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DS Interview: Dave Hause on “Drive It Like It’s Stolen,” the Sing Us Home Festival, and much more in our lengthiest interview to date

I’m not sure how it happened, exactly, but late April marked the official street release of Drive It Like It’s Stolen, Dave Hause’s sixth solo studio album. I say street release because anyone who ordered the physical album from him, whether in the States or abroad, got the album well in advance, meaning folks with […]

I’m not sure how it happened, exactly, but late April marked the official street release of Drive It Like It’s Stolen, Dave Hause’s sixth solo studio album. I say street release because anyone who ordered the physical album from him, whether in the States or abroad, got the album well in advance, meaning folks with access to record players got to hear the album and fall in love with it well before their digital-only counterparts did the same. It’s not unlike how Pearl Jam released Vitalogy back in 1994, only that was a matter of the vinyl coming out maybe two weeks earlier not several months earlier, and that was also not a matter of Pearl Jam owning their own record label as Dave and his brother Tim do (Blood Harmony Records). But I digress…

I say “I’m not sure how it happened” because it seems like it wasn’t long ago that Dave and I caught up before a show at Boston’s House Of Blues, where he was slated to open for Flogging Molly later in the evening. It was the first real sit-down interview of my Dying Scene “career.” Back then, one of the topics of conversation was that he was about to rent a car and drive solo for the rest of that tour because he was experiencing a few stuck points in finishing the writing for the album that he was slated to record once that tour was over. It was an album – Devour – that would eventually cement Hause’s position as a bona fide solo artist and not just “Dave from The Loved Ones.”

And now here we are, more than a decade later. To say that Dave has grown and matured and progressed as both an artist and a human is to worldly understate things. Much of that growth and maturation has been laid bare over the course of the now half-dozen albums that form the Dave Hause solo oeuvre. Six albums is a long enough time into a career for an artist to have not only established themselves as a lasting artist but to have started to branch out and explore new stylistic and creative directions. Think 1372 Overton Park or Rubber Soul or Aladdin Sane or Nebraska or Highway 61 Revisited

If you’ve heard Drive It Like It’s Stolen at this point, you’re no doubt aware that Hause took the opportunity to lean into some new and different sounds and tones and textures, resulting in what is – at least musically – his most ambitious and artistic record to date. That is not only by design, we can probably expect more of it going forward. “There is a lot of new ground being covered, and there is a certain ferocity with which I’m trying to do that,” explains Hause. “I think going forward, I’m going to lean further into that. I’m not really looking to repeat myself.” While there were hints at newer musical directions on past records, some of the vigor that he applied to the writing process this time stemmed from a decision that his brother and longtime songwriting partner Tim made earlier in the year. While the brothers Hause had been a dynamic creative duo for closing in on a decade at that point – at least since parts of Dave’s 2017 release Bury Me In Philly – Tim decided it was time to put his own creative stamp under an album of his own. (Here’s our interview from back in January about that very release.)

Dave Hause press photo by Jesse DeFlorio

“Once he did that and made all of the creative decisions that needed to be made,” states the elder Hause, “he did that with a ferocity that didn’t so much have me in mind.” While they continued to remain co-writing partners, once the initial sting of not being involved in the studio when Tim went back to Nashville to work with Will Hoge on the album that would become TIM wore off – “I would never give myself the night off (like that)” Dave jokes – big brother was left with the realization that he, too, could exert a little more one-sided creative control over his own future projects.

It doesn’t take much more than one cursory listen through Drive It Like It’s Stolen to realize that while there are definitely some “Dave Hause songs” on it – that four-on-the-floor, punk-adjacent rock and roll thing that seems to be the core of his wheelhouse, there are more than a few curveballs (or sweepers or whatever we’re supposed to call off-speed pitches nowadays) in the mix. Perhaps the most jarring stylistic departure is the coda at the end of “lashingout.” The song deals with the uniquely American and primarily male phenomenon of creating physical chaos, escalating with the narrator expressing the school shooter-esque desire to play God and wreak havoc on those around you…set to a piece of music that transitions from finger-picked acoustic to distorted banjo to piano-driven Wild West saloon ragtime. “Everyone kind of looked at me like I was crazy” says Hause of the end of that song. “Everyone was like “What the fuck is he doing?” And then it worked. It clicked, and everyone was like “Oh this is so dark and so demented, and it adds a gravity to the song that wasn’t there before.”

At first listen, “lashingout” and its equally curiously-named “chainsaweyes” – the latter with its musical bed that consists of a synth loop and dark, haunting strings –  are two songs that are stylistically different enough that it would have been understandable to have left them to appear on a B-sides collection some Bandcamp Friday years from now. And there were a few other songs that, while not quite finished, certainly could have been rushed into completion once Hause arrived back at the studio in Nashville, and that may have resulted in an album that fits some preconceived notion of what a Dave Hause album sounds like. But Hause and Will Hoge – back for his third stint in the producer’s chair on a Hause family album –  decided that that which was not quite finished should remain that way, at least for now, as it probably pointed toward a different direction anyway, and it doesn’t makes sense to move on to what comes next if you haven’t yet finished what’s in front of you.

It’s a bit of an interesting needle to try to thread; leaning into whatever weirdness or different textures a song may need while being careful to not just be weird for the sake of being weird. “I don’t want to make reckless artistic decisions for the sake of recklessness, but I do want to be fearless in the way I go forward,” Hause explains, adding “I don’t want to do things in a self-destructive way, like “I’m going to make this super weird record to see if I can fool people!” It would be more “Hey, this is what I’m hearing in my head and I want to bring it to bear and surprise myself and surprise the people around me and give people what they didn’t know they needed.”

Those of us that exist in the center of the Venn diagram that has “pretend music critics” on one side and “actual music fans” on the other give artists like Hause props for making the music that he wants to create and not rolling out the same boilerplate album every couple of years. It’s an idea that’s not lost on Hause himself, albeit more than a tad self-depricatingly: “I may end up accidentally getting more credit than I deserve for that,” he jokes. “Like ‘Oh Dave just does whatever the fuck he wants‘ and that sort of thing. It’s like, no, I just don’t have any hits!” It’s a sentiment that’s also reflected in Drive It Like It’s Stolen’s penultimate track, “Tarnish”: “I found a golden goose here and I’m squeezing it for songs / I never got a golden record, I guess the melodies were wrong.” The song serves as a sort of love letter to his twin boys and the hope that as they grow and learn about some of their dad’s trials and tribulations, they don’t lose the glimmer and child-like adoration that kids should have for their old man.

“Tarnish” leads into Drive It Like Its Stolen‘s closing track “The Vulture,” combining for a brilliant – if incredibly heavy – one-two punch that closes out the album as a sort of micro-level companion to the macro-level post-apocalyptic openers of “Cheap Seats (New Years Day, NYC, 2042)” and “Pedal Down.” “The Vulture” deals with the harrowing realization that you may have passed on some of your own negative behaviors and conditions to your children and how best to help them succeed where you might not have. While Hause is a hopeful and positive type in person, he’s at his creative best when he’s grappling with some of the complex and pessimistic realities of American life circa present-day. “That’s the weird thing,” he explains. “I want joy in my music, I want celebration, I want those up moments to be represented, but that’s not what’s constantly on my mind as a person, so it’s a fight! It’s a fight to determine where you’re at, how stable you are, how steady you are, and that’s what comes out in the writing every now and again. In this instance, it’s really in there.” 

While the financial payout from having a bona fide hit or two in his arsenal would certainly help, what with a wife and four-year-old twin boys to consider, Hause seems more than happen to trade that financial windfall for an artistic one, particularly one that grapples with some weighty issues in a personal and yet fulfilling way. “I know friends of mine who are tempted (to continue chasing a particular sound after producing a hit). That’s not that appealing to me. The financial stability that would come along with having a couple of hits would be great. But what that does to an artistic career can be troublesome if you don’t handle it right.” 

The Brothers’ Hause started their own label, Blood Harmony Records, a handful of years ago. Not an offshoot or subsidiary of a larger, corporate behemoth; it’s their very own boutique if you will. As such, they’ve figured out a way to maximize the economic payout when someone buys an album or a t-shirt or a snowglobe bearing the family name. Hause is also quick to point out that the collection of fans he’s got in his corner – affectionately called the Rankers and/or the Rankers & Rotters in some corners of the interweb – make it not only possible, but play their own part in keeping the pedal down. “For whatever reason, maybe because it’s a smaller career, but I do think that the audience and I have been good to each other. I think everybody is kind of okay with going on the journey.” As a result, the Hauses have also figured out a way to maintain a fairly steady albeit intimate manner of touring that keeps the personal and professional lights on. “On the East Coast we can have a band, in Europe we can have a band, on the West Coast we can have a band, lots of other places we can just go Tim and I, or maybe Tim and me and Mark (Masefield) or something.” 

Hause and the Mermaid from Faces in Malden, MA, April 2023

That band, The Mermaid, has had a variety of interchangeable parts over the years, anchored by Dave and Tim Hause and generally longtime collaborator and fellow former East Coaster living in Southern California Kevin Conroy behind the drumkit. Hause emphatically calls the current iteration of The Mermaid, which features the multi-talented, multi-instrumental Mark Masefield on keys and sometimes accordion and whatever else the brothers throw into the mix, and bona fide songwriter in his own right Luke Preston on bass, “the best band I’ve ever played in,” and with them at his side, Dave and Tim decided this year would be the ideal time to bring idea that could very reasonably have been referred to as a pipe-dream-at-best into fruition: their very own music festival.

Taking its name from a song on Dave’s first solo record, 2011’s Resolutions, the first annual installment of the Sing Us Home Festival was held last month and marked a number of different milestones for the Hause brothers. After a successful Mermaid show at their hometown’s Union Transfer in April 2022, the brothers thought it would be a good idea to go bigger, in this case, to throw a two-day outdoor festival in their ancestral homeland, Philadelphia (Tim and his wife still live there, Dave moved to California a decade ago). But not in Center City or in the South Philly wasteland sporting complex area. Rather, they decided to have it in their old Lower Northwest neighborhood of Manayunk, a less-traveled, almost small town part of the big city on the banks of the Schuylkill River.

What could have been an admittedly hair-brained idea was taken seriously from the outset by the brothers’ manager, Alex Fang. “He was really excited about the idea and really saw the potential in it,” Hause explains, adding, “what that really means is you’re having meetings with the Manayunk Development Corporation and you’re meeting with the city and you’re filling out permits…the very unsexy stuff.” Unsexy, sure, but no doubt necessary if you’re trying to build an event from scratch in an area that isn’t used to having such events. “We wanted to put our stamp on the city, and we wanted to do it in our old neighborhood,” states Hause. “It takes over a year to make it happen, and if it rains, you’re fucked. If L & I (Department of Licensure and Inspections) shuts you down, you’re doomed. There’s just so much risk involved.” 

The risk paid off. By all accounts, the two-day festival which, in addition to Dave and Tim solo and with the Mermaid, featured appearances from Lydia Loveless, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, Kathleen Edwards, Catbite, Drive-By Truckers, and more. “We had a successful one…I didn’t move in with my dad afterwards!” he jokes. “Everyone from 3 years old to 83 years old had a great time. People just had a blast, and that’s such a joyful thing to know that we had a hand in. If it never happens again – which it will, we’re going to do it again (hold the dates of May 3-5 open on your 2024 calendars, comrades) – but if that was it, I feel like those are two days that I’ll remember for the rest of my life as being just spectacular.”

You can head below to read our most sprawling Q&A with Dave Hause to date. Lots of info about the new album and about Tim’s record and about the newest additions to The Mermaid and about Sing Us Home and about therapy and sobriety and his always-evolving roles as a husband and a parent. Do yourself a favor and pick up Drive It Like It’s Stolen here or at least hit the ol’ play button on the Spotify thingy below while you read!

The following has been edited and condensed and reformatted from two separate conversations for content and clarity’s sake.

Yes, really.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): I was looking at my list recently, and it’s ten years now that we’ve been doing this.

Dave Hause: Terrific, man! That’s awesome. 

Drive It Like It’s Stolen is album number six. First off, congratulations. Second off, I totally ripped this off, but do you listen to Craig Finn’s podcast (That’s How I Remember It)?

I have heard it. I haven’t made it to every one, but I have listened to some of them. 

I certainly haven’t listened to all of them either, but I’ve listened to a bunch, and he just did a live episode to finish the second season…

Yeah, the one with The Hold Steady. I did hear that one.

Yeah! Their new record, The Price Of Progress, is their ninth record, so he asked everyone in the band what their favorite ninth record of all time was – and he had a list. So I thought, out of curiosity, I wonder what exists in that realm for sixth records…

Oh, good question!

So there are certainly a bunch that were way outside my wheelhouse so I didn’t write them down, but these are a combination of some big ones and then some of both of our overlapping musical tastes. R.E.M. – Green, which the hipsters say is like their last “good album.” White Stripes – Icky Thump. The Doors – L.A. Woman. The Cure’s The Head On The Door, and The Beatles Rubber Soul, which to me is an interesting one. Pearl Jam’s Binaural, The Hold Steady’s Teeth Dreams, and the Bouncing Souls’ Anchors Aweigh. So that’s where Drive It Like It’s Stolen falls in terms of career arc. Are any of those things that you listen to regularly now?

I’m familiar with all of those records, but the only theme that is scary that has emerged as you named them all is they are all precipice records. Certainly Rubber Soul gave way to a lot of really cool music. I love that period. I think everybody kind of loves that Rubber Soul and Revolver period. Icky Thump, I love that record. But I do think that for all of those records, you have most of those at maybe their artistic high points? After that, there is obviously tons of greatness that came from every one of them. But you also named all bands, right? 

That’s true, you’re right. No solo artists. And I think that’s because I accidentally skipped David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. That was his sixth record and it was when he had killed off… 

Ziggy Stardust! 

Yes! And so also obviously a transition record for him. 

So maybe that’s the best theme from the ones you named is that they’re all transition records. Bands were sort of wrapping up a phase and moving into a new phase. But then, I’m not a band. And the way (Tim and I) create is peculiar. One thing for me is that I’ve embraced the peculiarities in my career. If you look at it more from the objective point of record-making, I made kind of five records – the Paint It Black record, two Loved Ones records and Resolutions and Devour – all in a ten-year period. And then I took a break. It was a three-and-a-half-year break. I moved to California and all that stuff, so there was a weird space in there. And then my record-making career resumed in 2017 and it hasn’t really stopped. It’s been between eighteen and twenty-four months ever since, and sometimes even less than that. There’s also a cover record in there. So I don’t know, those parallels to draw between other artists are fun, but I remember sitting down and doing this with Bury Me In Philly, and that’s part of what took me so long to finish it. I was looking at what other artists did with their third records. Those were big records for my heroes. That’s Damn The Torpedoes and Born To Run and all that kind of jazz. (But in some ways) that wasn’t my third record, it was my fifth because I had done the two Loved Ones records. So it’s all confusing. But I would say for those, the one thing that could be true is that this could be transitional. I think just in terms of bringing creative songs to bear, going from the germ of the idea, sussing it out, recording it, and then bringing it to people, I want to try significantly new things, and I think you can hear that on this record.

Oh definitely!

There is a lot of new ground being covered, and there is a certain ferocity with which I’m trying to do that. I think going forward, I’m going to lean further into that. I’m not really looking to repeat myself. I never really have, but I do think I’m just less and less concerned with like, okay, “do we have an up-tempo song? Do we have a quiet song?” Those little checklists that you sometimes find yourself making as you near the studio, I’m not making as many. I just don’t care as much. I’m more interested in what we’re going to etch onto the door, to mark where we are at that year. Because I plan to make a bunch more records. A lot of what’s going now is that I’ve made a bunch of records, depending on who you ask it’s six or eight or ten…and at that point, I kind of at least know how to get them done. I don’t necessarily know what I’m doing (*both laugh*), but I know how to get a record completed and then into people’s hands. Knowing that much is exciting and looking back and going “oh wow, we’ve done this much work!” – that emboldens me to do more work. If that’s any kind of suitable answer! (*both laugh*)

Dave and Tim from Faces in Malden, MA – 4/2023

Oh it definitely is, and I think it invites a bunch more questions! I think Tim tipped me off to you leaning into that new direction in the studio. I’m trying to remember the timeline, but it was either when he and I talked for his record or when he was here on that run with Will Hoge. He was like “Dave really went for it and embraced some weirdness in the studio this time.” He was super proud of you sort of trusting that instinct to go for it and to not worry about things so much. “Weird” is obviously oversimplifying things quite a bit, but did that come from the writing process in your home lab making music, or did that come from being in the studio and figuring out how to translate the songs as they started out into what ended up being on the record?

It’s interesting that you bring up Tim, because I think when he made his record, we hit another crossroads in our writing life, where he wanted to make a record of his own, and he went and did it without me to sort of avoid the shadow that I would cast on it. And then as he sort of rolled it out…

Not to interrupt, but was that a mutual idea or was that a Tim idea, and if it was a Tim idea, how did that land when he brought it up?

It was certainly his idea. I would never give myself the night off (*both laugh*). I would never opt to not be in the studio, but I did think it was wise. I thought it was an interesting choice. I mean, I wanted to go, but I also respected the decision and I thought “This will be interesting.” I think he was really just trying to distinguish himself, as you do when you make a record of your own. Once he did that and made all of the creative decisions that needed to be made from then on in, whether it was mixing or what it looks like, or deciding how it is going to come out, etc. etc., he did that with a ferocity that didn’t so much have me in mind, which I really liked. I found it a little bit peculiar because I felt like I had made a lot of room for Tim on Blood Harmony and Kick – not as much on Bury Me In Philly, but that was sort of his initial brush with record-making. Especially on Kick, it was really almost a duo presentation. We’re both in the pictures in the liner notes…

And the album just says “Hause” on the cover

Right! That was another thing we were toying with was a potential rebrand. Because he brought “The Ditch” to that record and that was a major song for it. And so, I was trying to make as much room for him as I could, and really at some points considering rebranding as a duo. And we did an interview with Benny (Horowitz) from Gaslight (Anthem) and he was sort of off-handedly suggesting “Why don’t you guys rebrand as a duo and only come out with the best ten songs that you guys write every time you want to make a record, and then you’ll have the strongest material?” I feel like that’s kind of what we were toying with in the first place, so to have him suggest it was a bit of a mirror. But, as he said it out loud, I thought “That’s a commercial decision.” That, again, is sort of not embracing what we actually have, and what we actually have is this strange, developing story. If people take a second and want to learn about it, it’s really cool and it’s enriching. It’s certainly enriched both of our lives. And we both like to write lots of songs, so why would we do less of that? I love Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan and people who make a lot of work. I don’t always follow all of it, but I like that they’re doing it. I like the act of creation, and I think for me, when (Tim) went and did (made his record), I thought “Well, that gives me license to do the same thing.” I don’t need to make AS MUCH room for him if we’re carving out a niche here for him on the record label and in terms of our presentation; there’s the Tim record, and there will be another Tim record.

So that was really an accidental giving tree. It was like, “Well, I’m not going to ask the question as much as I did before.” Like, when you’re singing a vocal and the producer says “Well, what is it that you want to say there? Are you sure about that?” I would often defer to Tim and ask what he thinks, or Tim would jump in with a syntax issue or an “I don’t really like that guitar tone.” It wasn’t always critical, but when it came to critical decisions, I would defer a lot. In this instance, I was like, “Well, you’ve got your record. (*both laugh*) I know what I’m doing and what I like to hear at least with my own songs, so I’m going to just make the call.” So I think in certain instances, like at the end of “lashingout” everyone kind of looked at me like I was crazy. When that saloon idea came about and that weird banjo, everyone was like “What the fuck is he doing?” And then it worked. It clicked, and everyone was like “Oh this is so dark and so demented, and it adds a gravity to the song that wasn’t there before.” So it was cool to take sort of full lead control again and then see it blossom into something new. Some of that is just recklessness from boredom (*both laugh*). I’ve made records where there was a simple, quiet song with finger-picked guitar. Lots of those. And it just wasn’t the reading that I wanted on that song, you know?

That’s a really interesting song, and we can talk about that more later. But man, that’s a really interesting song.

Thanks man! I think it wasn’t before it got that treatment and before it got that coda at the end, and I also was pretty reckless in terms of not being precious. Once you get six albums in, you’ve seen songs live and die, you’ve seen songs come back, you’ve seen songs that surprised you and that had lives of their own, that you didn’t think were going to be anything that would poke their head up. So I kind of was ready to delete certain songs or to rearrange the order, or just lean a little bit more into whatever the best artistic decision was. I was just looking for that, I wasn’t really looking for “what song is going to have the best commercial impact” or anything. I felt like a guy in a painting studio just painting whatever he wanted. 

Was that from the actual songwriting process before you went into the studio with Will, or was that like once you got in there and started playing around? Because you were only in the studio recording for what, a week or so? So I feel like a lot of that must have been hammered out ahead of time.

There was a lot, yeah. And there were a lot of songs. There are more songs that we didn’t even get into.

That’s always the case with you though, isn’t it? (*laughs*) I feel like every time we talk about a record you’re like “There’s this whole other EP that might never see the light of day…” 

It is, yeah! There was also this interesting thing that happened when I was showing Will the material. There were a couple of songs I hadn’t finished that I thought were really good starts, and I played I think two or three of them for him and I said “Well, I could finish these and they would maybe bump off these other ones I’m not sure about,” and he said, “well, you could, but those songs sound like whatever you’re going to do next.” Like, well, I could work hard over the next night or two and finish them up and he very wisely said that they have sort of a different disposition to them. Thematically, he thought “chainsaweyes” I had to do, and he thought “lashingout” was really good and I should put that on, and that the other ones were maybe really promising, but they weren’t done and that they were part of a different batch. When we had those ten or eleven that we initially recorded that each shared a theme and a vibe, then he thought I should run all the way down that road. Once I had that, I knew what the parameters were and we could just let each song have its own identity from a recording perspective.

There’s that thing in “lashingout” – yes, there’s sort of that saloon sound at the end, which is probably the biggest thing that catches peoples’ ears, but as much as I like to pretend I’m an audiophile sometimes, I usually tend to listen to music on my laptop while I’m at work. With the job I have now, I’m not in the car all the time, so I usually just throw it on when I’m at work. But I had headphones on the other day, and I hadn’t caught it probably the first hundred times I heard the song, but there’s that double-tracked vocal in the chorus, and one of them is almost whispered, and that changed the entire song when I finally heard it. It was really jarring A) because I felt dumb for not picking up on it the first hundred times, but B) it really changes the meaning and the tone of the song. That’s an evil sort of thing. The lead vocal is not sweet…that’s the wrong word…but it’s almost considerate. It’s almost like a therapist and you’re trying to talk to a child who might feel like lashing out…but then there’s this whisper voice inside your headphones going “do you feel like lashing out?” like it’s trying to talk you into it. That changed the entirety of the song for me.

That’s essentially the duality of how I view that statement. There’s a bit of a fear that those of us who are raising kids, are you going to raise the next school shooter? That’s a person that obviously at some point has something go really haywire, and I do think the adult urge at 40 to feel like lashing out is not where we want to be. When I’m around my European friends and I’m having dinner with them on tour, they don’t feel like lashing out. I think part of that is the way that their society is structured, and the values that have been cultivated. Whereas here in America, everyone has had their moments where they want to lash out. It’s a really frustrating place to live. That was a tweet of Laura Jane Grace’s, “I feel like lashing out.” And I texted her to see if I could write a song about that, because it was really the duality of it that I was tapped into. I wasn’t looking at it like “This would be a great chorus for a punk rock song.” I mean, partially, yeah, I feel that with her. I feel like lashing out. But I was also concerned about, like, why? Like, please don’t! I hope you don’t lash out and hurt someone or hurt someone else. As I age, there is that thing like “Well, we don’t want to be lashing out. Lashing out is how we got here, you know?” That’s what I’m working on in therapy, so yes I get that a person would be feeling that way, but also, hey, we need to work on that! We need to examine that! (*both laugh*) I think all of that is built into the song, because the song also didn’t have the coda. Once it had the coda on it, then I had a finished product, because I had “I want to be God for a day.” That’s further into the feeling of “I want to lash out.” It’s much more into that mentality, not only do I feel like lashing out, but I want to be God for a day. I want to reign down judgment and make things the way I want them to be. 

I think I’ve even heard you talk about it – I think you mentioned it when you were up here in Malden last month, about the sort of duality that exists in that song, but that was the first time I physically heard and felt it because of the way the two vocals are layered on top of each other. 

