When Have Mercy announced their final tour on Instagram this past December, no one could have imagined the events that would lead to them canceling their run in mid-March. Brian Swindle remains optimistic, however, that everything’s going to be all right—and his first release as a solo artist serves as the perfect testament to that.
Following the end of the band’s contract with Hopeless Records, Swindle decided that it was time to start a new chapter in his career. Now partnered with AJ Perdomo of the Dangerous Summer under his indie label Molly Water Music, he’s using his new creative freedom to experiment with sound dynamics and intensely vulnerable lyrics.
His debut single, “Sick In The Night,” is beautifully emblematic of the transition, featuring compositional elements such as violin and soft vocals that clearly differentiate it from his earlier works. In a style he describes as “free-flowing,” the lyrics pose relatable themes surrounding anxiety and loss.
In an exclusive premiere of “Sick In The Night,” Swindle spoke to Alternative Press about his transition into a solo career with Molly Water Music, how the song represents his divergence as an artist and the prospect of a proper Have Mercy send-off. Check out “Sick In The Night” along with its acoustic version below.
You’ve been putting out music under Have Mercy for a decade now. Given how dynamic the band’s catalog has been, what prompted the decision to step away from it and proceed in a new solo direction?
BRIAN SWINDLE: I started writing music that sounded, in my ears, differently than what Have Mercy sounded like, so I thought it would be a smart move to just release it under my name. I wanted to leave Have Mercy as a chapter behind in my life and present myself as a solo artist.
As if transitioning into a solo career doesn’t seem significant enough, you’ve left Hopeless Records in favor of proceeding under Molly Water Music alongside another Hopeless alumnus AJ Perdomo. What inspired you to make the jump to an independent label?
After Have Mercy [had fulfilled] our contract with Hopeless, it was either, “OK, I could shop around [and send] new Have Mercy music to different labels, or I could just go with AJ.” It seems to me like he’s starting a club of musicians who want to put out music and have complete freedom. There’s just no pressure. Whenever I want to release music, he gives me the outlet to do that. I like having no schedule and being able to create when I want to create.
What has it been like working with AJ through Molly Water Music?
He’s the man. He’s constantly texting me [with] new ideas, and it’s cool to have someone so proactive on your side. He just really wants to get Molly Water off the ground and push artists that he likes. He’s like a brother to me, so he can tell me when I’m doing something wrong or when I need to pick up my slack. It’s amazing. He’s a revolutionary.
What experiences under Have Mercy and Hopeless Records are you most grateful for going forward?
I’m grateful for everything under Hopeless Records. Everyone there is like family to me. If discussions had come down to another contract, I would have signed it on the spot, but I decided to go a different route. We made three great records on that label. Going to Molly Water Music is going to be a change. It’s like a new chapter in my life, but I’m grateful for everything Hopeless Records has done for me. I got to tour the world for seven years because of them. It was awesome.
As you’ve started to release music as a solo artist, will you proceed with the Have Mercy farewell tour once touring resumes?
Have Mercy are going to have some new stuff coming out. We [started] our final tour earlier in 2020, and it got cut short because of COVID. We felt that it didn’t end the way that we wanted it to end, and we still have music that we’re writing, so we’re going to do a few more things. Hopefully, we can get this COVID stuff out of the way so we can give fans a real final show.
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This is it. I’m almost in tears writing this but it’s time. I never thought I’d see the day but it’s time to say goodbye. It’s been almost 10 years. We’ve seen life and we’ve seen death. We’ve felt on top of the world and we’ve been in the gutter. Please join us on this last and final run with @selfishthings @fredo.disco and @youngcultureny Tickets on sale Fri 12/20.
Has working under Molly Water Music influenced the direction of your solo work? Do you find you’ve been granted more room for creative experimentation?
I felt like when I was writing Have Mercy stuff [under] Hopeless, I really focused more on hooks, choruses and the catchiness that they wanted because you have to attract more ears and keep yourself as a viable product. When it comes to being on Molly Water and doing this Brian Swindle [solo] stuff, it’s way more personal to me. [It’s] off the cusp, free-flowing, thought-type music, and Have Mercy were more strategic and planned out. I just feel way more open.
“Sick In The Night” feels so reminiscent of your roots but simultaneously novel. How do you feel it reflects the divergences that you’ve recently taken?
We had Nate Sander from the Early November play violin and keys on it. That’s a thing that I haven’t had in a lot of our music. I tried to keep everything stripped down, and I wasn’t yelling as I normally do in Have Mercy. It’s a lot of different dynamics that I never got to play with before. I guess I should have been that way in Have Mercy, [doing] whatever the fuck I want, but with this, I feel like I really am comfortable doing it [that way]. I get to be as diverse as possible when I’m writing and have no care.
Were there any specific elements to its production that you would have felt hesitant to incorporate had you attempted it earlier in your career?
With this song, we did everything socially distant, so every part was recorded by different people in different states. That was something I wasn’t ready for. I probably wouldn’t do it again. I love being able to be in one room and create something as a unit, [so] that was definitely something new that we had to attack.
How do you think this single represents and differentiates you as a solo artist?
The lyrics in the song are the real me. I’m being very vulnerable in the song, and I think people may be able to see that. My year’s been completely crazy. My health was declining for a while, and then we came home from tour to deal with all of this stuff, as everybody knows. I think you can see that I’m releasing this stuff as a solo artist, and I’m just being as vulnerable as possible.
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I’m very very excited to announce that my first solo single as @brianswindle, Sick In The Night, will be out 8/21 via @mollywatermusic . After the final tour with @havemercymd was cut short, we came home to a completely different world. The idea I had for my life after Have Mercy and what I got were completely different. I knew I still wanted to create music but I needed to close the chapter on Have Mercy for now. I look forward to this new journey together. More news coming soon. Photo by @jameslharper Artwork by @benjaminmlieber
What’s it been like making this transition in a world turned upside down by the pandemic and other current events? Obviously, this probably wasn’t how you expected to make your debut. Are there any silver linings in the challenges you’ve been faced with?
I think right now is a perfect time to release music. Everybody needs and wants new TV shows, music and comedy because it gets them through these hard times. It’s awesome to be able to give people a sense of normalcy right now when everything’s crazy.
If your fans were to derive one thing from “Sick In The Night,” what would you want it to be?
That everything’s going to be all right, regardless of what you think. It’s a crazy time that we’re living in, but I always look at it as, “It could be worse.” Everybody’s going through the same stuff. We’re all in this together.