Featuring current and former members of Have Heart, Basement and more, Fiddlehead nail the post-hardcore sound of classic bands of the Dischord and Merge ilk, producing a melodic sound that is decidedly familiar and very much Nineties. Bands like Jawbox, Archers of Loaf, Fugazi, Superchunk and others are clearly primary touchstones, yet tracks such as "USMA" — which premieres here today — possess a distinct personality of their own.
"USMA" appears on Fiddlehead's debut LP, Springtime and Blind, which drops on April 13 via Run for Cover/Lockin Out. The record is a follow-up to 2014's Out of the Bloom EP, a five-song exploration into post-hardcore that only teases the deep dive that is Springtime.
Below we spoke to the quintet about the new LP and got the deeply personal story behind "USMA."
POST OUT OF THE BLOOM, HOW DID YOU PLAN TO ATTACK THE NEW LP? WHAT WERE SOME GOALS AS A BAND GOING INTO THE RECORDING?
ALEX HENERY We had wanted to release an LP after recording the 7-inch, but due to everyone's busy schedule meeting up became increasingly difficult. Over two years we finally managed to piece together all our ideas and book studio time in Boston. The only goal we had was just to get it done in the three days we had booked. I don't think any of us had any grand plans other than that.
YOU HAVE SOME DATES SCHEDULED, BUT ANY PLANS FOR ANYTHING LARGER IN THE U.S.?
HENERY Due to everyone's work commitments we will only ever be able to play weekenders and occasional shows here and there. We all want to play more but it's just not a possibility right now. We do have a California weekender planned for June with Spiritual Cramp and we're all really excited about that.
WHAT ARE SOME SONIC LANDMARKS THAT YOU ASPIRED TO GOING INTO THE RECORDINGS? LIKE, "I LIKE THE DRUMS ON THIS RECORD, OR THE VOCAL SOUND ON THIS..."
CASEY NEALON The ending verse of 'Building' by Embrace where Ian Mackaye's vocals suddenly shift from a melancholy, measured tone to an impassioned yell always has always cut me deep. This vulnerable, human element to the voice is important and indispensable element to our music. For bass, I was interested in the personality of the instrument when in the hands of musicians like Peter Hook or Carlos Dengler. They lead a lot of songs with iconic bass lines in Joy Division, New Order, and Interpol respectively, and I found that post-punk approach to be appropriate to carry on in what we created.
ALEX, CONSIDERING THAT YOU'RE ALSO A MEMBER OF THE SUCCESSFUL ACT BASEMENT, HOW DO YOU VIEW FIDDLEHEAD, IN TERMS OF A PRIMARY OR A SECONDARY PROJECT?
HENERY Fiddlehead is a secondary project for me, I wish I could play more shows with Fiddlehead, but Basement will always be the priority. Writing for Fiddlehead is extremely fun and creative and I'm very blessed to be able to collaborate with such amazing musicians. I love playing in Fiddlehead it's very relaxed and we just have a lot of fun when we're all together.
TODAY WE ARE PREMIERING "USMA," WHAT DOES THIS SONG MEAN TO YOU, ESPECIALLY WITHIN THE OVERALL THEME OF LOSS THAT PERMEATES THROUGHOUT THE RECORD?
PAT FLYNN I think this is my favorite song on the record. It has a rather nice, clean even happy sound to it. But the lyrics are pretty broken. My father is buried at West Point, the United States Military Academy. The campus and overall scenery there is as dramatic as it gets. There's a quiet, deeply stoic feeling there. Everyone seems to walk with a seriousness that just reminds me of my father.
The Hudson River valley cuts through these two mountains in front these long luscious stretches of green grass met by buildings constructed in the late 18th and early 19th century. Rain or sun, you could spend hours there. I grew up going there every other year with my family and now return once a year to leave some flowers at his grave. I remember my mother telling me that she went there and just couldn't leave. I feel that sensation when I'm there too — even years removed from his passing.
I suppose that song is really about the idea that the so-called "eight stages of grief" doesn't exactly have a set timeframe. Someone dies, you don't shoot from one stage to the next after X amount of time. Some people can get trapped in one for however long it takes. Every procession from one stage to the next can also feel like a move away from the loved one that is lost. So, meandering in one stage can feel better than moving to a stage of grief with greater distance.
THE POST-HARDCORE LEXICON IS REALLY STRONG ON THE LP. WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST UNSUNG BAND OR LP FROM THE ERA?
FLYNN For me, Samiam is a big one. Maybe not the music, but definitely the vulnerable spirit of the Rev Summer bands is pretty influential for me with this band and this record. I tend to think Gray Matter is the most unsung and that Rites of Spring tends to take the attention. I love ROS more, but Gray Matter has the best song out of all the Rev Summer bands, "Head."