Hawthorne Heights

author PP date 08/12/10

One of the best parts about this job is that you get to meet and talk to some of the people that influenced your taste in music and shaped you as a person somehow. As cheesy as Hawthorne Heights are to many people, they were one of the key "modern emo" bands that I liked aside from just punk rock. So to be able to sit down with one of the founding members to talk about their early material as well as how they've changed was special. We sat down at a tiny 4x3m2 room to have a quick chat about how things are going in the band now, why they rarely tour Europe, and whatever happened with the lawsuit they had with Victory a couple of years back. Read on to check it out, some interesting and well-worth reading answers included!

RF.net: Thanks for doing this interview. What's new in Hawthorne Heights?
Eron: We just released our fourth album in Europe, it's called "Skeletons", I believe it just came out last Friday. I know it came out on Friday in Germany, Austria and a couple of other places. I hope it came out in Denmark already. It came out in June in the states. Right now we're just out on the road supporting it. This is our first trip back to Europe in about four years. Our first trip ever up to Denmark.

RF.net: How come it has been such a long pause in between the European tours?

Eron: Well, we went through a bitter lawsuit with our former record label, Victory. That put a damper on our ability to tour abroad. I mean it costs a lot of money to come here. Especially since we never really built these markets up, so whenever we would come over here, we would be sort of starting over, and we wouldn't make a lot of money, we'd always be in a losing money situation. So we were never able to do that. On top of that, we lost our guitar player, Casey, which further set us back. Touring in general was sort of put on a back burner for a little while, while we re-grouped and re-gained our focus. But now we're back on our feet I feel, and we want to come to Europe more frequently.

RF.net: So what do you think about Denmark? I heard you guys got here earlier today.
Eron: Yeah, we got here real early. Unfortunately we had to drive overnight, so as soon as we got here, I went right into the backstage room, and slept for several hours. So I didn't really have a chance to walk around. Some of the other guys were feeling more up to the challenge, and actually walked around. Is it Christiania? We're going to try to get down there. I think it's pretty far from here, like a twenty-minute walk or so, but we hear that's a cool area of town. Hopefully we'll maybe get to go there after the show.

RF.net: So do you know any Danish bands?

Eron: I know no Danish bands.

RF.net: There's one supporting tonight, the opening band, Lights In Reverse.

RF.net: You guys have been a band for a very long time now. How do you look back at your career so far?
Eron: Mostly like a roller coaster ride. We had a lot of success which we did not really anticipate right off the bat. It propelled us to a level, and I think we got kind of arrogant, and assumed that kind of success was always going to be there for us, so when we sued our label and all that promotion was cut off from us, our popularity started to dwindle as a result. We weren't really prepared for that. So we had these huge ups and huge lows that a lot of bands don't go through over the course of a twenty year career, and here we are, fitting all that into a much shorter career. It feels like we have a VH1 storytellers or behind the music worthy story to our career already, which is crazy, because I don't feel like we're anywhere near being done. We'll see.

RF.net: About the newest album, "Skeletons", what do you think about it, and how do you think it compares to the older albums?
Eron: Hmm. I think it's more focused. I think we spent a lot of time working on these songs, really nit-picking every little detail of these songs because we had nothing but time on our hands when we were writing it. I guess it's maybe a little bit more commercial sounding than some of our other stuff. I think theme-wise, it's a lot darker than any of our past records, so in that regard it's a lot heavier of an album lyrically rather than it is musically. But we took some risks musically and tried to expand our sound, we wanted to open people's minds up to what Hawthorne Heights is capable of doing musically. We took some risks, and really got to explore.

RF.net: Back on your very first album, "The Silence In Black & White", you guys were to many people the face of the emo movement, right? I know you guys like to say that you're a rock band, I've read that in other interviews, but when you released the first album, everybody called you this "emo" band. Did you also identify with the term back in that time?
Eron: Not really. Because to us growing up, emo was a totally different style of music than what we were playing. You know, we grew up going to hardcore shows and punk shows, and what we defined as emo music was totally different. You know, Fugazi, Rites Of Spring, Braid, late DC hardcore kind of sound. So when people started calling us emo, it was a little weird to us. I mean all music is emotional, and our music was a little bit melodic, so I see where mainstream journalists sort of pegged us with that term along with several other bands. We got swept up in the momentum of the quote-unquote emo.

PP: But then again if we look at some of the lyrical content of the first album, there's that one line in particular, the one that's quoted by everybody when you talk about Hawthorne Heights, "Cut my wrists and black my eyes". I guess to many people that's a classic moment in emo, so then wouldn't you see how people would connect lyrics like that into the emo identity of the modern times?