I’m surprised you didn’t hear it because I kept fighting to have it louder! (*both laugh*) I was like “Turn the whisper up so loud that it becomes a prominent thing!” 

Well and now it becomes a thing where every time I hear it I’m like “Oh my God, of course, it was right there the whole time.” Anyway, so you went back to Nashville and worked with Will again, but you worked with a whole different lineup this time. Was that by choice or by circumstance? You’ve got some cool people on this record too. That Jack Lawrence has been on some amazing records. 

Yeah, he has! It was by choice. We had more of a batch of songs based in American roots music on the last record, and we wanted to make an old-fashioned record where everyone plays together in a nice-sounding studio. It was incumbent upon him to put together that kind of a cast; a cast that would be able to knock it out. With this (record), I was less concerned with that because I was trying to make more of a layered statement. It wasn’t just “go in and cut in a really nice studio with the best players you can find.” It was, like, get what’s best for these songs by any means necessary. We compiled a lot of that on our own and then added people. It was also just me being more comfortable with how Nashville works and knowing that “I’m not worried about getting a trombone player, we’ll find one.” You can’t swing a cat without hitting some incredible musicians. So there’s a confidence in knowing that you can just make this be whatever it needs to be and you can find whoever the players that you need to do that based on the way that the songs are coming.

Whereas, I think for Blood Harmony, that was an exciting and fun way to do that record, based on how those songs felt. They felt more lush and family oriented so it made sense to cut them that way. For this, it was more that we left some stuff unfinished (going into the studio) and said well, we need some strings here, or we need 40 seconds of a band here, let’s find those people. We played the “live band” – in quotes – as almost another fader on the board. Some of that was by virtue of having built loops of my own and mapping things out, and then either rebuilding those loops in the studio or using some of those same loops in the songs you hear. It was just a different process, which, now that I’ve had this new chapter of Nashville recording – we’ve made three studio records and then we cut a bunch more songs there that may or may not see the light of day – but having worked that much there, you just get a feel for it and so it’ll be interesting to go forward from here just knowing more about how that process works. It’s good to have all these experiences and to allow them to kind of build on each other. 

You mentioned the sort of “live band” in quotes…sometimes on Blood Harmony, there were a lot of songs that could definitely be played either just you or you and Tim together, but there are some songs on this record that really sound like they were meant for the full band. The first two songs, “Cheap Seats” and “Pedal Down,” are not four-on-the-floor rock and roll songs, but they sound like they’re really built for a band. Does that become a thing you take into account when you are writing – what version of the Dave and Tim touring experience is going to be able to do the most justice to these songs? 

No, I just try to make whatever is most compelling and then worry about that stuff later. Hopefully, if we made a sturdy enough song, there’s a way to play it on an acoustic guitar or a piano that will translate. Sometimes we even beat those full-band rock versions. So, no I don’t really think about that. I may end up accidentally getting more credit than I deserve for that, like “Oh Dave just does whatever the fuck he wants” and that sort of thing. It’s like, “No, I just don’t have any hits.” (*both laugh*) If I had a couple hits, they would haunt me…

Because then you’d be trying to recreate them every time you make new music?

I would think that you’d naturally be tempted to, you know? I know friends of mine who are tempted. That’s not that appealing to me. I mean, the financial stability that would come along with having a couple of hits would be great. But what that does to an artistic career can be troublesome if you don’t handle it right. My mother-in-law paints. She just paints and paints and paints and paints. Some paintings sell and some sit on the shelf, and there’s not one that was clearly her best and that was selected by the Smithsonian or something and she has to beat that. It’s more like “Hey, I have a long life of painting.” That’s more of the artistic life that I’ve been given, so I think worrying about how to bring those songs to people is just not something I really worry about. Also, I think there are just too many songs now. So, like, if we’re pulling into a town to play, if we can’t play “Cheap Seats” that night because we don’t have a version ready or we don’t feel compelled by the version we have or we don’t have drums or a sampler or whatever would make the song work the way we did it, we’ll just play a different song. (*laughs*) So no, it’s not as much of a concern. 

Does having a wife and kids change that math a little bit? I mean, do you feel like you could go full Tom Waits’ Mule Variations when you have a wife and twins to think about? 

I think that’s the kind of thing that compels me! That’s the kind of inspiration that I’m drawing from as I move forward! That’s the bargain that you’re trying to strike up with the world. If there’s a record like that, a Mule Variations, and it doesn’t do what it did for him, where it got him a Grammy, and people don’t like it, I still feel like I’m going to be okay. I don’t think I’d be putting my kids or my wife at risk. Ultimately, I think that the conversation that I’m having with the audience would allow for that. Because I’m not playing that game, you know? I’m not doing that “am I on the radio” thing. I mean, we do that – we do push songs to radio, but it’s not what we live and die by. We own the record label, so people who take a shot on what we’re doing, we get the biggest economic impact from that, and then we tour in a way that is sustainable and smart for the places that we’re at. Like, on the East Coast we can have a band, in Europe we can have a band, on the West Coast we can have a band, lots of other places we can just go Tim and I, or maybe Tim and me and Mark (Masefield) or something. So I’m looking to push into those realms of pure creative inspiration, more than I am about worrying about my wife and kids, because I don’t think those things cancel each other out. 

So I guess the other side of that then is that if it doesn’t put your wife and kids at risk financially, maybe it puts dad at risk to not be doing the things he thinks are fulfilling creatively. Not to bridge into the therapy part of the conversation, but if dad is doing the things that he wants to be doing artistically, then maybe he’s less at risk of swan-diving off the Golden Gate Bridge, right? (*laughs*)

Yeah, I think so! I think it’s important to try to balance all of that. I mean, I don’t want to make reckless artistic decisions for the sake of recklessness, but I do want to be fearless in the way I go forward. That’s the needle I’m trying to thread. I don’t want to do things in a self-destructive way, like “I’m going to make this super weird record to see if I can fool people!” It wouldn’t be that. It would be more “Hey, this is what I’m hearing in my head and I want to bring it to bear and surprise myself and surprise the people around me and give people what they didn’t know they needed.”

So, I haven’t commented too much on the record yet because I wanted to wait until we talked, but even from the first listen on crappy laptop speakers, I thought that this was my favorite Dave Hause record since Devour, and you know the regard that I hold for that album. And I will tell you, that I’ve had a few conversations with friends who are also longtime fans of yours and they’ve sort of said that “it’s like a grown-up Devour.” And those weren’t people who know each other, necessarily. But I thought that was interesting. I think thematically the albums are worlds apart, except that there is a sort of processing thing that you’re doing on this record that you were also sort of doing with all that went into Devour. The stakes have changed now because you’ve got a wife and kids obviously, but some of that challenge and struggle is still there. Even though in the press for this album it talks about the sort of post-apocalyptic vibe to the album – and I understand that part of it – but it also seems like it’s really honest and personal. 

If you look at it now, there’s six (solo records). You can see that “well, Dave’s feeling pretty good on Resolutions” but then there’s Devour. (*both laugh*) And then “Oh, Dave moved to California for Bury Me In Philly and things are good!” and then “Oh, here comes Kick” That title is about the struggle of just trying to keep your head above water. The same thing happened with Blood Harmony and this one. They aren’t intended that way, I think there’s just a cycle of how I’m processing the world and sometimes I’m up and sometimes I’m not, and on this one, I was not up! I was starting to feel kind of terrified about the world around me and what I was bringing my kids into, you know? The first couple years, I was just at home quiet with them, because we were all shut down. But in this eagerness to get back and keep the pedal down, all of a sudden we’re faced with a lot of those problems that have worsened since 2020. It’s definitely processing the world around. That’s the weird thing: I want joy in my music, I want celebration, I want those up moments to be represented, but that’s not what’s constantly on my mind as a person, so it’s a fight! It’s a fight to determine where you’re at, how stable you are, how steady you are, and that’s what comes out in the writing every now and again. In this instance, it’s really in there. 

“Pedal Down” specifically – first off, I love that song. I love the sonic build to that song. I think there’s something about that you can want joy and harmony and all those things and I think we should probably be striving for those things, but that last third of “Pedal Down” where’s the big full-band chorus…there’s something unifying about that. Even though the situation that’s laid out in the build-up to that is sort of bleak, I think there’s a collective thing that “it sucks for all of us right now, but we’re all doing it together.” 

Yeah, I think there’s an ambivalence to that. The “we can grieve it later, keep the pedal down” line isn’t just a negative thing, you know? It might seem that way and a lot of times I think that’s a terrible way to move forward. But there’s also a sort of “no way out but through” a lot of times, and maybe there is celebration in that. Like, we’ll grieve it later, keep the pedal down for now, let’s go. Let’s fucking go!

Exactly, it’s like keep your warpaint on, keep the pedal down, we’ll sort of get granular in looking back on it afterward but for now let’s keep fighting.

Right, yeah! That’s interesting. I think that definitely went into the subconscious of making a big mosh part at the end with trombones, you know? (*both laugh*) There’s something really big at the end and you have to at least have something in mind. I think in the previous song, “Cheap Seats,” there’s this nod to “American Girl,” when we’re off to the races with the rock band. There’s a celebration there too – “Take one last bite of this old rotten apple and ride off to the country with me.” That’s a little bit more deliberate of what you described, like “Alright, let’s start up the van and let’s get the fuck out of here!” I think that weaves its way in and out of the record and I guess a lot of my records if I’m forced to think about it. (*laugh*)

How often do you think about that, and is that a thing…I’m trying to figure out the best way to phrase it…but you’ve talked pretty openly in the past about being in therapy and whatnot; how often do you think your songwriting works its way into therapy, whether it’s because you are talking to your therapist or therapists about what you’re working on or what themes you seem to be coming back or a rut that you might be in that producing a certain kind of material. 

I would say it’s the other way around. Realizations and conversations from therapy make their way into songs, because I kind of view therapy as a mirror, you know? If you were going to try to do your own facial, you would try to get the best mirror that you can in order to do that. I think that’s the goal of therapy; find the best mirror that you can find in order to then do the work yourself. You have to do the work yourself…

How many mirrors have you had to go through before you realized it was working? Did you find the right therapist or the right sort of style the first time you tried it?

Yes and no. I’ve got a good guy, but also, my expectations for that guy were different when I walked in versus where they are now. I had these lofty expectations for him that were totally unfair, and I was looking more for an advisor or someone to tell me what to do. That’s not what therapy really is. So I had to learn that it’s what you put into it that you might get out of it. It’s peculiar. And part of that is being married to a therapist. If one of her clients had the attitude that I did going into it, I certainly wouldn’t think that was a fair expectation to have of my wife. Part of that helped. Like “We’ve got an hour here and I’ve got a full day booked, I’m not going to solve all of your problems, and it’s really not my job to solve all your problems. It’s my job to help you see them and guide you.” So I think the work you do both inside therapy and outside it that ends up hopefully informing the songs. 

How old were you when you started going to therapy and, I suppose in hindsight, how old do you wish you were when you started going? Like, now that you know what you know, do you wish you had started earlier? 

Maybe? I would say that the main regret with sobriety would be that I didn’t go (to therapy) right away. But I try not to look at things that way because you kinda only know what you know when you know it. I’ve had a good life, so it’s not like I can cite this spot where “Man, if I had only gone to therapy then, things would have turned out differently.” Maybe you could do that but I’m not so sure I’d want it any differently. But how old was I…it was years ago, but it wasn’t right when I got sober, and I wish I would have done that. I think when those wounds are really exposed and those nerves are raw, that’s a good time to start working on them and I should have started working on them then. I think it took me two or three more years to go into proper therapy. I got sober in 2015.

Right, that was that big tour with Rocky Votolato and Chris Farren. I feel like maybe we’ve had this conversation even back then, but did you view it as “getting sober” in quotes back then, or was it more of “let me see if I can do this without imbibing”?

Yeah, the goal was to try to do a tour without boozing and drugging. That was my initial goal. And that was a long tour. That was an eight-week run, so there was something about the length of it that even subconsciously I was like “I wonder if I can do this…” Then, like with a lot of things in my life, I sort of fell backwards into things, you know? Like “Let me try being sober for eight weeks and then if it’s working for me, I’ll keep going.” “Let me roadie for a popular band and if I like that lifestyle, I’ll continue.” (*both laugh*) The thing with sobriety is that the one thing I wonder about is that had I gone in sooner, would I be as black and white about it? Would I be “sober guy” where I don’t drink at all or do drugs at all, or would I have a more balanced take on it, which I think in my objective brain, I do. I can sort of see the benefit of psilocybin or THC or having a ballgame beer. I can make those distinctions intellectually and the reason I don’t go back to it is, like, the juice ain’t worth the squeeze. I’ve got four-year-olds, I’ve got a wife, I’ve got a career, I don’t want to fuck things up.

But I do think that in terms of being a more balanced human, it would be great to have some of that in my life. Like, I don’t bang the drum for sobriety as much as some people do. Once you’ve been sober for a while, people come to you and say “Can we talk about this?” I usually say “Don’t do it unless you feel like you have to.” Like, if you can have balance and drink a glass of wine with your significant other at a wedding or whatever, do that. Don’t cut it out completely if you can help it, which is often a weird thing to say. I think if you’re in the program, that’s kind of forbidden. So ultimately, that would be my only therapeutic wish, is that I would have gotten to the sobriety stuff sooner when it was more acutely presenting itself.

There are people who talk about artists who either got sober or got “sane” or started therapy and taking medications and all that, and that their songwriting changed. Do you subscribe to that idea, that your songwriting changes or is better or worse when you’re on meds and in therapy versus not, or sober versus not? 

No, I don’t buy that, because I think it’s a discipline. I think you can find plenty of other instances in other types of writing…for example, for you to write a novel, it takes work. It takes sitting down and working at it. Over the course of how long it would take you to write a novel, you do have good days and bad days, mentally. You’d have days where you were hungover and days where you weren’t. You’d have days where you had a hold on your anxiety and days where you didn’t. And all of that would seep its way into your work. I just think that that’s part of writing. That’s the beauty of it. And I want it to change! Maybe that’s because there’s no big hit, where it’s like “Oh, I’ve got to get back to that mountaintop!” I’m still climbing the mountain. I’m not in that position where a lot of my peers are in the position where you know what they’re going to play last at a show. For whatever reason, maybe because it’s a smaller career, but I do think that the audience and I have been good to each other. I think everybody is kind of okay with going on the journey. There are certainly going to be nights where we end on a weird song or we don’t play some of the favorites. In that sense, I want the writing to change. I want to see what’s next and to see what Tim and I are capable of. I’m not looking for a former high or a former mountaintop that I’m trying to get back on.

That’s an interesting way to look at it, really. If you haven’t been on the mountaintop, you end up – not to make an addiction reference, but if you get that first high, you end up chasing it forever. If you don’t feel like you’ve reached the mountaintop, then you’re not chasing “it,” you’re just chasing what feels right at the time.

Yeah, and I’ve got to say, my hat goes off to a band like The Killers. They haven’t reached the heights of their first record, and I think of (Brandon Flowers) as someone who is still writing amazing, really compelling work. I think that’s rare. I think sometimes people fold up the tent if they can’t get back to a certain height again. That doesn’t appeal to me. I really like the act of creating. It’s where I’m most engaged and where I feel the best. That’s the feeling I’m chasing. I mean, it’s great when you put something out and people respond to it. That’s terrific. But it’s the act of bringing it into the world that’s so spectacular. That feeling of “Oh man, I really want to get this to people! I really want to get this recorded!” That’s the high, if there is one, that I’m chasing. You can get that every time you write a song.

Is it a different high when it’s a different type of song? Meaning that if you write a song like “Hazard Lights,” which has – maybe not a ‘classic Dave Hause sound’ because I don’t necessarily know what that means, but it sounds like thing that you do really well. That feel and that tempo and that style of song. It also might be the kind of song that the bulk of the listeners gravitate towards. So when you write a song like that, is it a different sort of high than when you write a song like “Cheap Seats” or “lashingout,” where at the end it’s like “Wow, this is really cool and really different and I can’t wait for people to hear it”?

That’s a great question. I don’t know! Maybe? Maybe it’s a little different? To answer your question honestly, it’s not lost on me that a song like “Damn Personal” or “Hazard Lights” sound like they would fit nicely in a Mermaid set. A Friday night Mermaid set in London or Boston, you know? I know that, but they weren’t intended that way. No, I guess to answer your question, getting that all done and having it all rhyme and feel good, THAT’s the feeling. Not that “Oh, I know we got one that the tried and true fans are going to love.” I wonder if the tried and true fans are going to love “Pedal Down” more BECAUSE it’s something different. But maybe this far in, I’m less concerned with all that stuff? Like, no matter what’s on there, I’m going to be anxious about bringing it into the market and I’m going to be excited. And so, the purest part of it is long before any of that. It’s when it’s Tim and I, and I’m like “This is done, let me play it for you,” or where we could play it for the band, or I can show it to another songwriter and have them go “Oh cool!” That is the purest part of the whole endeavor to me and the part of it that I’m most seeking, which is part of what’s funny talking to you now, because I have so little of that in my life now! (*both laugh*) Like, we finished this one and it just came out and we’re touring on it, and I don’t have a ton of song irons in the fire right now. I mean, I could. I guess I could look at the whiteboard full of ideas that I could pick at…

Yeah, that actually sounds sort of surprising given what I know of how you work. Every time I feel like I talk to you or Tim, it seems like there’s always this other thing cooking. I think when we talked for your last record, Tim was going in to record his, and then when I talked to Tim he mentioned “Dave’s got his next record all done!” so it seems sort of surprising that there aren’t that many irons in the fire.

Yeah, I mean I’m looking at maybe 10…well no, I guess it’s 15 unfinished songs. Some of those are the ones I was describing before. But we’ve just been in a different mode with the festival and getting the record out and touring. I’ve been so busy with all of that that I just haven’t had the clarity. Then when I get home from those endeavors, I try to spend as much time with the kids as possible. That’s its own potentially full-time job. (*both laugh*)

Or two of them. (*both laugh*)

Luke Preston at the Dave Hause and the Mermaid Show at Faces in Malden, MA – 4/2023

So “Hazard Lights” is another song I wanted to talk about, specifically, because you wrote that with Luke (Preston), the idea of co-writing with somebody who doesn’t share your last name. Walking through that process and how it was sort of stepping out of the comfort zone you’ve got working either by yourself or just you and Tim, and is that a different sort of vulnerability? Does it feel different presenting a song or an idea to someone else versus your normal comfort zone with Tim?

It predates that, is the preamble answer. In the whole pandemic thing, I think a lot of songwriters were willing to do other stuff because we were so worried about never playing again. So, I wrote a song with Fallon, I wrote two songs with Brian Koppleman, Dan Andriano and I were working on material. Somewhere in there, the song “Surfboard” had been started. Heather Morgan, who’s an amazing songwriter, a really successful songwriter in Nashville though I think she lives in Austin now. She’s written big country hits. She and I worked on “Surfboard,” and Tim and I had written with her in Nashville. We had a song called “Sunshine Blues” that we sat down and wrote with her when we were in Nashville in like 2018 or 2019. I was really nervous, because I only knew our process. I didn’t know shit about Nashville, I didn’t know shit about the songwriting world and that whole country music bubble. She was amazing, because we sat down, and she just did it very similarly to the way we did. And by that, I mean in her own incredible, indelible way. And she turned to Tim and I and was like “Why are you writing with me, you guys know what you’re doing?” (*both laugh*) She was like “You don’t need me, you guys are firing.” Some comment like that. And we were like “No! So much of this comes from what’s happening right here in the room, and your ideas are awesome!” We ended up with this song, and I don’t even know what happened to it, it’s on a hard drive somewhere.

But then in the pandemic, I called her and said “Heather, I loved writing with you, do you want to write some more?” I had “Surfboard” pretty far along. She ended up sort of like a backboard on that song. I wouldn’t have gotten as many of the points as I got on that song so to speak without having her being the person to help me get the ball in the hoop. (When we were writing), I was like “Is ‘dear Lord, I need a surfboard’ any good?” And she said “Yeah, it’s fucking awesome!” I said “Yeah, but it sounds like a joke” and she said “Yeah, but that’s funny. That’s good.” She really helped love it to life. She had a couple more or less pointers. So that had happened and it was heartening. She was encouraging on the first session, and then on “Surfboard” she just helped me love the work that Tim and I had done on it to life. So, there was another person who had entered the (songwriting) fray. I mean, I had written with The Loved Ones guys, I had written with the Paint It Black guys, I had written songs with the Souls. I had done all kinds of collaboration, but not much of it in the early parts of the solo career.

So it wasn’t that foreign, but the vulnerability you tapped into, that part of the question is a really good one, because if it hadn’t been a vulnerable situation with Luke, I don’t think that we would have gotten “Hazard Lights.” And then, once we had “Hazard Lights,” I was more open to co-writing. He helped write on “lashingout” too. The vulnerability was key because he was pretty freshly sober, and he was familiar enough with us and what I do. Maybe he was a Loved Ones fan, I forget exactly. But he was like “Hey, so I’m newly sober,” and I just kind of delved into that. That’s a really vulnerable way to start a songwriting session, and then we were off to the races. But here’s the funny thing: I’m so into that vulnerability and that exchange, and that I think the problem that I have with the whole songwriting thing in Nashville is that I can’t just leave it at the write. Like, Luke’s in our band now! We wrote a couple songs with Heather and I’ll probably always be like “Should Heather open these shows?!” I really like a long conversation with people. That sort of hit-and-run songwriting style is tough because I’ll want more from that person, because you do get so vulnerable if you do it right. 

It does seem like a weird process. I’ve talked to Will (Hoge) a little about that and Sammy Kay did some songwriting in LA for a while and I’ve picked his brain about that, but that whole process is so, so foreign. That you can write songs and just leave them, and sometimes they get picked up or sold to someone and sometimes they don’t but you just keep writing them, and they aren’t for you. It seems so foreign and I don’t want to waive the “punk rock” flag, but it seems so different than the way that punk rock works. I can get why, if you find someone that if you really drive with, you’d want to keep them around.

Yeah, exactly. That’s the thing: if you really assess The Mermaid, Luke is the main songwriter in the band. He doesn’t write on many of the songs for the band, but that’s his job. He writes dozens and dozens and dozens of songs. Tim and I write dozens, you know? 


He writes more songs, and gets paid to do so. But I think one of the things that he helped delineate for me – you start to pick up on some of these terms when you spend enough time around those Nashville people – but he was like “You guys are on the artist path. You’re in artist careers. For me to bite that off at any point is going to be a massive undertaking, because it involves touring and an aesthetic, and a point of view that’s really specific.” Once he sort of put it that way, I was like “Oh right…” I only know what I know. I know there’s Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift and Beyonce and Rancid and Bad Religion – I have my limited scope of what music-making is. And he’s like “For artists, yeah, if you’ve chosen the artist path. But there are people who just play keyboards and there are people who just play drums and there are people who write songs.” And so, in some ways, it’s even more vulnerable to be a songwriter, because you never get the release of performing the song. You’re in these acutely vulnerable situations and then you’re done, so you’re kind of like an actor in a sense. Actors have to tap into this really big reservoir of emotion for a concentrated period of time, and then they move on. It has a little bit of that one-night-stand feel to it. To me, it’s like the artistic or aesthetic cousin to a one-night-stand, and I think in that realm, I’m like “Oh wow…this feels weird!” So yeah, I loved writing with Luke. I look forward to writing with him more. And for me, for lack of a better word, being on the “artist path” for this long, I’m always looking for whatever is next, and for whatever will inspire and help me sculpt and deliver my point of view. Right now, with me being in the best band that I’ve ever been in, I’m super into tapping all of those guys for their input and seeing where that steers the songs in the next batch of creativity. 

This is really probably a question for Luke, but I would have to imagine that for him, to work on a song like “Hazard Lights” and then actually be in the band that gets to play it every night must be a little different than the sort of normal songwriter “thing,” and so maybe gives him a little more satisfaction getting to see it sung back at you every night. That’s gotta be a cool feeling.

