Louder with Haggard Cat @ 2000 Trees Festival 2019
Photo Credit: Ben Morse (Twitter: @benmorse / Instagram: @benmorse)
Day one of a festival, as the last waves of tents are still being erected and the first beers are being cracked open to kick off the weekend ahead, the majority of festival-goers are slowly grinding into gear through the first few sets on their agenda. However, at the top of the proceedings at 2000 Trees Festival, a rumble had already begun to creep out across the fields, which grew to a deafening roar as Haggard Cat took to the stage. Their hardcore-edged brand of punk rock more than graciously blew away the audience’s cobwebs- and once the melee had subsided, we just had to catch up with vocalist Matt Reynolds, a year on from our first conversation, to discuss their year as Haggard Cat, and the future anarchy that lay ahead:
It’s been a year since we last spoke, at this very festival! How does it feel to be back playing 2000 Trees again this year?
There’s always something about a crowd at 2000 Trees that’s somehow more intense- people just invest themselves in having a good time here, that’s why bands of all sizes schedule their summer festival season around it, it’s just so good. We played a song we’ve never played before today, and by the end of the song it was a sing-along, which shows you people are actually listening and joining in and having a good time- it couldn’t have been any better! The amount of people in there was amazing- it was twenty to two, and I think the festival website said it started at 2, so we were technically on 20 minutes before doors, and it was still rammed full of people- which is reassuring!
When we spoke at this same festival last year, you were heading out on a run of dates across the UK with Ugly Kid Joe- how have you found touring as Haggard Cat this past year, particularly your support slot with the Dead Kennedys?
We actually took the initiative to drive [to the Dead Kennedys dates], and Austria is a good 20 hours’ drive away! But we had a great time- the van had no air conditioning and it was the hottest day of the year! Austria is beautiful though! And what an opportunity, to play with a legendary punk band- I saw it written down on paper, but it didn’t feel real until we were there doing it! But we do this to tour, to be able to play night after night and travel around to see all the different towns, different places – different countries, even! We relish it, and we just want to be able to do more and more and not stop! The last date [of the Dead Kennedys run] was in Ostrava in the Czech Republic, which is barely in the Czech Republic, it’s almost on the border with Poland. We flew a friend out [to see us] and I drove from the venue to the airport to pick him up, and I’ve never seen an airport like it! It was about the size of a tent, and then just the runway, and he looked so relieved when I drove up, he thought he’d been flown out to some unknown territory! But it’s great that odd places like that exist- the venue we played in that night was actually in an abandoned mine! It sounds like start of an episode of Scooby Doo!
Does touring as a duo in Haggard Cat feel different to touring as Heck in previous years?
It does- from my point of view, and I’m sure from Tom’s as well, tour now shows us a lot more about our relationship with each other and our friendship. Tom and I have toured together for probably about 15 years now in various bands over the years because we love playing with each other, but over the past two years where Haggard Cat has become its own thing, I’ve learned more about our relationship than I did in the 13 years previous to this. We spend a lot of time just one-on-one, and I relish it, it’s so nice just to have thatfriend with you all the time. And we do so many gigs without a crew, where it’s just us for hours and hours on the road, which is a great way to get to know somebody’s innermost thoughts and foibles!
Are you particularly wild on tour, or are you fairly tame when it comes to living it up on the road?
We’re a bit of a see-saw- I used to be a lot more wild than I am now, and Tom was a lot less [wild then than now]. I’m starting to feel it more- I can feel myself getting old! It’s in my head though, I know it is, and I’m here at 2000 Trees to have the best time- I’m sure you’ll catch me in the silent disco later! Especially with it just being the two of us [in Haggard Cat], there’s nobody to hide behind, so even if two people come to the show, we owe it to those people to put on the best show that we can, and if we’ve been out drinking heavily then we can’t perform as well as we know we could. We know it wouldn’t be our best work, and it wouldn’t be honest, and to me that’s kind of hollow, if you’re not putting you best show out there. If there’s more of you then if one guy has gone too hard you have the others to kind of drag the whole thing up, but when there’s two of you it forces you to put in the best that you can.
Closer to home, you’ve been working on your latest record, ‘Challenger’s release with Earache Records- how important have they been in the process of getting ‘Challenger’ and Haggard Cat out into the world?
We couldn’t have done it without them! Without Earache picking us up and taking us seriously, there wouldn’t have been ‘Challenger’- it would have stayed on a Bandcamp that the two of us made for our friends to just pay what they want to listen to something we made. Earache taking us under their wing was the confidence boost we needed to be like ‘this is worth playing to people, this is something people want to hear’, and I don’t think that confidence would exist to the same level without [Earache’s backing]. We’re both self-conscious guys, and everyone needs that little boost now and then, especially when it’s only the two of you- it’s quite lonely on that stage! So Earache’s involvement has been priceless.
We spoke a little last time around about how your record ‘Challenger’ almost predicted the outrage that came as a response to the political situation both in the US and UK- has the continued turbulence since that record came out changed how you view the importance of your music and your message for your next release?
[The state of the world] has gotten worse! And I blame it all on us making another album! ‘Challenger’ is a lot more political than we actually thought it was, because it was very reactionary to the things that were happening around us, but it does seem like we’re a bit of bad luck charm! We were in the studio for the first four or five months of the year, which is the longest we’ve spent on any record ever in any band, but we’re incredibly proud of it! Every time we went in there though, it seemed like something else horrible was happening, and we were always sat there going ‘is this really a real thing that’s happening right now?’. We’ll definitely keep talking about it though, because you have to talk about these things in order to confront them. The new track we played today [christened ‘Building a Wall’] was very much a reaction to the fallout that happened after we finished writing [previous single] ‘American Graffiti’, and we sang the chorus once and then there was a sing-along, and people were picking up on that energy, and were geared up to fight back against it, which is so powerful. I think there’s more to be angry about now than ever before, and there’s this sort of amnesia that the world seems to have which has gotten us to the stage we’re at now. We know more than we ever have and we’re aware of these things that are going on all over the world, and we’re so much more conscious, and yet somehow we’re taking these huge steps backwards, maybe not as individuals, but as a society – although maybe not at 2000 Trees, where we’re all angry and ready to do something about it! But that [ignorance] is very very scary, and I think that’s where music has a responsibility to get angry again and give people something to rally behind.
Do you have a particular favourite species of cat that you would use as a band mascot (big cat or regular-sized!)
A favourite species of cat… I’m so uneducated on species of cat! Any cat, so long as it’s a bit scraggly and ugly- the kind of cat that you just want to take under your wing and be like ‘aww, you ugly little git!’, that’s more loveable to me! The kind of cat with a tooth missing and a chunk taken out of its ear, that’s the kind of cat I want to adopt!
And in many ways, Haggard Cat are already on their way to doing this by proxy – providing a platform through their music where the waifs and strays of this world are able to air their grievances in a shared moment of wonderful catharsis. Punk rock is alive and kicking- a little haggard, perhaps, but ready to fight another day.
'Challenger' is out now via Earache Records.
Check out the video for the aforementioned single, 'American Graffiti', below:
Haggard Cat will be making a selection of further appearances over the summer, including a slot at Leopallooza in Cornwall- full summer dates and the link for tickets can be found here: