The Facebook page for Columbia, SC-based The Haves (a musically complex, socially conscious, face punch of a band) lists band member Mike (Young) as responsible for “vocals and weird instruments.” Before listening to note one of The Haves’ 2017 release Requiem in preparation for these comments, I made a mental note to maybe ask Mike what exactly those weird instruments might be. But after listening to both that release and their earlier 2013 effort Agent of Change – I totally didn’t want to want to know anymore. Musically and lyrically, The Haves is angular, off-kilter, aggressive yet groovy, contrarian and conscientiously disorienting, yet still somehow thematically cohesive. Part of the experience, it seems, is to not let yourself get too comfortable, not go behind the curtain, not watch the sausage being made – but instead participate in that disorientation because this band wants you to pay fucking attention!
Mike Young and fellow bandmates Matt Patterson on guitar, Luke Matthews on bass, and Graham Scollon on drums have dropped an album that rages and rocks. Indeed, a self-proclaimed musical influence for the band is Rage Against the Machine, and it shows. The Haves’ music is confrontational and often angry, but that is only one element of the point here. Throughout the thrash, jarring base lines, expansive drumming, and red-faced-scream vocals are almost counterintuitive pleas for community, equality, and bringing alienated individuals together – even if it is going to take a revolution. The Haves is therefore seemingly both band and social movement.
The spoken coda at the end of track 8 “Boober’s Last Party” is perhaps valuable short-hand to The Haves’ worldview and message: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” See also the words of Xu Lizhi added at the end of the recording. But then the phrase printed on the CD itself also accurately sums up their musically oeuvre: “Organized chaos wrapped in a ridiculous burrito of noise.” This latter quote shows that the band isn’t all polemics and didacticism banged over your head – there remains a quirkiness, a playfulness and some humor – an eye wink even, that the music is still to be enjoyed for the what you are hearing even if you don’t pick up the nearest pitchfork and storm the castles of the hedge fund managers and corporate CFOs. Be disoriented, question all of your realities, fight the man – but don’t lose sight that we are a community of people, and with that comes real hope for inspired change and a better world. For good measure, what better way to feel that than to just mostly rock the fuck out.
And that gets me to some details about the music (skillfully recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jay Matheson at the Jam Room, I should add). This record is heavy, for sure. The album’s title IS Requiem, for god’s sake (literally, a mass for the dead or a musical composition in honor of the dead), and opens maybe just like expected with an exceptionally haunting “Pie Jesu” dirge transforming into a shriek. But then some funk happens, Primus style, before the rock blister of “Petals in the Wind” really starts its assault. Yet ultimately, this album isn’t just venting of rage, even as hard-edged as the album is on tracks like “Nacierma Freakshow,” “Shatterhouse,”and “Obey,” – it’s also purposeful (maybe even hopeful) that in this music, our world just might be changeable for the better by upending hierarchies, eliminating society’s oppressiveness, and fighting the pernicious influence of greed that pervades it – by (of all things) coming together as true community of equals. I think “Charlie Chaplin Was An Anarchist” (track 3) is a damn fine embodiment of the contradictions that The Haves perilously combine. The song opens at maximum thrash, then melts into several almost stoner jam vibe melodic bridges before returning to the intensity of the intro. Held together by spit and tape, but hold together it does. True also of “Indivisible,” with its funk/punk fusion and “Boober’s Last Party” that is (dare I say) a classical-music melodic and mournful short respite among the surrounding sonic blast tracks.
Others critics have previously mentioned bands that seem to have influenced The Haves’ mix of metal, groove, reggae, funk, and punk: from the aforementioned Rage Against the Machine, Primus, and Red Hot Chili Peppers to others as diverse as Gang of Four, Tool, Rush, and Deftones. My own quick jot down list after first listen included Primus and Red Hot Chili Peppers for sure (see “Bottoms Up!” in particular), but also an eclectic hodgepodge of Anthrax, Beastie Boys, Weather Report, Faith No More, Galactic, Lettuce, and Foo Fighters. Little wonder that bass player Luke Matthews has described The Haves sound as “spacey, quacky, ranty, crunchy, funky, groovy, and tasty.” Amen to that!
So obviously, the music of the The Haves is complex and especially difficult to categorize. It’s not always an easy listen – it takes effort and thought and patience, maybe like reading an Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot poem or viewing a Wassily Kandinsky or Juan Gris painting. The beauty is there, but it takes real commitment to fully engage with it. The Haves’ music is often much more cerebral than fully accessible, but it is far from off-putting. Their energy is primal and dark, and the messages are smack in your face, but the music is countered with an infectious level of ebullience. There remains a strong yearning (even if in a scream) for real and meaningful connection to the band’s listening audience. I’m not saying that Requiem will be to everyone’s liking (or will always inspire the effort it takes to make the deep dive). I promise The Haves don’t fall into the sweet spot of music genres that I’m generally drawn to – but there is definitely a there there, well worth the Willy-Wonka-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-tunnel-scene-esque freak out it takes to get to that destination.
As one last point: In an interview posted on the music blog Music Insomniac, Mike Young speaks to much of the ethos of the band – primarily in relation to the earlier Agent of Change release, even going in depth about the origin of the band name and the thought behind one particular track “Whisper in Your Ear.” The interview is revealing, edifying, and still fully germane to the later-issued Requiem. I highly recommend checking it out.
For me though, fortunately, I didn’t read this interview until after multiple listens to both of The Haves’ releases. But only for one reason. Alas, he lets slip what those weird instruments might be. Dammit, Mike! I really didn’t want to know. . .
(Catch The Haves live at Art Bar in Columbia, SC, on Saturday, March 30, 2019) with The Disquiet, Angels Among Ashes, and Turbo Gatto).