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DS Interview: Cory Branan on his epic first studio album in more than five years, “When I Go, I Ghost”

At least from a new music perspective, it’s been a bit since we’ve heard from Cory Branan. The criminally-underrated Memphian singer-songwriter-guitar-virtuoso released his last studio record, Adios, on Bloodshot Records back in April 2017. For most artists who’ve found themselves making anything resembling a career in the music industry, the cycle typically goes a little […]

At least from a new music perspective, it’s been a bit since we’ve heard from Cory Branan. The criminally-underrated Memphian singer-songwriter-guitar-virtuoso released his last studio record, Adios, on Bloodshot Records back in April 2017. For most artists who’ve found themselves making anything resembling a career in the music industry, the cycle typically goes a little something like this: write an album, record an album, tour an album, lather, rinse, repeat every couple of years ad infinitum. Branan made it through at least two of three stages on the Adios cycle but then, well, then life got in the way. That’s not to say that he was holed up in Tennessee twiddling his thumbs for the last half-decade; far from it, in fact. It’s just that there was the whole thing about the demise of his former label (Google it…or don’t), the demise of his marriage, the ongoing responsibility of parenting a couple of kids…oh, and there was that whole thing with the plague.

And so fast-forward to the present day and we find Branan awaiting the imminent release of his sixth studio album. It’s called When I Go, I Ghost and it’s due out this Friday (October 14th) on a brand new label (Blue Elan Records) and it’s good. Real good. Overwhelmingly good. And I say that as someone that was familiar with more than half of the record through a combination of live performances and streaming events and digital-only compilations put together during the quarantiniest days of the pandemic. It’s got all of the hallmarks of classic Branan: detailed storytelling filled with his patented razor-sharp, quick-witted evil streak, varied sonic feels and textures that invoke the best parts of 70s (and, I suppose, 90s) album radio, massive, death-defying guitar riffs and a level of musicality that somehow takes more twists and turns than the lyrics they provide the soundscape for. It’s just that the highs are higher and the lows are lower and the textures are…texturier.

When I Go, I Ghost is comprised largely of songs written prior to the Covid pandemic. The years immediately prior to the shutdown found Branan changing up the way he had worked for the first decade-plus of his career. More specifically, he worked himself into the habit of writing increasingly while he was on the road in the years leading up to the plague breakout. It was not, at first, a skill that came naturally. “I would normally write when I got home off the road because I’d be restless,” Branan explains. Having young kids, however, allows a different outlet for that restlessness. “When I had kids, and especially when Clem came along…I’d want to get off the road and just catch up. Like “who’s this kid? He’s a completely different kid than he was when I left three weeks ago!

Eventually, Branan forced himself to change his routine. “I find that if I get up in the morning, before I start the car, if I just start making connections and looking at things around me and actually seeing, you know, instead of just driving down the road, then I can write.” The new methodology worked well, to the extent that in the lead-up to the pandemic, Branan was especially prolific. “I had a good year…I wrote like fifty songs, which is how I wrote when I first started writing (music). I hadn’t written like that in a long time.” 

That prolific tour-based writing period obviously came to a screeching halt along with the rest of the music industry and, frankly, the rest of real life in early 2020 with the dawn of the COVID pandemic. But that doesn’t mean that Branan sat idly by waiting for things to reopen. In addition to hosting a weekly Instagram Live-based chat show called UMM… that found him chatting with songwriting buddies like Brian Fallon and Ben Nichols and Amanda Shires, Branan also put out a series of five B-sides/glorified demos/oddities compilations called Quarantunes: Now That’s What I Call Isolation, taught online guitar lessons (to people like my brother), worked on his drum machine/synth skills, and set up his own home-based recording rig. 

Skip ahead a bit and it was time to hit the actual studio with a virtual treasure trove of material to pick from. As mentioned above, Branan had already been playing a handful of the new tracks live, and if you’ve ever caught the Cory Branan live show more than, say, once, you’re no doubt aware that each song continues to take on a life of its own the more it gets played, and it’s probable that you’ve never heard the same song played the same way twice. “You know me,” says Branan, “I’ve gotta keep myself interested on stage, so I tend to take ‘em out and play ‘em.

And so even if you’ve gotten familiar with a newer song like “Oh, Charlene” or “Pocket Of God,” that doesn’t mean you really know the song until you hear it on When I Go, I Ghost, complete with the full scope of sonic textures and layers of instrumentation. As an aside or an editor’s note or whatever you want to call it, even though you’ve maybe heard his Quarantunes track “Stepping Outside” – a damn-near perfect tune about a literal ghost who is leaving his own funeral – and expected that it would obviously be on an album called When I Go, I Ghost, you’d be wrong. Probably too on-the-nose, but that’s why I don’t pretend I’m a songwriter.

