[INTERVIEW] Hawthorne Heights

“Man, I tell you, the funniest part about releasing that record is everything was non-stop,” recalls lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist for Ohio’s Hawthorne Heights, J.T Woodruff about their debut album, The Silence in Black and White. “We toured so much. We put out that record in June of 2004, and then I don’t think we went home until probably August of 2005. We were just touring and supporting it non-stop. We would get something like two weeks off at a time to go hang out with our families, and then we’d be back out on the road, so that can tend to blur your memory (laughs). I remember touring a lot with awesome bands. That’s when we first toured with Silverstein and Spitalfield – which is one of the reasons why their lead singers are on our tour with us. We’ve been friends for so long. It’s very rare in life that you keep a friend for so long that was just in a band you played with so we’re really proud that we’ve been able to keep in touch with these guys and still enjoy them as songwriters and musicians. It always makes a tour a lot of fun and easier when you know the people you are going to be out with, and you get along with them. We just remember hopping in the van and trying to play every show we possibly could and trying to win as many people over as we could. As the sales started to pile up, we were just trying to keep up with it. We were just trying to be out there playing to people, and you have no idea why they like your music, just somehow they do, so you just try to put on the best show that you can, and that’s crazy. Plus we were a lot younger (laughs). You don’t have any experience or anything like that, so you’re just trying to keep up.”

Hawthorne Heights return to Australia in August and September, playing their first two albums, The Silence in Black and White and If Only You Were Lonely back to back, not because it is a milestone event but simply because they know that is what the fans want to hear.

“Most of the fans are familiar with those albums,” J.T shrugged. “They came out at a time in their lives when they were younger and a little more… let’s say ‘worry free’, so it does create a wonderful nostalgia for them; and for us, as well. Also, we just wanted to come back and do it the right way with Destroy All Lines. We always love working with them; Daniel is such a great guy. He recommended us, and we trust him, so we said to let us know what people wanted to hear – we will play every song we have ever written – we kind of like to cater to the fans. It makes things easier and people happy, and we wrote all the songs anyway so why not?”After the success of their debut album, it would have been easy for Hawthorne Heights to attempt to merely follow on in the same vein, but J.T says the band also realized they had to show growth to keep their expanding fan base interested.

After the success of their debut album, it would have been easy for Hawthorne Heights to attempt to merely follow on in the same vein, but J.T says the band also realized they had to show growth to keep their expanding fan base interested.”We wanted to maintain the sound that we had created on the first album, but we knew that we made mistakes as songwriters,” he admitted. “That was our first time making an album, and I feel like we did learn from that. It was such a smoother experience on the second one, which is how it should be I guess. At the same time, we tried not to pressure ourselves because when you write your first record, you don’t have any pressure. Nobody knows who the hell you are so you just do your thing for better or for worse, and maybe someone likes it, maybe they don’t, but for our second record, we already had people that liked us, so we had to figure it out. Figure out what to do, how to… not replicate what we were doing, but keep it in the same wheelhouse and I think we did a pretty good job of that.”

“We wanted to maintain the sound that we had created on the first album, but we knew that we made mistakes as songwriters,” he admitted. “That was our first time making an album, and I feel like we did learn from that. It was such a smoother experience on the second one, which is how it should be I guess. At the same time, we tried not to pressure ourselves because when you write your first record, you don’t have any pressure. Nobody knows who the hell you are so you just do your thing for better or for worse, and maybe someone likes it, maybe they don’t, but for our second record, we already had people that liked us, so we had to figure it out. Figure out what to do, how to… not replicate what we were doing, but keep it in the same wheelhouse and I think we did a pretty good job of that.”On November 24, 2007, tragedy struck the band when rhythm guitarist and unclean vocalist

On November 24, 2007, tragedy struck the band when rhythm guitarist and unclean vocalist Casey Calvert was found dead on their tour bus. What was a time of mourning for the band eventually solidified the remaining members, but Calvert’s legacy still very much influences the bands sound and thoughts to this day.”I think that one of the things that we really sat down with after that was just to figure out where we were

“I think that one of the things that we really sat down with after that was just to figure out where we were mentally,” J.T said solemnly. “And one of the strongest things we thought we could do was stay together and continue in his honour but also continue our friendships together and not let a tragedy tear us apart. We also used it as a learning thing for our friends and fans to show how precious moments can be.”In the ultimate display of adulation, Hawthorne Heights elected to continue as a four piece rather than find a replacement for Calvert, and it was something that seemed like not just the logical thing to do, but also the right thing.

