Hawthorne Heights: Q & A

Ohio band Hawthorne Heights started rising up the charts in 2004 with a sound that has been labeled alternative rock, pop punk, and emo. Three studio albums, two major record labels, and one significant personal loss later, Hawthorne Heights is determined to do music their way by fostering an evolving sound on their own label. The band is kicking off their Summer of Hope tour to promote Hope, the second in a trilogy of self-released EPs and it’s a record that they can say they bled for… literally.

Inked Magazine: How’s the Summer of Hope tour going so far?

Hawthorne Heights: So far so good. We’ve already played 3 shows, so we’re just getting going. We still have another 35 to go or something like that. The shows have been fun so far and I think they’re going to get better as we go along. I know we’re going to be playing a lot of places that we typically do really well in. It should be a lot of fun.

Inked: What can we expect from your new EP coming out, Hope?

HH: The new EP is very energetic. Much more of a positive message behind a lot of the songs, more so than our last album, which was entitled Hate, sort of a three part trilogy of albums that we’re releasing and they’re all sort of tied together. So this one is sort of the opposite of all the songs on Hate, which were darker and angrier. This one’s a lot more fun and upbeat. Happy, I guess.

Inked: That’s a really cool idea, having the two EPs release one after the other basically in opposition to each other. How’d you guys come up with the idea for this trilogy?

HH: We were sitting around with it and we’ve always wanted to sort of stretch our creative ways a little bit more than we’ve been able to when we’ve been on a record label. We also feel that the idea of releasing songs in album format with 14 or more songs is kind of an antiquated way of releasing music. People want music a lot more rapidly these days and kids are only going to listen to a few songs on the album anyways before they just delete it or move on to the next album. So for us, there really wasn’t much sense in releasing or writing and recording and spending all this time and money and effort in writing 13 or 14 songs only to never play most of them live and for most people to never bother listening to them. So it made more sense to release more albums in a shorter amount of time. At the same point, it gave us the creative freedom to evolve more rapidly and try different things.

Inked: Do you have a favorite song off Hope?

HH: My favorite is a song called “Stranded.” It’s kind of 90’s grunge-sounding. It’s got a Soundgarden vibe to it, maybe a Nirvana vibe a little bit. It’s really fun. It was just an example of us sort of just stretching our creative wings a little bit.

Inked: What can we expect from the third in the trilogy? You already handled Hate and Hope—what’s left?

HH: We’re not divulging any of that information yet. We want to keep it a secret, keep people guessing. It’s pretty amusing for us to see people posting their guesses as far as what the new album is going to be called, what it’s going to sound like. I like that there is some kind of suspense. You don’t really have that kind of drama anymore in music. Everybody puts downloads of their song in studio, tracking, videos…There’s no build up. We just want to be able to surprise people.

Inked: The band parted with Wind Up Records a little ago and now you’re part of your own label–Cardboard Empire…How’s that been, working for yourself?

HH: So far so good. It’s kind of liberating to be your own boss, to be able to just do what you want. We’re the ones that get to call the shots. We can do a lot more things if we want. If we want to release 8 songs and then release another 8 songs 6 months later, we can do that. If we want to release an album on vinyl, we can do that. It’s refreshing. It’s liberating.

Inked: You guys have been through a lot, especially in 2007 with the death of Casey [Calvert]. How have you changed in the last couple years in terms of how you have worked together as a band and in terms of how your sound has progressed?

HH: I think as far as the band goes, it sort of brought us all closer together. Inevitably, when any kind of life event happens to you, it makes you realize what is really important in life and brings people together. That absolutely happened for us. Not only did we have to deal with the loss of our guitar player, but at the same time we were dealing with multiple lawsuits with our record label. It was sort of a nightmare at the time for us. The only thing that really got us through was just writing music and playing shows, and that was the only thing that a lawyer or a label couldn’t take away from us.

Inked: Let’s talk about the album artwork for Hope. You guys were literally bleeding for that. Where’d you get that idea from?

HH: It was an idea that J.T. our singer talked about with Mike [Ski]. Mike had been doing his “death kites,” basically where he tattoos something on you without any ink, and it’s sort of symbolic of capturing the essence or the meaning that the thing you’re tattooing on you really becomes a part of you. I guess we were talking to each other and came up with this concept of actually tattooing our artwork on us.

Inked: Did all of you do it?

HH: J.T. and Matt did it, and actually we had our merch guy. He had to endure some of the pain. I wasn’t there. Otherwise, I definitely would’ve. I have other tattoos, so that wouldn’t have been anything for me to do. But they did it. Our merch guy actually passed out. Mike had to tattoo it in a fashion that is not typical for tattoos. You go a lot slower, you have to make sure the ink stays in. Well he had to go super fast, super deep, and go over there multiple times in order to draw the blood and not allow the wound to heal so they could put gauze over it and get the pattern for the artwork. So it was probably a lot more painful than a typical tattoo would be. And they all did it on their thighs, which is a pretty painful spot anyway.

Inked: Wow. That’s dedication.

HH: Yeah.

Inked: Do you guys think you would do that again in the future for more artwork?

HH: I don’t know. I have no idea what will come up as far as the art concept goes for the next album or a future album. We don’t like to do the same thing twice, so probably not, but you never know.

Hope is available on Amazon and iTunes now. Physical copies are exclusively available at the Hawthorne Heights web store.

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