Yeah, he has said as much! He’s pretty measured in how much he talks about all of that. A lot of it is just we’re having fun, and we’re talking shit “Did you hear this song? What about that production? Oh, that lyric is terrible! Holy shit, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard!” A lot of that is what we’re usually talking about. But in those moments of introspection or reflection, he’s definitely said what you just said. He’s also helped my perspective. He goes out and plays bass or guitar with country artists and does that circuit a bit. He writes songs, and he hustles most of the different aspects of the music industry to stay paid. And he was like, “Well, from where I’m standing as kind of a mercenary, you’re living the dream!” I was kind of startled, because there are bigger artists that he plays with. He’ll play bass for some country artist that plays to like 5,000 people on a weekend at some festival. And he filled in a lot of the blanks for me, because he was like “Look, it’s cool to play to that many people, but everybody on that stage including the artist knows it’s fleeting. They may not be able to do that the following summer. You pull into a town and there’s a given amount of people at every show. It’s not the biggest thing, but it’s certainly not the smallest, and then you have these hot zones where you can play for a couple nights in Boston, you can play a fairly big rock show in Boston, or you can go to Europe! None of these artists that I play with can go to Europe. You have a worldwide conversation with a small audience that keeps you afloat. That’s the dream. If I could do that, I wouldn’t to any of the other shit!” (*both laugh*) I assumed that this was something that helped him make his annual fee or whatever, but he was like “No, I love this. This is the dream. And I also get it – I’m the bass player in your band, you’ve built an artist’s career.” So his perspective is really interesting, as is Mark’s. Mark is a guy who, at different points, has struggled to get out on the road with the same act and have it click despite being uber-talented and super eager and professional. Also, he’s voiced some of the same thing, that this is the dream. Like, “You play in London and lots of people come! This is your living and you play me a proper wage to come play keyboards. This is fucking awesome!” So having those two guys there and having their professionalism and their passion and their perspective has been really helpful to me. And just their creativity. There are so many good ideas that come from those guys, which has been true of Kevin the whole time, but now we have two newer guys that bring that to the table.

Did Mark maybe not catch on with somebody else because he brings too many shirts when he goes on tour? That was a riot.

The only thing that Mark’s got going against him is that everything is too much! (*both laugh*) There are too many shirts, there are too many ideas, too many keyboard notes. You just have to remind him “No, no, no Mark…less! Less! Benmont Tench!” And then he’s like “Oh yeah, okay!” 

Mark Masefield and Dave Hause probably talking about cricket lollipops

Yeah, he seems like he has a good sense of humour about that stuff, which you have to, because the road will eat you alive. 

Yeah, he’s great. We always say he’s the zestiest member of the band. He’s the first one up and ready to go out and he’s the last one to bed. We try to ride that zest as much as we can. He’s the guy that’s like “We can rent these bikes and we can drive around and we can take an architecture tour in the middle of the Chicago River and we can still be back in time for load-in.” And sometimes you’re like “Are you fucking crazy? I”m going to sit here on my phone until load-in.” But then there are other times where you take him up on it and you’re like “Wow, I just had the most fun day on tour that I’ve had in years.” He’s such a great add in that regard.

One of the reasons that I think Drive It Like It’s Stolen is my favorite post-Devour record (of yours) is how pitch-perfect some of the sentiment on the album is. You know my thoughts on Devour, and that “Autism Vaccine Blues” is one of the very few songs that I can vividly remember the very first time I heard it because of the effect that it had, and then as years go on and life progresses, it actually became even more poignant to me. We’ve talked about the one-two punch at the beginning of this album with “Cheap Seats” and “Pedal Down,” but I think the one-two punch at the end – “Tarnish” into “The Vulture” is just about perfect. How they support each other thematically – “Tarnish” with that idea that you hope your kids never lose the glimmer they have in their eyes for their dad, and then “The Vulture” being that thing that happens when you start to see some of your own tendencies and idiosyncrasies passed down to your kids and how sobering that is…as the parent of a teenager (*both laugh*) I can attest to seeing your kid and think “oh, I know exactly why she’s doing this, because I did it or still do it.” I think really though, that idea of flipping the hourglass on its head and dancing on the sand takes what is a heavy song and still makes it hopeful. Sort of like the turn that comes in “Bearing Down,” on Kick, where there’s eventually some hope and optimism in it by the end. 

Yeah, there’s a Father John Misty lyric from a few years back (“Pure Comedy”) where he basically lists the ails of mankind in a really articulate way. He gets into all of it; he gives you every reason to believe that we’re doomed and he intelligently and artfully does so. But at the end, there’s a simple and heart-breaking resolve that “but this is all we have.” It’s always helpful when somebody comes along and helps calcify what you were sort of getting at. That song did it. That sentiment that “Yeah, this is fucked up, but it’s all we have, so what are you gonna do?” I mean, “Bearing Down” gets into that from a much more fatalistic standpoint. But “The Vulture” is struggling, at that point, with having a three-year-old and the idea that none of this went away when I had kids, at least not entirely. But, on some level, I’m kind of out of options when it comes to hope. I HAVE to have hope. There are seeds of this in “Pray For Tucson,” with “They’re unaware of modern science/They may be wrong but I don’t care.” There’s a lot of that where you go “This thing is probably doomed…

However, maybe that’s just the way everybody has thought about it forever. And maybe it is!? So then, if that’s true, what are you going to do with that? Are you going to walk out into the ocean and drown, or are you going to dance on the sand with the people that you do have? Because there is joy to be had. There is fun to be had. There is wonderment. There’s Sing Us Home, you know? Pure elation for me, and so many people who were there. It was like “Wow, we did a thing that’s bigger than us! We’re all here having a great time and it’s a beautiful day!” So if you tap out, whether that’s suicidal ideation or just the slow, suicidal thing of just throwing in the towel, then you miss out on so much joy. I was convinced “Oh, I’m not going to have kids…” but then I had them and my life is so much richer. It’s so much more complicated and so much more terrifying at points. Like, you’ve got a teenager, I’ve got four-year-old twins, you’re constantly worried about them. It’s just part of the equation, you know? That’s the whole thing of “The Vulture” and the line “I’ll stay worried / You’ll stay worried.” Like, that’s probably just the way it’s going to be. But there’s also the idea that “I’ll stay worried THAT you’ll stay worried…

I was just going to say, that line is a huge double meaning.

Right! “I’ll stay worried THAT you’ll stay worried,” or “We’re both just going to stay worried.” (*Both laugh*) But at the end of it all, “row your leaky boat, life is just a dream.” Like, it’s over quick. Not in the sense of “Let’s live it up without any responsibility.” It’s not a bacchanal or whatever. But think about your family life and how much joy is in that. I think that’s what is swirling around “Tarnish” and “The Vulture.” Maybe looking at it like we’re all just doomed is silly; yeah there’s climate change and there’s all this worry and there’s war and there are all kinds of reasons to believe that things are going south or the ship is going down or whatever, but that’s A perspective. There’s different ways to frame it. I hope that my kids can frame it a little bit more like their mom does and less like I do.

I think part of what “The Vulture” does especially well is that it is mindful of how you maybe processed the world at one point and then if you start to see things in your children, who better to help them through than someone who has navigated those waters already. 

Maybe so, yeah. Maybe so. And it’s funny…we talked about the ferocity of creativity once Tim made his record and how much more I was like “Look, this is how it’s gotta go” on this one. But there was a question with that one, and that was at the end, what are we going to repeat, “Life is but a dream” on the way out? Or what I kinda wanted which was to go back to the vulture being in the tree. “Row row row your leaky boat /The vulture is in the tree” and Tim was like “No…No…it’s ‘Life is but a dream’.” And so live, I volley back and forth because I do think that is kind of the difference between Tim and I…I’m likely to say “row the leaky boat, the vulture is in the tree…death is coming” and he’s more likely to say “row the leaky boat, life is but a dream.” They’re different existential principles. I’m glad we left it in, but I’m glad I sometimes get the opportunity to change it live. 

I wonder if part of that is parenthood versus non-parenthood. I mean, obviously, Tim’s got nephews and nieces and whatever and so he’s not totally oblivious to the responsibilities and the weight of parenthood, but I wonder if some of that is having kids versus not having kids of your own. 

I would tend to argue that his perspective is the more healthy one.

Oh it definitely might be. Absolutely. 

You know, like, to bring the listener back at the end of the record to the idea that “the vulture is in the tree! They’re coming for you! They’re coming for your carcass!” is pretty dark. It’s pretty bleak. It’s a pretty bleak thing to say to your kids. To me, it’s kind of funny. But I do think it’s a little more hopeful to end on “life is but a dream.” It’s over so quick. Trying to hover above some of it and think of it like this ethereal thing is healthy sometime, as opposed to thinking “Oh, when is this going to end.” It’s a weird thing. But I like that song. I like playing it. It’s a weird one.

It is, and I love that. I think I’ve said this about most of the album at this point through our conversations, but I think that’s part of what I love about this record. Not that there haven’t been artistic high points since Devour, obviously, but I think it’s pitch-perfect for where we are right now, and you went for it. 

I think I’m at a point now where I can hear that and not be worried. I mean, there’s been times when I’ve put out records, and even talking to you and knowing how much Devour meant to you and how large that record loomed, because we recorded it in a fancy studio with all these amazing players and it was such a big step up. I was able to start headlining shows around then, and so it does loom large. But there are different people over time who feel that way about the other records. And part of that lesson is to just keep making stuff, because there will be records that really resonate with Jay Stone in 2013 or 2023 and then, there might be another song on another record that does that for you, or half a record, but the point is that everyone’s going to be tapping in and tapping out at different points, as I have done with a lot of artists who have put out a lot of work, and that’s cool. That’s what makes for a richness in the setlist, and it’s what makes the conversation fun.

I try to look at it more that way, versus looking at it like “Oh shit, am I trying to beat my last work?” Alex (Fang, the Hause’s manager) is really helpful in that regard too, because he helps remind me that this is a job. Like, I’ll tell him I was talking to such-and-such and they’re writing songs and they aren’t sure if this batch of songs is as good as whatever their major record was, and he’s like “you know, no one in I.T. does that. No one in insurance sales does that. No one in therapy does that. They don’t go “Oh man, that session that I did with that person struggling with depression in 2014, I wonder if that was my peak.” No one thinks about shit like that in regular jobs, so he’s like “Why would you? You’re just responding to an ecosystem that has to do with critics and what is the best and all that. Who cares what the best is, because the best is all subjective anyway, so keep making stuff!” 

Those songs that are a little weightier, do you ever get moments where your therapist wife or your therapist therapist hear something and say “Hey, you alright there, bud?” 

Bearing Down” was certainly something to discuss. 

I could see that. Do you discuss that before a person you’d be discussing it with has heard it? Like, “Hey, so there’s going to be this song and it’s pretty heavy so we should probably talk about this?” Or do you wait til they hear it and respond?

In the case of “Bearing Down,” I played that for Natasha. I was struggling with that, because we were having mixing issues on that record. We were having a big struggle until it went to Andrew Alekel. He mixed it beautifully and got it where I needed it to be. But that meant that I had to listen to that song a lot; a lot more than I would ordinarily listen to it. So I was listening and listening and listening and I think it was just wearing me out. It was a snapshot of a place I’ve been, but it’s not a place that I’m in every day. It started to wear a groove in me and I said “Man, I should probably play this for Tasha and at least just make her aware.” Because she’s asked at certain points “Where are we at with suicidal ideations? How much of that is in your history?”

Well yeah, I mean there are multiple references to swan diving off the Golden Gate Bridge, so…

Yeah! So it was a tender moment to play that for her, and she was like “I feel for you. That sucks that that’s part of what you’re wrestling against.” 

Did you play an album version of it for her or did you sit down with a guitar and play it for her?

I played the mix for her. 

That probably makes sense.

I rarely do that acoustic guitar thing and play stuff for her that way. I don’t know why. 

I feel like you can maybe be a little more objective about it when you’re listening to it on the stereo or on an iPhone versus if you’re actually physically playing it. Maybe that would make it a little too raw in that moment.

Yeah. This is also a weird thing that I don’t really think I’ve ever said in an interview, but I have a weird thing about sharing the work with Natasha in general. I think it might just stem from … I don’t know what it is. Because I also, in the same breath, believe the more vulnerable you are, the more successful your relationship will be. But I think at different points, I don’t know what exactly I’m looking for when I share a song with her. And I don’t think she knows what I’m looking for. So if I don’t know, I certainly don’t think she would know. Am I looking for affirmation? Am I looking for a bigger conversation about my interior emotional life? Like…what’s my goal? So as we’ve gotten older and we’ve gotten busier with the children and she’s gotten busier with her practice and stuff, I kind of just do my work and she hears it whenever she wants to. She’s complimentary about it, but I don’t need compliments from my wife. My wife is my teammate in life, she’s rooting for me no matter what record I make. So it’s a weird thing. Whereas, with Tim, he’s much more willing to sit down with a half-baked idea and play it for his wife and they’ll talk about it and have a whole big exchange on it. That’s where they’re at in life though. I was like that with Devour; I was sharing those songs with Natasha, but we had just met. We didn’t have kids and we were free as birds, so it was like “Hey, check this out!” I guess over time, I’m like “This is the work, I hope you like it, but I’m not going to change it if you don’t.” (*both laugh*) I don’t know. It’s a very peculiar thing to even admit or to interface with and then to say in an interview…

Well I mean at some level, a lot of us don’t do that anyway with whatever our jobs are, right? Like, at some point, the longer that you’re married and the longer you successfully keep your kids alive, the more your job becomes your “job” and you start to compartmentalize things. Just that you guys who are in the creative fields, whether it’s songwriting or screenwriting or book writing, the “job” in quotes is different, so the result might weigh different on the spouse than a therapy session would for Natasha, or getting somebody’s taxes done successfully because you’re a CPA or whatever.

That’s all true! The only wrinkle to that is that these are deeply meaningful things, and they are deeply emotionally intertwined with who I am as a person. It is tricky business. Did you see that Isbell documentary?

I haven’t yet, because I don’t have HBO.

There’s a lot of exchange about the creative process between the two of them as spouses and as songwriters that is SO bizarre to me. That’s not a critique of them; do whatever makes you happy in life. But it was so foreign to me. Like, they were arguing over participle tenses and things in the movie…

Yeah, she’s got a Masters in poetry, so she KNOWS that stuff.

So there’s this whole creative thing that causes friction in the movie. That’s not spoiling anything, that’s one of the driving conflicts in the movie. But it just seemed about as far from how we roll as a married couple. I don’t do that with her therapy, either, you know? Like, we will talk about work, and she’ll tell me about what’s going on, but I wouldn’t say “Well, you should this with that client instead.” Although I don’t have a degree in therapy, but either way. We have what’s currently working for us, and that’s that I write batches of songs and I record them and I work really hard on them and I put a lot of myself into them, and we sort of have this careful truce about how to share them. I’m like “Whenever you want to hear them, you can hear them,” but I’m not the guy with the guitar going “Hey look what I just made up!” Because I guess I just don’t trust what my intention is. Do I want to have this really beautiful woman tell me that I’m cool? Because that’s not useful to either of us. 

One can see where it would have been useful ten years ago when you were showing her Devour songs…

Yes! Yes, exactly! But that’s not the nature of where we’re at now. We’re teammates, and sure you want to impress her, but I think what would really impress her is if I did the fucking dishes. (*both laugh*) Or if I kept my cool when the boys are tantruming. She knows I can rhyme and come up with emotionally compelling ways to sing songs. She knows that already. And that’s also kind of a weird part of the job, like how much did this all start off when you’re craving affirmation and you’re craving attention. And now, I just try to be dignified in that, and not make that the whole point, you know? The goalposts are different. Let me make something that’s compelling and useful to people who are going through a difficult life. That’s different than “Hey look at me!!” There’s a more dignified way of doing it than a booze-soaked ego trip.

I just go back to this analogy over and over that there’s pure water running through a creek and a stream. Then it goes out to brackish water, and then it goes out to the sea. And Tim’s goal and my goal when we’re writing songs is to get as fresh water as we can and not taint it. The sea is the music industry, where there’s sharks and sharp coral and you can get sucked down. The brackish water is where you’re deciding how much touring you’re going to do and are you going to pay for a radio guy, is “Hazard Lights” going to go to Adult Contemporary radio or Rock radio? But that sort of includes mastering and what order you’re going to put the songs in. You’re in brackish water there. It’s not fully the ocean, but you’re not in real pure water. I try to think about it from that perspective. The goal is to keep it as pure as possible to the last possible second, and have as little brackish water as possible. Once it’s out in the sea, who knows. It might just float out, it might come back at you, who knows. There’s so little control that you have at that point. But what I’m kind of yearning for the older I get is to stay as close to the river as possible. The rest of that process is the job. You put the newsletter out and get them out to the fans to let them know what’s going on and keep the conversation going, but there is an element of commercialism to that. You have to keep the lights on. But even in that, you want to stay as close to that pure, creative force as possible. The job comes with learning to navigate the rest of the water. 

Even the festival you put on, you did it down by the river, not on the waterfront!

(*both laugh*) That’s right! We could have done it on the ocean! We even did that on the river!

Sing Us Home Festival – Year One

So speaking of the festival…obviously people know at this point that you put on Sing Us Home in Philadelphia a couple weekends ago. Where did that idea come from, and how far back was the seed planted to do something like that in Philly?

The germ of that was well over a year old. We started to conceive of it I think before we played our last Philly headline show at Union Transfer, and that was last April. How did it come to be? That’s such a long time ago…

Well, it sounds like an idea that you could be tossing around after a big headline show, like “Oh, this was fun, we should do a festival!” but that it’s something you could just say in passing and then it never goes anywhere because it seems like…

It’s such a behemoth, yeah! That’s where our manager Alex (Fang) comes into play. I think he took it seriously and I think he was really excited about the idea and really saw the potential in it. He started chasing it, and what that really means is you’re having meetings with the Manayunk Development Corporation and you’re meeting with the city and you’re filling out permits. The very unsexy stuff. It’s certainly not picking the lineup! (*both laugh*) That’s almost the last thing you do. I mean I was bugging him about the lineup the whole time, and he was like “Hey man, if we don’t get permits, your lineup could be awesome and it just won’t happen.” There are a lot of logistics, and I thankfully we partnered up with Rising Sun Presents, which was a new partnership for me. I’ve been working with R5 Productions for most of my career in Philly and they’re kind of the punks, you know? It all started in a church basement for them, and now they pretty much run Union Transfer and they have their reach and they do their thing. In this instance, Rising Sun work a little bit more out in the suburbs and they have a lot of history of putting on like the folk festival at different points, the Concerts Under The Star series and things like that, so they knew what they were doing in a different way for this. Alex and they were super pivotal in basically making our dream idea into a reality. And, you know, friends of ours do festivals. Frank Turner has a festival that he does and that we’ve played at. It’s incredible. It’s a different kind of model.

For us, it was like “We want to put our stamp on the city, and we want to do it in our old neighborhood.” I didn’t want to do it downtown. I knew of a place that I thought was super cool and worked with my friend who runs the record store that I used to buy my records at as a teenager. He’s still down there on Main Street, so he’s tied in with the business bureau and all that, so he helped us out. But all of that is inside baseball and boring. Ultimately it was this great idea that was put into practice by an incredible team. It was funny, Alex was getting emails from other managers when we announced it saying “Hey, thanks a lot…five different artists of mine have emailed me saying ‘hey, why don’t we do something like this?” (*both laugh*) I think the reason people don’t do things like this is that it’s so cumbersome. It takes over a year to make it happen, and if it rains, you’re fucked. If L & I (Department of Licensing and Inspections) shuts you down, you’re doomed. There’s just so much risk involved. And we had a successful one. I didn’t move in with my dad afterwards (*laughs*). It worked. And still, I see what could have gone wrong and it’s got me even more nervous for year two. Like it was amazing. So now we have proof of concept and we can do it again, which is cool. We also have our eyes a lot wider about what could go wrong, and those risks do worry you. But it was amazing, man. It’s very rare at 45 years old to have a career high-water mark, and that’s what we had. It was incredible. 

The venue that you did it at – the outdoor space there – was that a place that they normally do events or whatever? I didn’t necessarily get that sense. It’s not like you were just putting your event in a place where they do events and yours was just the one that week…

No. They’ve been desperately been trying to get that place on the map for events like this, and our guy at the Manayunk Development Corporation, which is the neighborhood entity down there, he said “You guys did in 48 hours what we couldn’t do in eight years.” They did one other event I think, a blues festival I think, but I don’t know what it looked like or what went wrong. Some people tried to tell me about that and I just blocked it out, because it just felt like bad mojo. But this was not bad. This was a family event. Everyone from 3 years old to 83 years old had a great time. People just had a blast, and that’s such a joyful thing to know that we had a hand in. It was great, man. If it never happens again – which it will, we’re going to do it again – but if that was it, I feel like those are two days that I’ll remember for the rest of my life as being just spectacular. 

Obviously you’ve been involved in the business side of the industry, especially with owning your own label, but does it give you a newfound sort of respect for things like ticket pricing and booking of opening acts and merch cuts and all of that stuff? It’s the inside baseball stuff like you said, except that that’s the gears that make the whole scene turn.

Totally! Absolutely! It definitely makes me simultaneously more willing to play other peoples’ festivals so that I could help (*both laugh*) and at the same time, it also makes me understand why in certain instances we don’t get invited to play. You really key into this idea that there are headliners and then there are direct support bands to a bill, and then there’s everybody else. Now, I don’t think this way because I’m sort of an old-school, kumbaya kind of guy, but you can see where people go “Oh, it’s just mix-and-match, you just make it work.” I don’t want that, and I think that’s kind of what set us apart, that we want to cultivate a specific type of experience. I wanted to make a festival that I wanted to go to, and I don’t really like going to festivals.

That’s a very good way to put it. 

It occurred to me that when we were kids, we had this May Fair in our neighborhood, and people would sell little toys and there was pizza and cotton candy and all that, and I LOVED IT. I looked forward to the May Fair every year. It probably just raised money for our Christian school or whatever, but I was talking about this with my sister and I said “We just threw our own little May Fair” (*both laugh*) and she just laughed and was like “Yeah, I think it’s a little different.” (*laughs*) But I wanted it to feel just as much or more like a family reunion than I do like Reading or Leads. I want it to feel like you know that we care about you, that we want you to have a good time, and that there’s plenty to eat and that there’s not too much music or too much of this or too much taking your money just because you decided to have kids here, you know? (*both laugh*) We don’t want it to be this crass, commercial thing. We want it to feel good, and to know that it did feels great. Alex is just getting back from his honeymoon, and I’m so excited to start talking about next year. I mean a lot of the shit is out of the way, like we have the signs, we have the website, we have the protocol, we have the permits. So much of the logistic stuff has already been done so to know that we can start to jump into the planning and the lineup is exciting. 

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DS Interview: Jason White on reissuing Pinhead Gunpowder’s catalog on 1-2-3-4 Go! Records…and what’s coming next!

In addition to continuing to make music and regularly tour all corners of the globe as one of the bands that helped propel punk rock into the stratosphere three decades ago, one of the more unique and, frankly, impressive things about the Green Day camp has been their simultaneous maintenance of a seemingly unlimited network […]

In addition to continuing to make music and regularly tour all corners of the globe as one of the bands that helped propel punk rock into the stratosphere three decades ago, one of the more unique and, frankly, impressive things about the Green Day camp has been their simultaneous maintenance of a seemingly unlimited network of side projects featuring some – if not all – of the band’s core members (Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool, obviously) and a cast supporting cast of friends and musicians. A quick and probably incomplete synopsis of all of the band members’ projects reads as less of a Green Day “family tree” and more like a Green Day “family wreath”: Armstrong and Dirnt and Cool appear alongside longtime “fifth Beatle” guitarist and collaborator Jason White, longtime touring guitarist Kevin Preston and longtime jack-of-all-trades Jason Freese in Foxboro Hot Tubs. Armstrong and Dirnt and White and longtime Green Day crew member Bill Schnieder and American Idiot/21st Century Breakdown/Uno!/Dos!/Tre!/Revolution Radio/Father Of All... engineer/producer Chris Dugan in The Coverups. Armstrong and Preston are joined by Jeff Matika and David Field in The Longshot. Armstrong and Cool and Dirnt and White definitely do not appear together in The Network. White and Schnieder and Schnieder’s brother Greg and Johnnie Wentz and Willie Samuels had The Influents up and running for a bit there too.

