This interview was conducted with Matt, Eron, and JT of Hawthorne Heights on November 18, 2005 in Atlanta, GA at the band's show at the Masquerade with Aiden, Bayside, and Silverstein.
Also, please make sure you go to the show and give your support to Anthony and Jack of Bayside. I know they appreciate every fan that comes up to them and gives them a hug; it really does mean a lot.
AP: Thank you guys so much for doing this interview; I realize you’re a very big band with a very busy schedule, and it means a lot to AP for you to sit down with us.
Matt: Oh, no problem, you’re welcome.
AP: How’s the tour been so far?
Matt: Really, really good.
Eron: Aside from the accident, it’s been amazing.
AP: I can only imagine how tough it’s been for you guys, as I know Bayside are some of your best friends; how’ve you been able to cope?
Eron: We took a couple days off from touring for everybody to gather themselves back together and so we could go pay our respects to John and his family. It was kind of weird coming back and not having Bayside play. They’re really close friends of ours and we’ve toured with them more than any other band, so to not have them out there with us was kind of hard. And then two days ago, Anthony and Jack came back, and that was pretty tough watching them the first night, just playing acoustic without the rest of the band.
AP: How long did you know Beatz?
Matt: Right when he joined the band, that’s when we toured with them, like the first or second tour, so we’ve only known that Bayside.
Eron: Well we did play our first show as Hawthorne Heights with Bayside—
Matt: And Glasseater, but with a different lineup. But yeah, basically the only thing we could do is use this tour to help them out in whatever way we could. So that’s been a good way to deal with it, and just talking to them on the phone and stuff, and we play their music in between bands every night—just like little things like that.
Eron: We try to make other people, the fans, aware of it, the ones who may not read the websites or AbsolutePunk, and try to raise money for John’s family, and his wife, and everything.
Matt: And try to get people to listen to Bayside.
AP: I think I speak for most of the music community when I say what you guys have been doing to help Bayside out has been really something special and touching for music fans to see; you sold their merchandise for them while they weren’t on the tour, you’ve collected donations, you’ve donated money yourselves. That’s really, really cool of you guys.
Matt: It’s the least we could do for them. We’re best friends with them.
AP: What would you like people to remember about Beatz?
Eron: He’s just the most positive person you’ve ever met, and just super excited to be playing in a touring band--
Matt: He’s the only person I’ve ever met in any band that watches every band every night. Cause most of us will hang out until we play or whatever, but he was out there—we were in England a month ago, and if something went wrong with Eron’s drum set, he’d run up and drum tech.
Eron: He would always watch me play, and I would always go watch him play, and we just sort of had a mutual respect for each other’s playing and everything, and it just kind of stinks.
AP: I can’t even imagine what it’d be like.
AP: So you guys just finished up recording the new CD; what was the writing/recording process for that like? I know you guys have sold around 600,000 CDs now, so did you feel the pressure when you were writing the album to come up with something that you knew millions of people would be listening to, or did it just come naturally?
Eron: I didn’t feel too much pressure, but I think there was pressure in the back of our minds; we just tried to focus on writing.
Matt: The only pressure really was time.
Eron: We were definitely on a time-crunch. We were touring so extensively this year that in between tours, when we’d get a couple weeks we had off, we’d have to be practicing and writing new material. Even though we tried to write while on tour, that never really happened.
AP: Yeah, I was going to ask if you had to do any writing on the road.
Eron: I think a little tiny bit, maybe. Matt may have come up with a couple ideas—
Matt: Yeah, like, “Here’s an idea,” but it never was a song. It was always like “Here’s a riff” or “Here’s a chorus.”
Eron: So the writing process took place over the last year in between tours, so there was kind of a rush to get everything done. Then we got back from Warped Tour, we had like three or four days off, and we started pre-production right away. And it was ridiculously hectic—we had to write a couple songs still, at that point, right before our producer flew out to Ohio to meet up with us, so we wrote a few songs at the last minute. And then while our producer was there, we had to fly off and play the Jimmy Kimmel show, and then we had to go up to Chicago, so our pre-production was choppy and we had to make the most of our time.
Matt: Recording was just five weeks, sitting in a room, staring at each other.
AP: So you guys worked with David Bendeth; what was that like working with him? How did he help out?
Eron: I thought he was really good at helping song arrangements and structures and saying like, “All right guys, I like that riff, but you only play it once during the song, so why don’t we just cut it out or add it again at the end?” We specifically told him when we went in there that we didn’t want him to write any parts, we just wanted him to help with our arrangements and basically take what we had and make it stronger. So that’s what he did.
Matt: We went with him because he doesn’t really do our type of band at all. So he brought different things to the table that we never would have thought of.
AP: Yeah, I was looking at his discography, and he’s got like Vertical Horizon—
AP: Haha yeah, and SR-71.
Matt: Yeah, the Crash Test Dummies and stuff
AP: So how much did where he’s coming from influence his input?
Matt: I think it did in terms of effects and stuff.
Eron: We definitely had to tell him, like sometimes he’d come up with an idea and we’d be like, “That’s way too nu-metal.”
Matt: For every one time we said, “That sucks,” we’d also say, “Wow, I never would have thought of that,” so it’s kind of like a give and take. But I mean, everyone in our band listens to totally different stuff, so it’s kind of good to go with somebody like that, because we’re so used to it with writing.
AP: Do you guys have any cool or horror stories from the studio?
Matt: Casey put his dick on my shoulder one time.
Eron: We’ve got it on camera, it’s pretty funny.
AP: Hahaha, for real?
Matt: Haha yeah, he put it on my shoulder and went, “Hey Matt” and I turned around, and it was right there!
Eron: But the best part is that we had a camera set up on the console, and you just see Casey, out of nowhere, just get up out of his seat—
Matt: Doesn’t say a word—
Eron: Doesn’t say a word, and just walks over to Matt, unzips his pants, and plops it on his shoulder.
