LOUDER WITH: Haggard Cat
When the production of your first record sees the country divided by the result of the Brexit referendum; the subsequent release of that record coinciding with the inauguration of Donald Trump; and then your following release coming amidst a global health pandemic, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there was a curse ambling in the wake of your band's success! And though Haggard Cat have had each landmark of their career so far matched by something far less inspiring and welcome happening in the world around them, it hasn't stopped them bringing their rousing choruses and infectiously gritty lyrics to the masses! We caught up with frontman Matt Reynolds to discuss their new record, the aptly titled 'Common Sense Holiday', as well as how the punk ethos can keep us united during troubled times:
You’ve just released your new album, ‘Common Sense Holiday’- how have you
found the response to the record so far?
So far it’s been absolutely dumbfoundingly great! I’m so glad people seem to
really be going in deep on all the songs which is really rewarding. It’s nice to
hear how different people delve into the different elements and dig out what
each of the songs means to them. It’s really great when people manage to
pinpoint what was at the heart of the writing, but even cooler when people can
relate in a completely unexpected way. I have always believed that once a song
is available for the world to hear it no longer belongs to you, so in this way
absolutely everything is open to a listener’s own interpretation. It’s how I’ve
always dreamed of having an album received.
A big theme of this record is shouting about the injustices and rise of intolerance
in our society- is that something that you feel it is important to address,
particularly in the hardcore and metal communities?
More than ever yes! I was so convinced around this time last year that things
seemed to be getting better, and that everyone must be on this similar
wavelength to mine. The world just seemed to be becoming a more open and
accepting place. But literally EVERY time there’s a vote, the result just seems to
throw that into disarray. I’ve never felt so “in my own little bubble” as when the
Brexit vote and then the general election result came in. It’s great that the
people around me seem to hold progressive views, but when we’re all restricted
to just seeing the opinions we enjoy reading; that’s when things can become
volatile, we don’t realise quite how disenchanted the wider world around us is
becoming, and we are shown what the media wants to show us. I realise this
sounds quite paranoid; I’m not trying to be a conspiracy theorist I swear! But to
answer your question to some degree, yes, it is particularly important to start
with our community because as a subculture we’re very much self-appointed as
the underdog, it’s meant to be about unanimity – so whenever you see any level
of discrimination or inequality within that fold it should be taken with zero
tolerance, sounds obvious but oddly enough it still doesn’t seem to be for some.
In connection with that idea, and prior to the album’s release, you two contained
yourselves in a concrete box to protest against the restrictive nature of borders
and divisions, which is documented in the video for ‘European Hardware’- what
was that experience like?
Unsurprisingly it was pretty damn tough! However it united me and Tom in a
way that we had never felt before. We both came out of there on some higher
rung of friendship and understanding that we didn’t realise existed before those delirious 24 hours. I think it would be quite easy to look at what we did from the
outside quite cynically – but the way we saw the whole ordeal was all about
generating a conversation within people that weren’t talking rather than
furthering one that already existed. The more people that buck the trend and
don’t fall in line the better. When there is injustice speaking out is all well and
good, but actions speak twice as loud. So be weird, do this stupid (horrible) stuff
and you might just capture the imagination of somebody and change
Social media is also something that comes under scrutiny on this record, with
tracks like ‘Ghosts Already’ and ‘Show Reel’- how do you balance working in a
music industry that has become so reliant on social media marketing, without
getting sucked into a draining virtual world?
Unfortunately personally I don’t! I use SM far more than I am comfortable with
now, and sometimes I do find it can dictate my mood. My advice to anyone
reading this would be to take breaks, maybe even for days at a time, there’s
really not that much on there that’s too important, you can get your endorphins
Musically, this record also makes use of some new and different elements, for
example the saxophone on ‘Cheat’ makes for some really interesting dynamics-
how did you find that during the writing and recording process? Was that
something that occurred naturally, or did you make a conscious effort to explore
new musical avenues?
Our mission statement at the beginning of CSH was very much about exploring
and ignoring any perceived boundaries laid out by genre or expectation. We
wanted to make Dark Side of the Moon in 2020, so we very much just cracked on
and whatever we felt was needed we jumped on! Hence the sax, it’s a very
important part of the picture in our eyes. Albums are best when they take you
on a trip and let you roll down the window a little. That’s what we shot for on
Common Sense Holiday.
It’s still a wonderfully heavy record though- how has it been playing the singles
live so far? Do you have any that you are excited to play when you get the chance
to tour the record?
So far we’ve only managed to play two shows because of “reasons” which is
making us feel very cooped up. These tracks were ALL intended to be belted out
and throttled in a live setting, so keeping it all bottled has been the biggest
challenge. So far we’ve managed to unveil First Words and European Hardware
as live pieces that both feel like they really come to life in that setting. We also
debuted Human Animal and the Natives at our final show before “the event” – it has felt like an addiction we can’t fulfil. When we finally get released these
songs are going to eviscerate.
Speaking of touring: we have spoken in the past about the chain of events that
seem to follow your recording processes- this time it’s a global pandemic! In the
short term, it has resulted in bands having to cancel tours, and we may see longer
term impacts too- how will it affect you as a band and the industry as a whole?
Well you said it, if there’s a Haggard Cat release due to come out, you’d better
grab a huge umbrella because you can guarantee something unprecedented is
about to drop from the sky! I honestly don’t understand how the world keeps
getting more insane each time me and you speak. Talking candidly, the current
situation could be potentially devastating not just to our band, but to the whole
scene. It is important now, more than ever for each of us as fans of live music
and the arts to stay in tune with what is happening in that community even
outside of events actually being able to take place. And when the doors do re-
open again remember not to take that for granted and seize every opportunity
you can to get in there and soak it all up! You don’t know a good thing until it’s
gone, and now we have been given a sample of what it would be like if our live
music scene was to ever disappear entirely, so take heed and make sure it never
Is that sense of unity which has always been such a key foundation of punk and
hardcore music more important than ever now?
Yes of course! Most will be feeling pretty low right now, that must be a given. So
it’s important that we all rally around, support one another and keep this thing
moving. If we do that, we’ll come out swinging. Most importantly we must
never forget this bizarre time months and years down the line. The hard times
will bring us together, but once things look a little brighter we must never let
complacency win! Let’s come out stronger and stay that way.
'Common Sense Holiday' is out now via Earache Records.
Check out the aforementioned video for 'European Hardware' below: