Hawthorne Heights: After 10 years, it's fun to throw some curve balls at yourself
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Hawthorne Heights | The Garage | Tuesday, September 2
Hawthorne Heights' emo punk single "Ohio Is for Lovers" brought the band huge success, and their dark and heavy lyrics have carried them ever since. So far, the band has put out four albums, two EPs, and toured all over the world. Currently, they're celebrating the 10th anniversary of their signature album, The Silence in Black and White.
Ahead of their show this evening at The Garage, Gimme Noise caught up with bass player Matt Ridenour to talk about the album.
Gimme Noise: What was the first Hawthorne Heights show like?
Matt Ridenour: I remember it pretty clearly. We played with I believe Bayside and Glasseater even though they won't remember it. It was at a comic book store that they were playing at. This was probably 2003 maybe, 2002 and it was exactly what you would think a show at a comic book store would look like. It was pretty weird. It was in Columbus, Ohio. The band had been together before we changed the name so they'd played and I wasn't in it then but they played shows, went on tours and stuff as a band called A Day In the Life but as Hawthorne Heights that was our first show -- at a comic book store.
You guys just did The Silence In Black and White 10 year anniversary tour in Europe and a few days in the U.S. What was that experience like?
Really cool. We always like to go to Europe and its always a cool experience and a weird experience, which makes it cool. it's totally different than the U.S. You really have no idea what you're getting yourself into at all times, which is fun. When you're ten years in, it's fun to throw some curve balls at yourself. It takes you off of auto pilot, which is cool but it's been really fun to play the songs. A lot of these songs we've never played live just because when we were just starting out we were opening for bands and you only get a half hours set. Obviously you can't play a 45-minute record in a half an hour, so there are songs that have literally never seen the light of day until this. It's cool to see people, especially in Europe, who don't speak English singing the phonetics of the song. They're just singing the syllables that they hear and it's just really cool to think that something you wrote can make it overseas.
How is the tour going so far?
It's going really really great. We're out with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and that's nice and easy because we've tour with them in the past. We gave them hugs and said hey lets do it. It was very simple, so that was really good. The shows have been really good. We don't have the exact same fans but both fans are receptive and know a lot about the other band. So that makes it easy. Other than the drives being long, its a pretty simple tour because we already know them.
Are you playing songs just from The Silence In Black and White or a mix?
We're playing The Silence in Black and White front to back and then we're playing like four or five songs extra every night and that just switches. We do whatever we feel like doing. If people were going there expecting to hear just The Silence in Black and White at the end they'll get a surprise because we're playing songs that aren't on that record. It's kind of an encore. If people like our other records, it's just to give them a little piece of that as well. It changes every night. We just decide what to play right there, which is kind of fun.
Do you ever go back and look at the album or think, this is what I would change -- why would we do that?
Yeah. We recorded an acoustic version of the record. It's full band acoustic, it's not just one guy on the guitar but through that we were kind of adding things and going through this and that. Kind of changing it. More acoustic but at the same time just changing it because we wanted to do something a little different so people don't have to listen to the same record again. Through that, I do background vocals and play bass, and through that process I was adding stuff. I'm doing it live with the electric bass now because I thought it was cooler. So it's a constant change, which is nice I think. It keeps people awake. It keeps it fresh for us and people watching. There are things we would have done different and actually have implemented and actually doing stuff a little bit different on this tour.
Do you ever get sick of playing the album?
No. Even 10 years into our career this is the first time we've played some of these songs so I mean it's not like and me personally I don't listen to a lot of our music. I've probably haven't listened to the record in nine years. to me it's fresher than some of the other songs we've been playing, which is nice. Mentally it's nice to go up there and not just do muscle memory where your hands just know where to go. You actually have to think about where you're going and it's kind of cool but also at the same time people have fun while you're playing. We have to realize that when you're playing songs a thousand times there is going to be people here who have never seen us or who have maybe saw us once. To them it's a completely fresh experience so we can't let us playing these songs over and over again hinder someone having a great experience just because we're tired of playing something, you know what I mean? It does keep it fresh because we get a new crowd every night, new set of people, new stage, and new everything.
Was the reaction and attention the album received something you guys expected?
I think nobody expected anything. We had four or five songs when we got signed and then the label say you're going to the studio in three of four months and we're like alright we need five or six more songs. We're just in our guitar player's mom's basement trying to write songs. "Ohio is for Lovers" is actually the last ones we wrote. Went to the studio and didn't have lyrics for it. We made it track eight on the record, which generally people won't do if they really think it's a hit song but we didn't think it was a hit song. We just kind of put it on there. We were the amateurs that got a record deal is what happen. We were total amateurs and really had no idea about the industry. We just knew we liked playing music and we wanted to write songs we thought were cool and that's it. It wasn't some like plotted out thing. We weren't meeting with songwriters. We had a deadline when we had to go to the studio and we needed this many songs when we got there and that's what happened [laughs].
It worked out great.
Yeah, it worked out great. I can't complain. Maybe there's something to be said about having your back to the wall with a deadline and also not know what you're doing so it's like completely real. What we did was completely real. We had no help. We weren't professional songwriters. We were just a bunch of kids that wanted to travel and play guitar and that came out, which is pretty cool.
