Between The Richness—the latest full-length album from Boston’s Fiddlehead, out now from Run For Cover Records—packs invigorating post-hardcore jams that prove noisy yet refreshingly propulsive, like a vivacious burst of life.
“To me, this isn’t about having nothing better to do,” vocalist Pat Flynn, who is also a part of hardcore torchbearers Have Heart, shares about the overall music-making process. “This is the thing that must be done for the purpose of mental health.”
Although there’s ample energy across this new Fiddlehead effort, there’s often somewhat of an undertow, with breathing space in the arrangements that provides space for contemplation. It’s vigorous yet soulful, a facet that Flynn’s urgent singing poignantly boosts. The rich, dynamic shifts throughout Between The Richness make the instrumentals themselves feel especially emotive, charting movement from a place of tension towards a sunnier horizon.
Lyrically, Flynn explores the impact of his father’s death throughout the Fiddlehead discography, which includes the 2018 debut full-length record Springtime And Blind.
“I’m actually kind of happy to think of [Between The Richness] as pretty much married to the first one, kind of how it was written,” the vocalist says. “Musically, how it was written in my mind as well, not that all the other members had that approach, and lyrically, too—I just sort of saw this as a continuation of the first record. So, there’s a lot of lyrical connections, explicitly connected to some of the themes from the first record. And that was for the kind of interesting entertainment purposes of being a listener and being like, ‘Oh, there’s some connections between these records.’”
In this latest batch of songs, Flynn shares that there’s an effort at “mining into the ground for joy” and bringing that joy “up onto the surface.”
“When my son was born, I was just instantly thinking about what my mother had told me about my father when his father had died,” Flynn explains. “My father apparently was rather catatonic in that first year of my brother’s life, because his father had died in that moment, and I remember just really thinking like: I don’t want to be catatonic in the first year of my son’s life.
“And I can very much understand that, because of this kind of overwhelming sadness of: My father’s never going to meet my son. It’s why we named my son after him, to kind of keep that connection there, but there’s all these wonderful things, and I can just find myself staring at the floor for 20 minutes in this kind of sad and depressed state. So, there was almost this kind of weird return to a very early stage of grief shortly after he died suddenly in a particularly tough time in my family’s life.”
Flynn found a path forward. Alongside guitarists Alex Dow and Alex Henery, drummer Shawn Costa, and bassist Casey Nealon, Flynn began work on Between The Richness just weeks after his son was born, making for opportune timing. One of the first times he left the house after his son’s birth was even for a Fiddlehead practice, he shares. Ultimately, he found that he “could use the writing of this as a way to kind of really brighten up and kind of beat back against the catatonic tendencies of grief.”
“I would just play the demo tracks and play it pretty loud when my wife would be out, and me and my son—you’d just see me kind of mess around on a guitar, and then sing along to it, and dance to it, and really get into it,” Flynn adds, discussing the period of composing Between The Richness. “[My son has] heard the record more than anybody, and it’s so great, because when you play it, and you hear the little whirring sound [on album opener ‘Grief Motif’], and then it’s the sound of E.E. Cummings’ voice—he knows what it is, and he starts stomping around the room. He just knows the record because he’s heard it so many times.”
“He also knows the other songs, and their breakdowns, and he just knows when a certain part is coming because I took all the sadness of having your first child in the absence of one of your parents and just really pushed towards something pretty positive, which was writing and finding the lyrical ideas for a record, for just creating some poetry in life, and with him right there the whole time.
It was just a totally awesome experience, and I’m so incredibly fortunate to have that in my life at this juncture because I was very depressed. I didn’t want my son to have someone just kind of succumbing to grief in the first year of their life, and so it just did the whole opposite.”
On the note of that brightness, tracks including “Loverman” and album closer “Heart to Heart” feature noticeably mellower moments, making the album’s passion seem strikingly personalized. Lyrically, Flynn says that he sees tracks across the record as “a review of the last ten years of my life and really kind of … an update to my father.”
“Joyboy,” the penultimate track on Between The Richness, brings these ideas forward with a ponderance of the future that Flynn’s son will experience.
“That’s probably to me the most depressing song on the record,” Flynn says, discussing the track, which (among other moments) notes in direct address to Flynn’s late father that the singer’s son carries his forebear’s name.
“I’m glad I pulled it off. Lyrically, it’s really just about precisely the problem of a parent not being around for the early stages of their child’s first moments as a parent. There’s this ever-present attempt to kind of see the silver lining. I can’t seem to fully succumb to despair and hopelessness, despite the fact that I see it everywhere. I feel it, but I refuse to succumb to it. The last song is really in some respects a simultaneous conversation between my father and I, and a direct, explicit message to my son—definitely heavy. There’s a lot of heaviness, and I think that the brightness kind of shines through.”