Perhaps the oldest of these projects – and undoubtedly one of the coolest – is Pinhead Gunpowder, a band that traces its roots back to the early 90s. The Berkeley-based iteration of the band featured Armstrong and Schnieder and Sarah Kirsch teaming up with the creative force that was former Crimpshrine drummer (and occasional Green Day roadie) Aaron Cometbus. The band played sporadically and recorded a couple EPs and a handful of tracks for various compilations and they all got combined on a quasi-full-length called Jump Salty that became one of the coolest records of 1994. It was released a few months after Green Day’s genre-defining Dookie, and yet, because it came out on Lookout Records instead of a major label, ownership of Jump Salty in your collection felt like a ticket to an exclusive club. While the masses were listening to (and buying, because it was a different time) Dookie and Smash and a smaller but still substantial group of people went as far as listening to Stranger Than Fiction and Punk In Drublic and Let’s Go!, listening to albums like Jump Salty felt like you were part of the cool punk rock kids club, whatever that even means at this point. 

Kirsch would leave Pinhead Gunpowder during that ground-breaking year but the band wouldn’t have to look far to find a replacement. Enter the aforementioned Jason White. The Arkansas transplant had been friendly with the band’s members for years, having befriended Armstrong after an ill-fated Green Day tour stop in Memphis earlier in the decade. Upon relocating to the Bay Area, he also joined Schneider as a member of East Bay pop punk band Monsula until that act disbanded in 1993. The Pinhead quartet of Cometbus, Armstrong, Schneider and White would put out another handful of EPs and compilations and, in 1997, their first-and-only full-length, Goodbye Ellston Avenue, all in a sound that remained true to the band’s East Bay, “Gilman Street” style and sound. (White, as you probably know by now, joined the Green Day ranks on the Warning tour in 1999 to fill out the live sound, making this his twenty-fifth year at stage right.) The band put out their last new material, the West Side Highway EP in 2008 and played their last show to date at 924 Gilman Street in 2010. They never really officially disbanded as much as they just focused on other projects: White and Armstrong and Schneider on the Green Day Family Wreath and Cometbus primarily on his writing and his consortium of independent bookstores in New York City

There was an ill-fated attempt at reissuing all of the Pinhead Gunpowder material in 2010 under the same record label, Recess Records in this case. (Earlier versions of their works appeared on Recess and Lookout Records and Adeline Records and Too Many Records and maybe a couple of others whose names escape me.) After laying dormant for the better (worse?) part of a decade, the project found itself resurrected a couple years back. Beginning two years ago this week, the band announced plans to team with Oakland’s own Steve Stevenson and 1-2-3-4 Go! Records to reissue their entire catalog in five two-part installments. Like everyone, the team behind the reissues ran into supply chain issues and vinyl production delays (thanks Adele!?!) but the close of 2022 brought with it the rerelease of Compulsive Disclosure and West Side Highway, marking the completion of the project, and meaning that for the first time, the band’s entire discography lives under the same roof. 

Yours truly had the distinct honor and privilege of catching up with the one-and-only Jason White to look back on the process of revisiting and reissuing the Pinhead Gunpowder catalog. As per usual when we conduct an interview on these pages, the conversation tended to meander in a lot of the best possible ways, covering ground that includes but is not limited to: meeting Pete Townshend; revisiting early Pinhead material after Kirsch’s 2012 death; White’s personal place in the annals of punk history; the neverending changes in the musical spectrum; the Little Rock, Arkansas, music scene; going to high school with Ben Nichols; 1-2-3-4 Go!’s importance to the East Bay arts and cultural landscape; and so much more. Scroll down to keep reading!

Green Day at Fenway Photo Credit: Brittany Rose Queen

Surprisingly, the following Q&A has been condensed and edited for content and clarity.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): First and foremost, thanks for doing this. When I saw that the email came in saying “do you want to talk to Jason White from Pinhead Gunpowder and Green Day?” I thought it was a joke. (*both laugh*) Then I realized it was from Chris Hnat – shoutout to Chris – but I’ve been a fan of yours for a long long time, so this is a really cool thing, one of those bucket list items to check off. So thanks!

Jason White: Cool! Cool! Thanks for having me, I appreciate it. 

I was talking to a couple of the guys who help run Dying Scene the other night, and we talked A) about how good the reissues have come out. One of our guys – Dylan – is real big on tracking a lot of the vinyl reissues and different variants of things that come out, and he was super stoked about them. And we were also talking about B) how cool it is that, at least for me and where I grew up, Pinhead Gunpowder was kind of like a secret handshake band. Like, a few of us kids were listening to punk rock before ‘94, listening to Bad Religion and Fugazi and especially the Lookout Records bands. And then ‘94 happened and so everybody liked Green Day, and we did too, but Pinhead Gunpowder was like the “secret handshake, oh you don’t just listen to Green Day, you listen to punk rock” band. 

A little more under-the-radar, yeah, I hear you. It felt like it was a little more underground and you had to dig it up.

Yeah and you felt like you were part of something, and like you knew more. It felt like a special thing. Anyway, I know we’re sort of at the end of the reissue cycle for the Pinhead records, so it can be kind of tough to figure out where to sort of start and how the story will go, but I wanted to actually talk about 1-2-3-4 Go! Records for a little bit, because that seems like a really cool place. For people outside the Bay Area, and I’m certainly one of them, 1-2-3-4 Go! Records isn’t just a cool underground label, it’s a record store as well. 

Yeah, and it actually had two locations for a bit. (Owner Steve Stevenson) had one in San Francisco as well. But yeah, it started in Oakland, and I believe he’s had it over ten years now. It might even go back fifteen. He started off on 40th (Street), between Telegraph and Broadway in Oakland, which used to be a little bit of a dead zone. He wanted to start a store, so he rented what essentially was a closet of a place. I always said that if there were three people in the place, it was crowded. (*both laugh*) He just had a few racks of records and it was just him in the back. We were just excited to have this new store, and it was small, and we were used to the only stores that stuck around were of course Amoeba Records and then one called Rasputin. They’re both great; Amoeba I kind of prefer. But anyway, it was kind of the start of having a small record store again. Now there’s several around, but he started in that closet of a place, then he ended up moving next door because he was doing well enough and he needed the space, obviously. Then he ended up across the street, where he is now. Then he expanded into the room next door too, so he’s occupying two retail spaces. It’s great; it’s awesome, and before Covid, he was having shows in the back. There was a stage, and he was having art shows and events, and it’s kind of turned into a whole crazy thing in addition to the label that he started with. 

It seems like it’s sort of a hub, and a lot of scenes don’t really have that kind of space anymore. I live just north of Boston and so I’m tangentially tied to the Boston scene, which is much different than it used to be. But we don’t have a lot of those sorts of places in the immediate area anymore; everything has sort of been gentrified out, so it’s cool that that sort of thing exists and seems to be thriving. 

Yeah! I’m just shocked that he did as well as he did because when he started talking about opening a little store, I was like “well, he’s got little overhead in that space,” and I’d worked at record stores in the past so I kinda knew how it worked. But then the vinyl – I don’t know if I’d call it a resurgence, but it became a thing again, right? So he kinda rode that wave and it’s still a thing – I don’t know if it’s peaking or not, but it seems like it’s still a thing.

It seems like it’s been peaking every year for the last decade. 

Yeah, and it keeps climbing up, and with Record Store Day and all this craziness. It’s great. 

It’s almost turned in the other direction with Record Store Day now, but that’s probably a different conversation for a different time.

Right, that’s the one day to not go to the record store! (*both laugh*)

I used to love it, man. I used to love standing in line in front of the record store, but then it turned into having to stand in line in the mall, because the major record stores around here all moved into the mall, which is a weird thing because malls are dying around the country, yet that’s where our Newbury Comics moved to. 

I was going to say, yeah, I remember the Newbury Comics stores. 

They’re still alright, and the one on Newbury Street is next door to where it used to be – and smaller than it used to be – so I appreciate the 1 2 3 4 Go! Records has expanded a few times, and the original Newbury Comics is not only much smaller but most of it isn’t music anymore. It’s kitschy things and Pop dolls…

Yeah, t-shirts and posters. I went into that (Newbury Street) location within the last five years when we were on tour, and I peeked in and yeah, it didn’t seem like there were many records anymore, it was more paraphernalia. 

They had standalone locations in suburbia, where I am, but they’ve all moved into malls now. So to have to go into the mall to buy records now, it’s like things went full circle a second time… Anyway, so I know that Recess Records had reissued the Pinhead records years ago, and that’s a whole other thing, but when did the idea to reissue them for real under 1 2 3 4 Go! Records come about? Was that during Covid?

It was before that, because I think it had just been long enough where we felt like we could talk about it or address it again. The Recess thing kinda just didn’t work, and we were like “well, it seems like everything’s a little bit hard to find, a lot of it is out of print at this point, and we kind of need to do something besides just having the records that are already out there and then having everything on streaming services.” And it was really easy – a no-brainer, really – because Steve is local, he’s right down the street, he’s a friend, we see him all the time, and he said he’d love to do it. And he said we could do it in these phases, so that it wasn’t just ten records at one time and everything gets lost in the shuffle. 

I was going to ask where that idea came from, because that was really neat to do basically five two-episode installments. 

I think it became like a 7-inch and an LP at the same time, and then a shirt. And we had never done shirts, so I was kind of more excited about that than anything! (*both laugh*) I do think that financially, it would have been hard to pay for everything right away, so it became “put phase one out, and then as money starts coming in you can pay for phase two” and so on. And that way it would keep things on people’s radar, like “oh, a new Pinhead thing will be out every six months” or whatever it was. It seemed like an okay idea. We wanted to kind of do what we tried to do with Recess, which is to have one home for everything so we don’t have to think about it anymore. It’s all under one rough and it’s easy to manage. That was the thought behind it really. 

And this is the first time it’s really been under one roof. I guess it sort of was for Recess, but that didn’t work out. 

Yeah, that’s true. Everything came out on different labels.

Did that mean buying rights back or anything? How involved was that process?

No, Pinhead always owned everything. That was not an issue, really. 

They’re not necessarily remastered or remixed or anything; was there talk of doing that as well?

For the Recess thing, I might be wrong, but when we were moving forward with it, we kinda did remaster everything, so everything was kinda done. This is actually kind of a funny story, but I think we had mastered it for CD maybe at that time, so everything had kinda been done, and we were like “well, let’s listen to it and if everything is fine we don’t have to do anything to it.” We ended up having to redo a few things for vinyl, and the mastering person we used – I worked at Adeline Records years ago when Pinhead did the records there, and this guy Ken Lee, who was in Oakland at the time, he’s still working and mastering stuff, but he had moved, and unbeknownst to me, he lives five houses down from me, on the same side of the street. 

(*both laugh*) That’s pretty wild!

Yeah, it’s really strange! Bill had to come to my house to pick something up, because I had some of the original source material maybe, and he was here and he was like “well, Ken Lee is actually in El Cerrito now” – which is where I live – “and he’s actually on this street” and I’m like “that’s my street” and we looked at the address and I was like “that’s that house right over there.” It ended up being an even smaller world than it already was. 

That’s really bizarre, yeah.

It made things really easy to get him materials. So I became in charge of that.

So you’re ultimately happy obviously with how everything came out? Like I said, our record radar guru, Dylan, was saying they came out awesome, and he’s pretty discerning about that stuff. 

In terms of sound quality, it was a little hard to approve the test pressings, because I kept A/B-ing stuff, and when we first started, I was like “I don’t know if it’s as good as the original.” And you had to consider how things used to be mastered twenty or thirty years ago versus how they’re mastered now, or how hot they make (the vinyl) now. Initially, I didn’t think it was hot enough, but then they sorta don’t do that anymore because you end up with records that skip and all kinds of things like that. And they sounded fine, I just had to maybe turn it up a little louder than the old version. But it didn’t distort or anything like that, so yeah, I was happy that it all came out great. And Aaron is very detailed. He does all the art, and everything I thought came out awesome. And Steve worked with him and other people and they got it done. They came out great. 

Did you run into any of the almost comically long vinyl production issues that people were running into during Covid? Because I feel like the originally-scheduled end of this project was like nine months ago or something like that?

Yeah, we did, all over the place. I think as early as Phase Two, we were like “well, it’s going to take a little longer.” (*both laugh*) Anybody who’s making records now knows that it takes forever. You’re on a waiting list and it’s just a mess. We definitely ran into some of that. He gets them pressed in England somewhere, so we didn’t run into a lot of the usual stuff for the US plants that I’ve heard about. United in Tennessee is very backed up, I think. And honestly, I don’t even know what’s left down in LA from when I used to work at labels and stuff.

I don’t know either, but there aren’t many in my very limited understanding of it.

There used to be a ton but they all pretty much went out of business. Now I think there’s a bunch of new ones, I’m just not familiar with them.

I don’t know of any new ones, truthfully, but then being tied to the punk rock world, I feel like so much stuff gets produced in the Czech Republic by Pirates Press.

I have heard that too. And I have friends with smaller labels that’ll press stuff at a small place in Chicago, and then there’s one in Australia that’ll do like one-offs of like 50 or something.

That’s gotta cost a fortune. 

It does, but if you’ve got somebody that has a record that’s not going to sell a ton, you’ve got a cool artifact. It might cost six bucks a 7-inch or whatever, but it seemed worth it, I guess. 

It didn’t really dawn on me before, but the last new Pinhead Gunpowder stuff is like fifteen years old now. I think West Side Highway was ‘08. 

Yeah, that sounds about right. Going back and listening to everything, the way we did it, since we did the phases, I started with the oldest stuff first and got to the most recent stuff at the end, so it was like riding the arc again. Listening to the first record, I was a fan of the band before I was in it. And (Sarah) Kirsch, who was in the band before, has passed on, so it was sentimental to hear that stuff, because I hadn’t listened to it in so long. But everything made me happy to listen to, still. Some stuff stuck out to me that used to not.

Did all four of you relisten to everything and, like you said, A/B stuff for the project? 

Yeah, yeah, for sure. And then some of it got a little confusing in the later stuff because we were like “wait, what record was that on? Or wait, we put out live versions of stuff? I don’t remember that…” We had some stuff from KALX, a radio station here in Berkeley, that I didn’t remember at all. I mean, I remembered doing it, but I didn’t remember it being released on anything. It was cool to listen to the different phases, and to listen to it as “a release.” I guess I always thought of it as “we got together and wrote some songs,” and we had bits and pieces we would either leave behind and then pick up later, or whatever. But it was cool to think about it as a release. So when I hear Shoot The Moon, I think “oh, this one’s a little more loose.” But then …Ellston Avenue was tight and well-recorded or whatever. And the other stuff had its own sort of personality. That was the most interesting part about going back to it. 

I know Aaron wrote a lot of the material for Pinhead, but when you guys came together to record, was it like banging it out in a couple days, or were there longer recording sessions? 

It kinda varied on each record, but most of the time it was “okay, we have this two weeks to put everything together, so let’s hammer out the songs, practice as much as we can, and then go record them.” Sometimes we’d change stuff, especially vocals. You hear clearer when you’re in the studio and you can make a few decisions there. So usually, it was like “this is the allotted time for the project,” and we’d hash it out in two weeks most of the time. Ellston Avenue took a little bit longer, because it was our only attempt at doing an LP’s worth of stuff at one time. Usually it was five or six songs or whatever.  

Ellston Avenue is a tight-sounding record, and a big-sounding record as Pinhead records go. Was there ever talk of making it more of a stand-alone thing, and taking it on the road more? I mean, it was always going to be at least number two to Green Day obviously, but the band never went out on the road an awful lot. Was there ever talk amongst you four about doing it as a bigger “thing,” or would that have been almost impossible given how big Green Day was?

Yeah, I think, in my mind, it was always going to be a project that we could do when everybody had time. Obviously, Green Day stayed busy all through the years, so most of the time we’d be like “we just wanna write some songs together, record some stuff, go play a few shows.” We’d done a couple of mini-tours here and there, like we went up to the Pacific Northwest, to Seattle and back years ago. We went to LA at one point and kinda played around there. It was never really “let’s put the push behind this one and tour it” and all that stuff. It was always just sort of a meeting of the minds or whatever.

But they’re such fun records! And I say this knowing that I live 3,000 miles away and would have never had the chance to see the band anyway, but I feel like that’s stuff that people would enjoy hearing live. Do you miss playing some of those songs live, even semi-regularly?

Oh yeah! I mean whenever we got together to play shows, which was more often than we recorded…I mean, Pinhead is super fun to play live with because it has its own feeling and setting and tempos and energy. It was great, I loved it and hopefully we will do it again soon. 

Well that was certainly going to be a question, but now that the revisit has wrapped up, does that stoke the fires amongst any of you to play some shows for the first time in ten or fifteen years or whatever it is?

Yeah, I think if all the stars align soon…we’ve been talking about it for the last couple years, even before we were doing the rereleases, like, if Aaron came into town – the rest of us all live here in the Bay Area – we would get together and just jam at the practice space and play these songs randomly, it was always super fun, but it would always be like “oh, we should play a show…but I’ve gotta leave by Tuesday” or whatever. So it didn’t end up working out, but hopefully we’re going to do it soon!

Where does Aaron live? I always just picture him in the Bay Area. 

He’s in New York! He’s been there for a while now, and he’s doing great out there. He’s the owner of a collective that has bookstores out there. They’re really cool. He’s doing great out there. 

Is that why the rest of you did other projects – The CoverUps, Foxboro Hot Tubs, The Longshot…not The Network, obviously…so with Aaron 3000 miles away, let’s work on some other projects?

Yeah, like “we’re around…what else can we do?”

I’ve always appreciated that about that whole Green Day crew. That it didn’t stay just Green Day, that you did all these other projects that were creative and under different names and done independently, and more traditional to what I think we envision the whole East Bay scene to represent.

That’s how Bill Schnieder and I ended up doing The Influents+, the band that we had for a little while. I’d come back to town – I was out of town for a couple years and I came back to do Shoot The Moon, and then once we finished that, I just stayed here. We were like “well, what should we do now?” That phase of Pinhead was done and everyone kinda went their own ways, and I was like “well, I’ve got a few songs” and he was like “well, my brother’s got a few songs, let’s start another band.” It was just kind of the natural progression of things.

Did you go back to Little Rock in between?

I did, I went home to Arkansas for a couple years, between ‘96 and ‘98. I went back to play with some friends in a band called The Big Cats, and we gave it a shot for a minute, and then my dad became ill and I stayed behind to help take care of him. Then I came back here and stayed. 

We talked earlier about the scene that is the Bay Area, and related to that, Little Rock had a pretty cool scene of its own. If people don’t know about Little Rock, Towncraft is such a great movie.

Oh you know of it!

Yeah, I’ve watched it a couple times! I think I stumbled upon it on Amazon one day, and I would watch almost exclusively either live sports or music documentaries, but this was so well done, and it throws back to that underground scene. I knew nothing of the Little Rock scene aside from that you’re from there and Ben Nichols is from there.

Right! Yeah, I went to high school with Ben. He’s great. We had art together; I think I was one year older than him…maybe we were in the same grade, it’s tough to remember. But I knew him. He was in bands obviously and so we were in the same scene. 

It’s such a great snapshot of a scene that I’m not sure exists in too many places anymore. That sort of real, underground, junior high and high school kids starting their own scene and then it becomes this beautiful, a little bit incestuous, sort of thing. I don’t know of many places where that sort of thing exists in this country anymore.

I know, it’s tough to tell. I think there probably are, I just don’t know about them. But not in the same way, especially because of the way we consume things or look things up or find out about them, that part has completely changed, so I don’t know if it is even possible. It was a special time, I think. That was my friend Richard Matson who made that documentary about that time. A lot of cool things came out of that scene. I was stoked to find those people when I did. 

I had known of Red 40 a little bit – posthumously, of course…I don’t think their influence really made it to New Hampshire where I grew up, necessarily. But I think it was through watching that documentary that I realized “oh wait, that’s Colin from Samiam!” I obviously knew him as playing drums for Samiam but he was the guitar player from Red 40…

It’s funny because Colin is the oldest friend that I have.

Amazing drummer too, by the way.

He’s the best. I’m so glad that he gets recognition through Samiam, because he’s incredible. We were in our earliest bands together. He was the first person I ever played music with. He co-wrote a couple of the Pinhead things that I did. But about the Red 40 thing…Colin was always known as a drummer, because he’s incredible. Everybody wanted him in their band. But Ben wanted to kinda do this new project, he wanted to start a new band, but it seemed like everyone was already in another band, and so in order not to pinch from other bands, he asked Colin to switch roles and play guitar, and then the guitar player in Colin’s band at the time, Substance, this guy Steve Kooms, switched roles and he played drums. Steve was a pretty good drummer, Colin was a pretty good guitar player, and Ben just wanted to do something different, you know? So he wrote these songs and they ended up recording them almost off-the-cuff. Now I think it’s one of the best-known things out of Little Rock, at least from that scene. 

I haven’t seen it happen at Lucero shows, but when you go see Ben solo, like, we drove down to New Jersey a couple weeks ago because he does a one-off every year in Jersey, of all places, at a place called Crossroads, and it’s awesome, and people always yell for Red 40 songs. They clearly only know them from the Lucero connection, the same way I do, but people always yell out Red 40 songs and it’s kind of a cool thing. It’s gotta be cool for him.

Does he ever end up playing some?

He does sometimes. He didn’t last time, but sometimes he’s got one worked up and it depends how the whiskey is flowing by the middle of the night. (*both laugh*) But yeah, I really dig that documentary and sort of like I was saying at the beginning, we had like six kids who listened to punk rock. In New Hampshire, we had little pockets of kids here and there around the state who were into the music, but not enough to probably qualify as a scene, necessarily, but I think we all looked at the Bay Area, the Easy Bay especially, as a special thing, because it wasn’t LA, it wasn’t New York and the hardcore scene – frankly, it wasn’t the Boston hardcore scene which was never really my thing anyway, we all kinda gravitated toward the Bay Area scene and that became the music that we listened to. But to know that there were other places where there were these people just a little older than us and putting these organic little scenes together, it was wonderful. People should watch it. I don’t even know where you can get it now. 

Yeah, I don’t know? I think it’s probably on Amazon.

Thanks for doing this. It’s been really cool to follow the Pinhead reissues and to have Pinhead Gunpowder sort of trending on a lot of the punk rock social media pages and record websites. To have that stuff trending again is pretty cool.

Yeah, I agree. I used to sort of be of the mindset of “oh, why reissue everything? Everyone that wants those records already has them, or they can get them if they look hard enough.” But I’m stupid and I forget that younger people might just be getting into it now and will be like “well, I want that, how do I get it?” I’m just dumb enough that I never considered that. But I’m very happy that it’s all out there and available and if anyone is getting hip to it now, that’s awesome. 

I forget who I heard talk about a similar thing…Jack White, maybe…but about how stuff shouldn’t be out of print. Obviously he’s got his own label and his own printing press and all that, but I think it was him saying that music should be accessible and available. That people are always finding out about music and they should be able to go out and buy it.

Yeah, there’s value in that. I see that now. I used to feel like “well, we made enough.” I figured nobody else was going to want it. I forget that I’m getting old (*both laugh*) and that younger generations might be interested. 

I’ve got a fifteen-year-old, and there are kids in high school that are starting to listen to that era of punk rock now, and that didn’t happen really through middle school. There are kids who listen to and love Green Day, and to me, that’s awesome, and it’s really awesome that they’re falling in love with the same band that we did thirty years ago. 

Yeah. Everyone has their own entry point, at whatever age they might be at whatever time, and it’s really neat to see how it all works out.  

Do you ever think about where you fit into that whole thing? And maybe that’s a weird thing to even think about, or a super ego-y thing to think about. 

Gosh, no, not really. A little bit as recently as last night. We played a Coverups show last night out in this suburb called Walnut Creek, and I said goodbye to my kids and I started driving to go play the show, and I was thinking “well, I’ve pretty much been doing this same thing for thirty plus years…is it weird? No, because it just seems normal. But I think of so many people that I’ve known over the years don’t do it anymore or whatever, so I’m like, well, this is what I set out to do. I just wanted to play music and be in bands and it worked out somehow, you know?” I still always look up to the people who came before me, probably way too much.

(*both laugh*) Yeah, I think we all do.

I think I’m still trying to maybe impress them, you know? That’s still on my mind.

Do you have a running list of people that you’ve looked up to and been able to meet that you check off? Like The Stones and people like that?

There’s a few, yeah. That list grows all the time. Sometimes I’m a little shy about it these days, because essentially I’m like “well, I’m just bothering this person.” I’ll say a quick thank you, I appreciate what you’re doing. 

