Exclusive Q and A: Hawthorne Heights Talk Singles, Labels, And Industry Changes

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If you’re anything like the scores of music-lovers whose teenage years were branded by the full-scale commercialization of emo in the early 2000s, it’s hard to forget the name Hawthorne Heights. Since releasing their 2004 debut studio album, The Silence in Black and White, the Ohio band has gone through some trying times, which included the accidental death of their guitarist Casey Calvert, and disputes with their label, Victory Records. But with every challenge, the band comes back stronger than ever”releasing albums and even forming their own independent label, Cardboard Empire, through which they self-released their new string of EPs. We caught up with drummer Eron Bucciarelli to talk about their new indie route, touring in Europe, and why he thinks the music industry should be single-centric.

OS: You’re going to be featured in a reality documentary series that chronicles the band’s challenges and successes, and will air in France and Germany. What has it been like to be part of that?

EB: It’s a lot of work because we’re filming it all ourselves. It may seem like a trivial matter, but it really takes some initiative to constantly film yourselves and be conscious of instances that might make for good video footage.

OS: What has been the hardest thing about running Cardboard Empire?

EB: Most people and most bands don’t realize the amount of work and planning that goes into releasing an album. There’s distribution, marketing, production and creative deadlines that all have to be met and coordinated in order to effectively release your music.

OS: You guys are currently on tour in Europe. What is the biggest difference between European and American crowds at your shows?

EB: Certain crowds react differently, but I think you get that from city to city in the states as well. I think fans in countries or cities that don’t have concerts regularly are genuinely more appreciative when they do get the opportunity to see a band. I think that’s a universal constant though.

OS: Do you hang out or talk with fans after the shows in Europe? Does the language barrier affect your interactions with them at all?

EB: We try to hang out with a our fans a little after all our shows regardless of the location. Some phrases might get lost in translation but for the most part, the fans we’ve spoken to in Europe have excellent English”sometimes better than ours!

OS: A lot of younger bands were really influenced by your first full-length album.  Do you ever fear that people associate you too closely with that album, even though you’re releasing very strong material right now?

EB: When someone connects with your music its always associated with a specific time in one’s life. Nothing we write now can trump nostalgia.  I think it’s amazing that we wrote something that made such an indelible mark on people. My hope is that people will at least take the time to check out our new material and hopefully create new memories!

OS: A lot of music industry pundits have talked about the “death of the album” in the traditional way people know it. Do you think that the multiple EP model that you guys have followed with Hate and Hope is something that more bands are going to do?

EB: I think so. People have less time to listen to music, less money to buy music, and an insatiable need for new content. Smaller groupings of music, released at shorter intervals satisfies the societal changes. I personally think the industry should shift to simply releasing singles. Write one good song, spend the money you would spend on a big name producer on promotions and a decent video.

OS: What do you perceive as the biggest difference in the music industry between now and when you guys initially formed?

EB: There are a couple differences. There are a ton more bands which means it’s harder to break through all the noise. There are no longer two main promotional avenues: MTV and radio.  It used to be having success on one or both guaranteed success. Those two mediums are no longer the driving force in breaking new artists like they once were.

OS: Hawthorne Heights has had some difficult relationships with labels in the past.  Do you ever give cautious advice to younger bands that are considering signing their first label contract?  What would you tell them?

EB: Unless you’re independently rich, labels are the way to go for no other reason than you need more promotional money now than ever before if you want to cut through and make a name for yourself.

Check out Hawthorne Heights on tour in Australia (if you’re so lucky as to live there) and watch their weird and funny lyric video for “Running in Place (Niki AM)” from their HOPE EP below.