Pride and tradition – Harrington Saints interview

The Harrington Saints are one of a number of bands leading the resurgence of streetpunk and Oi! music that we’re currently seeing.

Hannah McFaull has loved the band since their first full length ‘Dead Broke in the USA’ was released in 2009 and since then the band have gone from strength to strength, both in their native East Bay and in Europe, where they’ve recently toured with Germany’s High Society.

The new release ‘Pride and Tradition’ is a belter of an album, and if you like your music to be loud, anthemic and stick in your head for the next couple of weeks, I can give you no higher recommendation.

Louder Than War sat down with singer Darrel Wojick for a chat about the new album, working with Lars Frederiksen and why Jack Daniels is banned on tour…

 LTW: American bands aren’t always happy to be tagged with the Oi! label, are you happy to describe yourselves as an Oi! band?”¨”¨

Darrel: I am because that’s what I grew up with. It’s funny because I’ve had this conversation with German friends and come to the conclusion that we’re an American Oi! band.

I think we bring a little bit of hardcore to the table, which in the Oi! and skinhead scene is very American to do. I grew up on English Oi! and that’s exactly what I wanted from this band, but everyone brings their own musical tastes and it’s worked out well.

I really like the make up of the band, everyone comes from somewhere different; there’s Oi!, rock and roll, old fashioned blue collar pub rock, all mixed with punk rock. We all bring something different and now the song writing has become more of a group effort and this is even more reflected.

LTW: What about in terms of inspiration? I think Pride and Tradition has a strong social message and that’s been something that has been consistent throughout all of your work. You guys aren’t shy about sharing where your politics stand and what you believe in. Is it easier to write punk during times of recession?

D: (laughing) Yeah, absolutely. Put it this way, it’s almost hard not to. We started gigging a lot in 2007, so the whole time that this band has been a real working band there has been economic turmoil. It’s funny because as a band we’re all very different politically, but at the end of the day we’ve all got to go to work on Monday morning, so that’s something we can all identify with.

There will always be your employer trying to fuck you over especially since the economic recession and more people getting laid off. Some of us have been out of work, some of us have had to work twice as hard for the same money and no time off.

”¨LTW: I’ve read a few comment pieces which have questioned why the recession in the 80s bought us some fantastic political punk music, and why that anger isn’t being seen today. Are you finding that the people who are coming to your gigs are identifying with your music because they are angry about the situation they are in on  personal level?

D: For sure. We can let them blow off a little steam because they feel the same way and can also have fun doing it. We try to create the sort of atmosphere that will spur people on to thinking about the way things are, but not create any hostility. Everyone having fun and singing along is the best way to get your message through, and that’s what our gigs are like.

ӬLTW: If the Harrington Saints were asked to take charge of US domestic policy, what would be the first thing you do?

D: There has to be two things; raise the tax levels to back to where they were in the 80s, oddly enough which was under Reagan, and if that’s not sufficient enough, then raise them to what they were under the Jimmy Carter administration.

We don’t have to go back to Eisenhower because we have enough wealth in this country to not have to do that. And the other thing is stop free trade and start manufacturing here in America because that’s ultimately going to be the downfall of us, becoming completely dependent on other countries.

LTW: The new album has Lars Frederiksen at the helm, what prompted that decision?

D: We wanted a producer who could provide an outside view on the album. We wrote it from the ground up, with all new songs and we were still writing a lot and throwing things against the wall to see what was sticking.

We had a list of about two or three people and he was top of the list, without thinking that we’d even get a chance to ask him. I was chatting with him at an Old Firm show and it just so happened that we were recording at a time that he was in the Bay Area.

Everything came together and we couldn’t be happier. We owe him for it, whatever he wants. We owe him big because it came out great.

LTW: Was it work or play in the studio?

D: Work (answering straight away) He busted our ass. We always worked hard but this is the hardest we’ve ever worked and it was great when we got down sometimes to brass tacks and were really working something out. We had one song that took 23 takes or something just to get the drums down.

We’ve always felt like we got off easy before, it never felt like we’d really sweated. This one took everything that we had, almost blowing out my voice for example. Everyone was really pushed to the limit. But that’s when you come up with great little gems by pushing the boundaries.

Before we were working in our comfort zone all the time, but Lars really pushed us as musicians, as singers, as songwriters, and as a band in general.

LTW: Were there any of the songs from the new album that just came together, didn’t take long to write, didn’t take long to put together?

D: Yeah, this album ran the gauntlet from the very easy to the extremely difficult. I think ‘Saturdays in the Sun’, ‘OCD’ and ‘Revolution’ were the easiest songs to write. Basically the format you hear now is pretty much how they were worked out in practice, and didn’t change too much in the studio.

‘Saturdays in the Sun’ I had no melody for the verse or anything, and Forry our drummer went into this super Oi! drumbeat and it just came out, and it was done.

LTW: Take me to the other end of the spectrum, what was there?

D: I’ve had dental appointments which have been less painful than putting together ‘Bread and Roses’.

We actually changed a lot just in the recording process, and that song really came together then. It was always in danger of falling apart before then but we got it sounding really tight and really solid, but it was always like it was about to crash and burn at any moment.

LTW: Are there any songs on the album that you are particularly proud of? If someone asked you for a representative song of this album, or the Harrington Saints at this time, could you recommend one?

D: I like every song on the record. I can happily give it to somebody and say that I’m really proud of the record and I enjoy listening to it. ‘Kids Want More’ is my favourite track and it’s really melodic. It’s funny because Mike C and I laid down the groundwork of that song a long time ago. It wasn’t that we’d put it away or were saving it but we’d been so busy that until we sat down to write the album we hadn’t even had a chance to play it for the other guys.

I think lyrically I really like ‘Bread and Roses’ because it’s an homage to my family. Everything I say in that song is absolutely true. I’ve lost the last few members of my extended family just last year, so it was kind of cool to go through and sing a little bit about each of them.

LTW: Who’s the biggest liability in the band in terms of having a beer?

D: In terms of having a beer I don’t think anyone but if you want to raise the bar in terms of having whiskey we all turn into a bit of a liability. It’s a tough one because I don’t want to point any fingers”¦

LTW: Are there any good stories from tour maybe somewhere?

D: There’s some good stories about being on tour with the Australian band Slick 46, and Forrest being hammered because he doesn’t drink the amount the rest of us have been known to drink, and I think he got his rib cracked. By our third or fourth gig we basically had to outlaw Jack Daniels.

There’s been times back in the early days with bartenders jumping over the bar because we’d be half a bottle of Jack in and someone would say something that resulted in him wanting to kill one of us. So we’ve mellowed out. We made a very grown up decision.

LTW: The album is one of a number of albums hotly tipped for this year. What in your view is exciting about the music scene in 2012?

D: Around the world, this genre is resurgent again and it feels like 1996. There’s a lot of really good bands out there, a lot of names that escape me when people put me on the spot.

I really like French Oi!, and there’s a lot of good bands from France, Marching Orders are really good, Booze and Glory are outstanding.

I think the last couple of 7” the Old Firm Casuals have done has made the Stateside proud. We’re just happy to be part of that.

‘Pride and Tradition’ from the Harrington Saints is now available on Longshot Records / Contra Records / Pirates Press Records.

All words by Hannah McFaull. You can read more from Hannah on LTW here.

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