AP: Hahaha, that’ll make for some interesting talk on AP.
Eron: We had that one day where we had a bunch of fans come in and do gang vocals and stuff--
Matt: That was tight
Eron: And the whole process of asking for people to come in was pretty funny too, because people would send us emails and say “Hey, I’m a classically trained singer here,” not having any clue what we were talking about. Like, “We just need you to shout, it’s not that hard.”
Matt: That was usually how we weeded out people: “I took vocal lessons for three weeks”--
Matt: Yeah, probably not gonna make it.
AP: Haha. So was there any pressure when you were recording—I don’t know what kind of environment David created—but was it ever just like “Oh shit, we’re running out of time, and a ton of people are going to hear this, I better nail this take”?
Eron: We had a little bit of a time crunch at the end, so we started doubling up on things. We had one engineer in a different booth while they were doing guitars, so they’d do all the guitars in a separate part of the studio, and they were doing vocals at the same time, so if you were listening in the big room, you might just hear half of a song, and they might say “I’m done with the guitar track,” and they’d come and bring it in, and the song would sound completely different. So we definitely did run into a little bit of a time crunch, but other than that, it wasn’t anything too bad.
Matt: I mean, we weren’t like, “Man, how many people are gonna buy this? Who’s gonna buy this? Let’s write for them.” We just wrote a CD like the way we did last time, and said, “If people like it, sweet, if people don’t, sweet.” Hopefully people do, but—
Eron: We want to like what we play, because we’re the ones that are going to be out here playing these songs for two years.
Matt: Two years, every day.
Eron: We might as well be happy with them.
AP: So are you guys going to be playing any new ones tonight?
Matt: Yeah, we’re playing like three. And the second new one we play, we played for the first time last night.
AP: How’d that go?
Matt: It went pretty good, I guess.
AP: So what can people expect from the new CD versus The Silence in Black and White?
Matt: No names of states in the songs. But yeah, I just think that there’s breakdowns, and there’s quiet parts, but the breakdowns are heavier than the last one, they’re not as stupid, and the quiet parts are quieter; we have a choir song…
Eron: We tried to take the stuff that we liked about our first CD and just expand on that, and then take the parts that we didn’t like on the last CD and either make them better, or cut them out completely. There’s a little bit less screaming on this record—
Matt: I think there’s quite a bit less.
Eron: Yeah, there is quite a bit less. I mean, the last record, our producer really wasn’t a producer and he never really said, “Hey, that doesn’t sound right there,” so what you heard is what we actually just performed—
Matt: We just sat there and were like, “Hey, do you want to scream over that part?” “Uhh, I guess.” “OK, go do it.” And that’s what it is.
Eron: So even though there were definitely instances on the last CD where I was like, “I don’t know if we should have screaming there, because it sounds a little excessive,” there was never anybody else to say, “Yeah, that doesn’t sound right there,” on the last CD, so it all just stayed. So on this CD, during the parts that don’t require screaming, there’s no screaming, but like on a breakdown or something, there’s screaming.
Matt: And on some songs, there’s no screaming at all. Because I think last time we tried to squeeze it in, like “Oh, let’s do a scream!”
Eron: There are definitely parts on our old CD where I’m like, “Man, that sounds so forced.” And it’s funny, because Casey doesn’t even scream most of those parts anyways live.
AP: Do you know what the first single from the new album will be?
Eron: It’s going to be the first song on the album actually, “This Is Who We Are.” It’s a little heavier song, kind of has a bit of a “Niki FM” vibe to it.
Matt: It’s got a breakdown in it.
Eron: Yeah, it’s got a breakdown in it.
Matt: Which I’m sure radio will like…..psyche!
Eron: Yeah, I’m guessing they’ll edit it out or something.
AP: Haha. So do you think the new CD will convert any of the haters on the message boards and stuff like that?
Eron: I don’t know. I think it’d be hilarious if it did, but I’m not holding my breath or anything.
Matt: I’ve read that stuff, and they’re like, “Your songs don’t flow well,” and all that stuff, and I’m with that, that’s fine. I agree with that to a point, but I think the songs on the new record flow really well. There’s no like “useless screaming” or whatever they say.
AP: Speaking of going online, how does it feel to go online and read so many hateful comments about your band?
Matt: Haha, what website are you talking about?
AP: I don’t know!
AP: Do you guys take those comments personally?
Eron: At first I think we were kind of bummed out because most people hadn’t heard us and they were already talking shit on us, but now it’s hilarious to go on there and read the ridiculous things people say. Like one song on our new album was actually named after a post that we saw on AbsolutePunk: it was the dumbest thing I’ve EVER read! And I was like, “Matt, you gotta check this out!”
Matt: He called me one day and was like, “Dude, you HAVE to read this!”
AP: Hahaha, “Where Can I Stab Myself in the Ears,” right?
Eron: “Where Can I Stab Myself in the Ears?” and the next reply was, "In the ears?” Like, the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. So it was just like, yeah, we gotta make that a song title. So whoever that was, thank you.
Matt: So we got a little bit of AbsolutePunk on our record; we got a shout out for you.
AP: Hahaha, right on.
AP: Have you been able to filter out any of the negativity in the criticism and use that as a stepping stone to become a better band, be it musically, lyrically, vocally, just in general? Do you take it to heart?
Eron: No, no. A lot of the things people were saying were already things we knew we had to get better at anyways. It wasn’t like these people were telling us something completely revolutionary.
Matt: It’s like telling R. Kelly that his “Trapped in the Closet” is ridiculous and him saying, “No it’s not, it’s changing the world!” Like, we’re not like that. I don’t think we’re changing the world by any means, and I don’t think we think that. We take criticism as its supposed to be taken I guess.
Eron: It’s funny when people criticize JT’s lyrics and stuff, because on that first album, he literally wrote those while he was in the vocal booth, because it was such a rush job. I mean, he knew they weren’t his best lyrics.
