Hawthorne Heights

BravoArtist presents...

Hawthorne Heights


Fri · June 7, 2019

7:00 pm


This event is all ages

Hawthorne Heights
Hawthorne Heights
Remember when today's middle-aged working stiffs were once young Generation X-types who were wearing ironic T-shirts reading "FREAK" or "LOSER," words that mirrored their grunge-centric ennui? Then there was one band who made that pervading nihilism even more stylish by rocking black shirts with the word "zero" in silver glitter. But while the z-word has the capacity to taint test scores, bank balances and attempts at self-actualization in ways no other common integer can, it does represent more positive ideals. Consider the terminology used by project managers to herald the beginning of a big project: Year Zero. What's the numerical equivalent used when someone uses the metaphor of "hitting the reset button" on their lives and/or careers? That's right: zero.

For the members of Hawthorne Heights, the word (or number) isn't the providence of losers, nor a bastion of stylish disconnection. Zero, the fifth album from the Dayton, Ohio, outfit, represents a positively incandescent future. Now aligning themselves with Red River Entertainment, Hawthorne Heights—singer/guitarist JT Woodruff, guitarists Micah Carli and Mark McMillion, bassist Matt Ridenour and drummer Eron Bucciarelli—are rising above their post-hardcore roots in ambitious measures. Overseen by producer Brian Virtue, Zero marks a wider breadth of the band's capacity to create compelling work, regardless of the social implications found in certain music subcultures. (Translation: Team HH tossed the punk-rock rulebook into a wood chipper.)

"When people hear Zero, they're going to be hearing a new band," Eron Bucciarelli beams. "What we're trying to accomplish is to reinvent ourselves and not be so attached to our history. I think there are elements of Zero that pay homage to Hawthorne Heights' past, that we should by no means attempt to ignore. To a certain degree, we are the same people that wrote The Silence In Black And White. We're just older now."

While many of the participants in America's post-hardcore sweepstakes have toiled in the underground with a mere modicum of success (if any), Hawthorne Heights achieved much in their 12-year existence. Since their inception in 2001, the band made heads swivel with their brand of melodic post-hardcore heightened by the interplay between frontman Woodruff's "clean vocal" and the late rhythm guitarist Casey Calvert's screaming. Their 2004 debut, The Silence In Black And White was not only a benchmark for the band (the release was certified gold-status), but also for the attendant "screamo" aesthetic both critics and fans credit the group with bringing into the forefront. 2006's If Only You Were Lonely repeated gold-selling success for the band, further establishing them as a dynamic live act.

"I think for a lot of people, Hawthorne Heights were that bridge band that got people into more commercial acts like Green Day and Blink-182 to transition into more underground music," Bucciarelli opines. "For one reason or another, we were people's first introduction to screaming in music. So for better or worse, that's one of the main things people think about our band. Maybe our contribution to the larger canon of underground rock is to be a segue into that underground world."

After the untimely passing of Calvert in 2007, Hawthorne Heights carried on as a quartet, issuing two more full-length albums, Fragile Future (2008) and Skeletons (2010). But after extricating themselves from their last label deal, the band returned to the roll-up-your-sleeves, DIY aesthetic that got them on the post-hardcore radar all those years ago, recording, distributing and marketing two EPs Hate and Hope. "When we made those EPs," Bucciarelli begins, "we had a chip on our shoulder. But all the while that we were angry, we still had a lot of confidence in ourselves and our ability to make music our fans wanted to hear. We were definitely a lot more optimistic for the future."

In addition to marking a significant growth in the band's artistry, Zero also represents the culmination of how Hawthorne Heights conduct themselves as a unit. Knowing full well that today's bands are businesses through and through, each member was assigned a certain aspect of the band's affairs, from recording and mixing, booking tours, merchandising and promotion. After playing with the band live for three years, longtime friend of the band Mark McMillion would become an official member. ("It made sense to have him with us," figures Bucciarelli. "He's a great guitarist, he can sing, and it's nice to have another set of ears in the studio.") The band decided that the follow-up release to their two EPs would be conceptual, with a story arc. "We wanted to make a grand album, something we've never done in our entire career," says the drummer. "We focused on what songs would work toward supporting the story line, as opposed to front-loading the album with all the 'best' songs first. At first, there was some hesitation in the studio. 'This is kinda weird.' 'Is this possible?' We all came together and assured ourselves that we just had to commit to it in order to make it happen."

