Hand Of Mercy: So Long, And Thanks For All The Breakdowns
After 10 years of mayhem, riffs, and scorching summers spent traversing the globe, hardcore heroes Hand Of Mercy are calling it a day. Thanks in no short part to their convulsive brand of stormy, sweaty and senselessly uncontrollable energy, the Sydney five-piece have found success in the form of two eruptive EPs (2007’s Trash The Party and 2010’s Scum Of The Earth), three crushing full-lengths (2011’s The Fallout, 2012’s Last Lights and 2014’s Resolve), and an uncountable amount of memorable tours. Since unleashing their ire unto the world in 2005, Hand Of Mercy have spent most of their time dominating the international hardcore scene at large, from Asia through to Europe and the US – wherever windmills can be swung, they’ve incited them. And probably in a lot of places they can’t, too. With their success at an all-time high, it comes as a bit of a shock that Hand Of Mercy are taking a walk, especially since there was no indication from the collective that their demise was imminent. If anything, the future looked as bright as ever for the group – frontman 2.0 Nick Bellringer has incited unanimous acclaim for his tempestuous vocals, and the band’s induction into the Rise Records family introduced them to an entire new audience. So… what happened? Before the quintet sail off once and for all, we caught up with bassist Michael Dawson to clear the air about everything going on in the HOM camp, amp ourselves up for their final tour supporting fellow local shredders Buried In Verona, and reminisce on the glory days of Sydney’s premier mosh lords.
With the way Hand Of Mercy have been travelling over the past few months with a handful of successful tours – and of course Resolve – it seems like this break-up really came out of nowhere. Why do you think now is the right time to close up shop?
At the core of the band, we’ve always sort of talked about just wanting to go out on top. That’s as simple as it is, really. We didn’t really want to be the band that kept flogging a dead horse, or just be doing it for the sake of doing it. We’ve always wanted to… Not necessarily pull the pin early, but make sure that we’re all having fun while we do wrap things up. We all like each other, we’re all still friends and stuff like that. We have so much respect for the band itself – it’s done so much for us, so we wanted to show it respect in return.
I noticed that the announcement came after your place on the Buried In Verona tour had already been announced. Had the situation been solidified before then, or was the decision made once the tour was already in place?
Yeah, it did come after the tour had been announced. I think we weren’t really sure if we wanted to do this as our last tour, or maybe do our own separate tour or something like that. After we kind of thought about it, we were like, “Yeah, this is probably the best way to do it’” If we did a separate tour as well, we probably wouldn’t have done it until next year, and that would have drawn things out a bit.
For a significant portion of the fanbase, this tour is monumental not only because it’s your last, but because we’ll be able to see Scott Bird behind the mic once again. How did he get thrown into the mix?
When we started talking about wrapping things up, we kind of just thought… Like for me: I’ve only been in the band for three years, but I can still be very subjective because I’ve always been a fan of the band, and I booked them for a long time. So as far as I was concerned, I could really think, “What would I want to see? What would I want Hand Of Mercy to do on their last tour? I’d want them to play something off all their releases, and maybe Scott should be their singer on the last tour because he was the singer for the majority of their career”. Just sort of thinking in that regard – the legacy of Hand Of Mercy and everything that they’ve done – it kind of just made sense that he would finish things off.
How did Nick respond to that decision?
It’s not like we said, “You’re kicked out of the band and we’re gonna do a tour without you” or anything like that. It was like, “Hey, we’re talking about wrapping things up, and we think it would be best if Scott sung with us”. He was really cool about it, he totally understood – he was the singer of the band for one year, and Scott was the singer of the band for nine years. It’s been good that he’s been so cool with that.
Is there any awkwardness with Scott being back, or does it just feel like old times?
We haven’t been hanging out with him, and we haven’t started practising with him yet… I don’t think any of us have actually seen him since the last show that we played with him. He moved from Sydney to the Gold Coast, so we’re not really around each other anymore. But for me, it’s a genuine thing of, like, it’ll be good to see him again and catch up. It’s a nice way to go out. We always tell stupid stories about stuff we’ve done, so it’ll be good to hear what he’s been doing and I’m sure he’ll be keen to hear what we’ve been doing. I think it will be a really genuine catch-up where we can celebrate all of this together.
With five enormous records under your belts and an entire career’s worth of incredible hardcore music in the Hand Of Mercy discography, there are a lot of pit-brewing bangers to pick and choose from for a solid setlist. With these being your last sets and arguably those that fans will remember the most, have you started to think about what you’re going to play?
Yeah, totally! We definitely want to represent every release that we’ve done. We’ve got two EPs and three records, and we’ll be playing something off all of them. We’ve even started talking about perhaps making an over 18s setlist and an all-ages setlist, just to try and cater more to people’s tastes and what everyone enjoys – maybe over 18s would want more older stuff, and the under 18s would want more of the later stuff. We actually put a post up on our Facebook to try and gauge what kind of songs people were after, and stuff like that. I think there won’t be much talking on stage, it’ll just be, “Play as many songs as we can until we get dragged off”.
In terms of touring, Hand Of Mercy have been involved in some incredible shows over the past 10 years, not just in Australia but all around the world. Looking back on all of the tours and festivals you’ve been a part of, what are some of your choice picks?