Though he might play most songs live accompanied only by a guitar, they tend to be written with a much larger sound in mind. “Usually as I’m writing, I hear them a certain way, and it’s almost always more fleshed out,” Branan explains, adding in a way that’s both charmingly sweet and hauntingly morbid (which, I guess, sums up a lot of his songwriting), “when I’m dead and gone, I would like for the songs to live on in the form that I hear them in my head.” While getting in the studio might open up a song to added creativity when it comes to instrumentation and overall feel of a song, the song itself already exists, at least in Branan’s brain. “I don’t just want a skeleton, I want all the clothes and the flesh on it, and I want it to be able to tell a story musically, rhythmically, lyrically (when) stripped down to just a guitar and me, then when we take it to the studio it’s just fun.” 

While Branan obviously had a lot of personal experience to pull from during the ongoing songwriting process, divorce namely, a cursory listen to When I Go, I Ghost will reveal that, as is par for the course with much of his catalog, many of the songs are not outwardly personal. Some writers have that thing where they’re very clearly writing about their own experiences, but they do so in a way that it’s relatable to the listener. A personal favorite of mine in that area who travels in many of the same circles as Branan is Dave Hause. Branan, for his part, tends to agree. “He derails mystique, you know? Dave’s music is great because it goes outward and it’s useful. “He’s like ‘here’s an example of my thing, but it’s really for all of us; it’s all of our thing.” Branan has a habit of building characters and putting them in sometimes compromising or less-than-desirable positions, almost creating mini four-minute sonic movies. “I’m not a confessional writer,” he states, adding “I think only one song, “That Look I Lost,” deals with (divorce) pretty straight, but even then, I made the music undercut the sadness of the song. I wanted that Motown thing where it’s kind of a triumphant sadness.”

When pushed a little more on the topic, Branan explains somewhat coyly that “I just don’t interest myself very much,” adding “I’m as narcissistic as the next person that stands on the stage with a microphone, but I just don’t find my life or whatever else to be that extraordinary.” Instead of writing confessional-type narratives, Branan is able to turn his experiences into something constructive nonetheless; it’s just in a different form. “I do find that if I make something out of my emotions or construct something out of it and form it…into a shape that’s outside myself, I can pour all of that into it.” 

Much of that character-building and storytelling traces its way back a number of years, although not in a typical songwriting way, as the forty-seven-year-old Branan is quick to point out that while he has been playing guitar since he was thirteen, he didn’t write his first song until he was almost twenty-five. Instead, he shouts out one particular teacher who helped pave the way for the raconteur he became. “I had a really great creative writing teacher in high school, Miss Evelyn Sims,” he explains. “I was just fucking off in school and she was like “here, I know you’re not interested in what we’re doing, so here’s some Henry Miller.” She sorta steered me into stuff she knew I’d be interested in.

Branan hits the road later this week for the first of the When I Go, I Ghost tour, a run that’ll take him pretty much through the end of the year. And strange as it might be to think about on the eve of the release of his first studio album in more than five years, he’s looking forward to the long drives and the time they’ll give him to start crafting new characters and stories to help make sense of the last few years in a new and different way that might be beneficial to people in his own unique way. “I personally use music like that. It’s gotten me through a lot,” he explains. “That’s my highest goal, to have these little things that are useful.

Pre-order bundles for When I Go, I Ghost in a variety of different options are still available here; get ’em while they’re hot! You can also find the latest on Cory’s tour schedule (including a bunch of solo dates and a run with American Aquarium) right here. Scroll a little further and you can read our full Q&A. Unlike the first time Cory and I spoke for an interview story, I actually didn’t forget to hit “record” this time!

Photo credit: Jamie Harmon – https://www.instagram.com/amuricaworld/

(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sake. Also I tried to find the eight-year-old story that I wrote around the release of Cory’s The No-Hit Wonder album based on an interview we did at an Irish bar he was playing in New Hampshire, but it seems to be lost to the annals of internet history.)

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So how are you? It’s good to chat with you again. I have to say congratulations on the new record. I’ve been a fan for a long time obviously and I’ve known probably half the record already, whether through Quarantunes or from seeing you live a few times the last couple of years, and even still, I was floored by how the album came out. It is REALLY good.

Cory Branan: Yeah it was fun! The songs have been around a piece, I had a bunch of other ones too, but this just sort of felt like a batch that was kind of kin to each other. But you know me, as soon as I write them I start playing them, so people know them by the time they come out. I don’t know another way to do it, you know? I’ve gotta keep myself interested on stage, so I tend to take ‘em out and play ‘em. 

