The band called Fighting Amp or if you will, Fight Amp as they call themselves now have been around for a long time – since 2003. They’re originally from the town of Williamsburg, which is laden perfectly in symbiosis with New Jersey. First they used to be more than they are now: but stringed it down to a three-piece, suiting their style of play, accentuating their instruments a little bit more. Up until now, they’ve managed to release a lot of split-CDs but also two full-length albums. Right now, they’re preparing for the release of their third album to date, named Birth Control which will be released in June. So I got the opportunity to talk to the vocalist/basist Jon DeHart about the music industry, their upcoming album, New Jersey and a ton of other things. Make sure you check this out.
Could you tell me anything about your musical past, have you been in any other bands prior to Fight Amp? When did your musical career really begin?
– Before Fight Amp, Mike was in an awesome Born Against-influenced punk band called The Funeral Bird. Dan was in a band called Takehold that we used to play with a lot before he started drumming for us. He’s also currently playing some rad hardcore with his other band Prophet, Said I. I was in a punk band with the drummer of Dis Sucks, called Misnomer. Fight Amp was the first band any of us were in that focused on touring extensively, which is what I think sets it apart from stuff we’ve done in the past.
Why did you decide to change your name from Fight Amputation to Fight Amp?
– There’s been some understandable confusion on this. We still consider ourselves Fight Amputation, however you want to interpret the word “amputation”. Shortening the name to Fight Amp was simply for aesthetics. The syllables in Fight Amputation are pretty lopsided, it was getting harder and harder to get it to look right on shirt designs, album covers, etc. People had been referring to us as Fight Amp for as long as we’ve been a band, so we just went with it. Our timing was kind of bad, though, having shortened it just before our first full length was released. It was a lot of people’s first time hearing of us, and we were a bit naive in thinking people would get the full meaning of the name. We definitely didn’t think people would take it to literally mean physically fighting your amplifier haha, but that seems to be the case a lot of the time.
What album are you most satisfied with, and which songs are you really proud of?
– I think from a band’s perspective, you’re always gonna be most satisfied with your newest stuff. The better you get at playing, the easier it is to create what you hear in your head. I know this will sound like a cop-out, but I’m pretty proud of everything we’ve done so far. Of course there’s stuff in older songs we may not have done the same today, but that’s one of the great things about recording, it’s like a sonic time capsule.
So you’re releasing a new album in late summer titled Birth Control. Why did you name it that way? And what makes this album differ from the others prior to this release? How much time did it take and how was the process of making it in the studio?
– There’s a couple of different reasons we had for naming the album “Birth Control”. First, we think of the noise we make as a band to be the type of thing that would make potential parents want to reconsider having kids, haha. But the larger meaning for the title was in reference to the album’s theme, since a lot of the lyrics deal with the self-fulfilling prophecies of religious fundamentalists. We rarely ever have outright political lyrics, and since we try to allude to subject matter in broad terms, the album title is just one way of hinting at what we were feeling while writing these songs. A woman’s right to make decisions for herself is seen as threatening to the fundamentalist mindset, and “Birth Control” felt like an easily identifiable term that could describe a threat to that over-all idea of manipulating the world to suit your own interpretation of religious texts.
– We work pretty fast in the studio, I think we’ll have spent about 50 hours making this full length when all is said and done. We’re very meticulous when it comes to our preparation, we spend the month or so leading up to the recording dissecting all the songs and everyone’s individual parts, seeing if anything clashes or fixing things that just aren’t feeling right. By the time we go in to record we’re just ready to bang ’em out. One of the things different about these songs is we paid closer attention to how we laid out the vocals than we have in the past. We usually have a “whatever happens, happens” approach, but this time we knew exactly what we wanted and weren’t afraid to try some different stuff with our voices here and there.
What would you recall to be one of your best live-experiences ever? And where did it play out?
– We’ve had a bunch, but one that always stands out for me is when we got to play the Naked Raygun reunion show at SXSW a few years back. We’ve always been big fans of NR, that band is the definition of cool.
