Making a second album was not something Fiddlehead ever discussed; they didn’t really plan on making any music at all until life (and death) forced their hand. The hardcore band, which features members of scene veterans Have Heart and Basement, was formed around frontman Pat Flynn’s need to purge himself of grief following the loss of his father in 2010. Living with guitarist Alex Dow in Boston in the immediate aftermath, the pair began working on songs that would eventually become 2014 EP Out of the Bloom and then their to 2018 debut album Springtime and Blind. Alongside guitarist Alex Henery and drummer Shawn Costa, the group create emotional hardcore with emphasis on the emotional catharsis of voicing the pain that sits deep inside the soul. Their songs hum and thrash in all the right places but are always moored by Flynn’s introspective lyrics and raspy vocals.
Despite the arrival of Between The Richness, released May 21 via Run For Cover Records, being anything but guaranteed, its existence feels essential. Joined by new bassist Casey Nealon, the band has doubled down on its anthemic sound while Flynn looks to the future in his lyrics for the first time. This turn toward optimism was inspired, in part, by the arrival of his first son in 2020, 10 years on from the loss of his father. Songs like “The Years,” “Get My Mind Right,” and “Down University” pack the same heart and power as those Fiddlehead established themselves with but are also buzzing with a new hopeful energy and the sense of moving through grief and finding life in death.
Speaking via Zoom last month, Flynn explained that the new album is not just a second record but a whole new chapter for the group. “We’re not trying to build a career out of this,” the frontman, who also works as a high school teacher, explained. “There’s none of the baggage that comes with the commitment. It’s just natural. I remember being surprised that people had a connection with the first record, genuinely surprised. And it felt nice to kind of capture that thing that people liked and to offer a little more with our second album. At the end of it I was again, like, ‘I’m never doing another record’ But we’ve more or less now just finished writing what will be a third LP.”
Stream Between The Richness below and read on for our interview with Pat Flynn and Alex Henery on playing hardcore for little kids, making their sunniest music to date, and the hardcore scene’s desperation to get back to performing live.
The FADER: Was there a pivotal moment that you can recall where you thought, “There is going to be a second album. We can make this work”?
Flynn: We played the show in Fullerton at the Programme and there’s probably only like 150 people there, but they were completely packed up front. It’s a very tiny record store and it just felt like the entire room was very wildly engaged with the lyrical and musical presentation. I just simply didn’t expect that at all. And it almost shined a green light to the public that, “Yes, you are allowed to go wild. You’re allowed to treat Fiddlehead like they are a punk and hardcore band.” I just didn’t expect it, because some of the songs are very subdued on that first record. And I just never expected anyone to be going physically wild for a song like “USMA” when we were writing it. That was a big turning point. I remember at that point thinking, “Oh, there’s public interest here.”
Henery: I think that it was just, for me personally, never thinking that I would have a natural chemistry with another group of people, since being in a band and creating that dynamic is pretty rare. And I had that in the previous band that I’m in. So to have it again was like, “Why would we not meet up? Why would we continue not having practices?”
“Heart To Heart” closes the album and is written as a letter to your infant son, Pat. I wondered if you could explain what you wanted to say to him with the lyrics?
Flynn: I’ve learned the art of defeating grief through seeking life in the smallest things, whether it be the cherry blossoms outside my window or the way that my uncle moves his finger that reminds me of my father. There’s this constant and infinite presence of the people we love as long as we choose to find them there. In the most plain terms, the song is really the idea of that. So in some respects, as much as it’s a letter to my son and my child on the way, it’s also kind of like a meditative overview of the spiritual communication I have with my father, and all the people close to me in my life that I try and communicate with. It’s really just about having a more meaningful moment of remembering somebody.
Have you been able to play the new album for your son yet? Is he too young to appreciate it?
Flynn: If there’s anyone who’s heard it more than me, it’s him. My method of getting vocal melodies and lyrics out was really just coming home from work, giving my wife a break from being with him all day, and just playing on a ukulele with him, just over and over and over and over. So he knows the record. He enjoys it. And he’s actually, in some respects, even for the newer songs, a bit of a taste tester. If the song pops off, he has a very, kind of, primitive response to songs.
The perspective from which you’re writing has switched from the first album, when you largely wrote through the eyes of your mother. Now you’re talking directly as yourself. What was on your mind during the writing process?
Flynn: One of the things I think I love about this band is that it’s a place for me to process things that are deeply on my mind. But I’ve never been one for listening to the casual themes, just kind of random, vague stuff. I love it when big universal themes come to the front. I was just looking back at the lyrics the other day, and it seems heavy. The opening two tracks are pretty in line with the emotional weight of the first record. But when you go through the rest of the songs, they kind of have this, I don’t want to say sunny orientation to them, but a little bit more joyful. The approach to it was really about the anniversary, the 10 years [since his father’s passing]. And so much as I hate anniversaries, they still have that social element to them that make you unavoidably think that they mean something. That was kind of in the writing process staring me down. And I was looking back on the last 10 years of my life I began thinking about the accomplishments, the changes, and the continuities.
In terms of the sound of the album, were there specific ideas or reference points that you wanted to hit?
Henery: Archers of Loaf, Fugazi. Samiam. It’s a blend of all of these different influences that we all like, but never one, like, “We want to sound like this.”
Flynn: It might be interesting to consider what we tried to avoid.
Go for it.
Flynn: I was conscious of the live experience. Whereas, on the first record, I didn’t give a damn. So the kids at that Programme show have a pretty profound influence on this band, at least in my eyes. And then, the kids who have turned out to our shows and responded in very open emotion and physicality in the hardcore tradition.
With this album I was really trying to ensure that the live experience would be as optimal for outward expression of emotion as possible. Not to the point where everyone’s weeping on the floor, but I thought that it might be valuable to keep that in mind, but while also keeping a level of restraint in there.
With that in mind, how has the inability to perform live in the last year affected you? Hardcore and punk’s soul exists is in the live show.
Flynn: Yeah, it was profoundly and extremely frustrating. But luckily, the whole record wasn’t written just to make everyone stage dive and mosh. If this was a proper traditional hardcore record, then I would be extremely bummed. But there’s some really meaningful musicality on the record, I think, that makes it something that can go wild at a show, but you’d also want to drive home to it in your car.
I’ve always believed that one of the things that makes punk music so meaningful is that it does die without the people. There’s this spirit of democracy inherent in there. Maybe I’ve idealized that. But it’s kind of nice for me to see the existence of punk music totally threatened, because it doesn’t have this outward moment of the musicians and the people really interacting. It’s a reminder that the music culture that I’m a part of is totally and entirely predicated upon, not just listeners at home, but interactors in the very moment. It gives it a uniqueness.
Henery: I think live shows, when they return, especially for punk and hardcore bands, will be so, so profound.