Yeah, but they tend to find a new life. I think it’s fair to say that if someone has seen you more than twice, not only have you heard a different set but every song doesn’t sound the same every time you do it. You tend to chase them a bit. Like, there’s a couple on this record that I feel like I’ve heard a bunch from Quarantunes – because those were such fun records – maybe “Room 101” and “Angels In The Details” that are such different songs that it took me a bit to recognize them. When you’re writing a song, do you have in your head “okay, I know I’m going to have to play it like this, but ultimately I know what I want it to sound like in a bigger format, or does some of that difference come out of chasing the song while you’re performing?

Usually as I’m writing I hear them a certain way, and it’s almost always more fleshed out. I play solo out of necessity, you know? Fiscal necessity. And so, when I’m dead and gone, I would like for the songs to live on in the form that I sort of hear them in my head. But then again, I go in the studio and I try to stay interested in the music. I’ve heard these songs (*both laugh*). So that one in particular, “Angels In the Details,” I wrote a nice little melody finger-picked on the guitar, and on this record, some of those finger-picking things I gave to other things. There’s a synth part there, there’s strings…to me it’s like, well, I wrote the melody, who gives a shit what instrument it’s on. (*both laugh*) To me, it’s more interesting and engaging in the song if that gets switched over to a synth or this or that. I approach it more as a musician rather than as a ‘singer-songwriter.’ I have ambitions a little bit beyond strumming the old acoustic guitar (*both laugh*).

Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite things are people standing there delivering stripped-down songs. But that’s how I know I have a song. If I went in and built these songs in layers and layers and stacked stuff on each other and added some lyrics and went out there with an acoustic guitar, I’d be playing and it would be like “oh shit, there’s not a song under here.” (*both laugh*) I don’t just want a skeleton, I want all the clothes and the flesh on it and I want it to be able to tell a story musically, rhythmically, lyrically, stripped down to just a guitar and me, and then it the studio, it’s just fun. 

I feel like sometimes it changes the context of the song too. I feel like “Angels In the Details” especially, I (think) I heard it differently because of all the instrumentation. It paints a bit of a different picture when it’s just you and an acoustic guitar. Or even an electric? I feel like you’ve done that one solo on the Telecaster when you’ve played it live.

Yeah, I do ‘em all on different nights on different instruments. I might bring this piano out too this time and just sorta move around. I just have to stay interested in them. They do work their way into new iterations on the road and I find different things about them. Even once they’re done, like, I’m learning all these songs on piano and I’m just like “AWWW! I blew it!” Like “Pocket of God” (*plays riff on keyboard*) it’s like “oh crap!” All I’m doing is the guitar riff in the song and it’s really low, I’ve got the strings accenting it, I’m like “oh man, that would have been such a good little thing on piano, I should have accentuated it.”

See but that sorta changes the image that you have of the narrator in that song too if it’s just you and a guitar versus just you and that little synth riff. Like, I feel like I tend to see a lot of your songs visually because of the way that you build imagery into the song…

Thank you!

…so you start to put together a picture of the guy that’s singing that song, because obviously it’s not you. Or maybe it is…

No, that one’s not me. I’m a piece of shit, but not like that piece of shit (*both laugh*).

And that’s a thing we can get into later – not the being a piece of shit part, but the sort of thing that we do as listeners where we make the narrator of the song the writer of the song, where we don’t do that for, say, filmmakers necessarily

Or almost any other art. 

And it’s sort of unfair that we do that to musicians that we do that.

Unless…so many musicians use that mythos for mystique and stuff. That’s never interested me personally, but some people make whole careers out of that, and their songs being them, that whole thing. 

You mean Springsteen? (*both laugh*) I love Bruce Springsteen, I really do, but…

He works in stories, He came to represent things that were bigger than himself, yeah. But he works in stories. But your Joni Mitchell’s and people like that…some people come to expect a confessional…

And some guys, well, not just guys, but some songwriters do that. They are writing their lived experience and sort of explaining it to you in a way you can relate to. I think Dave Hause does that super well. A lot of Dave Hause’s material is about his life, he doesn’t necessarily create a lot of characters, but he’s really good at tapping into that “thing.” 

Yeah, and it’s great. He’s good too because he derails mystique, you know? I like it when people write about their life but they make it outward facing to where it’s useful for everybody else. To me that’s a dead end, when you’re writing about your life but you’re only pointing it back at yourself. Dave’s music is great because it goes out and it’s useful. He’s like “here’s an example of my thing, but it’s really for all of us, it’s all of our ‘thing,” you know? I like that. I don’t do that very much personally, but I can appreciate that. 

