Taking 2015 to New Heights

Ashley Winward

It may been a while since you’ve thought about the band that exclaimed “Ohio is for Lovers” or blasted “Nikki FM” from your stereo. You were probably in middle school going through one of “those phases” our parents wished we would grow out of sooner rather than later. While some simply regard Hawthorne Heights as their “emo guilty pleasure” those who have stuck by the guys know that the evolution this band has made since The Silence in Black and White absolutely shatters any preconceived notions you may have from the last time you heard from them. I got the chance to chat with Matt Ridenour, bassist as well as backing vocals, and learned that Hawthorne Heights has plenty more up its sleeve in the coming year.

Hawthorne Heights celebrates ten years (Photo obtained via Facebook)
Hawthorne Heights celebrates ten years (Photo obtained via Facebook)

Probably the craziest thing about this year is simply how much they’re planning on accomplishing, starting with three touring runs now through May. They just finished a run on Motion City Soundtrack’s Commit This to Memory ten year tour, are continuing their own ten year tour for The Silence in Black and white and going on an acoustic Stripped Down to the Bone tour.

“Those are going to be two completely different shows,” Ridenour explained. “For the acoustic tour, we’re gonna be playing a lot of songs we don’t generally play, or maybe don’t work very well in electric. We’re going to be playing a lot of things people might not expect. Then the Silence in Black and White tour we’ll obviously be playing the album straight through with some songs people want to hear at the end.”

The Silence of Black and White has turned ten, their debut album that has been so iconic in their history. When asked about how these track have evolved for the band over the years, Ridenour says it’s not so much the songs as the road from there to now.

“I think the coolest thing for me that has changed over time was when we wrote that, I don’t want to say we had no idea what we were doing, but close to no idea what we were doing. We had like three or four songs when we got a record deal and then obviously they booked us studio time and said ‘Okay you need to have 11 songs done for us by this date’ and we were like okay we’re gonna do that! So we recorded, we wrote songs, in our guitar player’s mom’s basement and we hoped they were good enough….We never thought that ten years later anyone would care at all, we just wanted to go on tour and see what would happen. From that aspect I think it’s really cool in this stage of my life to play these songs that people connect to and  we had no idea any of it was gonna happen. It was all very natural and just writing songs we thought were cool and that was it. Not trying to write the next classic thing, we were just writing songs we thought were cool. It’s fun to play songs like that in 2015 where you can still remember your guitar player’s mom coming down and bringing you cookies when we were writing that. It’s just funny to think about.”

Along with that the band is in the early stages of writing an EP, full length, a YouTube cover series and a Valentine’s Day extravaganza!

“We have a new practice space, we just got it about a month ago. So we’ve been just going there and shooting ideas off of each other. We did some holiday stuff, like for Christmas we got on skype and played shows for fans. Afterwards we talked about how cool it was; in one day we played in Scotland, Germany, all over the US. We did one after the other, and it was just so cool how the internet allowed us to play so many places, from Scotland to Germany to Oklahoma, in one day. We were talking about how cool it was and how Valentine’s Day was coming up, we don’t have any shows for a little while, not until Early March. And it was just fun, the guy from Scotland had his girlfriend and their kid on with him. So we played a show for him and his girlfriend and this three year old who had no idea what was going on it was funny. So we thought it would be cool and funny to do that again for Valentine’s Day, turn the lights down low in our studio, have a candle burning, and kind of make a joke of Valentines. We wanted to present a gift that’s a lot more special than like, flowers that are going to die in a couple of days anyways that you’re gonna throw in the trash after. We’re gonna do a couple of our own songs and then one song, I want to say it’s funny, but it’s more cool, it’s kind of making fun of Valentine’s Day but I’m not gonna tell you what song it is. But it might be from the movie Top Gun.”

 

Keep reading for the full interview with Hawthorne Heights!

 

MR: Matt Ridenour

AW: Ashley Winward

 

AW: To start off, you guys have got a lot going on for 2015, especially with touring. You have Silence in Black and White’s 10 year tour, Stripped Down to the Bone, and Some dates with Motion City Soundtrack. Should fans expect three completely different shows out of these tours?

