the end of the day, it’s still pretty much good old fashioned catchy punk rock.
D: How did you get Stephen Egerton from the Descendents to work on the album?
S: He’s a good buddy of Vinnie Fiorello (founder of Paper + Plastick Records), and Vinnie recommended him to us. He mixed and mastered the album and did a swell job.
D: How did Vinnie originally find out about you guys? Had you already toured outside the Northeast at that point?
S: Yeah we’d toured the whole country a couple times before we started talking to Vinnie. We have some mutual friends, I think it was Stephen Foote from Big D & The Kids Table that played our stuff for Vinnie originally. At first I heard that he didn’t like the record very much, but then we started talking, and it turns out he did like the record quite a bit, he had to listen to it on shuffle before he “got it.”
D: One song from that album, "Used To Be", seems to suggest that once someone gets inside the political system they can't effectively change it, do you agree with that point of view?
S: To a certain degree, yeah. The system has a way of corrupting people to the point where nothing ever really gets done. But then again, I’m sure some people can avoid that and do good things within the system.
D: I ask because I'm actually working at a city hall now. I think it's more that the political system attracts a lot of people that, when it comes down to it, were never really all that idealistic. More often than not office holders come from a background as lawyers or businessman, and they won't want a staff who strays too hugely from their way of thinking.
S: Yeah the song inspired by a lawyer type guy that made a comment on a Clash shirt that Jon was wearing while delivering packages downtown one day.
D: A lot of the songs on the first album seem to focus on political and societal issues. Why do these appeal to the band?
S: I’m not sure. Jon once said that if you play punk rock and it’s not political, you’re playing speed pop, and Matt once said that political songs were way more interesting than his own life. I think we wound up catching heat for both of those comments, so maybe the better answer would be that it’s important to stick up for the folks in our society that don’t necessarily have a voice.
The new record is a bit less political though, we’re getting soft in our old age.
D: I know your kidding, but how old actually are you guys?
S: Mid twenties for the most part, Jon's a bit older.
D: Has anyone gotten the knuckle tattoo from the Serf City album cover?
S: Nah. The other guys all have various other Have Nots tattoos though. I’m the only one with no tattoos. I’m trying not to conform. It’s punk rock to not have tattoos now.
D: That's the gist of what Billy Zoom of X said 30 years ago in The Decline of Western Civilization.
S: That's funny. I'm only like 20% serious. Really I just can't think of a sweet tattoo to get. But, it was interesting being I think the only guy, out of probably 20 people on the tour last month, with no tattoos.
D: It seems like you've been touring constantly for the past year. From reading "Get in the Van" and other things of that ilk, I get the impression that constantly being in small circles with other band members can sour friendships. Do you think this is the case and have you guys experienced it at all?
S: Being on tour probably drives everyone a little crazy after awhile, sharing the same hotel room and van and just spending all of your time together everyday. Everyone has their moments on tour when they’re not at their best or happiest or whatever, so you just have to give them space and let them work through it, and be there when you can.
D: You've been fortunate to go on tour with a lot of big name punk and ska bands. At this point who are the dream bands that you'd like to go on tour with?
S: Flogging Molly, Streetlight Manifesto and Tom Petty are my top three.
D:I would have never guessed Tom Petty.
S: We're huge Tom Petty supporters. That's a bit of a pipe dream. Flogging Molly or Streetlight could probably actually happen.
D: When you went to the U.K. what was the punk scene there like? What are some European bands people should check out?
S: We played some shows with this band Random Hand that’s pretty awesome, also check out the Sonic Boom Six. It’s like the mid nineties over there, people still go to punk rock shows, it’s crazy.
D: That's interesting, did that seem to be the case all across the region or just certain cities? Also was a lot of the draw to American bands coming over, or were their local bands, mostly unknown here, who are drawing everyone in?
S: I mean the shows were still kind of hit or miss, because it was our first tour over there. But, in general, there's a wider audience for our type of music in Europe than in the states right now. It was pretty all over the place. We played some headlining shows that were well attended, and did some shows with this Random Hand that did well. There were some local bands that drew a lot of kids too.
D: How receptive have American audiences been outside of the Boston area?
S: For the most part, very receptive. There was one night on this past tour with Street Dogs where a fight almost broke about because some jokester in the audience was telling the Street Dogs to “go back to Boston.” Lenny Lashley wound up chasing the dude around the parking lot with a flashlight, it was pretty funny. But the vast majority of crowds we’ve played to at least pretend to like us.
D: Have you heard of the Connecticut punk band The Havnotz? If so do you know which of you came first, and would you ever do a show or split with them?
S: I'm not sure which band came first, but we have played together before. I think we had a rift one time because our manager told them to change their name. I felt bad about that, I hope they don't hate us still.