Eron: It's an emotional lyric, absolutely, but it's not meant to be a depressing lyric. It's not meant to be a suicidal lyric. I don't think anyone is considering Shakespeare as being emo, but you know, he was writing stories of heartache long before we were and yet he is not attached with the stigma of being emo. [laughs] So as far as I'm concerned, lyrics such as that...it's not meant to define a whole genre. It's simply defining what we felt about being away from our loved ones, and the heartache that we were going through by being away from our friends and loved ones for the very first time while out on the road and recording. It's nothing more than a metaphor. It wasn't ever meant to be taken seriously by people to commit suicide or anything like that, in fact we are very very against anybody cutting themselves, or hurting themselves, or killing themselves in any fashion [chuckles]

RF.net: With all this in mind, what do you think of the modern emo bands, because if you guys grew up listening to the old emo, but then what is today known as emo is a lot different to that?
Eron: Ironically a lot of those bands that got sort of swept up in that wave of emo bands, a new wave of emo bands, grew up in the same scene as we grew up in too. Like Fall Out Boy. We played shows with Fall Out Boy before they were popular in venues that were maybe the size of this room (the room is TINY), literally. So I don't know. I'm proud to see how far those bands have come and expanded their sound, and conquered the world.

RF.net: Three years ago your guitarist passed away. Does it still affect you guys?
Eron: I think so. Anytime something like that happens to you, it shapes who you are. Or re-shapes who you are, I should say. It definitely gave us new perspective on life, and made us realize that life is really short and it's too short to be unhappy doing what you are doing. So you have to make the most out of every second of the day, because it can all end in a second.

RF.net: Today you are on Wind-Up records, which is a major label. How is it working with a major label as opposed to a smaller one?
Eron: Wind Up is operated kind of like an independent label. I can call up the head of marketing or the president of the label anytime, and discuss things. Actually, I did that earlier today. They don't operate like your typical major label, where you have to go through your management, who will communicate with your A&R rep, who has to communicate with all the other different departments. So it's going alright. It's going good.

RF.net: Is there any pressure from them stylistically on what sort of music you're allowed to write and what sort of music you should write, or whether you should write singles and things like that

Eron: The only thing that sells records in the US anymore is having a successful radio single. So yeah, there is a little pressure there to have a song that can perform well on radio, and I think what we've learned from the experience is that you can't try to write your music for radio, you have to be true to yourselves, write music that you yourself are going to enjoy. And if radio comes along and says "we like that too", great, if not, there's nothing you can really do. If you aim your music at that one specific demographic, then you're almost doomed for failure. When we had our most success, our first and second album, we were just doing our own thing and what we wanted to do stylistically. What was popular at the moment happened to be where we were.

RF.net: Before you were on Victory, there was that whole debacle, as you talked about earlier, the lawsuits and stuff. I know this has sort of beaten to death already, but if you could just once again sum up what exactly happened, and maybe also add in any thoughts you might have on it now, when you have a little bit more distance to it?
Eron: We were under the impression that we were owed a significant amount of money, and we were led to believe by our legal counsel that we can easily sue Victory and get out of our contract and get a lot back that we thought we were owed. That obviously was not the case. Legal processes in the US take years and years and years. Much longer and much more involving and much more costly than we had ever imagined, or were led to believe. In retrospect we would've never done it. Had we known then what we now know....lawsuits are like a chess game. It's more about certain strategy and waiting people out and seeing who can deplete the other ones resources. It has nothing to do with who is right and who is wrong. Because on paper it looks like we were completely on the right. But we didn't have the time or the money, so we couldn't pursue the lawsuit any further, and we also didn't want to hurt our career any more than we already had at that point. We had to sort of say, alright, lets settle this, and cut our losses and walk away.

RF.net: So is Victory Records really as bad of a label as all the rumours seem to suggest on the internet?

Eron: You know, I don't really think so right now looking back on everything. Did we have disagreements with them? Yes. Do I still have some issues on how things were handled when we were on Victory? Absolutely, but everybody has issues with their label here and there. I wish we had a different perspective, and were more knowledgeable at that point. Perhaps we could've gotten around some of those differences more amicably.

RF.net: What are your inspirations and what are your favorite bands today?
Eron: Inspiration-wise, we all have different inspirations. I can't say "this band particularly influences us" or anything like that. Today, I listen to the new Minus The Bear album, it's excellent. New Arcade Fire album is excellent too. That kind of stuff.

RF.net: Alright, I have a fan question submitted by one of our readers: "Is Ohio really for lovers?"
Eron: Ohio is most definitely NOT for lovers [laughs]. Ohio is a pretty boring place. The only reason we wrote that song and named it that is because our family and friends are there. So for most people, no, for us, yeah I guess.

RF.net: What's in store in the future for Hawthorne Heights?
Eron: I think more touring, more music. Just see where the road takes us.

RF.net: Perfect! Thanks a lot for your time!

Eron: Thank you.

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