I feel like as a guitar player, you can talk to guitar players …

Yeah, you can talk a little shop. There’s a guitar player that’s younger than me that I approached and just made a fool of myself. I was like “you’re my favorite guitar player on the planet” and he just sort of was really embarrassed for me, I think. It was Paul Maroon of The Walkmen. And I just think he’s incredible. But then it goes both ways. I got the opportunity to talk to Pete Townshend a couple months ago, because we played a charity event with them, and I just got like a quick 30 seconds to a minute to say “Hi Pete, how ya doing? Do you remember me?” I didn’t really want to bother him, he didn’t really want to be bothered, so it was a cool exchange and that was fine! 

And now I can say I talked to a guy who talked to Pete Townshend! I’ve actually talked to a couple and it’s wild to me that I have even that connection. 

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DS Interview: Sammy Kay on mental health, being a Jersey boy in Kentucky, his powerful new EP “Inanna” and more

When last we heard from Sammy Kay on the pages of Dying Scene, the world – both his and ours – looked very different. It was the back half of 2019. The original Dying Scene website hadn’t yet crashed, and Kay was releasing civil/WAR, his most recent full-length record. The record was funded primarily through […]

When last we heard from Sammy Kay on the pages of Dying Scene, the world – both his and ours – looked very different. It was the back half of 2019. The original Dying Scene website hadn’t yet crashed, and Kay was releasing civil/WAR, his most recent full-length record. The record was funded primarily through a Kickstarter campaign and, while it found him once-again recording with Pete Steinkopf at Little Eden Studio in his ancestral homeland of New Jersey as he had on 2017’s Untitled and 2014’s Fourth Street Singers, it represented a stylistic departure from the ska and roots-rock that had marked the earlier stages of his music career. Instead, civil/WAR found the gravelly-voiced Kay backed primarily by his own acoustic guitar, the subtle textures putting more emphasis on the weighty, at times heart-wrenching lyrical subject matter.

A fast-forward to the present day finds a Sammy Kay that is in very different places in both the literal and figurative senses. To wildly oversimplify things, there’s been a wedding and a move from Jersey to California and a divorce and a move to Raleigh and a move to Cincinnati and a global pandemic and a hiatus from and then return to sobriety and a better grip on some lifelong mental health concerns. Oh, and now, thankfully, there’s new music.

Kay signed with A-F Records for a full-length record that’s due out this fall. That’s a conversation for another day. In the very near future, however, there’s Inanna. It’s an EP that’s comprised of a few B-sides from the full-length sessions. There are reworked versions of a couple previously-revved up rock-and-roll songs from the earlier records. And then there’s a cover. But it’s not just any cover. It’s Kay’s funeral dirge-like take on The World/Inferno Friendship Society’s “My Ancestral Homeland, New Jersey,” a song that comes across both as an ode to that band’s recently-departed frontman Jack Terricloth, and a reflection on Kay’s own old stomping grounds. It’s haunting and forlorn and pitch-perfect enough that if you didn’t know it was a cover of a waltzy circus-punk tune, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a Sammy Kay original.

We caught up with Kay over Zoom a couple of Mondays ago, and in order to make the timeline work, Kay had to take an early exit from his normal Monday night online self-help meeting. (The writer in me was super appreciative; the friend and the person who’s worked in and around the recovery field for two decades in me said “NOOOO WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!”) One of the more positive things to have come out of the pandemic has been the new and creative ways that people have come up with to stay engaged with and connected to their life preservers. Online self-help meetings, FaceTime counseling sessions. Dropbox file-sharing songwriting sessions. Back-to-basics Nebraska-style bedroom four-track recordings. DIY artwork. TikTok. They’ve all allowed people to help overcome some of the boredom and isolation and monotony and separation that the pandemic created, and they were all put to use in positive ways by Kay as he has navigated whatever we’re calling the ‘new normal.’ Okay, maybe not TikTok, but still.

Read out chat below. It’s open and honest and raw and funny and so, so Jersey…even if Kay has started to establish a bit of a foundation (dare I say roots?) 640 miles from home. It’s a revealing look at a pretty intense and at times chaotic journey that has resulted in Kay seemingly in a more peaceful spot than we’ve seen from him. Oh, and pre-order Inanna here before its April 28th release, and stay tuned for more about the full-length this fall.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So yeah, let’s talk about the new record. When’s the official release day?

Sammy Kay: The 28th of April. Yeah. Inanna.

Are you excited? Do you still get excited after however many official records under your belt at this point?

There’s six. There’s six Sammy LPs, plus all the other bands growing up. It feels different. It’s a little weirder. Press is more of a thing now. When I was a kid, it was more like ‘I just hope people listen to it.’ And I still hope people listen to it, but also I hope there’s a good write-up about it. Because the internet is real, and you have to look cool on the internet. 

That is a thing, isn’t it? 

Oh it is a THING!!

Because as much as some of us want it to not be a thing – and I realize I say that as somebody who owns a website – but it really is a thing. You do have to pay attention to that shit, don’t you?

Yeah, and it’s weird because post-Covid, (song) premieres aren’t really a thing, and video premieres aren’t really a thing, and write-ups are kinda gone. There’s only a couple things that’ll happen. Some places do like a song-a-day, and it’s real cool and it’s a good little write-up, but because so many publications and websites are scaling back, the people that have always done stuff with me just don’t have time because everybody is trying to get to them. So it’s a little weird.

Yeah, and I feel like production of videos, at least the traditional way of making them, sort of shut down for a long time too. Some people were obviously making their own DIY things, but there weren’t really even videos to premiere anymore.

Yeah, and it feels like a lot of people went and learned how to do that during Covid. I am currently trying to learn how to TikTok and I am not having fun. (*both laugh*)

I will never learn how to TikTok. I kinda drew a line in the sand there. And I have a 15-year-old, so I kinda should know, but I just can’t…

Yeah, Morgan can do it! Buy her ice cream and let her do your TikToks. She’ll do it for you!

I don’t know, man. It’s a whole other world. And I get that there are people who are good at it, I just can’t wrap my head around it. 

Yeah, it’s one of those things that…I don’t obsess, but I study the algorithm and see what works, and right now, if there’s any sort of text in your image, it gets shadowbanned. And if you use the word “premiere” or “new song,” it fucking gets shadowbanned. “Come to my show” is like a shadowban term. I’ll watch my visibility drop to like a quarter of whatever it is if I say, like, “hey, we’ve got a new record coming out.” Just like that. Done. So it’s weird, and it’s a lot of sending notes like “hey, we’ve got a new record out, hope all is well. Love for you to give it a listen.”

Do you just have to flood the market with reminders that shit is coming out to make up for the fact that if you put one thing out there, maybe nobody will see it? I feel like you have to just be on top of it all the time.

Yeah. My visibility right now is a fifth of my followers, since we announced the record. And it’s not a lot. I’ll get like 250 views on a post, whereas the week before I posted something dumb about a cannoli and I got like 30,000 views, you know? (*both laugh*) I’ll look at the Reels or the TikToks or whatever and I’ll be like “Glenn Danzig is okay, and here’s a song about a breakup” and it’ll get 80,000 views or 120,000 views. Then the next thing is a song I actually wrote and it’s like 2,000 views, 4,000 views. The internet is a weird thing.

Do you obsess over it? 

Jay Stone, you know me pretty well. I obsess over everything! (*both laugh*) There’s no not obsessing!

Is there a healthy way to obsess over it, is maybe a better question to ask? I mean, I do the same thing on the website end.

No. I mean, I sit and I refresh and it’s like “why is there only 17 people listening to the song right now?” and it’s like “well, it’s 12:45 in the morning and the song just came out, what’s the problem here?” (*both laugh*) The problem is me. I’m the problem. (*both laugh*) But I’m stoked. The songs are cool. Do you know the secret about Inanna

I don’t feel like I do, but even if I did…remind me!

It’s the B-sides. I wrote with a sort of algorithm in mind. I was writing these twelve-line kinda sonnets…12 to 16 lines depending on if there’s a repeated tag or not. No repeating chorus. But as we were doing it, they were full-length songs with a chorus that hits two or three times, and a second or a third verse. And we had this cool little tape setup, this little Tascam that we kinda rigged to run but also ran as a pre-amp in the same vein as Nebraska, with just a cheap mic and a plate reverb. And we just kinda did this thing. Our buddy John Calvin Abney was sending us parts, so we recorded maybe thirty-five (songs). About 7 or 8 never left the acoustic guitar and scratch-singing floor. They’re there. They’re rough. The weird thing about a tape machine and minimal microphones is if it was fucking raining that day, there was just a buzz. We couldn’t get the buzz out, and we just said “fuck it, that song’s kinda done.” But you get gems. Like one song there’s a line about walking down the highway, and a fucking car lays on the horn outside and that gets picked up, right? Or there’s a real quiet part on “Couple Cardinals” on the EP and you hear the kids at the school across the street coming out for recess, and you hear them laughing and hollering and playing. It’s the perfect ghost.

So this tape machine was kind of a fickle beast, and we recorded probably about 28 or 29 that were done. That Misfits EP, the Bad Religion thing, those were all on this Tascam tape machine, this cassette portastudio 4-track. We kinda figured out the record, and then there were these songs that didn’t fit that twelve-line sonnet thing. There were a couple songs that we revisited, like “You Ought To Know,” I always had in my head like this quiet, delicate song, and when we did it with Pete (Steinkopf) ten years ago, it became this big rocker, and it partially became a big rocker because I didn’t know what “soft” or “delicate” meant. And in fact, I still don’t, but we were able to do a quieter, ‘after dark’ take. I think “Reservoir” always had a Greenwich Village folk feel in my head, and it came out as this big heartland rocker, and I love it, but I wanted to revisit it and see if we could do a quiet take of it. So there’s two old songs, three new songs, and then…I grew up seeing The World/Inferno Friendship Society, and I’m a big believer in that band and the cult that it is – and I use the word “cult” lovingly – the inclusivity and the welcoming-ness of the Infirnites. I always heard “Ancestral Homeland” as a song to be played at a funeral versus this waltzy, polka, punk thing, and being out here in Kentucky, I started fucking around with flat-picking, bluegrass picking, and we kinda turned it into this quieter, graveside song. And like with the Misfits thing, or throughout the years we’ve always done covers…I like to just take the chords and the words and forget everything else. Just the skeleton of the song. I was able to deconstruct it and turn it into this letter to Jack as a thank you and, if I was at the funeral, that’s what I would have done to pay my respects. Those lines “When I die, they’re going to bury me in Jersey” fucking resonate strong! 

That is a song that you can tell resonates strongly with you, and that’s without hearing your version of it. Obviously I’ve heard your version of it a bunch, and I think you did an amazing job with it. That’s a song that sounds like it could have been a Sammy Kay song. 

Yeah, “never trust a man who don’t drink’ my papa told me” … “The sun was shining the day I drove out of New Jersey and the girls all flashed me a smile.” It’s such a well-written song, in the sense of those great little descriptive lines. It just flows. And being from New Jersey – you know this being in Boston, the Southie kids and the Jersey boys, we’re not too far apart – out here there’s the good old boys. We’re all kinda cut from the same cloth. That hometown pride is strong.

When did you realize that you had it, though? Because that’s a thing that I’ve sort of been looking at a little bit differently the older I get, and the longer that I live in Massachusetts versus New Hampshire, where I grew up…and now having a kid who is growing up differently but in this part of the world still. When did you realize that you weren’t just from Jersey, you were FROM Jersey, and did it take leaving to realize it?

When I left…I left to go on tour young, and I was like “yeah, I’m from New Jersey, whatever, fuck you.” But when I moved to New York, I started saying “oh, I live in New York.” And then “Oh I’m in LA, I’m hanging out living in California.” I did New York, I did LA, I came back to Jersey, I did Texas for a minute…I jumped around. I’ve always been pretty nomadic. But I think once I got a job, even within music, where I had to bust my ass like my old man did. Once I realized I was saying the same shit my dad would say about the fucking day. Like “how’s your day going?” “It was a fuckin’ day, man.” You know? And also, I talk pretty, pretty, pretty Jersey…

Yeah, but you personally don’t know that until you get outside of Jersey!

Right, I didn’t know that at all! And it’s funny, I’m in Kentucky right now, right on the Ohio border, just outside of Cincinnati, just across the river, and these fucking people tell me I have the worst accent ever, and I’m like “what are you tawkin’ about?” (*both laugh*) You say “crick…” (*both laugh*) But starting to live south-ish, south adjacent – even Bakersfield too. A lot of the Bakersfield accent and the way people talk, the dialect, they’re Okies. They’re Oklahoma folk or Texarkana folk. Because when the Dust Bowl happened, a lot them emigrated to the Kern River Valley because of the sooil there. A lot of those Okieisms are pretty strong, and Okieisms and Jerseyisms are the same but different. I didn’t let the concept of “Jersey” …we’ll use the word “define.” Being from New Jersey, the pride I have for my state definitely defines a lot of who I am, from the working hard, to the history of art and growth in all facets of life. Like, the things that were developed in that state, from shit like the lightbulb to Einstein figuring out nuclear physics post-Manhattan Project at Princeton. I’m pretty sure fucking peanut butter is from New Jersey, you know? (*both laugh*) It’s just a cool thing, and gentrification aside, I can count the things I don’t like on one hand about that state. I mean, I can’t afford to live in New Jersey. I can’t be an artist while living there. There’s no way to go on tour, there’s no way to create, so I left New York City. 

Yeah, we see that up here in Boston, especially with the art community. I don’t know that the stuff that made Jersey Jersey for so long, particularly in an artistic sense, I don’t know that it exists anymore, just like I don’t know that it exists about Boston either. 

Yeah! I think…there’s glimmers in Jersey as well as in Boston and even in New York…like, I’m playing a show next week, and I am fully going to talk shit right now and I don’t give a FUCK because it’s real dumb…but I’m playing a show next week in a city that rhymes with Shmos Shmangeles and they are charging every band like $200 for a sound fee. It’s just like the New York City rooms, but it’s a room that you go and play. It’s a notorious room. But the amount of shit…like, we asked if we could get in and do a rehearsal and they were like “yeah, we need to get paid.” And it’s more money than we’ll make for the night, to be able to go in there for an hour before soundcheck to just practice acoustic.


Yeah. Like, fuck that. LA, New York…

Is that like the new version of pay-to-play, which maybe enough people have given places shit about that this kinda took over?

Yeah, it’s pretty prevalent in the folk/American world. Rockwood Music Hall is like that, all those Lower East Side rooms that used to be where alternative music bred, they’re like “you wanna play? It’s $200. We take the first $200, you get a portion of what’s left.” It’s pretty fucked that even those rooms that back in the day were rooms where a working musician could make a couple bucks don’t kinda exist anymore. With Jersey…god bless Mike Lawrence, who passed the torch down to Joe Polito (Asbury Lanes). House of Independents. Andy Diamond and Lee at Crossroads, which is great because it’s in the center of the state, but it’s not part of that Asbury Park community. Tina Kerekes and Danny Clinch are really the last of the holdouts. I heard The Saint closed. The (Stone) Pony isn’t booking locals. It happens once a year, that’s it. Bu the city of Asbury Park has been completely priced out of art. 

That’s sad. We really only started going there right at the beginning of all of that shit changing. We never saw the real old Asbury Park and we kinda missed most of the 90s/00s Asbury Park, and it’s different just since we started going down there maybe a decade ago.

Yeah, I went home in December and I did not know my city. But that’s how it goes. I left that city almost five years ago, and change is inevitable, especially in a gentrifying world. But yeah, even Allston by you…I would hang out there when I started touring with Westbound Train. Their practice space was there, and all the places that I used to go, almost 17-20 years ago, they’re gone. Like, the Sunset Grill is gone. That was a staple! I remember going there and seeing, like, a Bosstone at one table, and like Amy from Darkbuster at the bar, and it was just like “oh my god!” It was one of those places where you’d see all these people in bands and when those places start to go, that means the community is hurting. Same thing with the brewery in Asbury Park. That was a hub, especially in a post-Lanes world. 

Maybe that’s why there are pockets of places like Ohio, like Colorado, like maybe Chicago, places in Tennessee, where there are these pockets of people that maybe aren’t originally from there but they move there and then start another scene there because you can’t afford to do it on the coasts. 

Yeah! Like Ohio…I’m not trying to talk shit on Cincinnati because I genuinely love it here. The amount of phenomenal bands in this city that are gigging regularly, for the most part, and studios…DIY, home-built studios that are churning out amazing records. I’m a water guy, right? Everything good comes off the water. There’s definitely something beautiful here in the last ten years, from what I can tell. Like, we go see music five nights a week.

Is the scene made from locals or is it made from people like yourself who are transplants from other places?

90% of it are from Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Covington. There’s a couple Louisville kids, which is only 80 miles. Lexington’s only 80 miles. Indy is only 80 miles. There’s like one guy from England, this kid Jaime, who is in a bunch of bands that are really great. That band Vacation fucking rules. Anything Jerry (Westerkamp) touches is fucking amazing. Tweens. And then there’s DAAP, which is an art school, and there’s a bunch of kids. There’s a band called Willie And The Cigs that’s gigging a couple nights a week. And the hardcore scene, bands like Corker and Louise. Piss Flowers fucking rule. They’re one of those bands that, like Black Flag in ‘85, they start with their shirts on and then by the end of the gig the whole band is just shirts off. This guy John sings in it; he’s in a bunch of other bands. That’s the thing, everyone here is so fucking creative. John does folk stuff, he’s in a gnarly hardcore band, and he’s like a hell of a comedian too. Everybody is like…so and so is a hell of a painter, and this guy does photography as well as writing…the punks are fucking poets too. It’s fucking great. It seems like every other fucking person has a silk screen rig in their basement, or a dark room, and they’re creating. The fucking scene here is just beautiful.

Is that how you found it?

No, I just threw a dart at the map. I called Jonny Dopamine and told him I was looking for a job. I was supposed to move to Nashville, and the house I was supposed to move into got sold. And I was supposed to get a job some place, and the same thing happened. They announced they were closing like two days before I was supposed to leave, so I was like “I’m not going to go.” I called a friend of mine (in Cincinnati) who I knew had an apartment, and this is like twenty hours before I was supposed to move to Nashville. I called a buddy of mine and I was like “hey man, you still got that basement apartment? Can I crash there for a minute while I figure something out?” And he was like “yeah, yeah, yeah, you gotta find a job though.” I was like “hold on a second,” and I hung up the phone and I called Jonny because he owns the (Northside) Yacht Club too, which is like a rock and roll gastro pubby venue-ish, and I was like “yo man, let me get a job,” and he was like “you live here?” and I was like “if you give me a job I do!” (*both laugh*) And he said “when are you going to be here?” and I was like “tomorrow, I think, hold on a sec.” So I hung up the phone and I called my other buddy who I was going to stay with and I was like “yeah, I got a job, I’ll see you on Saturday!” and he was like “okay, cool, that was quick.” And then I called Jonny back and I was like “so I’ll start Tuesday yeah?” and here I am, eighteen months later in Cincinnati. 

That’s wild.

Yeah, but you know me, everything’s a little wild. Nothing’s easy. 

Through that whole time and in the lead-up to moving…it seems like you’ve been able to write a lot and produce a lot of music. Were you in a lull at all prior to moving there and did that sort of reignite you, or is it more of like ‘okay, now that I’m stable a little bit, I can start writing again’?

You know a little bit of my mental health. I have a really complicated brain that has some schizoaffective disorder in it, and some pretty extreme highs and lows and some pretty chronic anxiety and pretty chronic depression. At the time, post Civil/WAR, Covid happened and the world shut down. And I wasn’t doing well. I’m a social butterfly if I have the option, and so being trapped in a one-bedroom apartment is not my idea of a good time. I kinda lost it there for a little bit and I surrendered and said “I think it’s time to get some medicine and try this route.” The issue that we realized was that my personality and my creative side and everything that makes me me is the same part of my brain as the crazy, so the second we started medicating and trying to understand even the schizo thing, and the multiple personalities, we didn’t learn that until I was here.

So the second we started medicating, looking back, all the voices in my head, the chatter got really loud, and we just kept upping it and upping it, and this didn’t work so let’s try this, and up and up and up. I was just a fucking zombie. And that was the me side of life, the goofy, happy side. Like, I slept for four or five months straight. Through Covid. I just slept. I had to get up and work an hour on Zoom, and then I’d go back to bed. So when I lost my corporate, cushy job that I had, when I left California, I lost my insurance so I was just fucking raw-dogging life, and the second the meds left my system, I just vomited six songs. Everything I had been trying to say just came out. I was finishing stuff that I had as glimmers of ideas during Covid. I only really wrote four songs all of Covid. “Better/Worse,” “Methamphetamines,” “Waiting,” which just came out, and a song where I call the Proud Boys a bunch of assholes. That was it. Just four. I had glimmers of like a one-liner or like an idea for a chorus. At the time, we were working with Jon Graber and Reade Wolcott from We Are The Union. We were writing a lot together and working at Jon’s studio, and I didn’t have anything to present them. We never finished anything, because the lights were on but nobody was home. 

Or all the lights were on at the same time.

Haha, yes. We learned that I function better with all the lights on and everyone home. When I left California, I went to Raleigh, and the first song came out two days before I was leaving Raleigh, and it’s the last song on the full-length that’s coming out in the fall. And it was Cecillia’s voice, which was cool. She kind of came back and had this conversation with me again. I was kinda working on “no meds, therapy,” and we realized that Cecillia was actually one of the voices in my head. We went through all my songs, the whole catalog, and we realized that Cecillia shows up in “Secrets” on Untitled. That’s partially her voice and her story. That “I know your secrets…” that correlates to “Sweet Cecillia,” where it says “tell me about your life…” And she’s in the convenience store in “Silver Dollar” in the picture I painted in that world, because the character that “Silver Dollar” is about is another facet of my mind. I thought I wrote this record about characters but I really wrote it about all the unknowns in my head that are now still very unknown but we’re understanding them more. Then, “Better/Worse” I killed Cecillia off and that was the funeral in that song. But really, it was her sobering up in a nutshell. Her voice in my head is “it’s so damn hard to hide behind the scars/I just want a better way to breathe.” I was like “oh fuck!” It was cool, but it took twenty therapy sessions to realize that and understand it. 

When you say “we,” as in, “things that we’re working on…” and putting a name and a diagnosis to the things you were going through, the “we” refers to a therapist, yeah?

Multiple. Multiple therapists. (*both laugh*)

What got you to the point where you were ready to go to therapy? That’s obviously a big thing that especially guys – cis white males…

…with fuckin’ face tattoos!

Exactly! That’s not a thing that “we” do. So what got you into therapy and really diving into that piece?

It was just kinda time. I hate using a vague sentence like “it was time.” I was in therapy as a kid. My parents sent me because they didn’t know what was going on with me, and neither did I. So I went as a kid, and then I stopped and then I went back in high school because, you know, I lived the kind of life where a lot of my friends were dead by 15. Then as I got older, my mother still does not comprehend how many people that I know in my life are dead. At 33. So, childhood trauma, fucked up life, the road, a couple of really shitty toxic relationships. My ex-wife, when we talked about meds, she said “you should do therapy too.” At the time, I was also diving really heavy into Zoom AA because it was quarantine. Zoom AA is amazing. In fact, it’s what I was doing before this, my Monday group. It was like “alright, let’s find a guy, I’ve got good insurance.” I got a guy and we were talking and he was like “alright, this is what I think is wrong with you, and it is not my specialty, but this other guy can help.” 

Good for him for saying that, by the way.

Yeah! I still see him once a month. He’s just my general catch-up guy. I see him once a month and if I’m having a rough go of it, I go every other week. I have three therapists; I have the one that’s just a general catch-up guy, like if there’s anything I’m struggling with, we talk through it. I have one that I see about once a month that is an addiction specialist within the music industry. A buddy of mine in Nashville (connected me) and he sees people for free. He has his own practice and you get an hour a month. He’s real great and I bitch to him about the industry and the struggles that I have navigating it. And then I have one that’s for the heavier sides of my schizoaffective disorder and also disassociative identity disorder, which is essentially multiple personalities. That’s what they used to call it. So we work on that and the schizoaffective and the borderline personality disorder. It’s like bipolar disorder with the depression and the highs and lows and it’s very much a roller coaster. It’s like a light switch. 

Rapid cycling, yup.

