Interview: For Your Health, A Healthy Obsession

For Your Health is an Ohio screamo and hardcore band whose debut LP In Spite Of will explode into the collective consciousness of the continental United States (and presumably, elsewhere as well), this Friday 12, 2021 through Twelve Gauge Records.

With the hard-touring, relentless create-aholics presently grounded due to the indefinite restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, listening to In Spite Of is possibly the closest you will get to the band in 2021 without knowing them personally. The confessional and hard-hitting album, is also an impressively eloquent and outrageously open experience that doesn’t shy away from life’s sharp corners as it takes you for a ride.

You can stream the advanced tracks from In Spite Of below and read our interview with For Your Health’s chief architects, vocalist Hayden Rodriguez and guitarist Damian Chacon below:

Interview conducted September 29, 2021. The transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

I’m glad that we are getting a chance to talk today. Do you mind if I ask about how the band came together? I really feel like you guys have a cool dynamic. In particular, I’d like to know what bands you were in before joining For Your Health.
Hayden: Damian, I think that’s all you, you’ve been in more bands.

Damian: Yeah, so I was in an indie, mathy emo band called Arrows in Her. I wrote for and played guitar. I did that for almost 5 years. We broke up at the end of 2016 and then I moved here, to Columbus from New Jersey in 2017. And I met Hayden while I was working at a vegetarian restaurant. I got to know them in a real organic way, because you know, they like food, and we got to talking about music and stuff like that.

And, Yeah…. I mean, I hadn’t been playing music much. Um, I played for a couple of months in this punk band, but I didn’t take it seriously. Eventually, I lost that job where I got to know Hayden, who was playing in a band that actually broke up around the time I lost my job, so neither of us had a project at that time.

So that was the deal. I didn’t have a job. Hayden had time off because the band that split was supposed to go on tour. And, Johnny, who was Hayden’s friend, and Sandro [Zambrano-Villa], our original drummer was his roommate, and it was all like… “Ok, these are our people.”

Hayden, what was your biggest band before For Your Health?
Haden: Oh it was just this local emo band. I played drums. But I left that band and then I just had this time where Damian had lost his job, and I had two weeks off of work because we were supposed to go on tour, so we just got together and wrote songs. And that’s pretty much how the band came to be. It wasn’t even a super definite thing that we would keep making music. We just wanted to quote-unquote “jam.” And then we started playing shows. Our first year, we played a lot of shows. [Laughs] And we liked the chemistry and it was really fun, so we wanted to see how far we can take it.

That was all in 2018?
Damian: Yeah, late 2018.

Hayden: August or September.

And you continued to kind of put things together throughout 2018 and 2019, which is interesting, because that was supposed to be Twenty Nine Scene, the year that emo and screamo were supposedly coming back in a big way, and I feel like, in a lot of ways, they kind of did.
Hayden: Yeah, I feel like they kind of did too. We were out touring last year and we played some small place in Jersey and it was just packed. And that was happening a lot on that tour. A lot more people were coming out than we expected and it really did feel like there was a renewed interest in screamo and bands like ours. It was kind of interesting…

You were playing a lot with Shin Guard (now called Hazing Over) at that time?
Hayden: Yeah. We met them at one of our shows, literally our first out of town show ever, and they played some cuts off of their record 2020 and we were all just like, “Who the fuck is this?” And we ended up hanging out all night, and then we decided that we needed to tour together. Like, a lot of post-show talk never ends up coming to fruition, but that one did. We ended up doing 35 shows together last year. We put out a split and Owen from Shin Guard, their guitarist, recorded and mixed and mastered it, and they did the same for our new record, In Spite of.

What was the experience of making the new record as opposed to some of the smaller releases that you’ve done?
Hayden: Before when we were writing our first two records, especially the first one. Like Damian was saying, when we would get together and jam we would write six or seven songs in just a few practice sessions, a couple of hours, and then we would be like, “Yeah, that’s good enough.” [Laughs] And then we would just record them for our 7”. The split with Shin Guard was strange too. We didn’t have any songs or anything. We all wrote the songs for the split, like, the day before we recorded it. But with In Spite Of there was more of a process. We had a lot more time to focus on the songwriting. Basically, we were supposed to go on tour and do SXSW. Then COVID hit and we had to stay home. So we stayed in our practice space for a week and wrote all these songs. Do you have anything to add, Damian?