Is there anything in particular you can tell the readers concerning the album Birth Control that hasn’t already been said?
– We took a slightly different approach to writing the lyrics for this album. We decided early on in the writing process to form a loose concept that we could use throughout the songs, and eventually created a narrative that follows a character’s life-span. He’s a willing victim of social pressures in a society that eventually collapses. He’s left behind by his god, confused, and forced to survive in a world intended for his enemies. The first song of the album starts in his adolescence and carries on until his conventional death in the last song. I say it’s a loose concept because we tend not to write lyrics in a fantastical, out-of-body experience sort of way, it just wouldn’t work for us, and we were careful not to confine ourselves to thinking only as the character. So, even though we’re telling the story of a person we’ve created, he’s still a reflection of how we as a band currently view the world.
What do you think about the music industry of today, what is negative about it and what is positive? How has it changed in the past few years and in what way does it affect you?
– I understand how hard it must be for indie labels right now trying to stay afloat while releasing music they truly believe in that isn’t appealing to the masses. Labels who care enough about their bands being heard to not crackdown on people downloading their releases. We appreciate the ones we’ve worked with so far and I think the band/label relationship will always be valuable when done right, I would hate to see it disappear. That being said, our viewpoint is that bands and labels should always be ready to adapt to (as far as I can tell) the constantly changing world of music. The DIY movement of the early 80’s is a good example of what happens when the old guard just isn’t working, and I think a musician who lived through that era would have a less than cynical opinion of the options available right now to bands that just wanna be heard.
– One of the downsides is that a lot of times if music is downloaded, it comes in the form of a sub-par digital file that sounds like shit, but even that technology has gone through a massive improvement in recent years. Touring is alive and well, vinyl is alive and well, I think we’re just experiencing one of those times that a major sea-change is happening and it’s caused a lot of differing opinions. But what works for one band/label, may not work for another, and there doesn’t seem to be anything new about that.
I’ve done some research and you mainly consider yourselves to be a live-band. How did you come to that conclusion, besides the fact that you really go all-in whenever you play? Has it stayed that way since the beginning or has it changed over the years?
– Yea, it’s always been like that for us. We’re a live band by nature, and have always considered that to be the best representation of our music. Any recording we do is a constant effort to capture the live energy that happens naturally at a show.
What would you consider to be the best thing about you being a three-piece nowadays and what would be the disadvantage?
– Being a three-piece gives us a stripped down feel that I think works well for us, and it gives all the instruments a lot of room to move in and out of the dominant role. I also like how we can set up live without anyone blocking the drums from view. Dan’s a real animated drummer who’s fun to watch, and I think the three of us set up side by side makes it easier for people to get the full effect. There are still some times while writing where we’ll wish we had the option to work in some second guitar, but the good far outweighs the bad.
So you’re originally from New Jersey? For anyone visiting Williamstown, what would you recommend for places to hang out? Are there any nice bars or restaurants in that area? Where do you usually hang around when you’re in town?
– If you’re in South Jersey, be sure to get some pizza. We have good places on just about every corner and it’s something we miss a great deal when we’re on the road. There’s a lot of bars with good pub food that are fine to go to if you get there early enough, but I wouldn’t recommend hanging out at those places too long after dark, unless you enjoy the company of overcompensating meatheads, then you’re in luck. There isn’t any alcohol serving establishment you could book a show at in our area that didn’t have a bunch of locals in the back yelling “Freebird!” the whole time. Luckily as a result of that, house shows are common in Jersey and always a great time. We’re fortunate enough to have grown up about fifteen minutes away from Philly though, and that of course has a lot of cool spots like Kung-Fu Necktie and Johnny Brenda’s that serve cheap drinks and always have heavy bands playing. Mike and Dan are living in that area right now, it’s also where our practice space is. So yea, if you find yourself in South Jersey just grab a slice of pizza and start driving to Philly, haha.