Matt: We got signed, and then we were in the studio in three weeks, quit our jobs to write, and we had no money, we were trying to practice 8 hours a day, and we don’t know what the fuck we sound like.
Eron: Yeah, we had five songs when we got signed.
Matt: So we were trying to create a sound on the fly, and then we got to the studio and half the songs weren’t even close. “Ohio Is For Lovers” is one of the songs he wrote the lyrics for in the studio.
Eron: We didn’t even think that song was going to be a single originally.
AP: Going back to song titles, some readers were wondering what some of them mean. I think around the end, there’s a track called “We’re So Last Year”; people were just wondering if there were any interesting song titles you wanted to talk about?
Matt: Well, “We’re So Last Year” is kind of satirical.
Eron: You see a lot of bands, and you listen to them one year, and they’re gone the next.
Matt: Well, one week even.
Eron: You never know. This industry is so fickle, and a band that might be the hot band at the moment today, next week, nobody gives a shit about em, or when their new album comes out, it totally flops. So who knows, our next album, even though we sold 600,000 copies of this one, our next album could be a total flop and we could just be “so last year.”
Matt: Also, just wondering, where did you get that tracklisting?
AP: Umm, it was posted on AP a couple days ago I think.
Matt: Because we just called. And gave a tracklisting today.
AP: Haha, really? That’s kind of weird.
Eron: The tracklisting on there is totally not accurate.
Matt: The song titles are good.
Eron: The song titles are right, but the tracklisting is totally off. “December” is totally not going to be the 2nd song, because it’s an acoustic song. We got a kick out of it, because we were looking at it—
Matt: And we were like, “WE haven’t even decided the tracklisting yet!”
Eron: As we were talking to our producer about what order to put things in, it was like, “Wait, what the fuck?”
AP: So I’m guessing you guys read all the drama about JT and his guitar pick [which read “JT Hates AP.net”]. People kinda want to know about all that. I personally think it’s really funny.
Matt: Hahaha, yeah yeah. He was just being funny. We were all trying to figure out what to do with our picks, because its fun to have a specialized pick. Like, I have “Waz up?” on the back of mine just because it’s stupid. So he was just trying to be funny, kind of on a limb. No harm, no foul.
AP: Haha, cool.
AP: Has being successfuly changed the way you think about the industry or just anything in general?
Matt: I now think the music industry is fucking ridiculous.
Eron: Once you learn more about the industry, you definitely learn how seedy and two-face people can be.
Matt: Like, you can be the best band. EVER. I Am the Avalance—I’ll drop that, and not sell many records, and your guarantee’s gonna be $40 bucks, but if you’re the WORST band ever--I’m not going to name any names--but if you sell a bunch of CDs, then your guarantee is sooo high. It has nothing to do with how many kids you draw, has nothing to do with anything—just that number. I’ll definitely say I Am the Avalanche is way better than they’re getting credit for.
AP: I’m guessing you guys get recognized pretty easily now; how does that feel?
Matt: If we’re in a group, with our laminates, like, walking into Hot Topic, then somebody will say something, but if we’re at home, just doing nothing, or at Chipotle or something, then nobody cares. So it’s not bad at all, and even if it were, then that’s cool, we’d deal with it.
AP: So after being so successful on Victory, would you guys ever see the need to move to a major?
Eron: It’s pointless, really, for a band in this genre to move to a major if they’re on a label like Victory. Because Victory knows exactly how to promote bands of this genre—
Matt: They have the same distribution as a major label—
Eron: So your record is going to be everywhere, Victory knows exactly how to promote—they’re very aggressive with their promotions, obviously—and the money they spend on their promotions is far less than what any major would spend.
AP: So does that mean you don’t have to recoup as many costs?
Eron: We won’t have to recoup as many costs as you would if you were on a major. Story of the Year’s still probably recouping from their first CD, and they’ve probably sold 900,000 copies of that one.
Matt: And also I know that one of my friends back home before I was even in this band, they signed to a major, and their album came out in December, and their marketing date was set in April. And they got dropped in February. So it’s like, “OK, you didn’t market us at all, you expect us to sell CDs?”
AP: I guess Victory proves that you don’t need to be on a major to have your videos all over TV and stuff.
Matt: Yeah, you really don’t. I mean, if people want to hear it, and they can find it, that’s pretty much all we need.
AP: How does it feel to see yourselves on TV and hear your songs on the radio and stuff?
Eron: It’s kind of weird. It was weirder at first, but it’s still weird just to think that you’re on TV, or if I look in a magazine and I see a picture of me in an ad for Pro-Mark sticks or something, it’s weird to think that my picture there is helping this company sell sticks.
Matt: It’s not as weird on tour, but when I’m sitting at home with my cat, I’m like, “What the fuck?!”
AP: This is a funny one, but a lot of people were wondering about the lyrics in the chorus of “Ohio Is For Lovers” (“Cut my wrists and black my eyes”), and how you might reconcile that with being on the Take Action tour, an anti-suicide tour.
Eron: So people actually think that it’s pro-suicide? Do you think Romeo and Juliet is pro-suicide? I’m not comparing JT's lyrics to Shakespeare or anything, but Romeo and Juliet—nobody ever says, “Oh that book is pro-suicide.”
Matt: I think it’s a metaphor for something—I mean, it’d be a question to ask him, but I think it’s a metaphor for something.
Eron: You know, the way you feel in a relationship if things are going bad, I guess.
Matt: The song’s about being away from home, obviously it’s Ohio, it’s just like starting out this new career and we had no idea where it was going to go at all, and just like, we all had girlfriends, and we’re like, “OK we’re going to leave and not make money for a really long time. Have fun sitting by yourself sitting at home, and…sorry.”
AP: Yeah, a lot of people were just curious about that, so I felt the need to ask it.
Matt: Yeah, I’m sure it was just a metaphor for feeling like shit when you’re gone, not making any money, not having anything to show—like, our first tour, we played to 30 people in 3 weeks, total.
