Interview: The Skeletons of Hawthorne Heights.
by Brian Willett
It’s been two years since Hawthorne Heights last released an album, and it seems as though the boys from Ohio have matured a lot in the interim. The band’s latest work, Skeletons offers a broader sound than Hawthorne Heights has displayed before. But that doesn’t mean the band has completely changed its music. Rather, Hawthorne Heights refined its signature sound, adding layers of depth and experimentation while staying true to the feel that made fans fall in love with the band originally.
Recently, Bloginity’s Brian Willett spoke with Hawthorne Heights front man JT Woodruff, who discussed the evolution of the band’s sound, the frustration of being pigeonholed into a narrow genre, and the sound of Skeletons.
Brian: A lot of critics tend to focus on overanalyzing what exact genre Hawthorne Heights falls into – what would you classify yourselves as?
JT Woodruff: I’ve never really put much stock into genres. Genres only do one thing to a band, and that is limit them. It’s hard enough to be heard these days with the flood of music on the internet, so why make it harder by putting slight classifications on it? All of the members of Hawthorne Heights typically listen to some form of rock music. I know the term rock and roll isn’t as sexy as it used to be, but those 3 words used to be enough. We are a rock and roll band.
Brian: When your band first gained popularity, a lot of your peers had a similar sound. Do you think this helped you gain a following, or made the scene too crowded and hampered success?
JTW: I really think music is just music. If it is good, people will find and it. They will hunger for it, and seek it out. If the band is real, people will sense that and stay with them. It was hard for us to have peers being from such a small market. Nobody in Dayton sounded like us…you were either pop punk, hardcore/metal, or indie rock. We like all of those types of music, so we blended them together. There is all the room in the world for good bands…bad bands break up when the going gets tough. Strong, good bands stay together. Most things tend to work themselves out, if you are patient and rational.
Brian: You recently signed to Wind-Up Records. How did that deal come about?
JTW: We wanted to stay with an indie, which is one of the great aspects about Wind Up Records.
Brian: How has the experience with Wind-Up been so far? How does it compare to that of your time with Victory?
JTW: It has been a great ride so far. Wind Up has given us all the time and resources in the world to make the album we wanted to make. We had plenty of time and got to work a lot in NYC and LA, which to me, is very inspiring. Victory is more based in the punk rock, hardcore, and metal scene where things operate a little differently.
Brian: Hawthorne Heights has managed to stay true to its core sound, while many other bands in the genre have faded out or altered their sounds. How do you stay consistent yet continually offer new, exciting music for fans?
JTW: I think we all work together to achieve our goals. We work hard to make sure that each part is exactly how we want it. One person is writing and playing every single note, so we are all involved. I think you always feel a part of something special, if you are there from beginning to end. We are confident with how we sound, or we wouldn’t perform or write what we do. It doesn’t matter how many people love it or hate it…as long as you are a believer, you are an achiever.
Brian: You mentioned that the band “tried on some new skins” and was able to grow your sound on Skeletons. How so?
JTW: We used a lot of different instruments while writing and recording skeletons. Micah learned how to play pedal steel guitar for a track.
We threw in a distorted sitar to find something off the way. We wrote this album in a lot of cool locations like a cabin in Ohio, NYC, and LA. It gave us depth and inspiration to reach as far as we could. We also spent a lot of time writing, re-writing, arranging and re-arranging, and just taking our time. This album wasn’t a shotgun wedding. It was a long courtship with these songs, and we are happier than we have ever been with an album front to back.
Brian: How has your sound evolved throughout your career?
JTW: I think we have maintained what we have always set out to do. Play music we love, and have fun writing it. Rely on our personalities to get our sound. This is who we are, and we are happy about it.
Brian: If you could describe Skeletons in one word, what would it be?
Brian: How was the writing and recording of Skeletons similar to, or different from, your previous albums?
JTW: We had more time, more stress, and more emotional turmoil than ever before. Wind Up did a great job at taking away the stress, and helping us just focus on the music. Sometimes the dark times are what you need to write about. I felt that I had a lot that I needed to say onSkeletons. I didn’t hold anything back…I just let it fly.
Brian: Do you have any favorite tracks from Skeletons?
JTW: I truly love them all, because I think they all work off one another really well. We took a lot of time developing the right group of songs.
I really like a few of the curve balls that we put on Skeletons…like “Gravestones,” “Picket Fences,” and “Drive”. There are a bunch of different feelings, and quite a few vibe changes. Get ready for a lifetime of peaks and valleys, because that is what Skeletons is to me.