The backdrop of Zero takes place in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future where a totalitarian government (the Coalition Of Alternate Living Methods, aka CALM) systematically drugs the populace in order to keep them docile. The central protagonist awakes one morning to find his whole life completely decimated, as if he was dropped into the middle of a desolate vista of scorched earth and wasteland. The hero has to battle the government—as well as the constant barrage of memories that haunt him—in order to find answers. While the song-cycle format is an interesting departure for Hawthorne Heights, the songs are still vibrant, even when dissected from the greater concept. Tracks like "Memories Of Misery," "Darkside," "Golden Parachutes" and "Anywhere But Here," contain equal measures of pop sensibility, as well as lyrical heft. But there are also touching and unnerving moments at play: The acoustic melancholy of "Hollow Hearts Unite" is a mix of altruist sentiment and helplessness colliding. The title track sports Woodruff's wounded vocal and a guitar solo that wouldn't sound out of place on a David Gilmour album. "Lost In The Calm" is a deathbed spectator trying to cope, set to a rapid beat that mirrors the song's urgency. When you consider the current controversy surrounding the activities of corporations intersecting with government (stick "Monsanto" or "fracking" in your search engine of choice and see what happens) futures, Zero doesn't sound like contrived fiction. In his role as both recording artist and doting father, Bucciarelli genuinely worries about these constructs.

"Some of the themes [found on Zero] factor into my daily thought processes of things, moments like, 'Should I give my daughter this kind of food to eat,' and on top of that thinking, 'What can we do to stop this from happening?' it's kind of scary to most people, and that's why a lot of these ideas have been branded as conspiracy theory—nobody wants to acknowledge it in a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil kind of thing. If some listeners associate some of the themes from this record to real-life situations and it opens their minds up, I think that's definitely a good thing."

It's also a good thing that Hawthorne Heights are still out there. As one of the founding names in the foundation of post-hardcore/contemporary punk, the quintet are reinvigorated and ready to go where their new vision will take them, from the stage of this year's Warped Tour to the rest of the world. It might sound like a self-deprecating quip, but the truth has a much greater resonance: The sum total of Hawthorne Heights' parts equals Zero. And it's far more valuable than mindless slacker nostalgia.
First appearances can be quite deceiving, like the ethereal synths that introduce "The Cheval Glass"—opening track on Emery's We Do What Want. After these initial few moments of calming serenity, listeners are rocketed onto a jarring collision course with some of the most pummeling music the band has ever recorded, quickly turning into a white-knuckle thrill ride destined to have fans holding on tight. It doesn't let up much from there.

Before closing with two quiet stunners, We Do What We Want pulls no sonic punches for most of its first eight cuts, and it's hardly an accident; from its very inception, the record was intended to provide a level of aural devastation that the veteran post-hardcore outfit, now five full-lengths into their career, have explored in the past, but never realized to this extent. With a separate acoustic release also planned for the near future, Emery opted to make their latest as face-melting as possible, and they've certainly succeeded.

"The overall vibe of the album is heavy, heavy, heavy. That's what we were going for; we wanted to see how far we could take it," says vocalist/guitarist Toby Morrell. "We wanted to make this album the heaviest thing we had ever done, and I think we accomplished it."

Emery—which currently also includes lead guitarist Matt Carter, keyboardist Josh Head and drummer Dave Powell—made their full-length debut on Tooth & Nail Records in 2004 with The Weak's End, followed by 2005's The Question. The band's ever-building momentum continued in 2007 with I'm Only A Man and 2008 with the When Broken Hearts Prevail EP, leading up to the group's monumental 2009 release ...In Shallow Seas We Sail, which captured a creative zenith for Emery that fans and critics still savor. After its release Emery toured extensively, with Underoath and August Burns Red on a fall/winter tour, before embarking on the "Scream it Like You Mean it" tour in the summer of 2010 with Silverstein, Ivoryline, Dance Gavin Dance, We Came As Romans, Sky Eats Airplane and I Set My Friends On Fire.