Listening through the formidable and free-flowing tunes feels like experiencing what Flynn is singing about firsthand. Ultimately, it sounds hopeful. Although there’s tension, it grows into emotional release, delivering a sharply produced and consistently fist-pump-ready journey.
Between The Richness seems ready-made for an invigorating live experience, and Flynn says that this element of the band’s work is an intentional inclusion. As he puts it, he wants “this to really maximize the potential of the live experience when we eventually play these songs live.”
The album is definitely intense and even sometimes scouringly abrasive, with hard-hitting guitars, beefy bass lines, and full-sounding drums rushing by, but rather than presenting a particularly oppressive fog, Fiddlehead remain forward-moving. Often, their pace stays quick, and the transitions are relatively smooth, keeping the trek going. The group’s driving rhythms prove forceful yet breezy, as though bounding across fields of colorful plant life like the scene depicted on the cover art. It’s like a whimsically enlivening thicket, and thanks to the breadth of the Fiddlehead sound, the energy feels communal. Instrumental-wise, it’s pleasant and welcoming.
“I remember one time I wrote a song about my grandfather on the first [Have Heart] LP. It’s called ‘The Unbreakable,’ and people were like, ‘Ah, man, that was so brave. I really appreciate you putting yourself out there.’ I was like: What do you mean? I’m just writing personally about my life. It just doesn’t seem like an act of courage.
“It seems perfectly in line with what this culture is about. I wasn’t ignorant to the kind of jockish tendencies of locker room, frat boy bullshit. I knew that was there, but to me, in my core, punk and punk/hardcore were just so appealing because it just sort of rejected all of that at the front door. When I had the opportunity to really express myself, I was like, this isn’t an act of courage. This is an act of doing the thing that this thing is.”
Flynn has continued this approach with Fiddlehead.
“To me, Fiddlehead is a punk/hardcore band,” he says. “Musically, I’m sure you could say it’s not pure hardcore, but the thing I’ve always loved about punk and hardcore is, there is no firm identity on it. It’s a very androgynous, if you will, ambiguous thing that does kind of go, in my opinion, as long as it has some type of counter-cultural element to it. Fiddlehead just seems right on the money, because the nice kind of counter thing is like: Oh, I was in these heavy bands, and now I’m not in a heavy band, and I don’t give a shit, and I’m not going to sing in perfect pitch and have perfect melodies. I’m just going to do it as it comes out naturally, which to me is like the essence of punk music.”
Flynn sees the live experience as a crucial connecting fiber across the expanding eons of punk and hardcore.
“To me, there’s so much meaning made with punk music in the live setting,” Flynn observes. “In my own personal life, especially when I was young at Bane shows in the chaos of the music, there was this very incredibly wild emotional moment, and then you’re leaving, and you’re thinking about that, and it’s a good way to kind of unearth some thoughts and feelings and emotions in your life, that might be incredibly profound, that are valuable to get out of your heart and into your mind. And then there’s just the feeling of this kind of weird sense of togetherness at a show that just is so rare.”
As Flynn adds, discussing Fiddlehead in particular: “That, to me, is essential, to take the moment and the relationship between a band and its audience. And so, when we were writing this record, we were writing in the context of: Wow, we cannot believe that people liked our first record. We were surprised, because we never set out to have anyone really give a damn. It was just kind of like a studio project, and then there was an incredibly awesome, positive response when the record came out that we really didn’t expect. And so, when putting this record together, I felt compelled genuinely to write a record that would kind of optimize the current moment of the relationship between the band and the audience.”
Thematically, Flynn sees Fiddlehead music as an exploration of the connection between life and death—which, he notes, is a pretty broad-reaching, yet at the same time immensely personal, concept. With Between The Richness, he observes that life has come more to the forefront.
“[Springtime And Blind] is really about the larger theme of handling death in life, and this record is really about handling life in death,” Flynn shares. “I think that when you pause and really kind of think about those two concepts, it is supported by the lyrical themes within both records, but it’s also I think one of the biggest problems before us in our human condition. We have to deal with the fact that we are all going to die. There’s a darkness in the light of our lives that we all know, and it’s good to avoid it, but it’s happening, it’s coming, and the question is: How do you deal with that? And these two records are really how I’ve dealt with it. First record, I’m looking into the devastation and cataclysmic breakdown of the primary source of love and joy in one’s life being gone. How do you manage? How do you deal with that? How do you kind of work against it so it doesn’t overtake you? And [Between The Richness] in my view is kind of a showcase of how you put life into death.”
Watch the video for “Million Times” below:
Photo courtesy of Fiddlehead and Dan Rawe.