Fight Amp’s DeHart talks concept behind ‘Birth Control,’ strange baby album art
August 30, 2012 § 3 Comments
New Jersey’s Fight Amp have been making raucous, punk-infused, abrasive noise for nearly a decade now. Ever since their debut album “Hungry for Nothing” dropped in 2008 on Translation Loss, they’ve been more than happy to bludgeon people at home from the stereo or during their live shows with muddy madness that certainly keeps metal crowds well fed but also reaches out to those who got into noise and hardcore in the ’90s and never looked back.
The band’s new album “Birth Control” is set for release Sept. 25, and it’s their first since 2009’s smashing “Manners and Praise.” Vocalist/bassist Jon DeHart took some time to discuss the upcoming album, its wacky artwork, and just how they came up with their potentially politically poking title. DeHart and the rest of the band – guitarist/vocalist Mike McGinnis, drummer Dan Smith – also will be hitting the road, as you’ll read later, so get yourself ready for a sonic beating.
Meat Mead Metal: Right off the bat, the album title “Birth Control” could stir the pot a little, since that’s a pretty heated political topic at the moment. How did you guys land on that as a title? Is there any sort of political or social connotation to it?
Jon DeHart: We chose the title “Birth Control” for a couple of reasons. In a way, it’s a lighthearted, humorous comment about ourselves and the noise we make as a band, since it’s highly unlikely that people would ever ”make babies” to the sound of Fight Amp. But a more serious reason for the title is in reference to the themes throughout the lyrics, mainly the self-fulfilling prophecies of religious fundamentalists. We decided to use a loose concept for this album, creating a character that each song follows chronologically through the various stages of life, starting with adolescence in the first song, all the way through to death in the last song. There’s a bunch of social pressures/end times/abandoned by god stuff in between, and I guess you could say our character is every bit the type of person who would be an outspoken opponent of birth control in today’s world.
MMM: The album art is pretty bizarre. Certainly it isn’t something you could see in a store and not immediately be drawn to. What’s the concept behind that piece of art? It seems to speak to gluttony.
JD: The artwork was done by our drummer, and I’d say bizarre is the perfect adjective to describe him as well. Haha. I know he used the themes from the album to guide him, and I love the way it turned out, but it’s hard for me to say exactly what the inspiration was. Gluttony is something I took away from it too, one of those conveniently overlooked sins. The baby crowned with butter seems like a comment about the bad habits that are forced on you from birth, and also the celebration of consumption that we have here in America. But those are just my best guesses. Someone else may get something totally different when they look at it.
MMM: Three records into your run, the band sounds as tight as ever. Do you feel more confident and comfortable as a band?
JD: Thanks, that’s really nice of you to say. We’re feeling awesome about everything right now. We’ve had a lot of great experiences that have helped us get closer to hitting our stride, like working with Phillip Cope on our first two full-lengths, touring with some of the bands that inspire us, etc… Hopefully that continues to show in the music we create.
MMM: You broke in a new drummer in Dan Smith with this album. How did that transition go? Was he heavily involved in the creative process?
JD: Dan is a real talented musician, so working him in musically was easy. His first real task with us was a six-week tour with Weedeater, Saviours, and Bison B.C. Touring with those bands is the very definition of a road test. I think we only had three off days, and one of those was because our van broke down in Alabama. When he came out of the other end of that trip and was still down to join, we knew we had our guy. We had five of the eight songs on ”Birth Control” written when Dan joined, and our old drummer Mike Howard helped him with learning those. Once Dan got the basics down, he still made slight changes here and there, and he wasn’t shy at all about taking part in the creative process for the three songs we wrote with him. He even brought a couple of guitar riffs to the table.
MMM: You and Mike remain the core of the band that’s pretty much been there from the start. What’s your creative relationship like? Is one of you more the primary force behind the songs? Is it fairly collaborative?
JD: It’s really easy writing with Mike. He’s always got a cool riff or two to work on, so I gotta tip my hat to him there. Most times the writing is collaborative, sometimes it’s not. It all depends on what the song wants.
