An Interview with Hawthorne Heights

Posted by on Feb 5, 2009 in Music | 6 comments

Hawthorne Heights probably has nothing left to prove in the music industry. They already have a platinum record under their belt, and a rabid and loyal fan base. But legal problems with their record label, a changing economy, and the ‘what have you done for me lately’ mentality of the fans has Hawthorne Heights chomping at the bit to get back out doing what they do best, playing rock music. After recently changing record labels, the band is ready to go with a new outlook, a batch of new songs, and the do it yourself attitude that made them popular in the first place.

After spending several years on Chicago’s Victory Records, including recording their platinum debut record ‘The Silence in Black and White’ with local producers Sean O’Keefe and Dan Duzyinski, Hawthorne Heights is very familiar to those in Chicago.

Review Chicago’s Shawn Kellner recently chatted with lead singer JT Woodruff about the future of the band and what we can expect from this Dayton, Ohio outfit. (Shawn is now the founder and editor of Chicago Music Magazine)

Congratulations on signing to Wind-Up Records.  How does it feel to be entering a new family of bands and continuing on with your career?

Thank You.  It’s awesome. It’s always good to have a change of scenery. We remember all the things in the past that we have been through and are thankful to the people we have worked with.  We are now gearing up for the future.  There are new challenges. This is a different family and we are excited to be a part of it.  Wind-Up has an incredible track record. It is an amazing label.  The staff has been there for a decade. That is very important to us.  It is incredibly important Hawthorne Heights, any band for that matter, to establish and carry a personal connection with the people at their label. We like the diversity of the artists signed to Wind-up.  No band on Wind-up sounds like Hawthorne Heights. That is extremely important to us. We are going to have a push here because we do what we do. Everything is new and exciting again.  We are ready to meet new people and continue on this journey that has taken us so many places.

Why Wind-Up Records? What do they bring to the table that made you guys know it was the right place for Hawthorn Heights to continue your career?

It’s definitely because of their stability. It was obvious during the negotiation process that Wind-Up has the right people in place. They have the same people in place that have been working together at Wind-up for a decade.  Working with the same people over time creates a confidence in the rapport between everyone involved in running both a band and a label. For us, that is exactly what we were looking for.  A label and a band feed off each other in a creative industry like this. We are excited to know that the people that were with us on the day that we signed this contract will be the same people that will be working with us during the recording process and throughout the release process for our album.   It is not fair to the artists involved when the staff at a label is constantly changing.   For us it came down to a simple fact about Wind-up records and their staff,They love music as much as we do.

How is the new record coming along? What should we expect on this record compared to your previous releases?

The new songs are coming out great. We are at a studio in New York City in Time Square working on demos. We are working together as a band and with our new A and R guy, Who is really cool.  We are busting through the songs and are excited to be getting ready to record a new record.  It inspires us to be able to take the time to make little changes and to be able to concentrate on the little things that make a song great.  When we are ready to go in the studio we will have the confidence to make a great record. The fans shouldn’t expect any incredibly drastic changes to who we are.  We will not be wearing neon shirts singing about partying. We have not done that before and we don’t do it now.  We have nothing against the bands that do that. Some of them do it quite well actually. It’s the fact that it doesn’t represent who we are, and this record will represent who we are now and who we always have been. This will be a cd full of lost music.  It will have some heavy shit. We are a darker band.  The record will, like our other releases, carry a message of hope.  Our country is in a huge transitional period right now .Thankfully, we have Barack Obama in office as our president.  We are going to try a bunch of different things. We do not want to ride the same plane all the time.  You may hear stuff that you think is a little out there however this will be a rock and roll record.  It will sound like Hawthorne Heights. We are going to release the best rock record that we can release.

As a band you have always been extremely dedicated to touring and have you have gone into things with a grass roots approach. Will that continue to be the plan for the band as you transition from Victory Records to Wind-Up records?

We live in the Midwest, We are from the Midwest. We have worked long and hard.  We are no strangers to hard work.  We still consider ourselves reasonably DIY for the level we have gotten to. We don’t send people out to get Starbucks for us.  We walk down the block to get our own coffee. We ride the subway. We go into the studio and we record our own parts.  When we get back on tour you’ll see us by our merch table. We are a rock band but were good people. We are always approachable.  We know what hard work is. That’s how we have gotten to this level.  We have a lot of passion for music.  We are hungry and passionate about music.  We are excited to make a new record and get back on the road and look forward to seeing our fans again very soon.

Do you have any advice for bands out there working hard but maybe having to face hard times in order to survive?

It’s an extremely tough time right now for up and coming bands, and even for mid-level bands. My biggest advice is, unless you can pull some crazy favor to get on a tour,  is to stay home, work, go to school, and focus on the music.  If you can be 100 percent happy with the music you are making, you will get noticed.  Put your heart and soul into the music. It is just not realistic anymore for young bands to head out to Philadelphia and Boston from the Midwest, play for 2 kids a night and then head home.  The economy doesn’t call for that anymore.  Instead work even harder from home.  Explore places closer to home and draw more kids. Make the best music you possibly can. People are drawn to good music.  Establish a solid friendship among your band members.  Be 100 percent confident with the music you write together. Create a group vibe and most importantly continue to write as many songs as you can.

Through the good times and the bad, what has been the glue that has held the band together?

Were all friends. We get into arguments. We hang out. We care about each other.  A lot of bands come off as one or two people or a singer songwriter with a backing band. We have never. Every member of Hawthorne Heights contributes to who we are.  We do things together and we care about each other.

How did you guys come to the decision that it was time to patch things up with Victory Records after a long legal struggle to be able to release ‘Fragile Future’?

It came down to the fact that we wanted to put out a record.  Neither side was benefiting from the legal battle. It came to a point where we all went into the same room. They said they wanted to put out the record, and we wanted to put out our record.  When we left the room, we said let’s put out a record and we did just that.  We are very proud of Fragile Future for that reason.

Do you have a favorite new label mate on Wind-Up Records?

Wind-up has a very diverse artist roster.  There are some really great bands.  There is a band called Pilot Speed. I would describe them as a mix of Coldplay meets U2.  They play mellow music like that but do it extremely well.  There is another band called Endless Hallway.  I would describe them as a dump truck hitting a brick wall. They sound a lot to me like Queens of the Stone Age meets Refuse. I really dig them a lot. Another band that I really enjoy from the Wind-Up roster is Cartel. We toured on warped tour with Cartel and always have a great time with those guys.  We will hope to tour with them in the future in support of our first Wind-up release which will be a lot of fun.

As you move on to this next phase of your career, what message would you like to convey to your fans that have stuck with you about your future and your newly formed relationship with Wind-Up Records?

We are survivors.  We are still here. We are still making music and we still love music.  It is all because of our fans. They come to our shows.  They sing along with us.  They want to hear the new music we write.  We have been through a lot of crazy shit. I’ve seen bands break up for a lot less. Bands find over money, girls, or just the fact that they could not get along.  That’s life on mars.  We are not like that. We work together. We share the same vision, and we care about each other and our fans.  We are happy that we continue to stay the same band and the same people we have always been. We appreciate our fans and their support.  It is what makes us Hawthorne Heights.

We’d like to thank JT for taking the time to speak with us! Check out Hawthorne Heights on MySpace

Photo credits: The Hawthorne Heights MySpace page.