MR: Kind of? We already did the Motion City Shows and they went really really good. We just played songs people would really really want to hear. Maybe people at those shows going for Motion City, and haven’t heard from us in a while so it was more of a greatest hits set. Then we have an acoustic tour, then Silence in Black and White Tour. Those are going to be two completely different shows. For the acoustic tour we’re gonna be playing a lot of songs we don’t generally play, or maybe don’t work very well in electric. We’re going to be playing a lot of things people might not expect. Then the Silence in Black and White tour we’ll obviously be playing the album straight through with some songs people want to hear at the end.

AW: Since you mentioned Silence and Black and White, it’s been 10 years since the album came out. How do you think the record has evolved in those 10 years and have any of the meanings to the songs changed over time?

MR: I think the coolest thing for me that has changed over time was when we wrote that, I don’t want to say we had no idea what we were doing, but close to no idea what we were doing. We had like three, I don’t write the lyrics so the meanings to me are different than JT who wrote them. We had like three or four songs when we got a record deal and then obviously they booked us studio time and said “Okay you need to have 11 songs done for us by this date” and we were like okay we’re gonna do that! So we recorded, we wrote songs, in our guitar player’s mom’s basement and we hoped they were good enough. We didn’t really know how to write songs, all we did was “I like this band” so we were probably referencing bands we liked I don’t know. I mean we were kind of clueless and didn’t think it was going to become a career. We were just a bunch of kids that wanted to play guitar and a label said let’s release it! So we were ecstatic and were writing stuff we thought would be cool. We never thought that ten years later anyone would care at all, we just wanted to go on tour and see what would happen. From that aspect I think it’s really cool in this stage of my life to play these songs that people connect to and  we had no idea any of it was gonna happen. It was all very natural and just writing songs we thought were cool and that was it. Not trying to write the next classic thing, we were just writing songs we thought were cool. It’s fun to play songs like that in 2015 where you can still remember your guitar player’s mom coming down and bringing you cookies when we were writing that. It’s just funny to think about.

AW: I also saw you guys were looking to put out a third EP, in the Hate/Hope series. Is this going to be like a capstone to the first two or something completely different?

MR: Actually we were writing on that album today, I literally just got back three minutes ago from writing. So we are working on that right now, I don’t know, we’re just working on the music right now. Usually if JT has a musical idea that he has lyrics for we’ll do it that way, then kind of hear lyrics later. Right now we’re just trying to get musical ideas down so I don’t know, I know we’re working on songs that have been on previous EPs, to do part two of those, just to see how they go but we don’t know. We’ve never really done anything like that we’re just gonna see how it works, see what happens. I don’t know lyrically what it’s gonna be like, we’re in the early early stages of writing that, but we’re definitely doing it. Right now we’re working on that third EP and then a full length record so we’re just looking to write as many songs we think are really good and see where it fits later.

AW: I know the last album was more of a concept record, do you see yourselves, obviously you said you’re in the very beginning stages, but do you see yourselves going in a similar direction?

MR: That I cannot tell you, but I know how we work. I can’t tell you because I don’t know, not because I can’t tell you. But I think the concept record was very much a “Hey this is something we’ve never done before, let’s try it” because when you’ve been writing for so many years you kind of, it’s good to challenge yourself or you get stuck in this thing where you go, “Alright we have to write 11 more songs here we go.” It was just good to do that to kind of try something different and change it up, but that being said if we don’t do that we’ll be changing it up from the last one. We just try to bring something fresh and new to the table but still sound like our band. I’m gonna assume we won’t do that again because we’re not really a concept record band, or like a pink Floyd or any of those. We don’t really do that it was more of just a challenge for us the last time. I’m not ruling it out, we haven’t really talked about that lyrically, I don’t know. That’s a pretty good answer, to say I don’t know right? *laughs*

AW: With Valentines Day fast approaching, you’ve unveiled some Valentines Day packages for fans. How did this idea come up?

MR: We have a new practice space, we just got it about a month ago. So we’ve been just going there and shooting ideas off of each other. We did some holiday stuff, like for Christmas we got on skype and played shows for fans. Afterwards we talked about how cool it was, in one day we played in Scotland, Germany, all over the US. We did one after the other, and it was just so cool how the internet allowed us to play so many places, from Scotland to Germany to Oklahoma, in one day. We were talking about how cool it was and how Valentines Day was coming up, we don’t have any shows for a little while, not until Early March. And it was just fun, the guy from Scotland had his girlfriend and their kid on with him. So we played a show for him and his girlfriend and this three year old who had no idea what was going on it was funny. So we thought it would be cool and funny to do that again for Valentines Day, turn the lights down low in our studio, have a candle burning, kind of make a joke of Valentines. We wanted to present a gift that’s a lot more special than like, flowers that are gonna die in a couple of days anyways that you’re gonna throw in the trash after. We’re gonna do a couple of our own songs and then one song, I want to say it’s funny, but it’s more cool, it’s kind of making fun of Valentines Day but I’m not gonna tell you what song it is. But it might be from the movie Top Gun.