Yeah, that’s what I’m looking for. I’ll be real stoked on life and then *finger snap* I’ll be in bed for two weeks or shut down, or I do reckless things like quit my job or yell at my boss. And then I have a therapist that I see that we kind of navigate the voices and the personalities in my head and figure out what their story within my mind is and how they correlate. Like, I turned to Sarah, my girlfriend, and I was like “what do you want for dinner?” and in my head I was like “I think we should have Chinese food? No, Thai food. Why do you want Thai food? Do you even like Thai food? Why are you saying Thai food, I don’t even like Thai food, leave me the fuck alone.” That’s what the voices in my head are saying. And then there’s one that says “why don’t you just go do heroin? You want junk food? I’ll give you junk…” So yeah, I have a therapist that I see for that. I haven’t seen him so much lately because we kinda said “alright, let’s give it a month and see how you do. We’ll do a check-in.” I think we’ve done two sessions in three months, compared to doing two a week. We kinda have it under control and I’ve been trying to eliminate as much stress as possible in my life. I’m very much a stress guy. Stress and Catholic guilt make me go crazy, so I kinda have this new rule where if I’m at work and you’re stressing me out more than you pay me hourly, I just leave. My boss gets it. I say “alright, I’m gonna split for the day.” I’ll go in early the next day and get the job done. I work at a print shop in the morning and I work at a bar at night. The bar is pretty easy, but the print shop…if they’re doing dumb shit, I’m like “I’m not getting paid enough to be here right now and to deal with this, so I will see you.”

It’s not an entitlement, I just can’t afford to have my mind go crazy and unleash over bullshit deadlines because you’re selling the company I work for. Like, yeah, sorry, you fired me. If you’re stressing me out, I’m out. I’ll roll with you to the end of the line, but I’m not going further with you. Don’t ask me to pick up a power tool, but I’ll print t-shirts for you. (*both laugh*) As long as I’m being creative, I’m getting better – and I hate saying this, but I’ve been cutting a lot of folks out of my life that I’ve known for a long time. It’s shitty. We’re having adult breakups, because they don’t understand or realize and do these things that like…”I love you, but that thing you do to me every time we talk about life sends me in a spiral for two weeks. I love you, I love your wife, I love your kid, but I’ll catch up with you in six months, bud.” You know? It’s been shitty but needed. I’m not saying that they were toxic or negative, it’s just like I love you but this isn’t healthy for me right now. Just like a relationship that isn’t going great or a band that’s breaking up. “I’ll talk to you in six months and we’ll figure it out. For right now…I’ll see you around.” It’s kind of taking inventory. I’m working on my Fourth and Fifth Step of the program now.

That’s a lot. 

Yeah, I told myself that when I finish the record, I need to do it again, so that’s real fun (*both laugh*)

The Fourth Step is a tough one. It’s not the First Step, but it’s a tough one and it’s one that people want to half-ass, or want to fast-forward to and then realize that they did a half-ass job on the first ones and then you set yourself back further.

Yeah. I’m in the process of a Fourth Step now, and it probably will end up back in heavier therapy to understand the conversations that need to be had but that at the end of the day will better myself and will better my relationships with my friends and my family and the people I love and we’ll grow. That’s it. We’re human beings. We need to grow and we need to become better people and work on what we need to work on. I’m seeing what my flaws are now for the last couple years and I’m trying to fix them. 

You seem like you’re in a good spot. Some of that comes from social media and obviously we’ve texted a bunch and stuff over the years, but you seem like you’re in a good spot. 

Yeah, who would have thought that Kentucky was the place where I’d thrive! (*both laugh*) Fucking Kentucky! I’m from New Jersey. It’s funny…it’s partially the money thing. It’s inexpensive to live here, whereas New York or LA or even Jersey, I was working a sixty-hour week. Like in New York, we were working sixty hours to be able to go drinking one night a week. We could afford like thirty dollars worth of PBRs, right? And we were working just to cover our asses to survive. LA was the same thing. We were working to be able to go out a couple nights a week if we wanted, or go to a show. Out here, it’s like…I’m not rich. I’m making the same money I was making, but the cost of living is so low. Even the cost of car insurance is a hundred dollars cheaper than New York or LA. Everything is substantially cheaper. What’s that Big D song…”will this check support this tour, or will this tour lose my job?” That “LAX” song is so great, that line or that bridge or whatever it is has always been in my head. 

Maybe when I don’t have a kid I have to steer through school. Once she graduates and we can go wherever, there’s been talk about where that wherever is.

She’s what, thirteen now?

Fifteen. So she’s in high school, and college is a-comin’. 

Yeah, you probably won’t be able to afford this part of the world then. I feel like I’ve got a year left before it’s like “fuck, okay, I didn’t buy a house…” Like, you can still buy a house in the hip neighborhoods for like $300,000. 

You can’t even buy a one-bedroom condo here for anything under $550,000. 

Yeah. I think Asbury Park, the going rate for a one-bedroom condo is like $800,000. Like, I could afford ot buy a house here as a fucking barback if I really figured it out. But I’m not. (*both laugh*) Roots don’t exist in my life. 

There was a thing I wanted to talk about, and I’m trying to think of how to even ask it.

Just dive in!

As you know, I tend to ramble, which is really just me processing the question as I’m asking it, but as we were talking before, you mentioned how Cecillia for sure and I’m sure it’s true of other characters too. I’ve always felt – and I think that I’ve told you this before – that you strike me as a very honest songwriter and a lot of your stuff sounds very personal. Except that when we’ve had conversations about this before, you’ve told me that some of the story, for example, of what Civil/WAR was about, and they sound like they could be your stories, but sometimes you’re just telling the stories of other people. Now that you have started to put a name to and work through some of the mental health stuff and created a better picture of what that is, does that change the way that you write and that even how you interpret some of your own songs?

It definitely has provided insight on songs. Civil/WAR also contained a bunch of weird foresight, deja vu shit. A lot of the themes that I was writing about, when I was writing and recording, with the massive changes and then more massive changes…that whole story of that record ended up happening over Covid. That chapter was very weird and amazing but terrible at the same time. Now, I wanted to write the new songs about myself, my thoughts on the world, and tell stories of my friends. So, by the time, this comes out, “Double Nicks” is going to be out. I took my friend Jen Cooley to see Jeff Rosenstock. That’s her band. She’d never seen them, but she loves Jeff and she loved Bomb (The Music Industry) and Antarctigo (Vespucci). And Catbite played. I call them family. I spent years in a van with them. They were playing. (Jen) Cooley drank a large Twisted Tea and she was like “I don’t know if I’m drunk, but this band” – referring to Catbite – “makes me feel like I’m an astronaut.” I was watching her disassociate in the moment. Her eyes went blank, and she was just taking this moment in, and she said “this band makes me feel like an astronaut” and I was like “what the fuck does that mean?” and she said “it means I’ve got the whole world in front of me.” That song is a revisit of something that me and Alex Levine and Tim (Brennan) from the Murphys did a long time ago. The only thing that stayed were the chords and the chorus. It’s the same concept – the chorus is just “let me go, you can find me by your memories.” And I was watching her in this moment and I couldn’t tell if she was disassociating or in love with this and taking it all in, and I started writing this song about that feeling, and relating it to when you’re sitting on your couch daydreaming with your wife or with your partner or whoever, and I was telling the story and that line kept resonating. This feeling that I have when I sit next to whoever I hold close at the time, and knowing they’re fully engulfed in TikTok. The verses are like “there’s bullet shells on the boulevard / I just called to say good night // Now you don’t play games with love no more / But I think about those nights.”

You think about those times when you’re daydreaming about your high school crushes or your Teen Beat, Tiger Beat crushes, whatever. “Those nights and days they seem like they’re impossible to breathe // Cuz she makes me feel like an astronaut with the world in front of me.” It rambles about the shit that goes through your head, and then it goes into “The secrets in these sidewalks…” that’s the bullshit of TikTok, right? And the internet, and disassociating ahead. “They say fear is just a false relief with hopes you just don’t know” that’s just me trying to sound cool. (*both laugh*) “You were tired of daydreaming and I was tired of letting you know,” that’s when you’re on the couch and you’re trying to watch The Last Of Us, don’t check out, right? “Just let me go / you can find me in your memories,” that’s like “alright, I’m gonna go do something else.”

A lot of that now is telling a story of that moment with Jen or…I got in a fight with a guy over the summer, and I’m not proud of it, but he was a racist piece of shit and I heard him running his mouth. I’m an anti-fascist pacifist that has no problem punching a Nazi in the face. Or a racist. Or a bigot. Whatever. We’ll use the blanket term “asshole.” Some dude was running his mouth and I smushed him and threw him to the ground. He was a 40-year-old man, it was his birthday. He said “I’m gonna call the cops” and I’m like “I ain’t afraid of going to jail. Fuck off.” And that turned into the line “I’m not afraid of dying.” I will stand up for my fellow human being. I would tell these stories. And some of them are dumb. Like there’s a line “I just want to get stoned and listen to “Love Song.” My boss was yelling about that he wanted to smoke a bong and listen to “Disintegration.” And he’s a sober guy! He’s like “I don’t know what to think, but I just want to get high and listen to The Cure.”

Some of them are bullshit. Some of them are always bullshit. But some of them, like “Couple Cardinals” on this record, a friend of mine, her grandparents passed, and she was telling me about this swing on their front porch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and she sent me this picture of it and I wrote what I saw. The second verse was her driving home from Tulsa to Kentucky. To Cincinnati. And the third verse is that she was telling me that at the funeral, two cardinals showed up. Some of them are just “this is the story. Thank you for telling me about your life, I want to tell the story with your permission.” That’s why the covers of the singles that are coming out are all photographs that I’ve taken of people who I know or moments that correlate to the songs, right? Like “Double Nicks” … I talked about Jamie before, he’s from England and he lives out here. I was on the corner trying to finish that song in my memos, and I was taking pictures to try to paint a picture without words, and I caught Jamie and his partner walking up the street. It all correlates because that was the same day that I really wrapped my head around that song. The imagery of him holding her close and that feeling – because I caught her at a moment where she was looking away – it was that feeling.

The next single is “The Reservoir” and I played at The Merc and there was this older woman sitting at the bar with her feet up drinking a Miller Lite with a straw, and there’s a flier on the wall that has something similar to a word in that song, and it fit. We’re just trying to tell the story of the last eighteen months and the people that I’ve met and the people that I’ve learned. They’re all these little hymns or sonnets and they’re short and sweet. The glory of these short songs is that you write a descriptive line. (*picks up guitar and it’s out of tune so he picks up a different guitar*) “I’ve seen it before a thousand times / the way you light the cigarette inside my mind.” That’s one line of this twelve-liner. “And I’m just hoping for this slim slim chance / that slim slim chance here that you’ll say yes.” Because they’re so short, you have to set it up and then fucking drop a line. There’s no filler. “Drinking coffee while the sun goes down / I said “black two sugars” you threw three dollars down.” “The hardest part about where you’re from / is trying to figure out how fast to run.” There’s no room to fuck around. It’s kind of like, I’m going to tell you this story and I would sit and elaborate and tell you, but the glory of being a folk singer, is only you know what’s real. Embellishing is like half the story. And I try not to embellish at all, to the extent that over the summer I went to a rodeo, just so I could straight up be honest when I said “this is not my first rodeo.” Like, I literally went and spent twenty dollars at the county rodeo just so I could not fucking lie when I said “this isn’t my first rodeo.” I’m a big believer in ‘say what you mean/mean what you say/don’t fuck around.” These songs, I wanted to tell the story of me and the shit going on in my life. Since the last record: marriage, divorce, three massive country moves, I completely wrecked my hand – cut the tendon and the muscle clean off my thumb – I started drinking again. I took a sabbatical, I went to therapy and I thought I was healed and I could have a beer. I am an alcoholic! I cannot have a beer. I went two weeks of ‘responsible drinking’ before I said “I am ready to start being a maniac again!” Went right back to the fucking program. All these things happened. I finally opened up my mind to starting to date again, and the second I started dating, boom, you’re going on tour, I’m done. Meeting people, closing doors, opening doors, it’s a lot.

There was a lot of life in the last eighteen months and I don’t want to write a song that had no meaning to me and that was just a story. That’s why this one is very much no holds. There’s no embellishments. If I mention a name on this record, that person is real. And I said “hey, I’m using your name in a song about something we did!” I finally got to write about my grandfather, which I’d been having trouble with for years. And my old man. I’m telling the story of my family, which I never really did. And where I came from and where I want to fucking go. I think I told you this about Civil/WAR, but I don’t know if there’s going to be another record! I might make one, I might not put it out, but at this point, I don’t fucking know. It’s expensive. It takes a lot of time. You have to go on tour to be able to pay for it and make record labels and everybody happy. I don’t know if I want to fucking do it again, so let’s do this one and see what happens! I write a song every other day, so if it works out, there’s songs! If it doesn’t, there’s going to be some one-minute TikToks with some cool dancing frogs and some light effects…

And that’s how you’ll make it! Twenty years of living in a van and you’ll get famous from TikTok after you quit music.

King Khan and BBQ Show, baby! I read something that he made more money off the one song that became a TikTok than he did his whole career playing music. 

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DS Interview: Tim Hause opens up on his first solo record, his decade-long collaboration with big brother Dave, working with Will Hoge and MUCH more

The brothers Hause have been no strangers to the pages at Dying Scene over the course of the last decade. The bulk of that coverage has been dedicated to older brother Dave. After hitting the indefinite pause button on his beloved band The Loved Ones, Dave launched his own career as a solo artist a […]

The brothers Hause have been no strangers to the pages at Dying Scene over the course of the last decade. The bulk of that coverage has been dedicated to older brother Dave. After hitting the indefinite pause button on his beloved band The Loved Ones, Dave launched his own career as a solo artist a dozen or so years ago, right around the time this website launched, giving us essentially a front-row seat to his growth and maturity as an artist. One of the benefits of embarking on a solo career is that it’s given Dave the opportunity to spend more time with Tim, his kid brother.

If you’ve paid even the littlest bit of attention to the elder Hause’s career since the touring cycle for his second solo album, Devour, you’ve no doubt noticed that he’s been figuratively attached at the hip to his younger brother. Because of the fifteen-year age gap between them (Dave is the eldest of the five Hause siblings, Tim the youngest) Dave did the bulk of his growing up without having a little brother, while Tim did the bulk of his having an older brother who, when he wasn’t swinging hammers, was busy working as a touring member of the punk rock scene. 

Tim’s first real exposure to the world of being a professional musician started essentially as an experiment, joining Dave on that 70-date marathon Devour jaunt through the US and Canada, filling out the live sound with harmonies and guitar and helping to set up and tear down merch displays after the show. “The first two weeks of that tour, I hated,” Hause jokes. “I thought that anyone who would choose that life, was insane.” It’s important to point out that when that tour kicked off, Hause the Younger was the ripe old age of twenty, not able to legally drink at the vast majority of venues they stopped at. “Over the course of that tour, I started to really love it (though)!”

Tim Hause at Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport, MA (Photo: Jay Stone)

As time progressed, Tim increased his role in what would eventually become the family business. While always a touring partner, he began contributing to the writing process on Bury Me In Philly, the 2017 follow-up to Dave’s Devour. “(BMIP) was kind of my intern, new kid record,” Hause jokes. “I think the first song that we wrote that ended up going on to a record was “The Flinch.”  I remember having the idea “I ain’t flinching anymore” as a line from my notebook. I loved it going onto the record; that was a huge deal for me.” Tim didn’t just influence a couple of songs on the album lyrically and musically, he had a role in shaping the album’s whole sonic vision. 

It’s part of the natural evolution of things for the big brother in this or any situation to pass influence down to the little brother. In the case of the Hause family, Dave was instrumental not only in the music Tim would grow up with – more on that in a minute – but in showing him the music industry ropes: how to exist on the road and structure a setlist and create dramatic tension with an audience and how to develop and stay in the pocket and on and on. Though sometimes big brothers are reluctant to admit it, however, sometimes the little brother’s influence and teachings can be just as potent.

When Dave and I connected for an interview in the press cycle for Bury Me In Philly, he spoke of how Tim’s lack of punk rock guilt and his well-beyond-his-years wisdom got Dave to punch through some periods of writer’s block and focus on working through what he was going through at the time. When I asked Tim about how he’d characterize his influence on his decade-and-a-half older brother, after an initial pause and attempted deflection, he answered in a way that was a pitch-perfect match for Dave’s answer six years ago. “I think that it broadened the sphere of what he thought he should do,” he explains. “He was like “what do I write about? What do I write about?” and I was like “the thing that you’re on about right now is the fact that you live in California now and have this strange relationship with the place that you’re from.” That kind of was a light bulb moment for him, and it’s one of the things that jump-started the whole process and that whole session.” Tim’s vision helped free his older brother from the constraints that can sometimes be placed on a songwriter who spent as much time as Dave did in the punk rock community. To paraphrase Craig Finn, we in the punk rock scene said there weren’t any rules, but goddamn there are so many rules. “I think the continued “hey this doesn’t have to be punk, this doesn’t have to fit in whatever box.” Having that person on your shoulder just going “do it! Go! Go! Do it!” I think is a huge help.

While he has remained a constant road partner, whether the brothers toured as a duo or as part of a larger band – Dave Hause and the Mermaid – that’s consisted of a rotating cast of incredibly talented musicians, Tim’s status as a writer and contributor increased to essentially 50/50 by the time of Dave’s 2019 release, Kick. Tim was writing so much by Kick, in fact, that it’s where the seeds of his wanting to someday put out his own record under his own moniker started to really establish their roots, due in no small part to that album’s inclusion of the song “The Ditch.” “That kernel was something I came up with and brought to the table,” he explains. “That was the first song that I wrote on that made me go “I don’t know if I can give this one up.” While Tim is ultimately happy at how the song turned out and that it was included – with ample and continued credit from Dave, he also points out that “that was the moment where I was like ‘yeah, I have to make my own record someday.”  

The brothers would go on to put out another album – 2021’s aptly-named Blood Harmony – under Dave’s name, an album that would also mark the first full-length release of their jointly-founded Blood Harmony Records, which will serve as their very own, in-house DIY record label for the future. And now, it’s Tim’s turn. January 13 marks the official release date of TIM, the younger Hause’s debut full-length record under his own name. While he’s been a part of a handful of releases at this point and while he and Dave co-wrote all the songs as they did on Kick and Blood Harmony, having his own name on the album jacket changes the stakes for Tim on multiple levels. “There’s a different level of ownership” for work released under his own name, he explains, adding that there is also “a different level of appreciation for everything Dave has done and that goes for the work he did prior to me jumping on board and the work that we’ve done since.”

TIM was a labor of love that, if we’re being honest, can find threads that extend back well before “The Ditch” made it onto Dave’s record. Tim astutely points out “they say that your first record took however many years you’ve been alive to make it, and I’d say that’s definitely the case with this.“ Tim’s musical ambitions began when he was still early in grade school. “I started playing guitar when I was probably seven or eight,” Tim explains. “When I was ten years old, (Bouncing Souls) played I think two or three nights at the Troc (editor’s note: The Trocadero in Philadelphia) and all of them were sold out. The Loved Ones played their first show I think ever opening up for them, and they brought me out to play “Manthem” and that was my intro to all of those people. They ended up putting that on their live record.” While Tim would shift his entertainment goals to concentrate more on theater throughout his high school years, good old-fashioned rock-and-roll was too far in the background. “You know in a perfect world,” Tim states, “I would have been old enough to be in The Loved Ones, and we would have called our thing The Loved Ones, and it would have been two brothers…but that’s not the world we live in. There’s a fifteen-year gap, I was busy being in high school!

Tim at Crossroads in Garwood, NJ. (Photo by Jay Stone)

By the age of twenty-two, however, Tim had a landmark moment that would ultimately solidify his decision to jump headlong into the waters of life as a professional musician. By that point, he’d graduated high school, dabbled with studies at Temple University, lost a very dear friend in a tragic accident, and he’d spent some time in that exploratory phase making and playing music with Dave. Then came a ground-breaking realization. “I was eleven when my mom died,” Tim explains. “When I turned 22, it was a watershed moment in the grief process and the life process, because it marked the moment that I had spent more time on earth without her than I had with her.” 

It’s perhaps at this point that I should back up a bit. If you’re familiar with the Hause family’s musical journey, you’re no doubt aware that Dave and Tim’s mom passed away back in 2004, succumbing to a fierce battle with cancer. Echoes of that time have popped up in Dave’s solo work (see “Autism Vaccine Blues”), and The Loved Ones’s debut album Keep Your Heart essentially served as Dave way of processing the incredible range of emotions prompted by his mom’s passing. As gut-wrenching as it is to lose a parent in your mid-twenties as Dave was when their mom passed away, it’s another level of heart-break to have it happen when you’re eleven and still have so many formative childhood years and experiences left in front of you.

And so the realization that, at 22, he had now spent more time on this planet without his mom’s physical presence than he had with it inspired what would become the song “4000 Days,” a song that serves as the emotional high-water mark on TIM, an album that is certainly full of its fair share of emotional moments. “That (realization) was the initial kernel of “4000 Days” as the first thing that I remember writing, and I know that for a fact because that was such a profound marker in my life.” Since the song’s debut as a single in the lead-up up to the official release of the album, it’s not the song that has garnered the most plays on the various streaming platforms – that honor belongs to the anthemic “High Hopes” – it’s a song that has warranted far-and-away the most overwhelming listener response. “4000 Days” blew every song before and every song after out of the water in terms of people reaching out through DMs and messages and email and everything, to be like “hey, I related to that so much.” People have been telling me their stories, thanking me for it. That has been far and away the most connecting part of the release process. It’s definitely affirming and validating and exciting. It was tough to make and I’m so glad we did it. I made sure to give my sisters trigger warnings when I sent them the song first. And my dad.”

Dave (L) and Tim (R) Hause, Crossroads – Garwood NJ (Photo: Jay Stone)

Tim’s older brother didn’t need trigger warnings, obviously, as he was there for the writing and pre-production process for “4000 Days” as well as for the rest of the songs on TIM. Just as Tim served as the “Go! Go! Do It!” voice on Dave’s shoulder, particularly during the BMIP sessions, Dave returned the favor for TIM. “Having him on my shoulder telling me to do all that stuff is I think the most valuable asset. Just “hey, feel free to just do you and be as fearlessly ferocious as you need to be with your own art.” But when it came time to put the album on wax, big brother took a step back. Were they to record Tim’s solo record in the same manner that they’d recorded Dave’s last few records, there’s the very real possibility that they could have fallen into similar patterns. “I didn’t want it to be “Dave Hause Light” you know? I didn’t want it to be “The Little Brother Record” or whatever. And I’m sure to some people it will be that. We’re inextricably linked in that way, but we tried to deviate as much as we could” he explains.

Instead, Tim returned to Nashville to team up again with the great Will Hoge, who manned the producer’s chair just as he did on Blood Harmony. Hoge has been a seamless fit into the Hause brother’s working process – they jokingly refer to him as their Southern brother. For this process, he assembled an Avengers-like cast of Nashville heavy hitters to lend their unique sonic textures to the Tim Hause musical landscape. “The guy who came up with a lot of the atmosphere on my record was Josh Grange. He was in Sheryl Crow’s band. Chris Griffiths who played bass on it is in Will’s band. He’s awesome. Dean Anshutz played drums on most of it, and he’s from Red Wanting Blue (and Jessey Dayton’s band). And the other drummer was Matt Billingslea, and he’s Taylor Swift’s drummer. He played on “Fit To Be Tied.”

The result is a record that is quintessentially Tim Hause. It’s very much a rock and roll record, drawing sonic influences from the various phases of Tim’s upbringing, influences that obviously range from the Beatles and Patty Griffin to The National and Gaslight Anthem. “But the overarching thing is, you know, some kind of mix of Tom Petty and Frightened Rabbit. I think the nuanced, idiosyncrasies of both of those while making evergreen, universal songs that are sorta simple…that’s the pinnacle for me.” Lyrically and thematically, it’s also an incredibly meaningful record. “I mean, calling the record TIM was a pretty clear indicator that this was a really personal record, that it was going to deal with many of the pillars in my life.” It’s an unflinching reflection on some of the watershed connections and relationships in his life. It’s very much centered on love (particularly for his wife Madeline) and on loss and on the complex emotional prism that the human condition creates. “The goal (for Dave and I) is to write from our own perspectives, and write (songs) to be universal and evergreen and applicable to somebody else,” Tim points out. “If we make something that we spill a lot of our hearts into, then somebody will identify with it as well, because we’re not as alone as humans as we sometimes think that we are.”