Damian: Yeah. This is a side note, but I was thinking about it while you were talking about Death of Spring. Hayden and I both went out to Philadelphia and caught Touche Amore and Pianos Become Teeth, and then immediately went and recorded Death of Spring. And there isn’t anything more poetic than that. Death of Spring got a good amount of praise, and you know, there is this revival going on, and we saw Touche Amore who were part of the revival back in 2011, and I think what we are doing is a bit of a bridge between the two eras. It’s sort of interesting to think about. But yeah, like Hayden said, in 2020 we were supposed to be on tour. Our tour schedule was supposed to have been super expansive, we intended to do well over 100 shows. And our main drummer Mike, lives in Baltimore. We’re kind of spread out. So we thought we were only going to be able to tour. We didn’t think we were going to be able to write a record. It’s weird how COVID forced our hand in that way. We ended up being productive, and spent a chill week in the practice space writing, and then we demo’d it all out in my basement. And about 20% of it wasn’t written at that point, guitar-wise. So we had some writing to do after that, and we just really trimmed up the material and refined it. Owen was brilliant too. They were super efficient and just super great. If you were having an issue with something they just really know how to talk you through it. They made it a breeze.

I’m surprised at how quickly this album came together because it feels very well-constructed and very sturdy, but it also has a real energy to it. Which I guess comes from the way that it was written and recorded. You struck while the iron was hot and it shows in a lot of the music. I also like the song titles on this album. They’re very punny. Do you think that having puns in your song is essential to being in an emo band?
Damian: I don’t think it’s essential. It’s just something that we think is kind of funny. They’re harder to remember sometimes, but at the same time, they can be very memorable. At least more so than one-word titles.

Right, because if you can remember the joke you can remember the title.
Hayden: Yeah. And a lot of our titles don’t necessarily have anything to do directly with the song, but they can still be very personal.

Another layer of interpretation, if you will.
Hayden: Yeah!

So is the name of your band, For Your Health, a Tim and Eric reference?
Haden: I think Damian needs to tell this story. [Laughs]

Damian: We used to practice at Hayden and Sandro’s house and they had a ton of roommates, and the porch area had just a ton of stuff on it, cans, cigarette ashtrays, and candles and stuff. Hayden and I would spend a lot of time out there just talking about what we’re going to call the band, and what we were going to do with it. That’s where we would brainstorm. And I hate naming a band. The name of a band can contribute to its potential success, so there is just a lot of pressure to it… but we were out there and there was a candle, and on it, it said “Para tu salud” which is “For Your Health” in Spanish. So there you go. It just sounded good. And a couple of us are Latinx, so there is that as well. There was also the contingency plan that if we couldn’t use For Your Health, Para tu Salud wouldn’t be a bad name either. Or, at least that was the thought early on. I was aware of the Tim and Eric thing but I hadn’t seen it at that point.

Hayden: I refuse to see it now. People keep asking and I don’t want to see it now. [Laughs] It’s funny because the reason that we had those first couple of practices was because I had booked us a show, as a kind of goal to work towards, and that was going to be our first show. And the flyer was being printed and we needed a name for our band to go on it. So we were like, “We got to make a name for this band, tooooodayy!” [Laughs] And that is why we ended up having a conversation that had us looking at all the shit on the table of the porch.

Oh, so you could have just as easily have been named after a brand of cigarettes then.
Hayden: Yeah. [Laughs]

What can you tell us about the HateFIVEsix shoot you did?
Damian: Well they’ve filmed us a couple of times. They filmed us on our first long tour. They filmed us one time while we were on tour with Shin Guard. And then last year too. So he knows our band and I just hit him up and told him where we were at, because since COVID struck, we couldn’t have an album release show. It’s funny, the video we did with him was actually supposed to be our album release show. The album was tentatively supposed to be out in October, but pressing plants are really behind so we just didn’t have it in time, so that’s why it’s coming out in February.

HateFIVEisx is really good at helping to curate a kind of modern hardcore canon. I feel like when a band gets featured on HateFIVEsix, it’s like “Hey, you need to pay attention to this band!” Do you feel the same way, or was that not a consideration of yours?
Damian: No, we just like the look of what Sonny does. And I’ve been watching his stuff for years and years. So it was cool to work with him when we were on tour, and it was very cool that he was willing to do a livestream specifically for us.