The first time we went to Europe was probably one that stands out the most; we were lucky enough to play on Bleeding Through’s last European tour. We were extremely grateful because we’d never been to Europe before, and also just the fact that you’re playing 24 shows in 24 days, you’re on a bus and waking up in a different country every day. It was wild… Now that I think about it, it’s funny that we were talking before about wanting to go out on a high; maybe that experience with Bleeding Through and seeing how they did and all that stuff subliminally worked its way into how we ended up doing things.
You’ve had the opportunity to tour in the US, Europe… Pretty much anywhere a hardcore band can go, you’ve gone – and of course, the absolute plethora of local gigs you’ve smashed out over the years. Where would you say is home to the best crowds and the sickest pits?
As far as Australia goes, we obviously always love playing in Sydney, ‘cause it’s our hometown and that’s what we’re about and that sort of thing. Europe in general is cool because the people there really try to get into your band, and they want to like you. They’re really fanatical and really loyal compared to a place like America, where everyone sort of stands there with their arms folded like, “I see 10,000 bands a week, I don’t really care, what are you gonna do?” Whereas in Europe, everyone’s like, “You’re in a band, you’re great! I’ve never seen you before but I wanna like you!” That’s such a cool attitude, and it’s probably one of the best in the world for bands in general.
When you started off in Hand Of Mercy, did you expect to come as far as you have, or did you expect the journey to unravel the way it did?
No, not at all! Speaking on behalf of everyone else, all we ever wanted to do is just play shows and hang out. Tour, maybe. We thought maybe if we could play around Australia, that would be cool. We far exceeded anything we ever wanted to do. We exceeded our expectations probably five or six years ago, and everything since then has just been the cream on top.
Are there any memories in particular you would say defined your time in Hand Of Mercy?
I think mainly just the band being a vehicle for us to travel the world and meet all of these people. It’s crazy to think that, like, if we ever go to Boston, we have a family of people there. If we ever go to Japan, we know people there. Every country that we’ve been to, we have a really cool little support network or group of friends, and it’s just remarkable that we have that from playing in a band. And not just any band, but a hardcore band, which is probably not something people would expect.
As far as the industry itself goes, every band in the scene aspires to be a part of the UNFD family. What was it like being a part of that, and also having an affiliation with Rise in the States?
It was cool! They’re kind of like the benchmark of Australian heavy music, so it’s definitely made things a bit easier for us. What we’ve always tried to do is do our thing and write records and tour as much as we can, and then leave them to do what they do best, which is release the records, promote them and all that kind of stuff. They’re the kings of that, and we really don’t have a clue about any of that stuff. The whole Rise Records thing was pretty wild too; so many kids in America will listen to anything that gets released on Rise. Playing in a band, you always kind of back yourself that if you get put in front of an audience, or a crowd, or whatever, you’re confident that you can win them over. So to have that kind of assistance from Rise – to be put in front of all these kids that might not have heard us before – is just huge. I don’t think UNFD could have picked a better label to pair up with for that kind of thing.
After this tour wraps up and everything with Hand Of Mercy is officially laid to rest, what do you all have planned? Are there any musical projects you or the other members are tapping away at in the background?
Nah, not necessarily. Hand Of Mercy has been our lives and our focus; we’ve paused our lives, pretty much, to do the band full-time. We’ve never really had long breaks between tours or albums. I don’t think anybody has anything specific planned, but as soon as the band does sort of wrap up, then that’ll kind of create a bit of time for opportunities for people to do new things. For most of us, it’s hard to not want to keep doing something. Maybe we won’t be doing bands to the extent of what Hand Of Mercy was, but we’re all definitely going to be playing music, even if it’s just writing songs for ourselves.
Is it a daunting subject to think about what comes next, and kind of veer into the unknown?
It’s kind of refreshing, to be honest. We’ve done so much stuff. We’ve done more than we ever thought we could do, we feel really accomplished and satisfied with what we’ve done, so it’s like, “Well, that chapter’s wrapping up, it’s been BEYOND SICK, we did a great job and we’re stoked, who knows what’s gonna happen next? Bring it on!”
Just before we head off, is there anything you want to say to give the fans one last official send-off?
Yeah! Obviously, a huge thank you to everybody that’s ever supported the band, whether they’ve bought a CD, or downloaded something, or told their friends about us, or came to a show… We wouldn’t be a band without people doing that stuff, so we’re eternally grateful for all of it. I encourage everybody to come out to the final shows! I think if you liked the band eight years ago, or you liked the band at the end – if you’ve ever had a time where you were into us, it would be great to see you at one of the last shows, because it is going to be the last time; I don’t think we’re going to be doing any John Farnham business with this tour. Also, finally, if anyone’s thinking about starting a band, just fuckin’ start a band! It’s a great thing to do with your life, it’s a really positive thing, and you get to see a lot of cool shit if you put your mind to it and spend some hours working on it!
Buried In Verona / Hand Of Mercy / Void Of Vision / Polaris Tour Dates
Fri Sep 18th – Evelyn Hotel, Fitzroy (18+)
Sat Sep 19th – Evelyn Hotel, Fitzroy
Sun Sep 20th – Magpies, Canberra
Wed Sep 23rd – The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle (18+)
Thu Sep 24th – The Bald Faced Stag, Sydney (18+)
Fri Sep 25th – The Bald Faced Stag, Sydney
Sat Sep 26th – The Brightside, Brisbane (18+)
Sun Sep 27th – The Lab, Brisbane
Fri Oct 2nd – Elliot St Bar, Bunbury (18+)
Sat Oct 3rd – Amplifier Bar, Perth (18+)
Sun Oct 4th – HQ, Adelaide