MMM: I’ve always heard a lot of Black Flag, Nirvana, and Unsane in your music, but it seems even more so on “Birth Control.” And certainly in an organic absorption way. Are those influences of yours?
JD: Yeah, absolutely. Those are a few of the bands that made me want to start playing music, so I’m stoked whenever we get the comparison. The time we got compared to Godsmack, not so much. Haha.
MMM: On the other hand, and maybe it’s just me, but I sense something of a classic rock feel at times with the guitar work especially. Is that in there, or am I hearing something unintentional?
JD: The classic rock feel is in there. It’s awesome you’re hearing that, but it wasn’t necessarily intentional. I think we’ve just evolved to the point where we feel more comfortable letting those influences show. We started as a hardcore punk band in the vein of Tragedy and From Ashes Rise, and eventually we started to let the noise-rock stuff that we’re known for today work its way into the mix. We were all raised on the classics, and there’s always plenty of Creedence and Zeppelin playing in the van when we’re on the road, so I guess it was only a matter of time.
MMM: The music on “Birth Control” still has that seething, shout-back personality. Concept aside, are these songs also personal?
JD: Even though we created a character and narrative for this album lyrically, we didn’t want to write some sort of all-out fantasy because that’s not the type of thing that’s ever worked for us. So it’s definitely coming from a personal place. The lyrics I write are usually sarcastic, negative emotions filtered through my views of society, with a few cynical jabs at myself for good measure.
MMM: The song “Should’ve Worn Black” stands out lyrically. At one point there’s a line that goes, “God is dead, and so am I,” and later there’s a line, “Even empty, this town disgusts me.” These seem like wonderfully harsh sentiments. Please share the inspiration behind this one, if you don’t mind.
JD: That song is meant to be a reflection of someone who could only be happy in paradise if they knew their enemies were burning in hell. At this point in the narrative, society has collapsed and our character is struggling to come to terms with being left behind, forced to survive in a world intended for his enemies. I picked “Should’ve Worn Black” for the title as a way to describe the regret that type of person would feel when they realize their reason for being good may not exist. I got in the mood to write the lyrics by thinking of the town where I grew up. It’s a small pond with a lot of big fish that like to say, “Do you know who I am?” and aside from the little bit of family I still have there, it’s a place I wouldn’t mind never seeing again. Even if everyone there disappeared, it would still bother me. That’s where the, “Even empty…” line comes from. Mike wrote the ”God is dead…” part from our discussions about the subject matter, and I think it does a great job of capturing the overall sentiment.
MMM: Closer “I Am the Corpse” sounds pretty morbid based on title alone, but the song is one of the more spacious arrangements on the record. What’s the idea behind this song, and why, musically, was it fitting to close the record?
JD: We decided to close the record with “…Corpse” because it has that big, drawn-out ending. We held off on writing the lyrics until a good portion of the album’s music was written because we didn’t want the chronology of the narrative to affect the order in which the songs appear. This last song lyrically is our character’s last thoughts just before death, so it’s still pretty morbid in that regard. Haha.
MMM: The band has had a long-standing relationship with Translation Loss. How has that arrangement worked out beneficially for the band? Certainly seems, from the outside, like a fruitful relationship.
JD: Definitely. Drew and Christian from TL have been a huge help. They showed an interest in us even before we started recording our first full-length “Hungry for Nothing.” I don’t think that album would have gotten the amount of attention it did if it wasn’t for their support, and that’s been consistent throughout these past five years. When Fight Amp first started, we played some West Philly basements with Drew’s band Balboa, so we already had a bit of a history together, and we were confident that signing with them was the right decision since they were coming from the same place as us. Working with them has been a blast.
MMM: What does the band have planned as far as touring behind “Birth Control”?
JD: We’re doing the eastern U.S. starting in mid-October, hitting some festivals along the way, and we plan to keep that going as much as possible through 2013.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.fightamp.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://translationloss.com/store.htm#package
For more on the label, go here: http://translationloss.com/