When you’ve been out touring, what place has had the best venue and what country do you like the most?
– We haven’t toured outside of the U.S. or Canada yet, but just about every major city has a venue or two that we prefer to play. We always have great experiences in San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, and Atlanta, just to name a few. We’re only a couple of hours from NYC, and that’s always a good time too.
Aesthetically speaking, where do you draw your main influences from? Does it change from album to album, or is it virtually in the same area?
– It definitely changes as we evolve. We all listen to a ton of different stuff and nothing is off the table when we write. We started out as a Tragedy-inspired hardcore punk band and we slowly started to let some of the noise rock stuff we’ve always loved show. We have our obvious classic influences like Karp, Hammerhead, and The Melvins, we get the Unsane tag a lot, and that’s totally fine with us. But we have more contemporary influences to our sound too, like Black Elk, Red Fang, and Helms Alee, bands that also have that punk approach but toe the metal line without diving all the way in.
Which bands have been the best support or headliner that you’ve ever played with?
– We’ve played with a lot of awesome, like-minded bands over the years. Most recently, we’ve had Kylesa and Weedeater take us out on tour as support. Opening those shows was a blast, we admire both of those bands a great deal and they were a lot of fun to spend long hours on the road with.
How do you prepare yourselves when you’re about to go on stage? Do you have a certain ritual that has to be done before you play?
– I’ve found it’s all about hitting that sweet spot on the pre-show alcohol intake. Usually two or three beers and a shot of whiskey does the trick. We try to be careful and not start too early, if one of us is a mess by the time our set starts, that person forgets how to play music and is completely useless once it’s over. Then everyone else has to pick up the slack when loading the van while the other sits off to the side mumbling, looking sweaty and confused.
What are your main interests besides music? What do you prefer to do when you’re not playing or jamming?
– The three of us are close friends, first and foremost, so we spend time just hanging out drinking or whatever. Mike got a keg the other night at his place and I’m still trying to recover from that. There’s always cool bands coming through Philly to go and see. I’m always reading, listening to music, the usual kind of stuff. We’re only about forty minutes from the ocean, so during the warmer months my girlfriend and I spend a lot of time at the beach, too.
If you were a music journalist, how would you try to categorize the type of music that Fight Amp plays? Or do you believe that categorization is a limitation for what music you’re making?
– Categorization can feel limiting, but I get why people do it. I’m always guilty of putting bands into genres and sub-genres when trying to explain them to someone who hasn’t heard it before, and I don’t mind that much when people do it to us because it can be helpful for someone to get where we’re coming from. I’d be horrified if there was some blanket term that lumped us in with some of the shitty, marginally heavy nu-metal bands out there. See? I just did it right there, haha. If anyone asks, I usually just refer to ourselves as metal influenced punk.
What other emerging or old bands do you like the most, meaning what bands or artists would you sincerely recommend for the readers?
– I could go on and on about old and new bands I like, there’s so much music out there that I’m stoked on, I wouldn’t know where to begin. But I do wanna mention some bands that I think people would like if they dig Fight Amp. A few bands near and dear to our heart are Ladder Devils, Kowloon Walled City, Whores, Hawks, and Bardus. I sincerely recommend your readers give those bands a listen if they haven’t already, amazing music made by genuine people who completely get it. And that’s just the short list, haha.
Do you have any words of wisdom that you’ve asserted throughout the years?
– Don’t overthink things. Wasn’t it Captain Beefheart who said that?
What would you say is the number one rule for making a band successful, but at the same time keep it’s originality?
– To me a band’s success is its ability to stay together and remain productive. As long as you’re passionate and honest in what you do and everyone in the band is having fun creating music together, then the rest should all just fall into place.
What band do you think I should interview next and what would you want me to ask them?
– You should interview Kowloon Walled City and ask when they’re gonna come back to the East Coast.
Meanwhile, tune in to Fight Amps older album Manners And Praise:
You also can find them over here: