Too often bands are concerned with creating the perfect album rather than the right one. HAVE MERCY have tried the former in the past, but on MAKE THE BEST OF IT, out now on Hopeless Records, they succeeded in the latter.
“We were trying out a bunch of different styles of music, and looking back, it just didn’t sound right,” explains frontman Brian Swindle of the Baltimore-based emo/ indie-rock band’s last album, A Place Of Our Own. The 2014 album was their first for Hopeless, bringing with it plenty of expectations and pressure to deliver what the singer calls “the best record ever” after Have Mercy built name in the underground with their debut, 2013’s The Earth Pushed Back.
During the writing and recording of Make The Best Of It—a seven-month affair with producers Paul Leavitt (All Time Low) and Brian McTernan (Thrice)—Swindle made sure to internalize the essence of Have Mercy and let that guide the songwriting. In fact, this self-reflection led to something unprecedented for the singer: scrapping an entire album’s worth of songs and rewriting the whole thing from scratch in the studio.
“There were so many different genre styles I had included, and I realized it wasn’t going to be a cohesive record,” he says of the album’s first pass. “When we were writing a song and realized we were forcing the writing process, we knew we had to start over.”
In the end this patience was rewarded. Make The Best Of It is all at once raw and composed, lyrically heavy but brimming with indelible melodies. It balances soaring ballads like “Baby Grand” and “Ghost” and riff-heavy, full-throated “Smoke and Lace” and “Begging For Bones” with ease, placing Have Mercy somewhere between the emo scene they came up in and wider rock landscape that’s teeming with opportunities.
During the recording process, each song came under intense scrutiny, with individual parts—or entire songs—rewritten if they didn’t live up to the standards the band and producers had set. To them, “good enough” was anything but. It was a different sort of perfection than Have Mercy strived for in the past; this time, organic growth was favored over laborious creation.
To add to that false start, the period surrounding the album was also one filled with profound change, both personal and professional. For starters, the entire band around Swindle changed, with the frontman now the only original member of Have Mercy. There was also upheaval at home, leaving the frontman scrambling to find and renovate an apartment after being kicked out of the house he was living in. It was in this place that the album’s title became a mantra, needed perspective amidst otherwise uncertainty.
One thing that’s not uncertain is that Make The Best Of It, with all its confidence and cohesion, has set Have Mercy up for big things in the future—not that it really matters to the band, though. “Everyone who worked on the album poured every ounce of themselves into this,” Swindle says. “Even if nobody likes this record, we don’t give a shit.”