I had the pleasure of talking to Andrew Johnson, who does vocals/ plays guitar and tambourine in Have Mercy. Have Mercy, along with bands like Head North and Allison Weiss, were among the first to take a stand against Front Porch Step when allegations of sexual misconduct arose.
In January 2015 they released a statement regarding dropping off of a spring tour that Jake Mcelfresh of Front Porch Step was headlining.
On a personal note, it encouraged me to come forward with my experience with Jake and post proof of his actions. I felt that Have Mercy taking action set the tone for the zero tolerance policy we should have with the hazardous artists plaguing our scene.
We’d like to thank Andrew and the rest of Have Mercy for contributing to this series.
You can read what he had to say about the current state of our scene and what we can do to improve it below.
As someone involved in the industry, have you ever noticed any behaviors that you consider harmful in the scene, particularly in regards to harassment and/or discrimination? What do you think needs to change specifically in order to help create a safer music scene for everyone?
I’ve personally never experienced any behaviors as such because for the most part our fans are very cool and don’t put up with that bullshit. But I do remember one time we played a show in Pittsburgh and this guy was playing his 3DS and I said on the mic something to the tune of “Hey man, whatcha playing? The new Pokemon?” and he turned back and said “I’m getting those street passes n****a” and I looked back in shock that this dude would say something like that. Over the mic I quoted one of my favorite movies Half Baked and said “Boo this man!” and everyone booed him and I didn’t see him after the show. I normally don’t do things like that but if you have ever seen us live I personally like to interact with the crowd and like to know whats on their minds but this one time was the first time I’ve ever been shocked by someones language (and I was raised by a sailor.)
But I feel if you are in a scene that you don’t feel safe in you should speak up. Tell people how you feel, “hey man, what you said offended me and this is why” or something like that. Let people know that you are uncomfortable. Because if someone is being a bully or bullying you if you stand up to them they will back down. The only thing a bully hates more than being stood up against is someone ignoring them but in times like today sometimes it’s hard to ignore harassment but if you just say “Dude, you’re being an asshole” or “Listen mother fucker what you’re saying makes me uncomfortable” they will 99 percent of the time stand down.
What role do you believe the following people should have in promoting a safer and more inclusive music scene?
Fans / Musicians / Venues
I feel like it is the responsibility to for all of these people to communicate together. Sometimes bands don’t know the promoter or have never worked with him before go to the promoter and say something like “Hey, this band makes people uncomfortable with what they say/do”. Let them know first because most of the time they are the ones that booked them. If its a band that is touring with another band let one of the other bands know. If it is a venue that constantly books bands that are racist, homophobic, sexist, stop going. Everyone has a voice that can be heard. Don’t be afraid to speak up about how you feel.
Are there any places, scenes and/or venues that you’ve noticed to be a safe space? If so, what are they doing that should be emulated by others?
I’ve noticed in my years of playing shows that some of the most safe venues were ones that were staff ran because they were seeing most of the shit that was going down. The only thing I can suggest to venues to make them a more safe space before something happens is to listen to your customers. If someone is uncomfortable or unhappy investigate. Listen to them, this is your livelihood man like seriously look into that shit.
Are there any particular bands, musicians, and/or organizations you believe are making an effort to help this cause?
I believe that everyone is slowly realizing that this is a problem in today’s culture. I make efforts personally that everyone is having a good time at our shows and there are other musicians out there that are doing the same thing.
But the real question is what are the people doing to make your scene a safer space? There is only so much that we as performers can do but it is up to you guys, the fans, to let your promoters, venues, and local bands know that enough is enough and you won’t take it anymore. If you have a problem with someone bring it up. Just stand up to the bullies and assholes in your scene to let them know you won’t put up with their shit but also be open minded as to why they act that way and educate them on what they are doing and why it is wrong and you will come out a stronger and better person because of it.
Thanks again for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for your time and if you are feeling oppressed and not safe please speak up.