But as the band began work on their next effort, the seeds of change took root. Vocalist, rhythm guitarist and bassist Devin Shelton chose to take an indefinite hiatus, putting the vocal and lyrical responsibilities solely on the shoulders of Morrell, who rose to the challenge. Having completed the scorching music first, when the time came to pen words Morrell found himself in a much more pensive, ideological place than in previous sessions, and the tone of the tracks prompted a hard look inward. Other personal factors, like Morrell's burgeoning maturity and his recently becoming a father, all play a hand in the album's underlying message.

"Lyrically I think this is our most personal, spiritual album. It talks about our faith and God, but it never gets too preachy, because it's basically talking about me and things I've gone through," shares Morrell. "I can't not tell the truth of who I am, and this time I explored that even further—just points in my life, or in the other guys' lives. Some lyrics are about challenging authority and God, and is God real, and what that even means."

Morrell says the concept behind the title of the record is the notion of humans determining their own path out of free will, rather than adhering to a lifestyle dictated by God. In an age where many individuals become increasingly cynical, it is tempting to become one's own lord; more often than not, it is indeed human nature to "do what we want.

"This is the most I've ever explored being god of your own life—the idea that if you're not worshipping God, what are you doing? Because that would mean you are the god of your life, and you want to do it your own way," explains Morrell. "Because at the end of the day, no matter what anybody tells you, you do what you think's best. It's a lot easier to be in control than not."

That message is painfully driven home in the track "You Wanted It," where the tortured protagonist realizes the extent of his failures, only to have God remind him that it was all his own doing. "I'm yelling at God, who's saying, 'This is what you wanted, and you're unhappy with this as well," says Morrell. "'You were unhappy with me, and when you got what you wanted, it was never fulfilling. It came along with you being in control of your life, and left you here alone.'"

Morrell also explores the dark side of gender roles and male-female relations with "Daddy's Little Peach," which begins which misleadingly soft keyboards, over which a fictitious lady-player woos his prey with the cunning of a silver-tongued predator, turning explosive later in the song as the intended victim attempts to reconcile her conflicted identity as a daughter and single woman. The song paints a thought-provoking picture rarely explored in contemporary music.

"That song is probably the darkest, toughest one to listen to. It's basically about a guy going out one night and trying to hook up with a girl, and being totally callous and uncaring," says Morrell. "Then the chorus is from the perspective of the girl, going 'Man, my parents always loved me and tried to protect me, but I don't know what person I am, because my parents want me this way and guys only accept me this way.' It's the idea of a girl trying to figure out who she is, and realizing she is worth more than the curves of her body."

An unquestioned milestone comes four tracks into We Do What We Want, with the haunting "The Curse Of Perfect Days," a song destined to become a fan favorite and live staple. Morrell's sober, melancholy opening lines betray the deep personal significance of his words, before erupting with incendiary drum blasts and walls of shuddering overdriven guitars. The song captures all of the elements of Emery, from the fragile and beautiful to the epic and sonically thundering.

"That song's about dreams I sometimes have about my wife dying," says Morrell. "When I was younger and didn't have a family, I feel like death never even affected me, but now there's this under-the-surface anxiety, like if I were to die, what would I leave behind? And if she were to pass away, what would that mean for me? Would I go off the deep end, or would I be able to handle it and still try to be the best father I could be? I've been so blessed in my life, that sometimes things are so perfect that I don't know what would happen if something changed."

With a full slate of touring already planned for the spring, including a special run of shows in Australia and at this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, Emery intend to take We Do What We Want's bombastic tones to fans everywhere. The group's planned acoustic release is still tentatively forthcoming, and may even include some contributions by Shelton, but for now Emery's plans are focused solely on making eardrums bleed. Don't say you weren't forewarned.

"Although it's our heaviest album, there's still tons of singing, pretty melodies and choruses, so I think fans will know that this is a really good collection of what Emery can do," says Morrell. "I think we captured that on our last album [...In Shallow Seas We Sail], and this one is kind of the same thing. But this time, you'll bang your head more than with any other Emery album."
Venue Information:
Skully's Music Diner
1151 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio, 43201