AW: I know you were just talking about interacting with your fans, over the years how has fan interaction changed, it seems like these days people want to get more and more involved in their favorite musicians lives.

MR: That is the internet’s fault I think and it’s good and bad I think. It used to be if you wanted to see your favorite band you would go to their show. Now if you want to see your favorite band you just get on their Instagram and see their house and stuff. It kind of takes the mystery out of it. It’s good and bad but our fans are really cool about it because we were really huge for a little bit. We had a lot of fans but at the time you didn’t really know who were true fans and who was just there because their friends were into it. Or they saw a commercial on TV. Now when you look out into a crowd you can say, okay I can remember half of these people and we have relationships with people, we know what’s going on in their lives. It’s really cool to have that kind of connection with people that you see only on touring cycles. You can tell at this point after years and years, I’m guilty of it too, I don’t stick with a band for years and years so I respect that people can have a commitment like that to this band that we’ve been committed to performing as for so long.

AW: One other thing I saw on Facebook was that you guys have a cover series coming our way?

MR: We have a couple of them recorded and they sound really cool! The goal for doing this, well my goal I don’t know about the other guys, at the end of the day we just picked songs that were cool. When I was thinking of songs to cover, it was more of, whether it be songs from my childhood or maybe a song from a band people have heard of but this isn’t the popular song, it was all about finding something that would work with our band. With JT’s vocals and our band in our style changing it just the slightest bit and it would sound like one of our songs. So maybe someone would listen to that and think it’s cool and then check us out or check out some of the bands that influenced us. Now we’re opening people up to a whole new genre possibly. I think that it says a lot if someone listens to our band and then listens to a cover song of a band they’ve never heard of, they really like the song, then they end up finding out about that band, then it opens them up to a new time period of music. There’s a couple of 90s songs that we did and hey we could open people up to listening to Nirvana for the first time, you never know. We’re not doing a Nirvana song but they might end up there when on their little musical path of the internet, you can get lost. It’s just so cool, someone could discover their new favorite band after they’ve been long gone, because of us. I think it’s a really cool concept and it’s something we’ve never done before. We’ve never been able to decide on a cover song that’s been the hardest thing in the world. Like we’ll all like a song and one person would say they hated it. Now we said, well how about these let’s do it. It’s also really cool to listen to other people’s music and learn it and then you figure out how they did it. Like you learn how they went into certain verses of songs and just diving into a song enough to learn the song will open you up to the song in ways you’ve never heard. When you have to listen like that, when you have to listen to the song you’ve heard a million times and learn the part it opens you up to, “Oh I never realized they did that” it’s a cool way to investigate a song that you’ve heard a bunch and look at it from a different angle.

AW: Our school has a really well known Music and Sound recording, as well as Music Industry program. If you could give one piece of advice to those trying to get into the industry, what would that be?

MR: If it’s in a band, or do something creative like that, the only advice is that if you try to sound like somebody else you’re just going to sound like a bad version of somebody else. Be what you want to do, play what you want to do. If you come off as an original it’s gonna come off as real. If you sound like somebody else everyone’s gonna know and you’re just going to sound like a shitty version of the other thing. It’s just not worth it; be yourself and do your thing. Music industry stuff, the only advice I really have is just intern, surround yourself with motivated people. I think there’s a lot of people in the industry that aren’t really motivated and bring everybody down because there are a lot of players. Everyone is supposed to fit like cogs in a wheel and someone’s trying to make their own wheel. I just think if you surround yourself with creative and motivated people, even if something goes bad you can take that as a learning process. It’s always a learning process, the music industry doesn’t work the way it is so everybody is learning at the same time. Just get in, get your hands dirty. Just know that everybody that’s doing it right now is in the same boat, there is no one formula. It’s not like if you wear these clothes you’re gonna get popular. Everyone needs to be motivated, be creative and do their own thing and see what happens. Generally originality will win, don’t expect to make a ton of money your first year out or your 20th year out!