AP: Yeah, I saw some interview with you guys where you said you’d only play to like 15 people on your first tours.
Matt: Without a doubt. We’d drive 12 hours to play for 5 people.
Eron: Actually, it was pretty funny because we booked our own first tour once we got out of the studio, and every night there were like 100 people there, and then the next tour we did was the first tour we were on that a booking agent played for us, and there were literally like five people there.
Matt: They paid, in Birmingham, Alabama—they paid someone $5 to come to our show, and they were the only person there. So we’re just like, “OK, lets fucking practice for this dude!” We’ll try to do our best.
AP: I saw Days Like These a few days ago, and there were like 5 people there, and I felt awful for the band.
Matt: Yeah, it’s awful, but you just gotta suck it up and put on a show.
AP: It’s just a shitty feeling to see a band drive so far and play in front of so few people.
Eron: There was definitely one show on that tour where we drove 11 hours up to Alston at the ICC church, and there were seriously five people there. And the promoter’s like, “Well, the show yesterday was completely sold out!”
Matt: He was like, “You guys might not want even want to play. I would suggest you not even going down there.” And were like, “Not play? We just drove 12 hours! We don’t care if nobody’s there, we’re playing.” So yeah, I just think it’s a metaphor for feeling like shit because we knew that’s gonna happen.
JT enters the room
Matt: Tell him what “Cut my wrists and black my eyes” means. I said it was a metaphor for feeling like shit when you’re gone.
JT: Exactly, there you go. It’s not a metaphor for really cutting your wrists and blacking your eyes, like a lot of people like to think.
AP: Yeah, a lot of people were asking about that, just because of being on the Take Action tour.
JT: I would definitely understand somebody asking that question if, like—I don’t know, when you read stuff like that, it’s like, “Name me one pro-suicide band ever.” Name me one band that’s like, “Oh what kind of music are you guys?” “Oh we’re like a screamo/emo band” “How about you guys?” “Suicide-core.”
AP: Haha, yeah, I mean I don’t agree with those people, a lot of people were just asking.
AP: Someone said that MTV censored out “Cut my wrists and black my eyes”—
Matt: Not when I sing the echo of it though! Haha
AP: Haha, how do you guys feel about it being censored out?
JT: It’s like it doesn’t matter; they kind of pick and choose what they want to do. They’ve got consultants that just tell them what to do. The week our video aired was also the week that Britney Spears’ video where she’s actually cutting her wrists and laying in a bathtub full of blood aired. Like, ours is a metaphor, but she’s showing 14 year old girls that her life is so hard that she’s cutting her wrists. It’s no different than saying “bitch” or something like that.
AP: Did they ask about it before they censored it out?
JT: No they told us, they were like, “We’re probably going to have to do an edit on that,” and were like, “OK.”
AP: Cool, so you guys are going on tour with Fall Out Boy and the All-American Rejects; how’d that happen?
Eron: Fall Out Boy wanted to tour with us for a while—
JT: Yeah, like, we’re pretty good friends with those guys. They’re great guys. Out of all the bands you see huge success happening to, no other band deserves it more than them—
Matt: Them and My Chem[ical Romance]
JT: Because they’ve all been doing this longer than we have, like 2 years longer than we have. One of our first shows right before we became Hawthorne Heights was with Fall Out Boy in a comic book store. So a lot of people think it’s overnight success, but we’ve all been busting our butt to no people before this.
AP: They seem like really humble, really nice guys from what I’ve seen about them online.
JT: They’ve never had anything bad to say about anybody when we’ve been around them.
Matt: They’ve definitely worked their ass off to be on the cover of SPIN this month. They’ve done their shit.
JT: They’re really humble—
Eron: Especially Andy—
JT: They’re not like changing music, but who is? Like, you don’t have to change music to sell a lot of CDs and have people like listening to what you play.
AP: There was a recent post on AP about Coheed & Cambria’s rider, and someone was wondering if you had any crazy or fun things on your rider?
Matt: I definitely saw it on there, and nothing was really crazy on it I thought.
Eron: We’ve got peanut butter Oreos, we’ve got mint Oreos, and regular Oreos on our rider.
Matt: Vitamin water—no alcohol.
JT: We’ll never take full advantage of what we could get on a rider, or anything—
Matt: Chips, salsa.
JT: If we have a lot of Oreos left over--because we really like Oreos--we’ll tell our tour manager “We have enough Oreos today, you can cut the Oreos off.”
Matt: Like, we’ve got enough Red Bull for a long time, so we’ve cut it. It’s gone.
Eron: Yeah, we’re not asking for an alligator or something stupid like that.
AP: So what do you guys do in between towns, like on the bus and once you’re in town?
Eron: Not much. We’ll have a couple hours to walk around and get some food or something.
JT: Like today, for example, like when you go to a town you’ve been to a couple times, or the same venue, today we knew there was a Chipotle right over there, we knew there was a Borders, we got a smoothie, and that’s pretty much it. Like, we always have the local places we’re going to go every time.
Eron: Every place you go, you know exactly what’s around it.
JT: We’re pretty boring, we do the same thing every time. We watch movies when the bus is moving, or make fun of each other, or give each other ass-hats, haha.
AP: Could you take the readers through the typical day of a Hawthorne Heights member?
Matt: Do you want a day in New York or LA, or a regular day?
AP: How about one normal day, and then one NY/LA day.
Eron: Well we got here, and we hung out for a little while, a couple of us went to go eat and walk around for a little bit, came back, soundchecked, after soundcheck we had a photo shoot to do, so we did that, came on here [the bus] and everybody probably just went and did whatever—played football, or watched The Warriors, and you came and we’re doing an interview, and then we’ll do some more of just nothing, and then play.
JT: We pretty much just hang out with each other or one of our friends in the crew. We’ll just say, “Hey, where do you want to go?”
Eron: We do about five pounds of coke every day.
