Preview: Punk firefighter gets to The Frantic Heart of It
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Two years ago this week, Doug Weaver underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat the leukemia he was diagnosed with four years ago.
He's been able to work himself back to active duty, not only as a Pittsburgh firefighter but as the frontman for punk band The Frantic Heart of It.
"After five years they consider you 'cured,' " he says, "but the idea that I could relapse at any time will always be lingering in the back of my mind. I've always lived my life with an understanding that life is short, and that you should be sure to have a great time and leave a positive impact every chance you get, this illness has simply reinforced those feelings."
He addresses that subject on "How to Earn Your LTD in 34 Short Years," the first song on the band's new 10-inch split vinyl with fellow punks Playoff Beard on the local Dear Skull Records.
The Frantic Heart of It formed in 2007, but Mr. Weaver has a history here that dates back long before that. He moved here in 1996 from Newark, Del., where he says the punk scene was small yet diverse. His tastes ran toward pop-punk bands like The Mr. T Experience and Screeching Weasel along with anarcho-political crust bands like Struggle and Aus-Rotten (for which he played drums in the late '90s).
Coming to Pittsburgh, he says, "I found that the punk scene here was very much caught up in all things crust and metal (some things never change) and for the most part wanted nothing to do with poppy sing-alongs. After years of writing songs and having no one to play them with, I decided that I might as well just play them alone and reworked them all to be played as acoustic tunes."
He played solo for a while, then with Zack Furness in the CityHands, then solo again after Mr. Furness moved away. Finally, he hooked up with bassist Cary (Stewie) Miller and drummer Parker Mossup to form The Frantic Heart of It.
"By that time, the songs I'd been playing had a very folksy bent to them, so we reworked them again, keeping the folksy aspect intact. Our first record has very distinct evidence of that folk influence I picked up while playing acoustic."
When Mr. Mossup left, they picked up Kevin Churchel, a trained jazz drummer but with a more aggressive style.
"We ended up writing the kind of pop punk songs I wanted to be playing 15 years ago, and that's our new record," Mr. Weaver says. "I feel like that more aggressive style is one of the things that drew Mikey Seamans' [owner of Mind Cure Records] attention, aside from him being one of our really great friends. Having Mikey bring us on as part of the Dear Skull Records family was a crucial part of the making of this record."
The split vinyl finds The Frantic Heart of It chugging and thrashing through five punk songs with heart, including 'Primitivism Reconsidered" and "My Mid-Punk Crisis."
"Making this record presented a different set of challenges than the last, in that Stewie had recently had a baby (Archer!), and I now have this constant half-expectation that I'll relapse before I finish whatever project I'm working on," he says. "So the whole affair definitely had a greater sense of urgency than the last record, and I think that comes through in the recording."
As for being a punk firefighter, he addresses that juggling act on the song "Combinations," which has him singing, "it's not easy living two lives with half a heart in each."
"Showing up at my favorite haunt after work wearing a uniform that includes a badge is kinda funny to me in that it comes across as ultra-conformist to anyone who doesn't know me," he says. "And my politics are at odds with those of my peers in the firehouse more often than not. It is a very odd juxtaposition."
First Published January 31, 2013 12:00 am