WORDS: GEORGIA RAWSON
PICTURES: ALEXANDRE BIGUET
Counterculture, and it’s many creative outlets, has always been used to bypass both political and social oppression, all the while creating a positive impact and feeling of solidarity and community. In the 1970s, the troubles of Northern Ireland inspired a punk movement to oppose the IRA. In the 90s the pirate radio station B92, used Public Enemy’s, Fight The Power, to defy the Serbian Government. On January 26th 2000, Rage against the Machine forced the New York Stock Exchange to close at 3:15pm, defying capitalism by bringing the financial capital of the world to a halt.
After growing up in a household shaped by a father having served in the Vietnam war, and later on in his teen years by that of the rise of grunge, the simmering out of the Riot Grrl movement, and a self-discovery of punk, a 13 year old Pat Flynn found himself at the helm of all of the past movements, and with it a fascination and curiosity to know more. “I think I came into a scene that was at a real ideal moment in punk and hardcore. It was still the 90’s and, I think punk had become SO mainstream that it spread to even the most obscure and often hidden ideas to the public, or at least to small towns throughout the country..” Reflects the vocalist. “The first show I went to was a real life changing experience. The Riot Grrl scene was still prevalent, but somewhat fading out. The concept of acting like a tough guy asshole wasn’t praised at this show. After that show I felt empowered enough by the local scene to book my own shows, which further empowered me to be more and more active in the scene.”
Pat Flynn’s story is similar to a lot of those who spent the 90s exploring the murky waters of adolescence in search of self identity. The underground, and in particular genres such as hardcore arguably thrived as an opposition to the ‘frat boy’ lifestyle of the white suburban neighbourhoods of America. College varsity jackets were reinterpreted away from the red cup alcohol dowsed parties, and turned over to the straight edge culture in droves of Youth Crew members sporting the style. Another self-discovery in the form of D.C.’s Minor Threat was untypically not a discovery fuelled by straight edge culture, but rather Pat feeling like he had “eventually hit a wall of reality and became intensely frustrated with the fact that he felt like a total poser,” and, “lying to himself about his understanding of political / anarcho-punk bands.”
“when we seem to forget to play our role, remind each other to do so.”
Heading to his first hardcore show at a drug and alcohol free center in New Bedford, Massachusetts in the summer of 1999, it wasn’t long until a young Pat was influenced by his peers, and it is questionable as to whether Have Heart would have such a strong hold on the hardcore community had it not been for their constant encouragement of unity through straight edge culture. “I was drawn to the idea of straight edge because it offered a way out of what seemed like the shittiest options for life as a teenager at the time” Muses Pat. “The so-called “straight arrows” of my time were either frat-boy party rich kids or socially-inept elitist academic snobs. While on the other hand, the so-called “edgy” kids were either the frat-boy party rich kids or sad souls who lost control of their lives at an insanely young age.”
A viewpoint shared by the likes of Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye and Gorilla Biscuit’s Walter Schreifels, the 90s straight edge movement had a darker influence, with it’s participants often choosing ‘the straight path’ as a reaction to the traumatic passing of those around them. “ I wanted to play it “straight” in the world of drugs and alcohol because I had a strange feeling there was more to life and also that I would not fare too well in a substance-ruled lifestyle as a result of watching close family members struggle through it. I also had a Lt. Col for a father who came from a hardened, impoverished upbringing in Boston’s lower class and somehow managed to climb into the middle class through academic discipline and a whole lot of self-sacrifice.”
Throughout our interview Pat Flynn refers more often to his family as influence than that of other musical groups. Their final show saw the proceeds donated to a woman’s shelter his mother worked for, influencing his passion for social and political change, all the while his father’s climb through a classist American system inspired his urge to teach and educate,. A combination of feminist teachings from his mother, and the ending of the Riot Grrll movement became very apparent for Flynn.
Patrick Flynn seems humble when talking in such depth of both his studies and knowledge. His reflections of his own upbringing, coupled with an outlet that sits within a genre hailed for its conviction and his day job allows for a more intellectual discussion to take place. “I have a pretty pragmatic take on the world born out of an observation of history. When our society truly seems to be dwindling in a state of dysfunction, and when there is a legitimate collection of evidence to do so we can improve our lives for each other, lets improve our lives.”