AP: What do you do on a busy day in like LA?
Eron: It’s like interview after interview after interview, photoshoot, soundcheck, interview, show.
JT: If we’re in New York or LA, Eron will go with one group of PR people, I will go with the other group of other PR people, and--
Matt: And the rest of us do shit
Eron: Like when we were in London, we did like 2 interviews and a photoshoot, and then a soundcheck, and then had 3 other photoshoots.
Matt: It was like a workstation—we went here and did an interview, walked over here and did an interview—
JT: It was like a job fair, haha.
Matt: It was hilarious.
Eron: It was like 7 o’clock at night before I even got a chance to eat, because we were that busy during the day that there wasn’t enough time in the day to just stop and get something.
Matt: JT and I ran to a McDonald’s really quick and got something to eat and just ran to the venue.
JT: Those days you never have a second to just sit and do something, or if you’re sick, it’s real bad because the second you think you’re going to be able to take a nap or just lay down, and it’s like “Alright, well you gotta go do this now.” You look like crap, and you feel like crap…
AP: Do you get sick of that, or do you enjoy doing that because it’ll help the band?
Eron: We don’t have that too frequently, it’s really only the bigger cities.
Matt: Yeah, it’s only 2 or 3 days on the tour.
JT: We always think about it like, you have to appreciate your surroundings, and I would rather have 15 people talk to me a day than nobody talk to me. So you just have to take everything in stride, you can’t be too worried about things.
Eron: It’s not like a bad problem to have. Really, it’s only New York, LA, and Chicago where you’re super busy.
JT: And you know what’s gonna happen, it’s not sprung on you. It’s like, “New York’s next, clear the day.”
Eron: Forget it, I’m not going to have any time to see anything, because we’re going to be busy—I don’t know what yet, but we’re going to have something.
AP: What’s it like in Ohio? What’s the scene like there? Any favorite bands?
Matt: Hit the Lights.
Eron: Hit the Lights.
AP: Yeah, I can’t stop listening to their EP.
JT: That’s one thing that’s weird about AbsolutePunk—we’ve helped em out a lot. People will be like “Oh, Hit the Lights, we partied with them last night, they’re reinventing the wheel.” But for some reason, our band has the worst lyrics, the worst parts, the worst—everybody definitely picks their favorite bands, and we understand that and everything, but when we’re friends with all the bands that they’re choosing over us, and all these bands actually like us and they’ll be on record and say they like us, it’s a little weird.
AP: I think a little bit of it has to do with the size of bands—Hit the Lights is a really small band right now, so I think people think they’ve got a connection to them, but I can guarantee you that if Hit the Lights gets half as popular as Simple Plan is, people will be jumping on the hate bandwagon. I’m not gonna hate them for it, but I know other people will.
Matt: I used to do that—when Blink 182 signed to a major, I was like, “Fuck that band!” I listened to Enema of the State three days ago, it’s so good. It’s ridiculous. That punk rock mentality is going to be in like everybody’s heads for the rest of our lives.
Eron: I was a freshman in high school, and I went to my first hardcore show, and after that, I literally went home, grabbed all my Nirvana and Pearl Jam CDs, and went to the local record store and sold them because they were on a major label.
AP: Yeah, I mean, you guys are really successful, so I think that has a lot to do with some of the comments you get on AP. Like, everyone was digging Fall Out Boy 2 years ago when Take This To Your Grave came out, and they were still underground, but now people hate them because they’re popular.
Matt: And that’s the thing—their new album is retarded good. There’s no way anybody can be like, “It sucks! They suck now!” It’s just really good Fall Out Boy.
Eron: I think they found their sound finally. Their last album to me sounded a lot like Saves the Day, and this new one sounds like Fall Out Boy.
JT: The only post that will frustrate us—like, we don’t ever get mad if someone says our band sucks, like “OK, they don’t like our band.” I don’t like a lot of bands. I like a lot of bands. But, posts like, “Man, I was on Fall Out Boy’s fan club’s site, and they’re selling their shirts for $20.” These people just don’t realize why they’re $20. Like, when your manager gets 15%, your agent gets 15%, your merch store gets 15%, they’re selling them—
Eron: They’re making a buck.
JT: They’re selling them for $20 to get it to regular show price, you know like with shipping and everything. It’s frustrating when people are uneducated on the industry—and like, we were totally too. I’m not faulting them for not knowing friends in bands that are in that position.
Eron: I think it’s fucked up when people wish harm on you. They don’t like your music, so they’re like, “I wish they’d fucking die.” Especially given current circumstances. I just think it’s totally fucked up. There was definitely a picture from our first tour with Silverstein, Micah hit his head with his own guitar, and there was just blood dripping off his face, and somebody posted it and was like, “I wish he bled to death.”
Matt: It’s your fault!
AP: Haha, I don’t approve.
Matt: I’m joking, haha.
JT: It seems like it’s always the same 10 people saying the same thing. For the most part, the people on that site have great opinions and they have fine things to say whether it’s about our band or any band. They really do. “I like this band for this reason…” or “I don’t like this band for this reason…”
Eron: When there’s a post about us, you can guarantee that the same 30 people will be posting in that thread.
AP: It’s always the most negative people who are the most vocal.
Matt: Yeah, it’s like that with anything.
AP: Jason ran a search in people’s profiles for people who had you listed in favorite bands, and there was a damn good amount.
Eron: They’re gonna lose a lot of scene points.
AP: Haha, we actually got rid of those.
Eron: Yeah, I saw that.
AP: It was just a total joke.
Eron: I thought it was hilarious.
AP: People were scared of saying things in fear of having their scene points taking away.
AP: What do you guys think you’d be doing if you weren’t musicians?
Eron: I’d be working some desk job. I was working at Time Warner cable before I did this—
JT: Given their present situation though, you’d’ve been be canned.