Do you think that’s a…I don’t want to say a “skill” thing because “skill” isn’t the right word to use there…but do you think that’s just a thing that some people do better? Like, they have that “thing” where they can write about personal things that way where some people are better at creating characters and telling stories…

I don’t know, I think it’s just that sometimes you have your natural dispositions, you know? Your inclinations. I haven’t thought about it a whole lot and when I start to think about things like that (*both laugh*) it’s detrimental to creating, I find. I just try to not think. And honestly, for me, I try to not exist. I’ve said it before, but I just don’t interest myself that much, you know? And I’m as narcissistic as the next person that stands on the stage with a microphone, but I just don’t find my life or whatever else to be that extraordinary, you know? But I do find that if I make something out of my emotions or construct something out of it and form it into a shape – into art, really – into a shape that’s outside of myself, I can pour all of that into it, and then it’s in a shape that it’s hard to knock over. It’s something that can be taken and, ideally, used. Because I personally used music like that. It got me through a lot, you know? Five times a week I sing that Petty line “most things I worry about never happen anyway”! I might as well have it tattooed on my forehead. That’s my highest goal, to have these little things that are useful.

When did you realize that that part was a thing that you did particularly well? I think it’s one thing to be a guitar player and to come up as a kid learning how to play guitar and to understand that you’ve been building skills and that you’re a pretty good player. But when did you realize that you could write like that pretty well, and that you could create those sorts of characters and narrative things, did that come from writing music, or did that come from writing in general in school?

Probably writing in general, but I didn’t write a song til I was almost 25, and I’ve played guitar since I was thirteen. But yeah…I had a really great creative writing teacher in high school, Miss Evelyn Sims, she was wonderful. I was just fucking off in school and she was like “here, I know you’re not interested in what we’re doing, (*both laugh*) here’s Henry Miller…” She sorta steered me into stuff she knew I’d be interested in. I loved to read, I’ve always loved poetry. I love the conciseness of poetry, and when I started seeing writers that could do that, your Guy Clarks or your Leonard Cohens, their songs are like Yates poems or something, you know? I always enjoyed that. It might be because I did it relatively late in my youth, so I don’t have a lot of embarrassing solipsistic things. I mean, not that I had my shit straightened out at twenty-five (*both laugh*).

Yeah, you might be in a different place if you wrote songs when you were fifteen. That’s a different trajectory.

Exactly. They would have been much more self-absorbed and much less usable and user-friendly.

I know you sorta got into the habit of writing a lot on the road.

Yeah, I had to sorta train myself to do that, because I never did it at first. 

I don’t remember if that’s a thing that we’ve talked about before or if I’ve just seen you talk about it, but was that the last few years before the pandemic that that started? And is that where a lot of these songs came from?

Yeah, absolutely. I have talked about it before, but I used to not write on the road because I’ve mostly toured solo, so it’s just work getting from place to place. I would normally write when I got home off the road because I’d be restless, but when I had kids, and especially when Clem came along – because my daughter from a previous relationship is in Tulsa – when we had Clem, I’d want to get off the road and just catch up. Like “who’s this kid? He’s a completely different kid than he was when I left three weeks ago!” So I had to teach myself to write on the road. I would systematically; I find that if I get up in the morning, before I start the car, if I just start making connections and looking at things around me and actually seeing, you know, instead of just driving down the road. If I start connecting separate things in that mind-frame, then I can write. I had a good year (before the pandemic); I wrote like 50 songs, which is how I wrote when I first started writing. I hadn’t written like that in a long time. That turned out to be good because the plague happened (*both laugh*) and I was too busy learning how to mix and record at home so I could do those Quarantunes records and so I could pay the bills and shit. So fortunately I had a good run! I went in to demo those songs up; I did a batch of like thirty of them and I trickled some of those demos out on those Quarantunes records. 

Were those things you were demoing just with your setup or did you go into the studio?

No, that was before I even had my setup. I went in before quarantine to the old Sam Phillips studio with Matt Ross-Spang, before he moved into his own place there. 

I’ve heard really good things about the new place he built.

Oh man, it is world-class. It’s so gorgeous. It’s amazing. I dropped in when Ben and his daughter came in to do that synth record. I dropped in when she was singing on it, and it is so good. 

I’m really looking forward to hearing that.

It’s really good! When I did that tour with Ben, we were drunk back at the hotel and he was like “listen to this!” We listened to the whole thing twice. It’s not mixed or anything, but man, it was fun. 

It’s interesting that for a guy who rather notoriously says he cannot be harmonized with…although maybe that’s just a matter of not wanting Brian and John C. singing. (*both laugh*)

She sings some in unison a lot too. Their voices are different registers, but man she can really sing. It’s great. It’s so cool, and I’m just so jealous of it. I’ve tried to get Clem to make music with me…like, I’ve got my whole room tricked out, and he likes to dance and stuff, so I’ve got a drum machine and I’ve got all these hue lights set up and I turned it into fun town room and nope…I can’t get him to hang and make music with me. He’s got his own world with Pokemon and tae kwon do now, which is great. But Ben getting to make music with his daughter, I’m just like “oh I am so jealous!” (*both laugh*)

And I wonder if that’s an age thing too.

