Fight AMP (short for Fight Amputation) are the latest band out of Philadelphia making waves in the swampy noise rock scene. A power trio in every sense of the term, Fight AMP blend together sludgy riffs and grungy howls into a delectable rock and roll smoothie of pure kick ass. Their latest, and best album Constantly Off was released earlier this month, and I caught up with bassist/singer Jon DeHart and guitarist/vocalist Mike McGinnis to talk about the record, the noise rock scene in large, and the crazy shit that goes down on tour.
Jon DeHart: A beautiful mess.
2. What is it exactly that is “Constantly Off,” in reference to your new record?
JD: Its a reference to feeling like you’re born to miss whatever mark you’re aiming for in life. The hope was it would mean something different for everyone, but for me personally, I was thinking about my struggle with the human protocol that’s deemed most acceptable in society; confidence, self love, positive thoughts… I always have to remind myself that those things are ok, and in a weird twist, it becomes a constant source of self doubt knowing that those things aren’t a natural reflex for me. The phrase “Constantly Off” was meant to be a simple, all encompassing way of describing those types of feelings.
3. Fight AMP recently hit the road for a slew of shows with KEN Mode, celebrating the release of your respective records. How did you link up with those guys?
Mike McGinnis: A few years back we were aware of them and they were aware of us. We were doing something similar but in a different way, and when there are very few bands doing what you’re doing you’re going to start hearing about the other ones that are doing it well. We eventually both got offered the same tour package with Today Is The Day and Black Tusk in 2013, and then that was that. We hit it off with these dudes and have been good friends since and try to link up when it’s mutually beneficial and support each others endeavors.
4. Grunge is certainly a touchstone in Fight Amp’s sound, especially as of late. Do you feel that the success of the Cobain documentary Montage of Heck has revamped an interest in the genre?
JD: Nirvana changed my life, they introduced me to punk and the underground at a very young age, but it’s easy to take for granted the fact that a large portion of Nirvana “fans” could give two shits about the scene that created that band. Montage of Heck seems to have gotten people talking about grunge more than they have in recent years, which is cool, but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna lead to more than a handful of people down the path to a band like Killdozer, and that to me has always been the criminal byproduct of Nirvana’s success. I’d like to think that modern grunge/noise rock bands from our scene are at least trying to pay proper lip service to all the excellent bands that were buried by former guitar store noodlers in fresh flannel pumping out overproduced bullshit during the grunge boom era, and hopefully thats just as valuable as a thoroughly hyped, well funded documentary (which as an obsessed Nirvana fan, I enjoyed, full disclosure ha).
5. Constantly Off is still sludgy and noisy as hell, yet there’s a bit more focus on melody than on previous efforts. Did you guys go into this record consciously wanting to take on a more melodic sound or did it just come naturally?
JD: It was little of both, which I know is a cliche answer, but it really was just a combination of circumstances. Fight Amp is the only band Mike or I have done vocals in, so it’s a constant learning process, but in my head I’ve always wanted to touch on more melodic stuff in contrast to the harsher screaming. It just so happened that these newest songs played into those ideas without sounding forced, and I’m closer than I’ve ever been to being able to produce what I hear in my head physically, so the whole process felt smooth and natural. But it was really important to still maintain some of our harsh, throat shredding stuff as well, because I tend to enjoy records with a lot of vocal variety and wouldn’t want to abandon that element simply because I’m getting more comfortable with different styles. I view the more melodic stuff as just another option in an evolving range of elements that we can use without sounding contrived or forced.
MM: I think we all have our moments. I’d say we don’t party like we used to, especially on tour, because our main focus is playing killer shows above all else. But, by nature, all three of us are misanthropic weirdos and freaks, so we get ourselves into situations that only weirdos and freaks would find themselves in from time to time. I don’t want to throw any of my bandmates under the bus, so since I’m answering this question… I can tell you that I once indulged in substance just a bit too much in Montreal years back, got separated from the band, blasted through a whirlwind of bars, until I eventually got lost and couldn’t find anyone. I passed out in an alley, woke up and at least had the awareness to realize I’d freeze if I didn’t do something, so I found a hotel and maxed out a credit card to get a room. It had a hot tub in it and I woke up the next morning with french TV blaring at me while sleeping in the hot tub. A near freeze to death/drown to death night, but I made it out alive…. and I had a good time…at the expense of my poor bandmates having to search for their missing guitarist.
7. Who would you say are your top three biggest influences musically?
MM: This is such a hard question for us. Our influences are really far reaching. I could cop out and list people like Buzzo and Greg Ginn as far as guitarists, but I’m really influenced by the guitar players that influenced them as well. Let’s just say here’s what’s influencing me a lot over the past few weeks… Steve Albini/Shellac, King Buzzo, David Byrne/Talking Heads.
8. Fight Amp’s been around for the better part of the decade now. Have you seen any noticeable changes in the scene from when you started out to today?
MM: Depends what scene you’re talking about. Everything is in constant motion. We’ve been in touch with the Philadelphia/NJ scenes for a good long while, since well before Fight Amp existed and we were just going to shows and playing in local bands, since probably 99. But Fight Amp, and us as people, didn’t start to rub elbows with the national/international punk/heavy music scenes until 2008 when we released our first album. Bands and venues everywhere come and go, cities change, people leave the scene they’re a part of and others join it and replace the ones that leave. One thing I can say is that trending musical styles and sub-genres within metal/punk/hardcore/indie seem to flux more rapidly than ever right now. People attach themselves to a seemingly popular style of music and by the time their new band that fits into that genre is ready to put out an album and tour the next popular trend has already taken it’s place. It has always been like that, but it seems it’s just faster now with the ADD generation being more catered to by the flow of social media.
JD: Not Taylor Swift exactly, but I’m a total not-so-closeted Bruno Mars fan. I went to see him recently and loved it, you can tell he grew up around an amazing record collection.
10. Are there any other bands from the Philly scene that you think people should be keeping their eyes on?
MM: Pissgrave, School Girl… Man, we get asked this question a lot, and we have a laundry list for an answer. Aside from the bands Jon and I named I’d say check out Philly Noise Rock on Facebook for a list of killer bands that we love or check out the liner notes of Constantly Off where we named as many as we could remember at the time. This scene is vibrant right now and we’re stoked to be a part of it, and it’s really become one of the hot beds for noise rock and sludge these days.
Fight AMP Links:
Image of Fight AMP in concert by, Francois Carl.