Check out Tim’s album below via Spotify, or pick it up wherever you get your music. Here’s the link to get it directly from the Hause crew. Keep scrolling to read our full Q&A. Lots of insight into Tim’s musical upbringing and his family and a series of heart-breaking losses he’s suffered. Full disclosure: I’ve obviously been pretty vocally in the Dave Hause cheering section for a decade now, and the two brothers are, and should be, inextricably linked, so we talk a lot about their wonderful personal and professional relationships and how they’ll continue to support and collaborate and bring out the best in each other going forward. We also spend quite a bit of time extolling the virtues of Will Hoge and Scott Hutchison. Tim is very much a wise and insightful and gracious human – well beyond what his twenty-nine years on this planet would indicate – and we’re lucky to have his voice added to the mix.

(**Believe it or not, the following Q&A has been condensed for content and clarity reasons.**)

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So I guess we’ll start with this: congratulations on the record. It’s the first record under your own name, which is a really cool thing. Obviously, you’ve been writing songs for a while now, but how does it feel like there are physical copies of it now and people can hear it for themselves? How does it feel now that it’s a real thing?

Tim Hause: It feels totally exciting and amazing, and then also it feels already normal.

Does it feel different now than it does for one of Dave’s albums or like how Kick just said Hause on the cover? 

For sure. For sure, absolutely. There’s a different level of ownership and there’s a different level of appreciation for everything Dave has done. And that goes for the work he did prior to me jumping on board and the work that we’ve done since. There’s a different level of artistic ferocity that you need to even get an album created, and he by nature is a more fierce person, and we have this push and pull between us that makes for a good team. But it definitely feels different and it feels like a monkey off my back. It was something that I always wanted to do, and I never really knew how to get it done. And then, not only did I get it done, but I got it done in Nashville, The Music City, with some of the premiere players in the world. And I haven’t spoken at all about the players on it – I’m not really good at smelling myself publicly – on Twitter and Instagram and social media, you have to pump up your own brand so to speak…I’m not good at that, and it’s probably a skill that I need to learn and get better at. But there were some serious heavy hitters that played on this. And so to get it made in Nashville, with a guy whose work I respect tremendously in Will Hoge, and to do it without Dave there. He didn’t come down to the session for a couple different reasons, and it was hard to not have him there, but also I’m so glad that he wasn’t in some ways…

Which is a weird thing to say (*both laugh*)

It is a weird thing to say, and I mean in the most non-disparaging way I could possibly mean it about my best friend and my partner and my brother. He’s my best buddy. But it just felt like it was something that I needed to take on on my own. 

And I think that the album probably benefits from that, from having it be just you. I forget exactly when you came into the writing process of Dave’s solo stuff, but there are probably three full albums that have been released of that material at this point, so I can see where you might need to draw a line in the sand where even if you are creating this stuff together, these are the songs that are his voice, and these are the songs that are your voice. So I think it does probably benefit from that.

Yeah, I think so. And I think we try to make decisions from a production standpoint and from a key standpoint, and a vocal register standpoint, that would reflect the differences between us two. It’s definitely something that we went into the process being cognizant of. I didn’t want it to be “Dave Hause Light” you know? I didn’t want it to be “The Little Brother Record” or whatever. And I’m sure to some people it will be that. We’re inextricably linked in that way, but we tried to deviate as much as we could.

You know, it’s interesting to do research for interviews and to find that because I’ve talked with Dave so many times, a lot of the research I did for this chat was just stuff that I’ve already written before. But he and I spoke on that first tour that you came out with him on, the Devour tour, which turned out to be a 70-day tour, and I’d forgotten how Herculean that tour was. And you were, what, twenty at that point?

Yeah, that was 2014, so I would have been twenty years old. I remember being under age, because there was a place in Salt Lake City where I was pouring whiskey into people’s mouths from the stage. And Dave…we were drunk. We spent a lot of those nights drunk, which was really fun and really wild and the complete polar opposite of what things are like now. Backstage now, we have Bob Ross on the TV, we have a candle going, we have La Croix in the fridge, and we have peace and quiet as much as we can. 

But you hadn’t really even been in bands at that point, right? Not even like dopey high school bands?

No, I played with my dad. So, the first time I was ever on stage was with the Bouncing Souls.

Whoa! Way to set the bar for yourself.

Yeah! So I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since! (*both laugh*) I was ten years old, and they played I think two or three nights at the Troc (editor’s note: The Trocadero in Philadelphia) and all of them were sold out. The Loved Ones played their first show I think ever opening up for them, and they brought me out to play “Manthem” and that was my intro to all of those people. I mean, I had known them before, as much as any adult would know a ten-year-old. It was like “oh, you’re Dave’s brother!” or “oh it’s so cool that you have Vans on!” or whatever the case was. (*both laugh*). So they brought me out, and it was so cool, and they ended up putting that on their live record.

Oh shit, yeah!

Yeah, that version of “Manthem” is the version that’s on the live record, and if you listen to the end of the song, you hear Greg say “The kid rocks!” and all this…and that was about me! (Editor’s note: Listen to it here!!)

Yes! That’s awesome! I had no idea, and I’ve heard that a hundred times!

That’s a pretty funny bit of Hause trivia.

When you say playing with them, were you playing guitar at that point or were you singing backup?

Yeah, I played guitar. I started playing guitar when I was probably seven or eight. I’d get really into it and then take my foot off the gas pedal and do something else for a while. In high school, my thing was I started acting in high school. I tried out for a play – a musical – and I got the lead, and that set off a series of okay I’m gonna do all of these productions that the high school does. So I wanted to be an actor. I always kinda knew I wanted to be in entertainment of some kind, then I went to (Temple University), kind of got disillusioned while I was there, didn’t know what exactly I was going for, didn’t exactly know how getting a degree would help with what I wanted to do, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Well, the fact is, I did know what I wanted to do, I just didn’t know how to make it happen. That might sound crazy as the younger brother of someone who has been successfully doing it, but it was more of an experiment than anything, for me to go out on the road with him. We talk about that from time to time, like “how did it even happen?” The first two weeks of that tour, I hated. I thought that anyone who would choose that life, was insane. Over the course of that tour, I started to really love it. I definitely had an itch to leave the town in Philadelphia that we’re from. So, we live in an area that is technically within the city limit, but it doesn’t feel like Center City. It’s a little more suburban, there’s grass and trees and stuff. I spent my first twenty years waiting to get out, scratching the itch a little bit with travel…and then now, my wife and I own a house in that very town that I couldn’t wait to get out of. 

Of course you do! (*both laugh*)

I don’t have that itch anymore, it gets scratched by all of the touring that we do and the travel that we do. It’s a constant adventure, and it’s pretty awesome. 

What were your influences musically during that time. You mentioned the Bouncing Souls obviously, so there was that part obviously, but with fifteen years between you and Dave, that’s almost like three different generations there when it comes to musical trends and how we consume music. So what were your influences when it came to writing music or even just playing music in your bedroom?

From a playing standpoint, like any little brother, I was getting stuff from my big brother. I was a huge fan of the Souls, a huge fan of Alkaline Trio, and I would gravitate towards them more than any of the other punk bands. I think that has to do with their melodic sensibilities and their songwriting. The craft in both of those acts is top-notch and has been for a long time. That was kind of my first real love. Between that, and we were a huge Beatles family, and Tom Petty. Those are the first four or so. Then, me and my best buddy who grew up across the street from me and unfortunately died in a tragic accident. He and I got into Weezer’s blue album. We wore out that CD, we listened to it when we were together, when we were apart, all the time. That was an early one too. I got really into hip-hop and rap. Countercultural figures and artists were always there. I went through a huge Queen phase, and that felt like kind of my own thing. No one else in my family really got into Queen like I did.

Well, you were into theater, so that sorta lines up.

Yeah, exactly! I saw one video of Freddie Mercury and Queen in Montreal doing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and if you haven’t seen that video, you have to look it up. (*Editor’s note: I looked it up for you – find it here.)

I probably saw it twenty-five years ago.

Yeah, you probably did. That’s one of the finest pieces of live rock and roll that you can find. I watched that once and said “oh, I have to devour that.” (*both laugh*) I hate to say it now, but it’s always good to separate the art from the artist as much as you can: Kanye West was a huge filler of my ten-to-twenty-year-old listening phase.

College Dropout was a massive hit for a reason. That was unlike any other album that existed at that point.

Absolutely. And I always felt a sort of a kinship – not always –

Right, not the last half-decade or so.

Yeah, prior to him going really off the rails, which is really sad and unfortunate. But previously, I felt a kinship with him because he lost his mom too, and the loss of a parent, at any point but particularly with younger people … that’s a huge deal. So that kind of stood out for me. And then more recently, I got super into The National and Frightened Rabbit, in the last ten years or so. Those are some of my main touchstones, especially lyrically with Scott (Hutchison), I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better lyricist than Scott. 

Tragically so. I mean, some of his stuff was tough to listen to before, because of how real some of the emotions were. I’ve had conversations with your brother about things like that from his own catalog, where there are moments that are so real and you had to kind of pause for a minute after you heard them the first time because they were a little bit too heavy. And then in retrospect with Scott’s music, there are some songs I still can’t really listen to.

Yeah, it’s rough, because it’s one of those things that you hope that the person is able to exorcise those demons through their art, and you hope that that expression gives the person enough of a reprieve to keep what ended up happening to him from happening, but it doesn’t always work that way. That’s a really gnarly one. His lyrics and their music have been a huge, huge influence. And then, I got super into My Morning Jacket. That’s been another pillar in my musical life. But the overarching thing is, you know, some kind of mix of Tom Petty and Frightened Rabbit. I think the nuanced, idiosyncrasies of both of those while making evergreen, universal songs that are sorta simple…that’s the pinnacle for me. That’s the whole shooting match for me. 

Were they influences in the way that you liked their music, or were they the ones who made you go “I want to do that!” or “I want to do my version of what that guy is doing”? Because I mean you can like Pearl Jam or Bouncing Souls or Kanye West, but that doesn’t mean you want to do what they’re doing. But then, that Petty “thing”…

Yeah, for sure. For sure. And then there’s also closer to our circle, there are influences too. I’ve always loved Gaslight (Anthem) and I’m buddies with all those guys and I love Brian and his work. I have a pretty wide net of influence and interest as far as music goes, but yeah, those are like the Mount Rushmore. 

When did you start writing for yourself, rather than writing as a collaborator with your brother? 

Um…I would say it’s probably in the first two years of touring. I remember jotting down things as early as the European leg of the Devour tour, which would have been summer of ‘14. So it’s been almost ten years of doing it. And actually, it’s funny, because you asked earlier what was the impetus for making my own record and my own songs…I think the first song that we wrote that ended up going on to a record was “The Flinch.” I remember having the idea “I ain’t flinching anymore” as a line from my notebook. I loved it going onto the record; that was a huge deal for me. I wrote a couple of the other songs with him, but it wasn’t 50/50 yet. That was kind of my intern, new kid record (*both laugh*) like “okay, let’s see if this thing works.” And it did. “The Flinch” ended up being one of the staples of that record. By Kick, it was 50/50, and I think the real kicker for me was “The Ditch” going on Dave’s record. That was the moment where I was like “yeah, I have to make my own record someday.” Who knows, maybe I’ll re-record that song at some point and put it on one of my records. I’m so glad that we put it on Kick, but it wasn’t easy for me to let that one go. That was the first song that I wrote on that made me go “I don’t know…I don’t know if I can give this one up. Maybe I should save it for this future record that I hope to make someday.” The giving of it made me go “yeah, I really have to do this.” 

Does that create a certain amount of tension between you and Dave? And maybe tension is the wrong word to use, but at least a sort of creative tension where you have to bargain, like “okay, I’m going to keep this one for me, you take two of these for you…”

He’s super gracious about that, and he’s really, really the biggest ally I have outside of my wife. I think she and him are the two biggest preservers of my creative life force. So no, I wouldn’t say it created tensions between us. We’ve had talks, like when we started the sessions that ultimately led to Blood Harmony and TIM, he kind of was operating under the assumption that some of the songs that we were working on would be on his next record, and I quickly swatted that down and we got that sorted out and he was cool with it. It wasn’t without a little push, but he was willing to go “okay, if you insist that this one is going to be your thing, then go for it.” What I will say is not tension between us, but there was internal tension with the fact that I was writing for – so to speak – a guy whose name was THE name. You know in a perfect world, I would have been old enough to be in The Loved Ones, and we would have called our thing The Loved Ones, and it would have been two brothers…but that’s not the world we live in. There’s a fifteen-year gap, I was busy being in high school (*both laugh*). So the tension was that I’m writing songs and I’m really, really creatively involved. Like, “The Ditch,” that kernel was my own thing. It was something I came up with and brought it to the table and was kind of hesitant to do so and then when it ended up on the record, Dave was really good about giving me credit publicly as much as he could, but you can only go so far with that when ultimately people know that to be a Dave Hause song. When your name is on the ticket and the record and the whatever, that’s where people think it all comes from. And so, I think that created some tension within me in that I knew I had something to offer and I wanted to be recognized for what I was able to offer. 

It’s obvious from the conversation so far that there is obviously some of Dave’s influence in your writing and in what you were exposed to through his scene when you were growing up. But I’m curious about what you see as your influence on Dave’s either songwriting or approach or the music he listens to, as someone fifteen years younger than he is. 

That’s a good question. I would say…how do I answer this without sounding like a dick (*both laugh*)…I think that it broadened the sphere of what he thought he should do. And what I mean by that is there was some writer’s block that went into Bury Me In Philly. From my perspective, I was like “dude, you’ve got people coming out to your shows, I’ve been all over the country with you, I’ve been across the pond with you. People show up.” And he was like “what do I write about? What do I write about?” and I was like “the thing that you’re on about right now is the fact that you live in California now and have this strange relationship with the place that you’re from.” That kind of was a light bulb moment for him, and it’s one of the things that jump-started the whole process and that whole session. I think the continued “hey this doesn’t have to be punk, this doesn’t have to fit in whatever box.” Having that person on your shoulder just going “do it! Go! Go! Do it!” I think is a huge help. And now, knowing the experience I have from doing it on my own and having him on my shoulder telling me to do all that stuff is I think the most valuable asset. Just “hey, feel free to just do you and be as fearlessly ferocious as you need to be with your own art.” 

I think that’s important. Say what you will about the punk rock community – and I guess this website that I co-own and have been helping to run for a dozen years is pretty firmly embedded in that (*both laugh*) – but it can be tough to get the intestinal fortitude to go outside those parameters of three chords and a Marshall stack and a Les Paul and that whole thing, and to realize that you don’t have to do that all the time. 

And you know, there’s also the stage of “I’m a singer-songwriter but I’m a punk, let me play this acoustic guitar as if it were an electric and let me belt it out…” and yeah, you should do that, that can definitely be part of the thing. But you’re so capable of all these other things; incorporate as much of you and what you can do into this thing, and it’s going to be so much more multifaceted and deeper if you do that.” I think with this next Dave Hause record, it pushes even further into that realm, and what’s cool about it is that the fact that I did my own record I think gave Dave a little bit more creative freedom. And also, I took my hands off a little bit at least on the production side. we wrote all the songs together, just like on my record, they’re all 50/50, we finished all these songs together, he’s got fingerprints all over my record just like I have had on his records since Bury Me In Philly, but I think me doing my own thing enabled him on this last session to not have to say “what does Tim want to put on, I have to make room for Tim here…” and whatever the case was. I think it was cool to see him go into mad scientist mode, and it was awesome. I’m really excited about it. 

I was hoping to talk a little about the differences in writing between the two of you. You guys both wrote in what I assume from knowing you and being a listener from a very intensely personal perspective. There isn’t a lot of character-based stuff really on either of your records, you’re writing more from your own perspectives. When it comes to writing either for Dave’s records or what becomes your records, how conscious are you of writing in your own voice versus writing in Dave’s voice, if that makes sense?

I’m a fan of his first, before I started working with him. And also being his brother and sharing DNA and our relationship, I felt like I had a good window into what he did best and how he wanted to present himself. And also my own ideas about how I thought he should present himself as a green person who didn’t know anything about the industry. And so I think that being a fan first enabled me to jump into the river and not send it in a totally different direction. I’m definitely aware of the fact that we have our own perspectives. I mean, calling the record TIM was a pretty clear indicator that this was a really personal record, that it was going to deal with many of the pillars in my life. I would say that there are probably three pillars that it’s about. The goal is to write from our own perspectives and write it to be universal and evergreen and applicable to somebody else. I hope that’s what ends up happening. I guess the idea is that if we make something that we spill a lot of our hearts into, then somebody will identify with it as well, because we’re not as alone as humans as we sometimes think that we are. 

Do you find that that comes easier to you – writing music that is overtly personal. I mean, “4000 Days” is probably the most on-the-nose personal as you can get as a songwriter, but I think the remainder of the album is stuff that you were going through but that also translates in a universal way. Is that what feels best do you rather than trying to ‘creative write’ and build these sorts of characters?

It feels best…music, we use it as sort of our church in a lot of ways. It’s kind of the way that we tap into spirituality, it’s a therapeutic endeavor that also has a commercial bent to it, which can be really weird at times – negotiating that line – but yeah, it feels comfortable for the most part because it feels meaningful enough to sing when it’s a story about me. I would really like to get into more character-driven stuff in the future. I’d like to be able to branch out that way, but they say that your first record took however many years you’ve been alive to make it, and I’d say that’s definitely the case with this.

How far back to some of these seeds go?

The first line from “High Hopes” is the first line that I can think of. “Let’s go walking in the pouring rain/ before it turns to acid” must have been…I don’t even know how old I was. I remember exactly where I was when I was writing it. I was walking with my wife down to what was the first place we’d move into together. We weren’t married at that point…that would have been maybe when I was 22 or 23. That would have been the same year that Bury Me In Philly came out – I think that was ‘16. 

That sounds right.

So it goes back that far. Actually, come to think of it…the real answer I just discovered. Here’s the real answer. I was eleven when my mom died. I had just turned eleven. When I turned 22, it was a huge, watershed moment in the grief process and the life process, because it marked the moment that I had spent more time on earth without her than I had with her. That was the initial kernel of “4000 Days” as the first thing that I remember writing, and I know that for a fact because that was such a profound marker in my life. 

That sounds like it’s around the same time then as that line from “High Hopes,” so it seems like that’s when things really shifted into this direction. 

Yeah, that’s when things really started percolating, back when I was 22. So it goes back a while. 

Was it hard for you – and was it important for you – to put a song like “4000 Days” on the album, because it’s such an intensely personal and vulnerable song, and you’re writing about things that, if people are familiar with you and Dave, they’re familiar with the story – Dave essentially did an album based on his processing of that with The Loved Ones – but was it important for you and nerve-wracking for you to put that on the record?

For sure. I would say I’m more nervous to play it live than I was to put it on the record. 

I can’t imagine having to play it live, to be honest with you.

I don’t know what to think about that. I have the record release show coming up on February 10th at World Cafe, and I don’t know how to skin that cat. It feels like I have to do it for a record release show, but there’s a part of me that really doesn’t want to do it. I’ve been no stranger to tears on stage. I’m okay with that for whatever reason. I think it’s a genuine mark of courage to be able to be okay with that in a public way. I’m okay if it goes that way. The friend of ours who passed during that November tour with Will, we played a couple songs at her service. And that was just brutal. So I’ve got some experience when there’s a tremendous weight in the room and there’s real gravity holding it together and trying to steel yourself so that you can deliver this piece of work you’re trying to deliver and then after you can kind of ease up and process what that was. But yeah, I wasn’t nervous to put it on there. I knew it was a good idea. It was a good enough idea to tattoo on myself. It was 4074 days, technically, because that’s the first thing that I got tattooed on my chest, was a piece with a couple of swallows holding a banner with the number of days on it. That was the first tattoo I got, and 4000 days sounds a lot better than “4074 days” so I had to take a little liberty with it.

That’s a hard song to listen to, and I say that as somebody who’s got both of his parents still with us – but that’s a hard song to listen to nevermind perform, but I can also see it being a song that doesn’t just get the waterworks going for you but for everyone in the crowd, because everyone has lost someone and had to watch someone pass away – mom, dad, grandma, brothers, whatever. That could be a real cathartic thing for everybody, and I think that that’s a sign that you nailed the sentiment that you were going for. 

For sure. Lately, there’s been part of me that thinks that I might be some kind of angel of death. (*both laugh*) I lost my mom when I was eleven, I lost my best buddy (Shane) when I was twenty-two, and he went missing for thirty-six days. He was out with his friends the night before Thanksgiving…

Oh man, I remember this story, yeah.

Yeah, he got separated from his friends around closing time, and I think he went to take a leak by the river and got swept away. There was a bunch of rain that week and it got really cold, so the river was higher than it had ever been or whatever. He was found thirty-six days later. 

That is horrifying.

Yeah. And then my best buddy in high school overdosed in 2020. So I’ve had a bunch of really, really, really close losses. And then over the last two months…the dad of my best bud Shane, he just passed. I was a pallbearer at Shane’s funeral, and then I was a pallbearer at his dad’s funeral like two weeks ago. Two weeks before that was Lindsay’s memorial that we flew out to California for and played a song at. And it just so happened that…you know, Thanksgiving week is always rough, because Wednesday is the day that Shane went missing, Thursday around Thanksgiving dinner time his mom called me and I just kinda knew as soon as she asked me that something was really wrong. Oddly enough, we flew out to California (this year) for Lindsay’s service on Black Friday, and the service was on Saturday, and that just so happened to be on my mom’s birthday.

Good grief, man. Wow.

So the last two months have been really, really difficult, and I’m back in that same place that I know so well, of grief. This last loss with Kevin, Shane’s dad, was really rough because of them being the family across the street. My dad was in a really, really bad way after my mom died, understandably, and he was sort of unable to do a lot of the normal functions of a parent, and they were the stand-in family. That was like where I would go to eat a meal that wasn’t Quizno’s. I’d go over there to have a family meal, you know? That’s where I’d escape. My mom died in hospice so after that, I just needed to be out of the house and his dad and his mom were like my stand-in second family. That was a really crushing blow just over the last couple months. So yeah, it’s a really hard song to think about playing, but I don’t think that we deal with death enough in our culture. I think we try to put it off and pretend it doesn’t happen, but it’s maybe the most universal part of human existence…birth and death and water, I guess, are the three biggest things, right? So if I’m not a stranger to it in my own life, I don’t want to be a stranger to it in my art, because the art that we make, fortunately, is an expression of our lives and hopefully it does connect with other people. Like you said, everybody knows somebody and if they don’t know they will someday. That sucks to say, but it’s just a fact. It was tough to make and I’m so glad we did it. I made sure to give my sisters trigger warnings when I sent them the song first. And my dad. Dave didn’t need any warning because he and I made it together. 

Have you had feedback from people on the socials and whatnot about that song in particular and how you nailed it, and being told that you nailed a song like that, is that almost more validating than any other sort of feedback you can get about your art?

Absolutely! “High Hopes” was the first single we put out and that was sort of the leader in the clubhouse in terms of plays on different services and streams and whatever….so you would think the most-played song might get the most feedback online, and that’s just not the case at all. “4000 Days” blew every song before and every song after out of the water in terms of people reaching out though DMs and messages and email and everything, to be like “hey, I related to that so much.” People have been telling me their stories, thanking me for it. That has been far and away the most connecting part of the release process. It’s definitely affirming and validating and exciting.

It does open that door where people then put their thing on you, right? Because they know that you can relate to it, and it helps them through, but then it also means that you have to wear their thing now too, once they tell you their story. 

Sure, there’s some emotional exhaustion that can come along with it, especially being out on tour. By the end of the day, when you’re putting everything together, even just getting to the show is a lot, especially when we go out to the merch (area) and you end up talking to people, it’s so awesome. The reason that we do it is to connect, but it can be emotionally exhausting, for sure. You just have to mind the shop; you have to stay on top of your own mental health. That’s part of the game, keeping things as in-check as you can. That song has been awesome (for that). There is an element of people putting it on you, but I kinda like that, you know? It’s such a signifier of connection that I enjoy it.

And it comes from a genuine place. Like I said, I think it’s indicative of the fact that you really nailed the sentiment. If you didn’t, people wouldn’t be opening up to you that way. I’m glad that song is on the record, for what that’s worth. I’ve talked to Dave in the past about his own sort of versions of processing that time in your lives, but that’s a very different thing to go through when you’re twenty-six versus when you’re ten or eleven.

Thank you!

