A Parking Lot Phone Call with Eron Bucciarelli of Hawthorne Heights
Back in April, Gaining Ground got a chance to meet and talk to Alt-Rock band Hawthorne Heights in Altoona, PA. With their new release of the “Hope” EP on indie label Cardboard Empire, we decided it would be cool to get an update on what the band was doing. We got a hold of Eron Bucciarelli to talk to us about “Hope,” the band’s current tour, and some of Hawthorne Heights’ favorite things about Alternative and Underground music in today’s scene:
Nick: With your second self-release on Cardboard Empire, how do you feel about Hope as opposed to your first release, Hate?
Eron: Musically, it’s a little bit different, but we are sort of keeping it the same with the themes which tie into the first album. The reception has been amazing. There are a lot of songs off of it that we play a lot so we are definitely happy with it.
N: As far as work on your own goes, what do you think are the biggest challenges and benefits to working on your own as opposed to working for someone like Victory or a record label of that size?
E: I’d say the biggest benefit of self-releasing music is having the liberty to do whatever you want and not having someone looking over your shoulder saying things like ‘oh, you need to change that chorus so it can be on the radio’ or whatnot. You end up with such a distorted interpretation of what you originally planned. That’s absolutely the biggest benefit, though there is the other benefit of being able to keep all the money. You also get to succeed or fail on your own merits. One of the major drawbacks is you have to succeed or fail on your own merits, so you have to spend a lot more time and money to promote your own work without a label.
N: Are there any other drawbacks to self-releasing?
E: Personally, I wish we had more of an advertising budget to play around with. Unfortunately, we don’t have the deep pockets of a larger indie label or a major label, so we have to be a little bit smarter about what we do spend money on and where we spend it. We have to be careful to make sure we get a big enough return for our investment. So, that is a pretty big drawback, I really wish we had more of a marketing budget to get the word of our new release out there. We do have a great publicist, Mike Cubillos and we try to look towards spreading the word virally and via word of mouth now.
N: You said that this second album has gotten pretty good reception— do you think your fans really back you guys on the move of self-releasing and back you on doing things your way as opposed to your major label debuts?
E: I think the fans can tell that the music is more genuine and more akin to our first release that they all fell in love with. Everyone has been overwhelmed and way supportive of what we’re doing. Honestly, our fans are kind of split; some like the poppier elements in our music and some like the heavier, screaming releases that we have done. We’re never going to appease everybody; no matter what we release half of our audience is going to hate it and half of them are going to love it.
A lot of people who have reviewed it online or on itunes are the same way, half of them are saying ‘it so amazing, it’s so much heavier than what they’ve done on their old stuff,’ and there’s the other half who like what we did on “Fragile Future” and “Skeletons”; they want more melody and want those poppier, catchier elements in the music. This new one, Hope, kind of leans more towards those poppier elements and it sort of incorporates some of the music that we listened to when we were growing up in the pop-punk and underground hardcore scenes.
N: In the past, you’ve mentioned having an issue with people pigeonholing your music as part of the emo and screamo subgenres. From listening to your newer releases, I have personally noticed that you guys cover a lot of ground musically, spanning genres. With your new releases, do you think that you guys are going to get a lot of the same treatment from reviewers?
E: I think that that’s kind of a reality that we live in and that we will always be trapped in it no matter what we do, and that’s fine. We’ll continue to spread our creative wings and that may force the listeners, the reviews to at least make an original assessment. But, if that’s what people want to describe us as, Who am I do tell people what they should think about music?
N: Going back to the release of Hope and building off of what you said about what you guys used to listen to, I do hear a lot of a pop-punk revival in what you guys are playing. Do you think that a lot of your fans get that it is kind of a revival in some aspects?
E: I don’t know, I kind of hope they do. A lot of the pop-punk revival bands we’ve had experiences with or that we run into tend to say stuff like they grew up listening to us, and it’s really cool to see things sort of come full-circle. I think it’s awesome that people are starting to get into pop-punk like that again, and not just pop-punk but hardcore as well with bands like Man Overboard, Balance and Composure and Title Fight. A lot of the newer bands have a genuine appreciation for the music of the past 20 years or more, and that’s awesome because that’s the music that we grew up listening to.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped Quicksand as an influence on me as an artist in interviews and just hoped that someone would come up to me at a show and say “you know what, man, I read that interview and I checked out Quicksand and it blew me away and I want to thank you for that suggestion.” When I started going to shows I would go to see all of the bands that were playing at that moment but I would also go back and try to find out who those bands were influenced by and pick up those albums as well. I feel like it gave me a broader appreciation or a broader scope of music then what I was getting from that one particular scene. I don’t know how many times I would buy a CD and go through the thank-you lists and just go to the record store and buy every single band listed in there. I feel like fewer bands have done that or do that still, but I really appreciated that growing up.
N: Usually when we interview bands, we like to ask if there is one thing that really drives what you guys do; whether it’s a belief in something or a way of life or just the people you see every day. What do you think really drives Hawthorne Heights to continue to play music for people?
E: I think we have a genuine desire to play music, and I think that sort of trumps all the negative experiences that we’ve gone through and endured. In addition, I really think that all the fan support and appreciation that we receive has been a huge motivating factor in us continuing on through all of this adversity. It’s a really powerful experience to play a show and have hundreds and thousands of people singing along and being moved by the music and art that you helped create. It’s a really powerful experience to say that I have had a positive impact on so many people’s lives. It’s such a huge motivator.
N: What do you guys have planned as far as the closing piece of the trilogy goes?
E: You know what, that’s still yet to be determined. We have a lot of ideas we have yet to complete for both the “Hate” and “Hope” EP’s. We have a clear starting point for the next album. That’s something we will be discussing here in the next couple months. For right now, we are totally focused on promoting “Hope” and getting the word out about it. We are on tour in the US for another three weeks. Then we go over to Japan for a week. Following that we’re going to Europe in September for about a month. Beyond that we want as many people to hear “Hope,” we want to see those faces at our live shows. When the words come out we want people to sing along and have fun.
N: One final question, the lyric video you guys released for “New Winter” is all stills and artwork from the movie Roadhouse. Is there a story behind that?
E: There’s no real story behind that other than that we think that Roadhouse is a classic movie and we think that more people should appreciate it and love it as much as we do. That was the lyric video for New Winter, we just put out another lyric video for our song “Running in Place” and that’s got some pretty ridiculous images in it as well. That was just us trying to have some fun and it’s not meant to be taken too seriously. It was just something we wanted to do for people to enjoy and laugh at while they’re learning the lyrics.