Eron: Well yeah, I definitely would’ve. Funny story—we got signed, and then I found out, since I’m down with my boss, that I was going to get laid off a month or two after anyways. So I was like, “Awesome, I’m going to have my severance pay while I’m out there making no money.” Our guitar tech right now, his dad works at Time Warner, and he’s like a VP, and our guitar tech told his dad that we got signed, and that I was planning on quitting, so his dad told the president, so they just let me quit, so I wasn’t gonna get any money.
AP: Aw, I’m sorry.
JT: I would have finished my degree in education. Casey would’ve probably hopefully had finished his degree. Matt probably would’ve dropped in and out of college ten times since then, back in and out of each semester.
Eron: Micah might be engineering or something.
JT: Yeah, he’d probably be doing something in a studio some place. But yeah, we’d probably all be doing some form of music. Obviously, we’re older, so we’ve been doing this a long time anyway.
Eron: My whole goal in working with Time Warner was to work my way into their music group, cause I’ve been playing in bands since I was 13 and started playing drums, and music has always been a huge part of my life. So I graduated college and I kind of gave up on being in a band, so I thought I’d maybe just work in the industry or something. And that was my plan too after, in case I ever made it in a band.
AP: Oh yeah, JT, since we’ve got you here, I gotta ask about the guitar pick thing.
JT: It was totally an inside joke, like tongue-in-cheek funny. It was totally like, “Hey, you know what would be funny?” and they were giving us free picks, so I just did it. And I think at that point they said something personally, I can’t remember what it was, but it was like, “This band sucks, they can’t play their instruments” blah blah blah, and it was like, alright, well if I’m vocal about me not liking the site, let’s see what happens. All hell breaks loose. So apparently if I’m vocal about not liking the site—
AP: Nah, we don’t care. We thought it was funny, haha.
JT: Yeah, it’s funny.
Eron: I thought it was hilarious when you guys first posted it and someone was like, “Oh you mean this pick?” and it they posted a picture of a pick from eBay that just had a bunch of people’s signatures, and people were like, “What’s so offensive about those signatures?”
Matt: By the way, this is totally off-subject, but I was in the room when Eron recorded his drums for our first CD, and I’ve seen people on their say, “He didn’t record them! Sean O’Keefe recorded them!” I watched him play them.
Eron: The best was when they said Caleb, our old manger, played the drums on them.
Matt: And Casey’s scream is definitely real, that’s how he screams. I don’t know how a computer can scream.
Eron: I can understand how people can sometimes think—like, because everything was so Pro-Tooled on our first record—Sean took everything and lined up guitars, drums, bass, everything, and even vocals, he’d make sure JT was saying words exactly on time, and if you listen to it, it doesn’t sound natural, it sounds so mechanical. And our new producer, he didn’t quantize my drums at all. If I had one bass drum hit out of beat, he’d slide it over just a little bit, and everything’s way more natural.
JT: That was our first recording experience, so you can imagine, let’s say, if you’re favorite band is the Foo Fighters or something, you can imagine in a huge studio what they do to make them sound like gold. But with like a $15,000 budget, there’s not much you can do.
AP: I was just thinking—people probably know you read the site sometimes—
JT: Oh, I do every day.
AP: And maybe they say things just to piss you off.
Eron: Most of the time it’s funny.
JT: Honest to god, we are laughing the whole time, just like you probably are.
Eron: I shit my pants when somebody was like, “Caleb played drums on the album.” We were like, what are they reaching for right now?
JT: He wears sandals with socks on!
Eron: And we haven’t mentioned his name in a year and a half.
JT: I would go on there right now—I don’t even know how to navigate the internet very well, like I don’t know how to sign up to be an AbsolutePunk member or anything like that—I could probably figure it out—but I definitely go on there, read, figure out what’s going on with my band at the time—
AP: Yeah, we figured out your tracklisting for you—
JT: Not that it would matter, but that couldn’t be more opposite than what our actual tracklisting is. I mean, obviously they haven’t heard the songs, and just know the names of the songs, but the one that was #2, was the acoustic song, and that’s the one that would be dead ass last.
Matt: It’s a good way to keep up—I’ll read something about some band, and be like “What the—Hopesfall! What happened?” and I’ll call Josh and be like, “What happened? Your gear got stolen!” I find shit out on there all the time.
JT: Out of the information sites, it’s one of the better ones. Like all the information, except for the silly stuff, I think it’s very good for the most part. I don’t ever believe anybody breaking up or things like that, but announced tours and things like that—
Matt: Cartel’s good!
AP: Cartel is good.
Matt: Cartel is really good, I’ll tell you that.
JT: We’ve definitely found some good bands from that site. Some of our friend’s bands that we’ve known for 15 years are on that site. And one of the funny things is that it is young readers, and we get asked the same questions too—it’s like, “Man, Cartel, how come you don’t ever see them on TRL?” Just because you love a band doesn’t mean that everybody loves a band. It doesn’t mean the band’s not good—
Matt: It could have something not to do with the band at all—the record label not having good distribution, or something.
AP: Plus, the thing about Cartel, is that they sound like they’re a huge band, and I think that sometimes confuses people.
JT: I agree. That band is getting screwed right now. They could be like, I wouldn’t say as big as Fall Out Boy, because Fall Out Boy is having something special happening right now, but they could be like a gold record band, or a 250,000 band.
Eron: Once they get through The Militia Group, I think they’ll be good to go.
Matt: The thing kids don’t see, is that Cartel, if they do that, and they have the same amazing songs, like really catchy and are really good, but say the label doesn’t promote them very good. That could fuck them just as much.
JT: Say they don’t get on the right tours.
Matt: It could have absolutely nothing to do with the band, and they’d still get fucked. I’d say its 10% what the band sounds like.
JT: Case in point, Bayside. Like, we’re all really partial to Bayside because they’re our friends, but I really do think they’re a great band, and they’re around that same level and should be higher. They’re on the same label as we’re on, you know?
AP: It just doesn’t make sense how some bands get huge and others don’t.