You guys played the 2013 Vans Warped Tour after six years off the tour, what differences did you notice?
Warped Tour is run is how Warped Tour is run. The way it's ran is pretty similar. Some of the differences, I don't like being negative but this is going to be negative. A lot of bands use a lot of tracks. We have some samples of stuff when we play but it's like there is a piano part and we don't want to pay a piano player so we have a little tiny 10 second piano part as a bridge and it's just sampled but there are a lot of bands where the sample is their main instrument, which is very weird. Also, another thing I noticed was a lot of bands were having their tour managers or people who work for them wait in line for them for lunch and the band can sit around and like three people would bring back 10 dinners and it's just like having a maid and we thought that was really bizarre because we just went and got our own food and always have. Those are minor things. The way the tour is run is really great. We've known everybody but the little things that we changed were maybe band mentality, I don't know. It was just a little weird.
Who are some of the bands you met?
You always become friends with the bands on your stage just because it changes every day. The schedule changes everyday so you're around random different people everyday where on a tour you're only seeing the band playing before you and after you unless you don't want to then you go watch other people. Forever the Sickest Kids met those guys, the Summer Set me them just from being on the same stage, The Wonder Years, a bunch of bands you see in the catering line that would just be funny because that's where everyone would have to go. It was just like a funny situation because you would have a line so long and would end up talking to random people that you're standing next to. We pretty much stayed to our friends. We would talk to bands that we know, which is Silverstein and all those guys and Motion City Soundtrack, people like that.
Did you find any new music?
Me, personally, not really. I listen to whatever. I will get on a tangent and just listen to hip-hop. Honestly for me personally on Warped Tour, you hear it that kind of music walking to dinner, you hear it going to the shower, you hear it so much it all kind of sounds like a refrigerator buzzing at the end of the day, you know what I mean? It's kind of like music overload. I don't want to listen to anything because I just listened to loud something for the last 12 hours everyday.
What are you listening to now?
I listen to a lot of podcasts, which is boring, I know. We drive ourselves so there is nothing better to get you through a drive than listening to that kind of stuff. Music is kind of like I've heard it before. It's good to hear other people talk because it keeps you up. It's like you have a partner in the driver's seat. I've been listening to the new Chromeo a lot, which is really good. It sounds like Billy Ocean, like it sounds happy, I don't know what. I have a Spotify, so I will randomly get something listen to it three times and then never listen to it again, which is I guess bad because of my job as a musician. I literally listen to whatever. Wiz Khalifa had a new album out so I listened to that and I hated it [laughs].
The more emo bands are becoming more above ground again, what do you think of the emo revival thing that is going on?
I personally think it's all accidental. I just think that whole genre of the few bands that are still around are just deciding to go on tour and people are saying it's something bigger than it is. A couple cool bands that have gotten back together recently like Braid and recorded a record, which is really cool and I would consider that, I'm 32, so I would consider that the original emo. The older stuff that I listened to when I was younger. I think it's just bands that are still together that were around when we were around are all on tour together because we all know each other. Maybe it's just something around that. I think it's cool. I like that era of music. I think it was real. I think that bands like Taking Back Sunday and all these bands are real bands and I'm not sure that, without being controversial, I'm not sure that happens much anymore. I think a lot of people are out there to meet girls and get paid and stuff like that. I know that for a fact that when we were coming up and Taking Back Sunday were too, I know that it was not about all that stuff. It was a real thing, which was really cool. If we are lumped into that group of people, I'm fine with it.
I grew up listening to you guys, Taking Back Sunday, and all those bands and I've heard the change in the emo/punk genre too. Has that affected the way in which you guys are making your new music?
We play what we play. Nobody in our band is like 'oh have you heard this new band with the heaviest breakdown but the prettiest chords.' We write what we write. That's it because nobody goes 'oh we should modernize by trying to sound like this band.' None of that ever happens. I think that if something does sound like something it's completely accidental because nobody listens to the heavy bands. Honestly, I couldn't tell you what's popular. I can tell you what was on Warped Tour but we're kind of far removed. We tour with the bands we tour with. I don't want to speak for everybody but I don't really get into message boards or I don't really know or care who's heavies right now [laughs]. I think we just try to sound like ourselves. Every record we try to sound like a better version of ourselves.
What's next for the band?
We're trying to go to Australia and Japan and really trying to hit South East Asia. It's still being looked on and booked. There are so many things like budget wise and time wise that we're still looking at but that's what the goal is. Hopefully that happens. We've been to Australia and Japan. It's crazy. Actually, Australia's not crazy. Japan is crazy. Australia is the most American looking place i've ever seen other than America. It's kind of a bummer. Japan is a wild card. It is interesting. I ate squid and I still remember what it felt and tasted like. It was one of the weirdest things i've ever put in my mouth. I bit into it and then it broke apart and then I chewed it and it all went back together. It felt like a pencil eraser and I just kind of was so confused and I couldn't even finish it.
Hawthorne Heights, Tuesday, September 2, 5 p.m., The Garage, Tickets
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