I wanted to talk a little about working with Will (Hoge) again. Dave’s last record that people have heard was your first time working with Will and then you went back to Nashville for TIM and him for his next record. It seems like a match that I hadn’t even considered previously, and yet once it came about, it made perfect sense right away. The way all three of you not only write music but approach things and view the world, it seems like a perfect sort of symmetry. How did that really come about? You seem to have become fast friends.

It actually came about the same way you and I are talking right now, on Zoom. It was during the tail end of whatever that first or second wave was – there was Covid, but then it was looking like there was a window where it was safe enough to get together and make a record. It was kind of everybody’s first foray back into the studios in Nashville. For all of those guys, one of their first projects back if not their actual first project back was Blood Harmony. Alex (Fang), our manager, manages Will too, so that is the boring answer. We share a manager. But we met him on a Zoom, and it only took five minutes to get a bead on who is this guy, what’s he going to do for the record, and is he the right guy…and all of those questions were answered within what felt like seconds. At max, it was five minutes. It was one of those things like “wait…are you our family?” We joke about that we’re Southern and Yankee cousins, and it’s so true. There was an instant connection and an instant (realization) that this guy gets it. He’s done it a few times for himself. He’s thoughtful enough and mindful – his wife is a therapist, you know, which is always a good sign (*both laugh*) – and he’s got the mindfulness to think outside of his own scope and say “okay, what does this project need from me?” Immediately, it was a match made in heaven. It’s going to be hard someday in the future to not make a record with Will.

Probably for both of you. I think that it’s become a thing for him too.

Yeah for sure. It’s tough to think about that now. The cast of characters he put together for Blood Harmony was amazing. And then the guy who came up with a lot of the atmosphere on my record was Josh Grange. He was in Sheryl Crow’s band. He was huge on it. Chris Griffiths who played bass on it is in Will’s band. He’s awesome. Dean Anshutz played drums on most of it, and he’s from Red Wanting Blue. And the other drummer was Matt Billingslea, and he’s Taylor Swift’s drummer. He played on “Fit To Be Tied.”

Oh just some guy who plays with some obscure footnote in American music history named Taylor Swift. (*both laugh*)

That’s Will Hoge kind of in a nutshell. He’s the belle of every ball. There’s not a person who meets him who doesn’t immediately fall in love with him. He has that magic and that magnetism where people just think he’s the best. And he has that kind of pull in Nashville where he’s buddies with everybody and it’s for good reason. He’s just the best dude and he’s immensely talented.

I feel like he’s also representative of the good part that’s left of Nashville. I know he did the punch in/punch out songwriter thing in the corporate Nashville world, and I think at some level if you live there you probably have to at some point. But I think he’s become representative of the good part of Nashville that isn’t just corporate songwriting and the corporatization of “country music,” and I of course use air quotes around country music for a reason. He is one of the guys that is a real artist.

Through and through. And I think having had commercial success, the blessing and curse of that speaks to who he is. He’s still an artist, and he could have really shifted there, and he could have easily changed up his whole MO and done things differently and he didn’t. He got a taste of this unbelievable success and if anything it’s made him a better person.

I was just going to say, it seems like he’s come out of that better than before.

Yeah! That speaks to his character. He’s awesome. 

I was painfully late in getting into Will Hoge, because I have this predisposition against modern Nashville country. The modern Music Row thing, I don’t like, so then if you know that someone has a song that’s on modern country radio, it’s like “well, skip that one.” I don’t even remember where I started paying attention but it was probably either through Social D or Lucero and I remember going “where the hell has this guy’s songwriting been my entire life??” Because, I’m not from there, and yet I feel like I get it. 

He’s the real deal…and if we weren’t close enough before, that tour really put the punctuation mark on it.

You guys were tested and then kept getting tested. And you talk about a certain heaviness being over a show when you’re performing, those first couple of shows I was at in (Shirley) and Rockport, those were heavy shows. Dave’s absence was heavy, but the emotion behind it, and then the connection between you and Will, and then Will having his family there to surprise him, those were shows that were really unlike anything that I’ve seen.

They were unlike anything that I’ve been a part of too. It was such a cool format. Obviously, the most tragic thing was losing Lindsay, but there was also a tragic sense – much, much less gravity-wise, but we were looking forward to that tour for so long. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to pull it together again and to bring it everywhere on however many legs we can, because it works so well. If you get bored of a guy’s voice or a guy’s song or a guy’s playing, there’s gonna be another guy in five minutes who’s doing something different. If you’re not a fan of mine or of Dave’s or of Will’s, you probably will be at the end of it, but if you’re not, you have this built-in respite every couple minutes. As a person whose attention is hard to grab and keep, I can relate. I grew up in the restaurant industry so I always think of things from the perspective of what’s it going to be like for the customer, what’s it going to be like for the diner? What kind of service should I give that I would want to get? So that’s kind of how I approach show-going too; what type of show am I going to go out and see? That’s one that was so cool. Will was just so good during that whole thing. He could have easily gone and been like “alright kid, this isn’t what I signed up for. I signed up to do this co-headline bill with Dave Hause, and Dave Hause is gone. You’re gonna get thirty minutes and then I’m going to take over the rest of it. I’m headlining and we’ll do it the (normal) way.” On night one, I actually lobbied for that because I kinda freaked out a little bit. I was like “dude, I don’t know if I can do this tonight.” It was a long day, and the physical duty of splitting up all the work that Dave and I usually do between the merch and the stage and my heart being elsewhere with him and his family and (Dave’s wife) Natasha and the family out there in Cailfornia, I kinda freaked out an hour before stage, or half an hour before stage. I was out in the van and I called my wife and called Dave just in tears, and I said “I don’t know if I can do this. This is so heavy and so gnarly.” I got that out of my system and I came in and kinda said the same to Will, like “I don’t know man, we should maybe do this the old fashioned way, where I’ll go up and play thirty minutes.” And he was like, in a perfect part Ted Lasso, part Jedi fashion, completely like “those aren’t the droids you’re looking for” – “he was like we could do that…(*waves hand Obi Wan style*) but I think we should keep the spirit of this tour alive…” I think part of that was that he wanted to be up there to be able to catch me if I fell. He wanted the camaraderie and the familiar thing to be together as brothers going through this difficult thing was awesome. My actual brother wasn’t there, but I had my Southern brother there to fill that void and it was a huge, huge blessing. There’s not a better person that could have been out there for the shit to hit the fan in that way with than Will.

Not that you’d want to, but you couldn’t recreate those shows and the way they happened organically and didn’t go the way that anyone was expecting or thought that they would, but I think the vast majority of people that were at those shows came away tremendously impressed with you and how they went. 

I’m hopeful that that’s how it came across.

It may not be reflected in snowglobe sales, but…

(*both laugh*) Yeah! It did feel at the end like a huge growth point for me, and I’ll be a better person and artist and all those things for having gone through it. It’s the hardest tour I’ve been on, and I’ve been on a ten-and-a-half weeker! (*both laugh*)

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DS News: Bouncing Souls to release new album in March, 2023

New Jersey punk legends the Bouncing Souls have announced they will be releasing a new record in March, 2023. This will be the band’s 12th studio album, following 2020’s Volume 2. If you plan on attending any of the Souls’ shows in the tri-state area this weekend, you’ll be among the first to hear some […]

New Jersey punk legends the Bouncing Souls have announced they will be releasing a new record in March, 2023. This will be the band’s 12th studio album, following 2020’s Volume 2.

If you plan on attending any of the Souls’ shows in the tri-state area this weekend, you’ll be among the first to hear some of the new songs. Check out the tour dates below and stay tuned for more info on the next Bouncing Souls record.

Tour Dates:

12/8/22 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Made
12/9/22 – Garwood, NJ @ Crossroads
12/10/22 – Garwood, NJ @ Crossroads
12/11 – New Haven, CT @ Toad’s Place
12/30/22 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot
12/31/22 – Denver, CO @ Summit

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DS Photo Gallery: Catbite, Bacchae & Riverby @ Saint Vitus (2022-11-12)

It seems like Philadelphia ska band, Catbite is everywhere these days. This past year has seen them on tour with the likes of Streetlight Manifesto, Jeff Rosenstock, Mustard Plug, Anti-Flag, and Screaming Females to name a few. And topping it all off with a cherry on top, they embarked on their first ever mini headlining […]

It seems like Philadelphia ska band, Catbite is everywhere these days. This past year has seen them on tour with the likes of Streetlight Manifesto, Jeff Rosenstock, Mustard Plug, Anti-Flag, and Screaming Females to name a few. And topping it all off with a cherry on top, they embarked on their first ever mini headlining tour a week or so ago which has had them playing in hometown Philadelphia, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and the show which I was able to catch in Brooklyn at Saint Vitus. (Oh yeah, remember last month when Brittany Luna guest appeared at Gaslight Anthem?)

Saint Vitus was the first time they’d played NYC as a headliner and Brit, Tim Hildebrand, Ben Parry, Esteban Flores, and Chris Pires were beyond stoked as they opened up the set with fan favorite, “Creepin” from last year’s spectacular LP, Nice One. This fast-paced “on the upbeat” ripper is one of that classic kind of ska songs that wouldn’t at all be out of place if it were slipped into a mix with songs off the first The Specials album. Its frenetic pace had the packed room at Saint Vitus in full-blown skankin’ mode right off the bat. From here the band rolled right into their cover version of Neon Trees’ “Everyone Talks” which the band released earlier this year as part of a 4 song split with Mike Park of Asian Man Records (to name just one of his countless accomplishments). Obviously where the Trees start off their original with a sort of late 50’s R&B crooner style before they kick into its indie rock sing-along chorus, tonight Catbite started off with a slow rock steady beat before literally kicking into the chorus which they re-imagined into a total ska romp.

With barely any time between songs to catch their breath, the band stomped from one song to the next, culling a set list comprising the most upbeat and raucous of their material from their two full-length LPs (Nice One as well as their eponymous debut). Needless to say, the crowd at Saint Vitus which had come to skank, pogo and mosh like their lives depended on it were handed the perfect soundtrack to do just that. Things would get seriously crazed throughout the hot and sweaty room for all-out R-O-C-K-E-R-S like “Asinine Aesthetic” and “Amphetamine Delight”.

But who would have guessed that things could get even hotter as the crew kicked off the encore with “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” and “Excuse Me Miss” from Nice One. By this time the band had the crowd full-blown out of control dancing and singing maniacally. All in all, it was truly something to behold. Fortunately, Catbite has no intentions of slowing down in the near future and I know that I’ll be skanking along to them in a couple of weeks when they’re scheduled to open for Bouncing Souls in both Brooklyn at Brooklyn Made as well as everyone’s favorite New Jersey joint, Crossroads in Garwood, NJ. (Both shows at Crossroads are sold out but there are still tickets available for the Brooklyn Made gig).

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the night’s two opening bands. Starting off the evening was a band out of Philadelphia that I was not at all familiar with prior to this evening called Riverby. I’m not sure what they’re putting in the water down in the City of Brotherly Love but damn, Philly keeps spitting out really interesting new bands almost as fast as they produce ill-behaved sports fans (sorry, I just couldn’t resist). Lead singer, August Greenberg, possesses quite an engaging stage presence as they led the band through a breakneck-paced set which at times reminded me of the band Heart on amphetamines. All in all, I did enjoy their rough and ragged set and do think that they could be a band to keep your eyes on in the future.

Next up was the band Bacchae out of Washington DC. I’d seen Bacchae a couple of months ago opening for The Linda Lindas and to be honest wasn’t all that impressed. Friday night at Saint Vitus however, changed my mind. The growth shown by the band in a few short months was truly inspiring. With a sound that brings to mind early B-52s crossed with the No Wave sound of downtown NYC circa early 80’s with bands like Bush Tetras, Liquid Liquid and quite noticeably early Sonic Youth was quite invigorating. Both Katie McD (lead vocals and keyboard) as well as Rena Hagins (bass and backup vocals) have grown tremendously in their stage presence and ultimately put on a fantastic set.

Check out full photo galleries from each of the bands below!

CATBITE Slideshow

RIVERBY Slideshow

BACCHAE Slideshow

  1. Hey! There are only people with they/them pronouns and he/him pronouns in Riverby. I’m glad you liked them because I do too, just please make it more of a practice to find out people’s pronouns like you do their names. Often it’s as easy as checking their bios, like in their case. Thanks!

    • I misread their Insta bio initially. Updated the story accordingly. Thanks for keeping us honest!!

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DS Photo Gallery: Frank Turner and Kayleigh Goldsworthy, Crossroads, Garwood NJ (6/20/22)

The hardest working man in punk rock, Frank Turner has been no stranger to the pages of Dying Scene for more than a dozen years now. We last touched base a couple of months ago to chat about his latest album, FTHC – it was Episode 53 of our (*both laugh*): The Dying Scene Quarantine […]

The hardest working man in punk rock, Frank Turner has been no stranger to the pages of Dying Scene for more than a dozen years now. We last touched base a couple of months ago to chat about his latest album, FTHC – it was Episode 53 of our (*both laugh*): The Dying Scene Quarantine Chat Show podcast, in case you were curious. When the tape stopped rolling, Turner let yours truly in on a little secret; he was planning on announcing a Summer US Tour that would find him covering all 50 States in the span of just 50 days. Like most people he told the idea to, I agreed that it sounded absolutely nuts, Covid-19 pandemic or no.

But here we are! The tour kicked off in the great state of New Hampshire on June 13th. Our pal Ray was at show #11 at Crossroads in Garwood, New Jersey. It was a solo acoustic show that came immediately after show #10, which took place in Brooklyn earlier the same day. See what we mean about hardest working man in punk rock? Crossroads is one of my all-time favorite places to see a show (well worth the five-hour drive from the Boston suburbs), and it’s shows like this that demonstrate why. Check out more of Ray’s work on Instagram.

Anyway, this show featured an opening set by none other than Kayleigh Goldsworthy, the immeasurably talented multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter who most recently hails from Philadelphia and just put out a solo record of her own, Learning To Be Happy, back in May.

Check out Ray’s dynamite photos below, and stay tuned for more coverage from the ’50 States In 50 Days’ tour coming soon!

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DS Photo Gallery: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, The Bronx, Pet Needs in Nashville, TN 7.5.22

I have a confession to make. Although I am greatly ashamed, and I’m probably going to be shunned by all of the Dying Scene faithful, I must admit that this was my first time seeing Frank Turner. I know, I know, the guy tours nonstop and frequents Nashville and the surrounding cities. Not to mention […]

I have a confession to make. Although I am greatly ashamed, and I’m probably going to be shunned by all of the Dying Scene faithful, I must admit that this was my first time seeing Frank Turner. I know, I know, the guy tours nonstop and frequents Nashville and the surrounding cities. Not to mention that I have been knowingly committing punk rock sacrilege by not having attended at least once, but, excuses aside, I finally made it. And man did it live up to all the hype.

Pet Needs, traveling from across the pond to the US for the first time, was a phenomenal opener. The Bronx reminded me why they might very well be my favorite live band. And Frank Turner was, well… Frank Turner. The dude was a true professional and was as classy and entertaining as I had heard.

Like I said, Pet Needs was enjoying their first trip to the states, and as soon as they started their set, they made me a fan. They’ve got some catchy tunes, most notably ‘Tracey Emin’s Bed’ and ‘Punk Isn’t Dead, It’s Just Up for Sale’, and guitarist George Marriott can down-right shred. In a way, they reminded me of some of the early English punk acts that made their way over to the states: the Buzzcocks, The Clash, etc. After seeing them live, I could not have thought of a better opener for the king himself.

I’ve seen The Bronx a number of times and my love for them grows with every performance. These guys are about as professional as it gets and they throw one hell of a party. What made their set even more exciting for me was when I realized former Offspring and current Against Me drummer Adam ‘Atom’ Willard was behind the kit tearing things up, all with an ear-to-ear grin for the set’s entirety.

Seeing my favorite drummer absolutely kill it was just icing on the cake. Seeing the Bronx is always a treat, but this most recent show was long overdue.

There’s not a whole lot that I could write here that would be new to anybody reading this. This was Frank Turner‘s 26th show in the last 26 days (on the road to 50 shows in 50 days – editors note: you can see our coverage of the New Jersey show here and listen to our interview with Frank from just before tour was announced here) and show number 2653.

I haven’t been at this whole concert photography thing for too long, but I’m gonna go ahead and label Frank and the rest of The Sleeping Souls as the most photogenic group in punk. It was hard to get a bad picture of these guys, and that’s saying something for a guy who takes photos that are normally 90% complete shit. Thanks to these dudes, this was the most fun I’ve had watching a show in a long time

Down below is the full gallery from all three bands. Had a lot of fun with this one and it would be much appreciated if you took the time to check these out. Until next time, Cheers!

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DS Photo Gallery: Mercy Union “White Tiger” record release w/Lenny Lashley, Early Riser and Felons (Crossroads, Garwood NJ – 8/5/22)

If you read our review of Mercy Union‘s dynamite sophomore album, White Tiger, last week, it should probably come as no surprise that even though I live in Massachusetts and the official record release show occurred on a Friday in New Jersey, I was going to be there. And I was! My “forever-plus-one” and I […]

If you read our review of Mercy Union‘s dynamite sophomore album, White Tiger, last week, it should probably come as no surprise that even though I live in Massachusetts and the official record release show occurred on a Friday in New Jersey, I was going to be there. And I was! My “forever-plus-one” and I hopped in the car, dropped our teenager off at her grandparents’ house, and made our way to Crossroads in Garwood, NJ, a club that has become a sort of home-away-from-home for us the last half-dozen years or so. (Really, if you live in the greater NYC area, you should make it a point to go to Crossroads for dinner and a show. You won’t regret it.)

Felons were the first band out of the gate on this evening. Astute followers of the New Jersey music scene will no doubt remember Zak Ferentz from Ferentz and the Felons. The Hudson County street folker retooled his band during quarantine lockdown. Now known simply as Felons, the band still features Ferentz on acoustic guitar and vocals, but he’s backed by a bass player and, well, I don’t have nearly enough knowledge of electronic music to have even the foggiest idea to know what Plantcham was playing on stage right, but I know that it combined for a really cool and weird and interesting sound. Sort of acoustic folk punk meets drone synth with all sorts of samples in the mix. Ferentz at one point introduced a song as being “about doing too many psychadelics” and I’d say that sounds about right. Check the video for “Sheep’s Wool” here for a pretty accurate example.

Brooklyn’s Early Riser were next up, and I have to say, I’m really, really glad I finally got the chance to see them. For the uninitiated, it’s safe to say that Early Riser continue the evening’s theme of bands that are tough to confine to a specific genre box. The sound is centered around Kiri Oliver’s playful vocals and small body Martin acoustic with additional texture provided by Heidi Vanderlee on cello and Nicole Nussbaum on bass. Drums are handled by none other than Mikey Erg, and all members provide harmonies. It’s like posi folk punk power-pop and it inspired a random and unexpected dance break in the crowd!

Much like yours truly, Lenny Lashley made the trip down from Massachusetts. Accompanied by frequent collaborator, the multi-talented Cody Nilsen on pedal steel, Lenny occupied the night’s direct support slot. I think Lenny is the artist I’ve seen most since Covid started a couple years ago because I tend not to wander too far away from home now, so it was fun to actually see him play a road game. Lashley bounced between acoustic (a 1937 Martin reissue, I believe) and electric (a tele-style Nacho Guitar if you’re into that sort of thing) and, while he’s got a massive catalog, stuck to songs mostly from his solo repertoire, including a few tracks from his upcoming album Five Great Egrets (more on that later). Lashley and Mercy Union frontman Jared Hart go back to the days when the former welcomed the latter’s old band, The Scandals, to Boston many years ago, so it’s been fun to watch the connection continue across state lines well over a decade later.

Which brings us, of course, to the Mercy Union portion of the evening. Hart and the gang (Rocky Catanese on guitar and occasional lead vocals, Nick Jorgensen on bass and backing vocals, recent recruit byt familiar face Matt Olsson on drums) fired up the margarita machine and fired straight into “1988,” “The Void” and lead single “Prussian Blue,” the three tracks that open White Tiger and set its sonic tone. The new material was, naturally, pretty well received from the home crowd, most of whom had clearly been listening to the album on repeat for at least the duration of release day if not, in some special cases, considerably longer. The 16-song set was heavy on White Tiger, naturally, with a few songs from their debut album, The Quarry, a couple reworked Hart solo songs, and a completely on-brand singalong cover of Goo Goo Dolls classic “Black Balloon” for good measure.

It was apparent from the earliest notes of their set that the band wore not only loaded for bear, but were having fun in the process. It is obviously a bit of a daunting task to put out an album on your own label two-and-a-half years into a global pandemic, and then to host a record release show at a well-respected club in your backyard (a club that, coincidentally, yours truly traveled to for a Scandals record release show a bunch of years ago). The night was full of smiles and gratitude and shoutouts and guest appearances on gang vocals, proving that while the sound may have branched out from traditional punk rock, the vibe and the ethos once you’re inside the four walls of a sweaty club remains every bit the same.

Look below for photo slideshows from each set of the night. You can still order Mercy Union’s White Tiger here or get it wherever you buy your digital music!





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DS Photo Gallery: Tales from a sold-out Brian Fallon show (w/Dentist) from Crossroads in Garwood, New Jersey

For the better part of a decade now, Brian Fallon has played a handful of annual sold-out shows at Crossroads in the small New Jersey hamlet of Garwood. It’s not quite accurate to call them “hometown” shows, as Fallon doesn’t live in Garwood, although I’m fairly convinced that only like twelve people ACTUALLY live in […]

For the better part of a decade now, Brian Fallon has played a handful of annual sold-out shows at Crossroads in the small New Jersey hamlet of Garwood. It’s not quite accurate to call them “hometown” shows, as Fallon doesn’t live in Garwood, although I’m fairly convinced that only like twelve people ACTUALLY live in Garwood (seriously, when I tell all my Jersey native but non-punk-scene friends that I travel to Garwood for shows, they unanimously say “there’s a place called Garwood?”) and it’s still north-central Jersey so it’s close enough. The shows sell out in virtually no time and it becomes a bit of an annual thing for people to take in two and three (and sometimes four) shows and it feels a little like catching Springsteen at the Stone Pony only for this generation. And while I’ve been traveling from Massachusetts to the aforementioned Crossroads (my favorite place to see shows) for years and while I’ve been seeing Fallon – both solo and with Gaslight Anthem – for even longer, this was the first time the two halves of that Venn Diagram overlapped in the middle.

Asbury Park trio Dentist kicked off the evening’s festivities in fine form. Dentist are a super fun band whose music is as catchy and enjoyable as it is hard to pin down thematically. It’s not quite power-pop and not quite surf-punk and not quite mainstream indie rock and yet it’s somehow kind of all of those things. Bright, jangly guitar lines and infectious basslines and pounding, ass-shaking drums all laying a foundation for Emily Bornemann’s airy, ethereal vocals. Super great band and I’m super glad I finally saw them.

That brings us to story time with Brian. Though Fallon puts together a different dozen-song playlist for each of the four shows on this “run,” there’s an overwhelming air of spontaneity involved. This night’s set kicked off with “Long Drives” from his 2016 solo debut album, Painkillers. Although, in fairness, it started with probably 7/8 minutes of off-the-cuff chatting about the evening and about his weekend and about whatever else before the music kicked in. But that’s part of a Brian Fallon show, and especially part of a Brian Fallon show in Jersey and ESPECIALLY a Brian Fallon show at Crossroads with Andy Diamond and all other manner of local friends and family in the building. It’s loosely-structured and generally humourous and always makes for an endearing and unique show.

From there, the setlist stayed pretty heavy on Painkillers tracks – 7 of the evening’s twelve songs, to be exact – including the title track and dueling gut punch songs that are “Red Lights” and show-closer “Smoke.” There were of course a few Gaslight staples; “Mae” and “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” and “Here’s Looking At You, Kid” – sprinkled in, the latter of which was preceded by a story about catching up years later via social media with “Gail’s” real-life sister. There was also a Horrible Crowes song (“Black Betty And The Moon”) for good measure. There was also a pretty funny retelling of a classic scene from the criminally underrated mockumentary Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Check out more pictures from both sets below, and honestly, if you’ve ever been toying with the idea of making the trek down to the Crossroads for one of Fallon’s annual hometown throwdown, just do it. Tell ’em the King of Massachusetts sent ya. You’ll be glad you did.

Brian Fallon Slideshow

Dentist Slideshow

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