New Jersey Rockers Bobby Mahoney and The Seventh Son Explore How ‘We Go On’ (INTERVIEW)

Photo credit: Mark Ashkinos

Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son are a New Jersey-based Punk-influenced Rock band who have been making music for over twelve years now. Their new EP, We Go On, was recently released by Telegraph Hill Records and channels all the verve and love for live music that only a couple of years of shutdowns could produce. The energy on the new tracks is raw and direct and the subject-matter an interesting blend of highly personal and widely universal. We Go On questions being human, being alive, and what we’re all looking for. But it does that while acknowledging how much pent-up energy many people in the world have been navigating for some time now. 

The band have been known for their signature combination of influences, from singer/songwriter fare to Punk, to more melodic Rock ‘n Roll, and We Go On does an excellent job of distilling what their sound is right now and the identity they’ve been crafting in recent years. I spoke with Bobby Mahoney about the challenges of getting back to live play, its joys, and the very human themes that we find on display in the songs that make up We Go On. 

Hannah Means-Shannon: You all have recently come back from playing some shows down South, right?

Bobby Mahoney: We were just down in Fredericksburg, Virginia, then Charlotte, North Carolina, then Blacksburg, Virginia, Virginia Tech. We were happy to start getting back out of New Jersey again. The shows progressively better. The first night was not sold out, but we got to play like Elder Punks with some younger kids. The venue in Fredericksburg just closed, so I feel bad. We did a house show in a basement in Blacksburg, which was a little crazy, with a bunch of college shows.

HMS: Does that ever get a little worrying, turning up and playing a house show in a basement, not knowing where the exits are?

BM: Luckily, we were able to check it out when we pulled up, and could see a couple of exits. It’s definitely something to be mindful of in today’s world. Anytime when you have a lot of people in a closed space, and there’s alcohol involved, that’s good to think about. In this case, it was not some chairs in a living room, though I actually love playing those kinds of acoustic shows. But it was a space that was made for bands to play this time. 

HMS: For that kind of show, did you have other bands with you?

BM: Ideally, when we play out of state, we’d be sandwiched between two local bands. So at every show, we either had a local promoter helping us finds bands, or we found bands. A lot of times when we find other bands, it ends up being better. We know what we’re looking for and having a personal connection to other bands leads to more local promotion and camaraderie. In theory, when these bands come up to Jersey, we will then put something together for them, the way that we’d like to be treated. 

We recently did our EP release show with two nights at The Saint in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and that brought in some out of state bands as well. We tried to give people a bit of a different show, and it’s also scratching backs by letting out of state bands play between local bands. 

HMS: That’s a really nice thing to do and I can see the wisdom in that. You all have been playing for a while, so you’ve probably been able to establish those relationships already, but has that been impacted at all by the covid break in live playing?

BM: Unfortunately, a lot of venues didn’t make it through the pandemic, so it is a little bit like starting out new. We do have a lot of relationships, but in some areas, we are still at square one, trying to meet like-minded people to play with. Because of the pandemic, we are all still back to square one, and any venue that did make it through the pandemic is actually inundated with bands.

HMS: I heard that there was a multiple-booking system happening at a lot of venues where bands would be kind of on a waiting list.

BM: Yes, a venue might have anything from two to five holds on a particular date and you can have the date if all the other bands fall through. It’s really tough right now, which is why we’re sticking to weekender gigs. We all have day jobs and are trying to be strategic about the time we take off. 

HMS: To what extent was writing or releasing the EP impacted by covid?

BM: These songs were all started before the pandemic in some fashion, and I was adamant about not wanting to do a pandemic record. A lot of people do that, and that’s cool, but I don’t think people need to be reminded so much about what we’re all dealing with. But the overall feeling and the themes of the EP do have some pandemic overtones. 

There’s the idea of camaraderie, saying, “We’ll get out of this.” There are themes of mortality, since that weighed heavily on me. Those elements come across in the songs, whether I meant to or not. But I think the songs do stand up as having a timeliness sound and don’t sound dated. 

For me, fundamentally, we were all so starved to play together in a room. In another world, we probably would have had more time rehearsing the songs before recording them, though we did a couple of rehearsals before recording the songs, socially-distanced and masked up, in a friend’s basement. I did want the main, basic tracks of the record to be us all playing together in a room. It’s not a live record by any means, since we did overdubs, but the basic tracking was the four of us playing together. 

We recorded the drums and did scratch guitar, bass, and vocals. We kept the drums and a couple guitar instances. When I got a new amplifier, I actually retracked all the guitars. But I wanted that fundamental live energy because we were so starved for it, and that togetherness was where I wanted to start the record. In that way, the pandemic had impact. 

HMS: Were you missing live music as a fan, too?

BM: I love live Rock ‘n Roll. That’s my bread and butter. Going to a club and seeing people plugging into amplifiers, playing for real, I love that sound. I don’t just mean Classic Rock ‘n Roll, but also Punk and other things. I used to go to shows and hear Jesse Malin as a kid. He’s one of my favorite songwriters and I dragged my mom to see him when I was like 15. She fell in love with his music.

HMS: He’s awesome.