In the ultimate display of adulation, Hawthorne Heights elected to continue as a four piece rather than find a replacement for Calvert, and it was something that seemed like not just the logical thing to do, but also the right thing.”Yeah, definitely,” J.T agreed. “We’re a pretty tight knit group, and we didn’t want to… not only replace somebody but also become friends with somebody else that we didn’t know just in order to perform in a band. We didn’t want to have to do rehearsals and… just work somebody in that we didn’t need. Plus it was in our friend’s honour. We didn’t feel like it was appropriate then but you never know. We were just trying to carry on and do right by him at the time as well.”

“Yeah, definitely,” J.T agreed. “We’re a pretty tight knit group, and we didn’t want to… not only replace somebody but also become friends with somebody else that we didn’t know just in order to perform in a band. We didn’t want to have to do rehearsals and… just work somebody in that we didn’t need. Plus it was in our friend’s honour. We didn’t feel like it was appropriate then but you never know. We were just trying to carry on and do right by him at the time as well.”When Hawthorne Heights first entered the scene in 2001 the style of music they have come to be synonymous with was nowhere near at the level, it is today. They were experimenting in some respects with the clashing of vocal styles, but it was something that J.T remembers felt right at the time.

When Hawthorne Heights first entered the scene in 2001 the style of music they have come to be synonymous with was nowhere near at the level it is today. They were experimenting in some respects with the clashing of vocal styles, but it was something that J.T remembers felt right at the time.”We had all different kinds of tastes,” he explained, “but all rooted in the same types of music. Some of us really liked pop/punk, some of us really liked hardcore. Some of us really liked emo, some of us liked the classic metal style stuff so this was our way to blend everything up and put it together because at that time period there wasn’t a lot of bands that were singing and screaming with the melodies and stuff like that so we didn’t have a whole lot to base anything on as far as what we actually came out with. Now a lot of bands have done a lot of different things, and music has pushed forward, so there’s a lot of bands that scream and sing or sing and scream. Back at that time if there were a lot of them, we didn’t know about them, so that was just our way to add a bit of heaviness to our guitar based music.”

“We had all different kinds of tastes,” he explained, “but all rooted in the same types of music. Some of us really liked pop/punk, some of us really liked hardcore. Some of us really liked emo, some of us liked the classic metal style stuff, so this was our way to blend everything up and put it together. At that time period,  there wasn’t a lot of bands that were singing and screaming with the melodies and stuff like that, so we didn’t have a whole lot to base anything on as far as what we came out with. Now a lot of bands have done a lot of different things, and music has pushed forward, so there’s a lot of bands that scream and sing or sing and scream. Back at that time if there were a lot of them, we didn’t know about them, so that was just our way to add a bit of heaviness to our guitar based music.”While trying something fresh and different is always fraught with danger, J.T says the band didn’t even think about the possible pitfalls of going against the tide and were merely looking to put their own individual stamp on a scene that was crying out for change.

While trying something fresh and different is always fraught with danger, J.T says the band didn’t even think about the possible pitfalls of going against the tide and were merely looking to put their own individual stamp on a scene that was crying out for change.”We didn’t even give it any consideration that it was going to work,” he laughed. “We just wanted to put a little screaming in our music to add heaviness that we liked without being a hardcore band because none of us could really scream full time. I’ve never been able to scream, that’s not my thing. I have always been a singer, and I have always enjoyed hardcore music like that, so I guess that was our way of trying to be a heavy band. I don’t know if it worked out as being that heavy but people seem to like it.”

“We didn’t even give it any consideration that it was going to work,” he laughed. “We just wanted to put a little screaming in our music to add heaviness that we liked without being a hardcore band because none of us could really scream full time. I’ve never been able to scream, that’s not my thing. I have always been a singer, and I have always enjoyed hardcore music like that, so I guess that was our way of trying to be a heavy band. I don’t know if it worked out as being that heavy but people seem to like it.”

Written by Kris Peters

Kris has been writing freelance for about 20 years. Kris always found his taste in music a little too eclectic for the mainstream market but has found his niche writing for HEAVY. Based in Brisbane, Kris also runs a promotions company, KSP Productions.

[LIVE REVIEW + PHOTOS] STARSET and Far Away Stables at Factory Theatre, Sydney on 10/8/17

[INTERVIEW] At the Drive In