“When our society truly seems to be dwindling in a state of dysfunction, and when there is a legitimate collection of evidence to do so we can improve our lives for each other.”
In Leeds last month Flynn spoke openly, albeit briefly about his delight to see the likes of Vision Quest’s vocalist, Saskia Hopwood take the microphone, all the while an empowering lead for the likes of photographers such as Natalie Wood and Josie Hoffman could be seen across the stage documenting the comeback. “The women at the shows I went to in 1999 seemed to be way more on the front lines that they did in the later years that Riot Grrl era of punk & hardcore I found in 1999. I suppose the contrast of what I saw in 1999 and the years after in regards to the scene dynamic and the role women seemed to be in impacted me.” He remembers.
However, he’s quick to add that Have Heart strives for inclusivity across the board, and reflects about the drastic change pre 2015 where the likes of Firewalker and Gloss rose from the ashes. “In observation of the behaviour I found myself speaking out against the types of hyper-masculine behaviour that seemed to take up some much social space by way of sheer physical intimidation.”
A drive for political and social change however, is what has separated Have Heart’s genuine approach to their comeback, then that of other returning bands who are becoming accustomed to the accusation of a quick cash grab. Sign in hand, an outright black and white statement against Trump’s administration and inhumane approaches of ICE against immigration are baldly held high in an act of protest, with over 9,000 sets of eyes reading the words as they gather in Boston. It is an imagine and a statement that has never seen more relevant, and is one that could almost be comparable to other political counterparts controversial approaches to educate and inform over the decades.
Now currently teaching history as a lecturer, as well as spells at prestigious institutes such as Harvard, Flynn approaches the subject with a knowledge of both a teacher of history, and that of a moral citizen. “America’s immigration policy is not terribly new for human society. Immigration out of war-torn and/or violence ridden countries to more economically advanced ones dates back to the ancient world. I would hope our policy makers would look to the lessons of the past and see that an isolationist, ultra-national approach to the problems of immigration has not worked terribly well with great frequency history.”
“I suppose the contrast of what I saw in 1999 and the years after in regards to the scene dynamic and the role women seemed to be in impacted me.”
Hardcore has become renowned as a genre that has held it’s fists up in solidarity in the shadows of darker times, and the last twelve months have been a hotbed for turbulent politics and turmoil. Regimes from the likes of Donald Trump and in the UK Boris Johnson have questioned the very core of a moral society, and more so made it more important than ever before for the hand of hardcore to extend to the victims of the turmoil. But the comeback of one of hardcore’s most iconic heavyweights was never one that was conscious of its’ timing when it comes to the current political climate it found itself within.
“With the exception of a few songs, Have Heart was always a real personal ride for me, lyrically that is. If people wanted to see our band as taking an overt political stance on something, that’s fine and well. I’ve been trying to put to words on what exactly was “feeling right” about playing shows again in the decision-making process. All I have to offer for now is that we created and played music at a time in our lives when we really needed to on an emotional level. We had been writing and playing together as Free, and found ourselves really wanting to play those songs again. That’s it.”
“Having over 9,000 people show up to see a band my friends and I started in high school was insanely surprising and really great.” Flynn comments when looking back in awe on the recent shows. “I felt good about it all because I believe the songs we wrote were good for human society. We promoted responsibility, individuality and empathy for others. If near 10,000 people wanna see a band scream on and on about those things, then fantastic.”
Throughout the intertwining history of justice lead movements and counter culture, the first real steps always seems to begin so humbly, a chain reaction birthed from even the smallest gesture. Whether this be the icing of a message onto a donut, a “personal discussions in coffee shops with another person who disagrees with you,’ or a placard displayed upon a stage to thousands across the globe, Flynn sits content with the accidental influence Have Heart’s reunion has sparked. “I think all of this really gave me the impression that this is how the larger society should work: we all have a part to make our time in this situation better for everyone, so play it.” He concludes. “And when we seem to forget to play our role, remind each other to do so.”