SUB. CONTINUATION: HAWTHORNE HEIGHTS SHARE THE FULL STORY ON LABELS, LOST MOMENTUM AND WARPED TOUR

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Substream Music Press: You guys released your second EP Hope a few months back. This is part two in a three part EP trilogy, the first EP being called Hate. You’ve said the third EP is still untitled but what is HH trying to say with these three releases?

Eron Bucciarelli: I don’t want to give anything away about the third EP, so I’ll tell you what the first two albums were about and let the reader make their own guesses and inferences on the subject matter for the third album.  Hate was about letting out all of the frustrations and anger that built up inside us over the last few years from dealing with the death of our best friend to all of the lawsuits and ultimately bankruptcy.  Hope is about trying to stay positive through adversity and not letting the negative experiences in your life consume you.

SMP: HH seems like a perfect band to have been on Warped this past summer, since it was a tour made up primarily of your peer class who were breaking around the same time as you. Was a headlining tour more of a priority at this summer?

EB: We would have much rather preferred to be a part of Warped Tour as opposed to headlining.  Headlining is very tough when you’re competing with Warped Tour.  We normally try to avoid touring in the US during the summer because of this.  If it were solely our decision, we would have done Warped, but alas, its Kevin Lyman’s decision. (This interview was conducted in late 2012. Hawthorne Heights have since been confirmed to play Warped 2013)

SMP: When we spoke in Portland in late June, you mentioned that you feel like you may have lost some credibility in your career along the way. Can you explain why you think fans may have dropped off?

EB: I may have misspoken when we talked.  I don’t think we’ve lost credibility at all.  We’ve certainly lost mainstream media attention and we severely lack the marketing dollars we once had behind us which enabled us to maintain a much higher level of success.  We still have a substantial following (nearly 500k on Facebook for example and hundreds of thousands of plays on Spotify).  Has our ability to draw thousands of people diminished over the last few years? Absolutely.  Some of that is due to people’s musical tastes changing as they grow up and some of that is due to not having a label drop millions of dollars in promotion on our releases and tours.

SMP: Walk me through briefly the band’s mindset from say the second album to when you maybe felt like the momentum had slowed? Were there significant signs?

EB: During the summer of 2006 we committed to filing a lawsuit against Victory Records.  That fall we headlined the Nintendo Fusion, which was by far our biggest headlining tour we had done.  Some nights were over 5000 people.  If Only You Were Lonely came out six months prior to the tour and had sold nearly 500k copies.  It was on-track to surpass sales of Silence In Black And White in half the time.  We were flying high and momentum was building rapidly.  We rode that success through Warped Tour 2007.  It really wasn’t until after Casey passed away that fall and we were consumed with grief and legal bullshit that we even noticed any type of slowing in momentum.  It was like being hit by a brick wall.  When we started playing shows again after Fragile Future came out, it wasn’t the same from a performance standpoint and crowd size standpoint.  I feel the biggest reason for that was not being heavily advertised for nearly a year and a half.  That’s a lifetime for a band to be out of the ADHD generation’s eye.  We released Fragile Future in 2008, but Victory wasn’t really invested in promoting it as heavily as our past two releases because it was our last for the label.  We signed to Wind Up and sat without promotion for another two years as we wrote Skeletons, all the while our management told us that those two years wouldn’t matter once Wind Up started their promotional machine.  We knew we were losing momentum, but our hands were tied and that made it all that more excruciating.

SMP: How do you feel HH has stayed relevant to their fans and to the music scene as a whole?

EB: I don’t think you can try to stay relevant.  In fact, when you try, ironically it has the opposite effect in my experience.  We’ve tried to get back to writing music from the heart, the way we want and without outside influences.  I think fans realize what we do is genuine and not some sort of gimmick designed to cash in for a moment in time.   That fact has kept us relevant.

SMP: Obviously, you had your struggles with Victory Records back in the day as well. That was a huge story at the time. Looking back now, seeing where your band is today, have your views changed at all on that situation?

EB: As time passed and we grew up, our perspective on our legal issues with Victory has certainly changed.  Looking back, some of the issues we had with Victory were childish.  Without getting into specifics, our new perspective doesn’t change everything about that situation.  We learned a great deal from that experience, enough to say that we would have never engaged in a lawsuit had we known then what we know now.  Lawsuits are wars of attrition.  You win by wearing your opponent down, not by being right.  The notion that our courts are set up to attain justice is a misnomer.  You can prove just about any position if you have the time and money.   Those resources are in limited supply if you’re a band.   We were childish to think we could assert ourselves in court.  Furthermore, we had issues with Tony in the same way a teenager has issues with their parents.  We were acting out and being defiant.  We should have sought an amicable outcome PRIOR to filing a lawsuit.  That was our biggest mistake.

SMP: It’s pretty rare to see a band with your career, hits, solid records and nonstop touring quit the label game and go completely DIY. How has this decision benefitted the band both as a business and as individual musicians? What hardships have been the most difficult to adjust to?  

EB: Over the course of our career, we’ve soaked up every piece of music industry knowledge we could, both good and bad.  When it came time for us to make the decision to re-sign versus go it alone, we weighed the pros and cons and felt we could do better on our own as opposed to re-signing into a particular situation we felt wasn’t going to do anything for our career.  We’re not opposed to being on a label at all.  We simply felt doing things ourselves was better at the time than the alternative.  From a creative standpoint it was been re-invigorating.  We have a newfound sense of joy while writing and recording.  From a business standpoint, we can do whatever it is WE want and we don’t have to wait two weeks for a label to answer our question and inevitably tell us no, for no other reason than someone else has never done what we’re attempting to do and therefore makes it too risky for them.  If we want to co-release a vinyl version of our album with another label or write a 100+ page book about the writing process to include in our pre-sales, we can do it and make it happen more efficiently than most labels out there.  The one and only hardship has been not having a substantial marketing budget to effectively promote our releases as our first two albums were promoted.

SMP: You mentioned some plans you may have for next year and even into 2014. When you do feel discouraged by the size of crowds or people not being aware that you’ve put a new record out, what keeps you moving forward?

EB: If a particular show tanks, I try to find out why so we can avoid that from happening in the future.  Sometimes “promoters” simply don’t promote…which sounds odd given their title, but you’d be surprised at how many “promoters” are simply talent buyers and all aspects of promotion and advertising are lost on them.  Sometimes there’s a mitigating factor beyond our control, in which case that show was doomed from the start.  Sometimes it’s our fault for not doing everything on our end.  No matter how big your tour is or how much promotion you have, sometimes you have bad shows.  There are always a few duds on EVERY tour.  For example, on Nintendo Fusion, we did 2-3,000 people on average, 5,000 people in Denver and maybe 300 in Seattle.  We’ve come to accept this phenomenon.  We still get stopped on the street in Tokyo for pictures or recognized by our waiter at Denny’s in Ft Lauderdale.  We still have a massive following and understand that there is a difference between people knowing us and knowing of our show that night.  The only way to maximize the amount of people at a show and minimize the amount of people who miss our show that know (and like) our band in that given market is through sheer marketing dollars.  We have years of poor advertising to overcome and we only have ourselves to blame for that.

SMP: The new EP is solid and we’re looking forward to the next. Any plans you can speak on beyond that next release?

EB: We’re going to continue to release music beyond the third EP, but I simply don’t know what format that will take at the moment.  Besides music, we’re putting an emphasis on touring abroad; hitting places we haven’t been in years or have never been.

Interview by Jameson Ketchum