It probably is. Clem’s too young. 

Yeah, and they’re always going to not like what their parents like for a while. 

Well, what his dad likes. (*both laugh*) He likes everything his mom likes for now. I’m sure it’ll flip-flop in his teens, but we’ll see.

There are actually a couple of songs that I know either from the live show or from Quarantunes that I’m surprised weren’t on the record. “Steppin Outside” I think is chief among them. I think that song is brilliant from start to finish. I think the whole perspective of the song and the way that you tell the story, and musically as well, I think it’s perfect. So I’m surprised that song wasn’t on the record. There are others like “Teeny Says” is a cool song, “Me and Your Mom n’Em” is a fun song but I can see where maybe those don’t fit. What went into the math of what made the final eleven?

Well, there’s actually fourteen. There’s three we pulled just because they don’t fit on the vinyl so they’ll come out on the deluxe thing. They’ll just go right up on the internet, it’s not like I’m trying to charge people twice for anything. You know, I never write records that fit sonically, but thematically, they’re all in one way or another dealing with a sort of restlessness and stasis – and I wrote the bulk of them before the plague, you know? But leading up to the old lady and I getting a divorce, that might have informed it a bit. Again, I’m not a confessional writer, I think only one song, “That Look I Lost,” deals with it pretty straight, but even then, I made the music undercut the sadness of the song. I wanted that Motown thing where it’s kind of a triumphant sadness. But in general there’s some things I was dealing with, and some stories just resonated with me. Yeah, that “Steppin’ Outside” song is an okay song. One of these days, I’ll probably do a record with sort of those types of songs; relatively traditional songs with fresher angles. I have some other songs like that. That particular song was just odd man out. There were a lot of those.

Well, when you have fifty songs to choose from…

Well, that was just that batch, I have some old ones laying around too. That batch was all over the place, and I just sort of found the ones that were kin. And the ones that we pulled, I think the record is better with them, but they are reiterations of themes. There’s one that Adam Lazzara sings on and it’s one of the darker ones, but it’s sort of a reiteration of not so much the vitriol of a “When I Leave Here” but it’s sort of a psychotic song, and I was like “well, I’ve already covered that area.” And then the other two, I put “Son Of Mine” on there and I put “Gatlinburg” on there, and we cut them relatively roots. “Gatlingburg” is like a fucking Glen Campbell kind of thing. And “Son of Mine” is like The Beatles doing country music. They were fun, and I think they came out great, but they were pretty jarring.

And I like jarring from song to song, but they were going to have to be placed right on the album, and I found that since I was going to have to pull some for vinyl anyway, I would just do the eleven. And actually, I was going to just do ten but it needed a breather right towards the end, so I put that “Come On If You Wanna Come” on there which is a lighter one. Some of the themes are still there in the verses and stuff like that, but the record itself is like “I’m going out, come on if you wanna come.” It’s a very, very simple tune, and I was just thought the record is very dense, like I tend to do, and it needed a little bit of an opening thing right before it got to the closer.

I’m really curious to listen to it with the three additional songs now. I’ve listened to the eleven-song version more in the last week than I’ve listened to most albums in most weeks, so now I have this image of the album in my head and now it’s going to completely change when the three extra songs get added on. 

I like that! (*both laugh*) And I think that most people that form an opinion of the record before the deluxe thing comes out will understand why I chose those songs to hold back.

I tend to be a bit of a brat about that sort of stuff. When people put out B-sides and I think “this is a really great song, why wasn’t this on the record,” but then because I’m not an artist or a musician, I don’t think of the 10,000-foot view of it sometimes and how things actually fit.

That’s how I’ve always done it before. All my previous records, except for The No-Hit Wonder where I was trying to make a thirty-minute record, all the other ones are like an hour long so I’ve always had to take tracks off for the vinyl, where you can’t go over thirty-eight or forty minutes. So I’ve always just taken them off but put them out on the CDs or put them out (digitally) with the initial release. Nowadays you’ve got to fool the algorithm gods, because the record is DOA. Everything is pre-ordered, all the press is right before it comes out, then six months later nobody talks about a record anymore; there’s no longevity. So you see more people putting deluxe things out. Originally I was just going to be like “well, I’ll just put out some of those demos that nobody’s heard, throw some acoustic demos on.” And then I was just like “no, let’s just make a tight thirty-eight or forty-minute record and then add those songs as a deluxe thing to fool our algorithm lords.  

When does tour kick-off for this particular run? Next week, yeah?

I leave the thirteenth and the album comes out the fourteenth. I’ll be out for the rest of the year with little breaks here and there. I take January off and then I think I go back out in February. 

What was the longest that you went during the plague without playing in front of people? 

All of it until we got that first false “all clear,” so I guess June of last year. I started touring a bit then, and I’ve done like three or four tours almost with like every new strain.