JT: It’s one of those things—like, for some reason, everyone grabbed a hold of My Chemical Romance at that time, or Fall Out Boy at this time, and like, The Killers—my mom probably still buys 5 Killers CDs a week or something. They’re still selling like 35,000 a week somehow.
AP: Green Day is still selling like 40,000 a week. It’s amazing.
Matt: It’s like, who the fuck’s still buying it?
JT: I think that they’re buying em. Because in rock n roll, there’s not that many people who can keep buying it.
AP: Like, how did 40,000 people just wake up this week and say, “Oh! I’m gonna go buy the new Green Day!”
JT: It’s like, “Oh, fuck, what’s that fucking band called? Green Day! What’s their new CD sound like?”
Matt: Fall Out Boy—42,000. Who’s buying that that hasn’t already bought it?
JT: The good thing about them is that they’re out of the scene, they’re on MTV, and that’s who’s buying their CD. All of us that like Fall Out Boy from previous efforts still have it, still like it, but now they’re going to people who like Ashlee Simpson, and are like “Oh man, these guys are cute and write good songs.” They’ve always been cute and always written good songs, but now they have that special thing happening.
AP: What do you guys listen to for fun and inspiration?
JT: For fun, our merch guy has a shit ton of ska records, like Goldfinger and stuff like that, stuff you listened to when you were in 8th grade and stuff. It’s fun to bring back those memories, like the first time you went to shows and stuff like that.
Matt: I’ve got 12 NOFX albums on my iPod.
JT: We all listen to some of the most stereotypical, punk rock, emo, screamo, indie rock, hardcore, but we also listen to—
Eron: Did you get the sneetches tattoo?
Casey: I got the sneetches.
Eron: Oh my god.
Matt: Casey just got a Dr. Seuss tattoo!
Casey: There’s a few sad ones, and there are the ones that are happy.
Eron: You were asking what we do in our time between playing and stuff? Casey gets bored and goes and gets tattoos.
Casey: I’m done after this. I knew that the sneetches would be the final piece to the puzzle.
Matt: But yeah, I made a “get pumped” playlist last night, and Samiam’s on it, Rock From the Crypt’s on it. I listen to a lot of quiet stuff—Eisley’s really good.
Eron: For fun, I’ll go back and listen to all the old-school hardcore shit I grew up listening to, because I think it’s hilarious, going back and listening to it now. You’re just like, “Wow, why was I so into this?”
JT: It meant something special to you at the time.
AP: Did any of those CDs you inspire you when you were writing the new CD?
JT: For the most part, when I’m writing lyrics and stuff like that, I try to listen to nothing, so that way you don’t rip anything off. Because when you get stuff in your head, you don’t know that you’re doing that. We had some stuff in mind, like, “Let’s make some parts heavier,” or something like that, but we try to not to listen to stuff in our scene, and try to think outside the box to other stuff that we listen to.
Matt: At the same time, our band is so diverse in terms of what people listen to—say I come up with something that sounds exactly like an Underoath song, dead on, I’ll bring it to practice and it’ll get twisted and screwed around with so much that it’ll come out sounding nothing like anything, so I don’t think it matters that much anyways.
Eron: There have definitely been times when Casey brought a riff in where we were like, “Dude, that’s an Underoath song,” and then we’d start messing with it and changing it around and it doesn’t sound anything like that.
Matt: Even if I went and learned a part from a band like us, and brought it to practice, it’d get twisted so many ways it wouldn’t sound anything like us.
JT: As far as melody, I’ll always start listening to The Beatles or Elliott Smith or The Beach Boys or something like that, because those people will show you how shitty you sing. Cause they’re not using anything—just one mic in front of them and they’re singing, and they wrote some of the best melodies that have ever been written in pop music, so you just listen to them and you’re like, “Why can’t I write like that?” but you try your best.
AP: Any albums of the year?
JT: I really like the new Death Cab for Cutie album. As far as pop rock albums, Fall Out Boy’s new album’s gotta be up there, for sure.
Matt: The Go Team.
AP: What one Hawthorne Heights song would you want people to hear—is there any song that represents you best?
Matt: Well we have one song called “This Is Who We Are,” haha.
JT: That’s one of our newer songs, and that’s kind of why we had that title. It’s got a lot of the heavy stuff we like, it’s got a lot of the soft stuff, it’s got a little bit of screaming—it represents a really good roundness of our band. It’s not one of the poppier songs, it’s not one of the heavier songs, it’s right in the middle of the road.
AP: What advice do you have for younger bands that are trying to make it?
Eron: Learn as much as you can about the music industry, because you can use that to your advantage in how you promote yourself, and you’ll find that you’ll get way farther if you know how to promote yourself.
Matt: And also, if you’re making a press kit to send out to labels, and you have the best song ever written in the history of human beings, but it’s in a yellow envelope and a blank CD with your name written on it, they’re probably not going to listen to it.
Eron: Yeah, they’re probably not going to listen to it. GetSigned.com is like the best resource ever for a band starting off, because I went on there, read how to make a press kit, and—
Matt: If you make something flashy, and not ordinary, the odds of getting listened to are way better.
JT: When you’re writing a song, or when you’re in practice and are like, “We have something really special,” you need to make something really special to carry that in.
Matt: Yeah, as stupid as that sounds.
JT: Yeah, it does matter.
Eron: If your goal is to be in a band on a label and play music for your life, then you have to know how to sell yourself to a label. You have to prove to the label that you can sell records, because that’s all they really care about. You need to present all sorts of different things, your website hits, your MP3 downloads, the shows you’ve played, and all this stuff that you’ve done on your own, so that they know when they start putting money behind you, what you’ve done on your own will just grow exponentially.
Matt: Work as hard as your label.
JT: You have to let them know, that, “If you sign us, that’s great, but if not, we’re gonna keep doing this because we believe in it.”
Eron: And once you sign, that doesn’t mean you can stop working. It means you have to work harder.
JT: A lot of bands are like, “Alright, we’re signed, we’ll let them do all the work.” And they don’t get any bigger. When we got signed, we all quit our jobs, and we all lived off like $10 a week, and we busted our ass. We were always calling people, we were always emailing people, like, “Hey, this our band, we just signed to this, how can we help you out, how can you help us out?” Just making as many contacts as we can.
Eron: And try to write the best songs you possibly can too. Because if you have all this marketing behind you, it doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have songs. You also have to try to tour as much as you can on your own.
JT: It’s really no rush. We found that we wrote the best songs when we just decided, “Let’s not play any shows, let’s sit in our basement, let’s all write together, and let’s all do exactly what we want to do” instead of, “We want to hurry up and play our first show, so let’s write, we gotta have 6 or 7 songs.” We had 2 or 3 songs for the first 4 months of our band or something, and all we did was come and practice them, and we kept recording them and recording them because we have a rig in Micah’s basement, and just got them to sound better and better, and just got better at what we did. You really do have to define what it is that you all want to do, what your band wants to sounds like. If somebody wants to sound like Green Day, and somebody Danzig, then you gotta figure out a way to make it work together.
AP: How many MySpace friend add requests do you get per day?
Eron: It’s probably at least 1,000 people a day. We have I think over 220,000 friends, it may be more. I haven’t been on there in a while. We have a friend who helps to just add people for us.
Matt: We don’t have internet access sometimes at clubs, so it’ll all stack up and we’ll have—
Eron: Yeah, sometimes we’ll go in there and there’s like 600 pages of friends to add.
JT: Yeah, it’s really overwhelming, but it’s overwhelming in a good way, because it’s like, “Man, this many people sought out Hawthorne Heights” and want to know what’s going on with us.
Eron: We still post everything that comes out of there, like all the messages and stuff.
Matt: And like the Bayside thing, we just typed something up, hit send, and it goes to 300,000 people.
Eron: I can’t tell you how many people responded to that on our MySpace page.
Matt: And it’s easier than posting it on your website and hoping people find it.
JT: A lot of people are so fanatical about MySpace, they go in there like 5-10 times a day to see if they have new messages, and when a tragedy like that happens, it’s such a good way to help out.
AP: So, any crazy tour stories? Craziest fan you’ve had?
Eron: In Nashville, we had some wacky fans. When we were on the Take Action tour, they parked their car in front of the bus so the bus couldn’t move, and we literally signed 20 things for this girl. You’d sign something, and then she’d ask if you’d signed all these different items, and she’d pull them out, and you’re like, “Yeah, I signed that right there.” “Are you sure? Are you sure?” “Yes, you have everybody, trust me.” “Are you sure?” And then five minutes later she’d come back and ask you to sign stuff again, and you’re like “Hmm.”
JT: Very creepy. Most people are like really cool, and since we’re normal looking people, we don’t draw a ‘kooky’ crowd or anything. Some people will bring us cookies or draw pictures or things. But yeah, there was this one other fan. We walk out to Warped Tour in the morning one day, it was 11 o’clock or something like that, and the doors had just opened, so we were walking around just seeing what’s going on, and some girl has all my tattoos drawn all over her arm. Like, a pretty good, accurate drawing too, which is weird, because we hadn’t been around the area, and no one had ever said, “Hey, can I take a picture of all the tattoos on your arm?” And this girl definitely had some way of seeing all my tattoos and drawing them with pastels or something.
AP: Oh, gotcha, so she didn’t actually get the tattoos.
JT: No no no, I’d probably be in my bunk forever if that were true.
AP: Well that about wraps it up. Thank you guys for spending your valuable time with us. I know you guys are a big band and don’t have to talk to small people such as myself.
JT: That’s the point. We’re small people in a band that is semi-successful.
AP: Well I really do appreciate it. You could be dicks very easily, but you’re not.
JT: The thing is, the people that are dicks in bands are dicks anyways. If their band gets huge or if their band’s small, they’re just not cool, nice people. For the most part, if people start to see a little bit of success, it doesn’t change the person, they were just always mean and appreciative. We try to do everything we can for anybody. If we can help someone out, we want to help them out. We might not write the absolute best songs in the world, or the most groundbreaking material, but we at least try to be regular dudes.
Eron: Oh you can tell people about this. This is one of my cymbals I broke, and we had Silverstein sign it, we signed it, Underoath was in town one day and they signed it, and we’re gonna auction it off and give it to John.
AP: Anything you’d like to say to the readers, whom you love so much, haha, at AbsolutePunk?
JT: Hopefully this interview answers questions people wanted to hear—
Matt: To answer why we suck so bad—
Eron: It’s all the drugs, man.
JT: I don’t know, I don’t think you can answer a question on how you suck so bad, because really, it’s all opinion. How is my opinion right and how is your opinion wrong? To clear up any rumors, we don’t hate AbsolutePunk.
Matt: We read it every day.
JT: And we read it every day, and if anybody has any questions, we will obviously answer anything they have to say.
AP: Awesome, well thank you so much, and best of luck with the rest of the tour and the new record.
"AP: Jason ran a search in people’s profiles for people who had you listed in favorite bands, and there was a damn good amount.
Eron: They’re gonna lose a lot of scene points."
That part made me laugh.
if people would just put the music aside, I don't think anyone would have anything negative to say about them.
They all seem pretty decent.
& the level of help they're giving Bayside is crazy. I have to respect them for that
i cant wait till there new cd drops i remember buying the cd the first day it came out and thinking 'ive never listened to this band but just spent like 15$ on it' n then listening 2 it like 3 days straight
I think it was cool they acknowledged all the forced parts on their record. It almost seems as if they feel the same way the haters do about their record. They obviously aren't upset about it, they just realized it and moved on. I thought that was cool.
they seem like a really good group of guys. i saw them once and they were good live. i like how they are gonna cut the screaming down because in my opinion it will make them sound even better. good interview