BM: He’s still one of my biggest influences, as well as D Generation, the Punk band that he was in in the 90s. That’s what I wanted to come across on the EP, the energy of our live shows. That’s what we do, we’re a live Rock band. We have a good time writing the music and performing the music, and I want to bring that across. If I’m not having fun, no one else is going to.

HMS: I’ve seen some footage of different shows that you’ve put up, and it’s clear that you all are very high energy. It’s definitely a Punk feel in terms of your performance.

BM: I can’t stand still. I like being entertained myself, and go to a show where someone is not just going to stand there and sing. It’s more for me than it is for anyone else, probably. That’s when I’m really not thinking, just feeling it. That’s what I missed the most during the pandemic, that moment of not really thinking, but acting and doing. You do all the prep work, the loading in, and posting online, and it’s all for that moment. 

A friend of mine is Gordon Brown from William’s Honor, a Country group, who I play acoustic guitar for in their live band. Gordon says, “Sometimes this is all almost worth it.” [Laughs] I think that’s awesome. It is worth it when you get to that moment when things all come together.

HMS: There’s a lot of questioning in these songs, and “Moth to the Flame” seems to question one’s own life, then “We Go On” seems to question those bigger things like, “Why is the world like this? How can I deal with it?” I feel like sometimes songwriters are pressured to give answers in their songs, but I don’t feel that you take that route, which might be a little too easy. 

BM: I definitely don’t claim to have any answers, but I think the questions are important. I think the best songwriters get you thinking, and may leave things up to interpretation, or leave the question out there. In the chorus to “We Go On”, it says, “Everyone and everything will go on, but I’m thinking maybe we go on.” [Laughs] I don’t know, maybe? I hope. That would be cool. 

But a song like “Take What You Can Get” is literally about getting through the day. What beliefs, or what vices, or what Youtube video rabbit holes are doing to get you through the week? It’s tough. There’s a lot to be upset about constantly, but we need to realize that we can’t affect all the change we’d like to see, and we can’t always put rational thought behind all that we’re dealing with in the world. Some of it just doesn’t make sense. 

HMS: It would break your brain if you tried to process everything.

BM: Exactly. Pick any huge issue right now, and that would be enough, but I’m also upset because I’m working too much and don’t have free time. That may seem like a small, bullshit thing, but we have such a finite amount of time here, it seems like we waste so much of it. People take time out of their day to hate a particular group of people, just because. 

I think a lot of the record, too, carries my frustrations, because I want to do all these different things, but I don’t have either the time, or the money, or the resources to do half of what I want to do. Even in terms of this record, I would have loved to press it to vinyl, but the world’s vinyl pressing is screwed up right now. 

I teach music during the day, and that’s amazing. To be able to pass along any musical knowledge that I have to someone else on their musical journey is a great opportunity, and I’m very thankful for it. I often think about how cushy I have it compared to many people, but I don’t have enough time.

HMS: You can love that work and still be realistic about the amount of time you have. You can know that you work too many hours and that you’re therefore too exhausted to do creative work. That’s a big issue for many people. 

BM: Recognizing it is important, and taking the time you do have, and valuing it is important. In terms of working on band stuff, that is a full-time job, and having other full-time jobs, as well as trying to be a normal human, aside from music, is a lot. [Laughs] Most people who know me don’t know how I fit it all in or understand why I am the way I am.

HMS: Do you see differences between these songs on the EP and the songs that you were working on previously? Do you feel you’re at a specific point in terms of your development as a band?

BM: I definitely do. Songwriting-wise, I didn’t want to put these songs out until we were sonically proud of them. For a youngish band, we have a lot of songs, with a pretty deep bench. But a lot of our earlier records were not recorded to a quality that we’re happy with. We’ve pulled a couple of them off of Spotify, but they are all still available on Bandcamp. But some of those earlier recordings are not us putting our best foot forward. This EP feels like a really updated resume, saying, “Here’s what we do.” I’m still picky about it, but we really needed to get this out there. Along with our self-titled EP that we did a couple years ago, these songs are “our sound”. 

Being from New Jersey, we’ve always worn our influences on our sleeves, and I love Springsteen and Bon Jovi, but also growing up and now, I’m an AC/DC fan who loves Hard Rock. As a singer/songwriter, I also have those tendencies, and those come through on some of these songs. I feel like these songs are really a good mix of the Hard Rock and Punk elements but also the singer/songwriter approach. Sonically, and overall, these are a good representation of what we do and what makes us different from other bands. 

HMS: Actually, I really agree with you. There’s a big range of sounds, even in this collection. “Lay It On Me” is a very different song from the others. This album doesn’t sound like anybody else to me. I can see where certain elements relate to other traditions, but it’s a pretty unique fusion of different things. 

BM: I really appreciate that. Regarding there being very different sounds across the board, when we were recording, I didn’t know if this was an EP, or if this was five singles. When we were listening back to early mixes, I started listening in this order, and I said, “I think we have a record here. I think in 20 minutes we cover a lot of bases.” With “We Go On” and “Moth To The Flame”, those are kind of like classic Seventh Son songs. They are fun and catchy. The songs in the middle throw people for a loop a little. It does feel like a complete journey that touches on a lot of different things while not straying from the goal of writing the best songs we can write. 

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