Has it been good getting back out there, and I say that knowing obviously that it’s good because that’s why people do it, but was it nervous at first getting back out?

Nope, it’s great. I love it. I need it. I mean, it’s a fiscal necessity, but I enjoy it. Everything between getting off stage one night and getting back on stage the next night in the next town is a pain in the ass, but those two hours on stage is the only therapy I get. It’s great. Things changed obviously, a lot of clubs didn’t hang on, the road is really competitive because everyone is trying to tour. The paradigm shifts a little bit here and there, but honestly this whole business has changed out from under me three times since I started. I started right around the time of Napster (*both laugh*) so now we’re in the Spotify era and that genie’s not going back in the bottle. It’s not like people are going to say “oh I can have all of those songs for only ten dollars, let me start buying records again!” 

I really miscalculated that, because I thought that people would still buy records. People still bought records when the radio was free and when cassette tapes existed.

Everything gets more niche, you know? So you have your fans and they have to, unfortunately, be more supportive. They come to the shows and they buy the records on vinyl even though they maybe have the record digitally already. But it’s great. I’m not hanging sheetrock, so it beats that. 

I was reading that interview we did eight years ago and we talked about how it seemed like there are a lot of little clubs that weren’t hanging on so the market was becoming more competitive for the smaller, 90 to 200-capacity clubs, and I thought “boy, if we only knew!” 

Yeah! “It’s gonna get a lot worse!” It’s all gonna be LiveNation eventually and all the radio is going to be ClearChannel. But again, music is always going to come from the ground up and the interesting stuff will exist in pockets of isolation and as a reaction to that stuff. It’s not going to stop, it just makes it harder for the average music fan to be exposed to things. It’s like trying to dip a glass in the ocean to get a glass of fresh water, you know? Good luck! It’s just all out there in the thinnest layer of pixels. I mean, I had to search growing up in Mississippi, but I had to search because it literally wasn’t there. Maybe you had a Sam Goody in the mall or some shit, but you’d get subscriptions to the magazines that covered the bands you liked, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t want to be trying to discover new music as a young kid right now. I don’t even know where you’d start, it’s just a bombardment of information.

It’s TikTok, which is weird to say.

Yeah, and it’s sort of a race to the bottom for our attention span. It’s like “look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” And that’s the thing now, people expect you to be an artist, but they also expect you to be a full-time self-promoter. I do the social media things now and then when I want to just put a picture of my kid up now and then or say something stupid on Twitter, but I also don’t want to be promoting myself 24/7. I don’t feel good about that. But I also have a work aesthetic and I have a job, and so I try to balance that with what I’m interested in.

This may be a weird question to ask when the new album isn’t out yet, but as someone who was writing primarily on the road and then had to stop for a couple years, are you looking forward to writing again as well?

Absolutely! Absolutely, yeah. I found that last tour where I wrote a lot, I think that’s a nice balance for me. There are only so many damn audiobooks you can listen to. I’m looking forward to the long drives.

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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? 

Right!

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: 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 Show Review & Gallery: The Rise Against Residency, with The Smoking Popes, Kali Masi (Chicago, 03.30.2023 – 04.01.2023)

Chicago punk legends Rise Against took over Metro Chicago recently, playing three completely unique set lists on three nights. The iconic Chicago venue hosted Rise Against – Alive & Well: The Metro Residency as the concert hall celebrates its 40th anniversary. I had the chance to witness this unique weekend, presented by Q101 FM, all […]

Chicago punk legends Rise Against took over Metro Chicago recently, playing three completely unique set lists on three nights. The iconic Chicago venue hosted Rise Against – Alive & Well: The Metro Residency as the concert hall celebrates its 40th anniversary. I had the chance to witness this unique weekend, presented by Q101 FM, all three nights. The first night, with The Bollweevils opening ahead of the band’s new record release, I was there to hang with and support good friends. Admittedly, it felt a little strange, not having my camera gear and not spending time in the photo pit, yet it was a fun time. The crowd, though heavily represented by hometown fans, also saw many traveling from all over the country and even from the United Kingdom. Oh, and a very special event took place under the Metro marquee for two RA fans. More on that in a bit.

Thursday Night

Rise Against opened the weekend on the same day as the first-ever criminal indictment of a former President occurred. There were more than a few “Happy Indictment Day!” exclamations heard both outside and inside the venue. For some, it felt appropriate, on such a precedent-setting day, that the band they were seeing is known for its socially conscious lyrics and offstage activism. Indeed, rather than opening music, the band chose to play an audio clip from one of my longtime top 5 films. It was “Howard Beale”‘s (portrayed by Peter Finch who won a posthumous Oscar for this leading performance) iconic “I am as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” speech from the classic, multi-Oscar winning film, Network. It was the whole speech, and it was brilliant.