Hayden: Yeah, that was rad!

Yeah, your set was awesome. You all seemed to really throw yourselves into it.
Damian: Yeah, last year we were on tour all year round. Like that’s not literally true, but it feels true. After not playing shows for eight months, it just felt so surreal to be able to play together again.

Hayden: Yeah, I thought we sounded great! The experience of playing live is a process. Sometimes you sound great. Sometimes you sound really awful. It depends on whether you’re playing a house or a basement or whatever. But the fact that we got to play one show, in a good sounding room, with Rosa and we got to play our songs… it definitely softened the blow of this year a little bit.

So have you felt pent up without being able to get out on the road and play shows?
Damian: Um, yeah, we were on tour when the shutdown happened. We were on tour in January and February, and we were leaving on tour in March when the news kind of hit us.

Hayden: We almost drove to Arkansas!

Oh my god, no!
[All laugh]

Damian: I don’t know, this still all feels surreal. I’m not used to it. We were on tour just about every month the year before, and then we had to go home and stay home, forever, and just wait for something to happen. And you can’t work either, you just have to stay at home. So it’s good to have this album to work on. That’s definitely kept us sane.

Have you picked up any new hobbies while you’ve been stuck at home?
Hayden: Oh, well, I started learning guitar. [Laughs]

Damian: Yeah, I started recording music a little bit. But I haven’t been very active. I’ll pick it up for a couple of days and then put it back down, you know.

When you get back on the road are you going to have three guitar players?
Hayden: Um, I don’t know about that.

Damian: That could work… but I don’t like the aesthetic of it. I like two guitars, MAX! Maybe we need a synth player though.

Synths are underutilized in hardcore. There could definitely be more bands figuring out how to incorporate them.
Damian: I love synths. I think that they can introduce a lot of chaos into the mix and provide a lot of texture and tension.

For whatever reason, I thought the record was going to come out on Counter-Intuitive records, but it’s not…
Damian: Yeah, it will be out on Twelve Gauge Records.

Is that a Columbus-based label?
Hayden: No. They’re originally from the Bay but they’ve been around for a long time. They’ve put out stuff by Sabertooth Zombie and Heavy Heavy Low Low. And they helped us put our Shin Guard split out on vinyl so we got connected that way. And they knew we were working on other stuff so we pinged them about our new record.

Damian: Yeah we like working with them.

Hayden: It’s been a pretty great experience. They’re really involved in hardcore music.

Damian: We’re a pretty impatient band. When we were talking to them, they asked if we were going to put out music this year, and we said yes, but we didn’t have the record done at that time. So for this new record, we had this timeline where we had to finish writing the songs, record them, mix and master, and do all the art and design, and get it all pressing ready in three and a half weeks. And we did it. [Laughs] You can maybe feel it, the urgency, on the record. It came together really really fast.

I’m discovering through this interview just what a ride your band is. You give yourselves all these impossible deadlines and you somehow rise to the challenge.
Hayden: Yeah. We do that. [Laughs]

Is that at all intentional? Like, to get yourselves to the next step, or does it just kind of work out that way?
Hayden: It’s a little of both. We definitely like challenges. I like to try and push us as far as we can go.

Damian: A number of years ago I realized just from getting to know bands that shot up and had a meteoric rise, I realized that they were always on tour. So if you want to do it, you have to do it. You can’t put out a banger and then it just blows up. It could happen, but you usually have to put in a lot of work. And the hard thing about being in a band with people, if you’re lucky, only one other person in the band is willing to go out on tour for six months out of the year or whatever, and the other two can’t get off of work or something. It’s understandable, but with this band, I found myself in the company of a group of people who are about it, and then we added Mike, and then it was like, “We could just be on tour forever!” And that’s what the band is. It’s about trusting each other and believing in our tastes. And Hayden’s vision is very thorough, thoughtful, and expansive. So it’s all about having that drive we have, our passion for it, our determination, and that connection that we have to each other.

Photo courtesy of For Your Health.

Preorder In Spite Of from Twelve Gauge Records here.

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