Hawthorne Heights hit the mainstream in 2004 with the captivating “Ohio is for Lovers” (a song that nearly made our Favorite 30 Songs of the 2000s list.) Three years later the band tragically lost guitarist Casey Calvert, the man behind its screaming vocals, but since then the group has rebounded to record two albums, including Skeletons, which was released on Wind-up Records earlier this month.
Hawthorne Heights will be playing at Mr. Small’s with Bayside this Friday, June 25. Bassist Matt Ridenour gave us a call to discuss the band’s new album, working with Howard Benson, and Matt’s pro-Justin Bieber stance.
Your new album Skeletons seems to be getting pretty decent reviews. Do you believe this is the band’s best work?
Yeah, we’re really happy with it. We spent the most time we’ve ever spent on a record. We went to New York City with guys from the label and basically demoed the whole album before we recorded it. It was a really good run-through. It’s the most thought-out record we’ve ever done.
You’re one of a number of bands that have gone through a battle with a record label. What’s your take on record labels in general? Do you think they are necessary in the digital era?
I think they are necessary in a way. For a band like us and most bands that don’t have the money to get on radio – I don’t know all the logistics, but I know there’s money behind that stuff – you have to go that way. Now if you’re a band like Nine Inch Nails eventually you can overcome that because you’re so big and your fan base is so loyal you can pretty much do whatever you want.
It’s like managers and everything else. It’s one of those things you have to have. If you don’t, you won’t get opportunities that other bands will get. There’s good and bad about all of it.
After Casey died you guys said there would not be another screamer in the band, but on the new album your guitarist Micah takes over that role. What led you to that decision?
After Casey passed we didn’t have any screaming. If the fans wanted to scream they could do it themselves. And then Micah just decided, ‘I could probably do this.’ We told him to do whatever he felt comfortable doing.
After we played so many shows, he got better and better. Not everybody can really do that kind of thing. We didn’t want to pin it on him, but he said he could do it. It was a pretty natural progression.
Skeletons was produced by Howard Benson. I just talked to Good Charlotte and they were pretty much disgusted by their experience with Howard. They said he was rarely in the room and didn’t seem very committed to the project. What was your experience with him in the studio?
I thought it was a good experience. He admitted, "I don’t really do guitars. I have really good people that I’ve hired to do guitars, but I do vocals." I think he did a great job with JT with the vocals. He passed along the stuff that he was weaker on to other people that were strong in those areas.
We dealt with a lot of different people so we got a lot of different inputs, including our own. I thought it was actually a neat process how you can get so many people on the same project and come out with one final product.
Video: Hawthorne Heights - "Nervous Breakdown"
Do you have a favorite of the new songs?
I like “Drive” the best. I like that it starts out electronic and I like how the chorus comes in. Micah wrote that song strictly electronic, no guitars, and then we decided one day to try putting guitars on it. We mixed the two. The process gave me a better connection with the song. We put a lot of time into that song with no pre-conceived notions, and I thought the end-product was pretty cool.
In a recent interview your drummer Eron said you’re a fan of Justin Bieber. Is that something you’ll admit to?
I totally admit to that. I like pop music a lot. I understand its place and I think he’s got songs. Whether he wrote them or not, some of his songs are really catchy. Will I like it in three years? Probably not. (laughs)
Finally, on the upcoming tour you’ll be on the road with Bayside. What is touring with them like?
Awesome. We’ve toured with them a bunch in the past. I’ve seen Bayside more than any band in my entire life. When they’re in town, if we’re home I still go see them. They’re good friends of ours and we’ve been through a lot with them.
It’s gonna be really exciting. We haven’t played with them for a couple years so it will be fun to hang out with them.
Hawthorne Heights, Bayside and Spontaneo perform on Friday, June 25 at Mr. Small’s in Millvale. Fine the band online at http://www.hawthorneheights.com/.