The Rise Against residency was a sort of retrospective. Each night had a totally unique set list sans any repeats over the course of the weekend. Unlike the common practice of a band playing a different one of its albums start to finish each night of a multi-night stand, Rise Against mixed up songs from different records. Surely this was highly appreciated by those who were present for all, or at least more than one, of the nights.

Night one’s set list included, “Tragedy + Time,” “Broken Dreams, Inc.,” “Bridges,” “Paper Wings,” and “Entertainment.” Two notes on this song lineup: this was the live debut performance of “Bridges,” and the first time they have played “Entertainment” live in about a dozen years. As with the other two nights, this was an expectedly strong evening of music. Just as the film “Network” and “Howard Beale”‘s rallying cry are still relevant decades on, so too is Rise Against’s music. I don’t see any of these changing in the near future.

Supporting act on night one, The Bollweevils, jump-started the weekend in a big way. As in a big jump from the Punk Roc Doc, Dr. Daryl Wilson. Wilson has been catching major air since the formation of the band decades ago. His bandmates, guitarist Ken Weevil, a middle school teacher/former middle school principal, and “the double Petes”, bassist Peter Mittler, back from Florida for this performance, and drummer Pete Mumford, on the backbeat, delivered a boisterous performance. The set included  “Predisposition,” “Fencesitter,” “Peggy Sue,” “Bottomless Pit,” and “Cutting Solution.” The band’s new album, Essential off of Red Scare Industries, is set to be released on May 5, 2023. It features backing vocals by “the 5th Bollweevil,” Joe Mizzi of The Mizzerables, who also provides live bass duties when Mittler is not available. The release takes place just weeks before the band heads to Pouzza Fest. 2023 is shaping up to be a great year for The Bollweevils. I’m all here for it.

Friday Night

Night two also started with an audio clip, from the HBO, Aaron Sorkin created series, “The Newsroom.” In this case the oft shared scene whereas series lead Jeff Daniels, as news anchor “Will McAvoy” responds to a college student’s question of what makes the US the greatest country in the world.

Tim McIlrath, Joe Principe, Brandon Barnes, and Zach Blair throw emotional punches with their songs, and this was on full display throughout the Metro residency. While too often political punk bands can seem didactic, Rise Against never does. Instead, fans are fully engaged to the message of the lyrics, and how said message is being delivered intoxicatingly via the music.

As with the first night, RA performed some songs which have not been played live in years or never played live prior to this. Included in the former category were “My Life Inside Your Heart,” and “Torches.” It had been roughly 18 and 8 years respectively since the songs were last performed live. “About Damn Time,” and “Whereabouts Unknown,” were live debuts. The set also included “Black Masks & Gasoline,” “Survivor Guilt,” “The Great Die-Off,” and “State of the Union.”


The Smoking Popes opened night 2 with a bouncy and satisfying set. The first tune of the night was the one often, but not always played first, “Simmer Down.” It was followed by tunes including “Let’s Hear It For Love,” “Rubella,” “Megan,” and “Amanda My Love.” The Smoking Popes, consisting o the brothers Caterer (Josh Caterer, Eli Dixon Caterer, and Matt Caterer), and Mike Felumlee, per usual, were the charismatic and unusually fun punk band its fans love so much. This is at least my second time in the last 6 months or so documenting the band for Dying Scene. Hopefully it won’t the last before 2024.


Saturday Night

Admittedly, if Rise Against played an audio clip before its Saturday night set, I did not catch it. However, the band continued another pattern established during the first two nights with a set list including the live debuts of “The Black Market,” “Sudden Urge,” “Endgame,” “Lanterns,” and “Escape Artists.” Rise Against also performed “Anywhere But Here” for the first time since 2006, “Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated” for the first time since 2007, and “From Heads Unworthy,” for the first time since 2011. If the crowd’s electric reaction to these songs is any indication, perhaps the bands will consider making some, if not all, at least semi-regulars on its future set lists. RA rounded out the setlist with “Chamber The Cartridge,” “Heaven Knows,” and “Drones.” This might have been an exhausting weekend for the crowd, the band, and all others involved, yet it was also an immensely fun one.


Kali Masi was the youngest of the bands playing on this bill, with its debut album released in 2017. Yet the members of this dynamic band performed with confident abandon. Sam Porter on guitar and lead vocals, drummer John Garrison, bass player/vocals Adam Romero, and Tim Roark is on guitar/vocals tore through their set, which included “Paint me Jade,” ”Sputter,” “Some Friends,” “Trophy Deer,” “Recurring (I),” and “The Stray.”

The band will soonish be returning to the Wrigleyville area of Clark St. when they play at the Metro’s neighbor, GMan Tavern in June. I’d advise you to be there if you can. As good as Kali Masi are presently, there is ample evidence that they will only get better and better.


Now to that special moment. Rise Against super fans Nick Novak and his long-time girlfriend, Lisa Bulwan, had plans to attend the Saturday night show. What Lisa did not know was that Nick had a ring on him and was planning to propose before doors opened. Full disclosure part 1: Nick hired me to take photos of the event without giving away the surprise. Careful planning allowed that to happen and Lisa, of course, said yes. Fans lined up the block exploded into cheers. Full Disclosure part 2: I clued those fans on to what was about to happen. Hey, for this one moment I was there, not as a photojournalist, but as a hired photographer. Letting others know what was about to go down was part of doing the job well! Congratulations Nick and Lisa, from all of us at Dying Scene!


Please see below for more photos!

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DS Staff Picks: Dylan’s Favorite Punk Albums, EPs & Things of May, 2023 (Presented by Punk Rock Radar)

Hello, and welcome to the May, 2023 edition of Dylan’s Favorite Punk Albums, EPs & Things! This is the column where I, Dylan aka Screeching Bottlerocket, tell you what new punk rock albums, EPs and singles I enjoyed the most this month. This is a collaborative effort with our friends at Punk Rock Radar, with whom I’ll […]

Hello, and welcome to the May, 2023 edition of Dylan’s Favorite Punk Albums, EPs & Things! This is the column where I, Dylan aka Screeching Bottlerocket, tell you what new punk rock albums, EPs and singles I enjoyed the most this month.

This is a collaborative effort with our friends at Punk Rock Radar, with whom I’ll be doing a video version of this Best Of wrap-up each month. If you like discovering awesome new bands as much as I do, be sure to follow Punk Rock Radar on Instagram and YouTube, and keep tabs on their Upcoming Release Calendar.

Here’s our video for May (let us know what your favorite releases of the month were in the YouTube comments):

P.O. BOX
spaceavailable.

Despite having been around for 20+ years, French ska-punks P.O. Box have somehow managed to fly completely under my radar. That changed with the release of their new album. spaceavailable. is an excellent, versatile record and will serve as a great introduction to the band for anyone else in the same boat I was. This is a must listen for any and all third wave ska fans. Get it on vinyl / CD here.

RED ATLANTA
Encapsulate

Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s Red Atlanta seamlessly blends 90’s melodic punk with early 2000’s pop-punk on their latest album Encapsulate. This record takes me back to the days I spent playing Burnout 3 for hours on end with songs by Autopilot Off, 1208 and Yellowcard blasting through the speakers of my Sylvania CRT. The only thing missing is some DJ Stryker soundbites.

THE BONSTONES
East Bay Elegy

Hailing from the home of Lookout! Records, it’s no coincidence that The Bonstones draw a lot of influence from some of the heavy hitters who called the label home in the early 90’s. East Bay Elegy reminds me most of The Queers’ Beat Off. Hard and heavy, no frills Ramonescore.

THE BOLLWEEVILS
Essential

The Bollweevils are my early frontrunner for “Comeback Player of the Year”. The Chicago punk veterans’ new album Essential is their first in over a decade, and this thing is brimming with bangers. “Predisposition” and “Galt’s Gulch” are a great one-two punch to start things off. Other standouts include “Honesty”, “Bottomless Pit”, and “Liniment and Tonic”. Great record. Buy it here.

THE BIG NEWS
Phoebe

I forgot to mention this one in the video for some reason, but here’s another solid ska-punk album that was released this month. Oklahoma City’s The Big News has an old school sound that I much prefer to the current direction of ska. Phoebe is a mix of Jeffries Fan Club and Pezcore era Less Than Jake. Listen below and buy it on cassette(!) here.

Not many EPs of note this month; I’m kinda disappointed! What I’m not disappointed by, however, is the new Jughead’s Revenge EP. Vultures is the SoCal skate punk band’s first new release since 1999’s Pearly Gates. I could live without the Killing Joke cover, but this EP is killer and proof that good things come to those who wait. Buy the record here.

FAST FOOD SOCIETY
Ides of Mars

Fast Food Society pulls no punches on their new EP Ides of Mars. The band hailing from Palma, Spain rips through one politically-charged melodic hardcore belter after another across the span of 15 short minutes. A few songs, namely “Conspiranoid” and “Copaganda”, remind me a bit of RKL. Check it out below and, if you like it, pay money for it on Bandcamp.

Alright, I normally have a dedicated block for each single, but I’m in a bit of a time crunch. So here’s a short blurb about some of May’s standout singles; you can listen to all of them (plus tracks from the albums & EPs I covered earlier) in the Spotify playlist down below.

JERKS! – “Taillights”

West Virginia’s Jerks! throwback to early 2000’s pop-punk (sans whiny vocals) on their new single “Taillights”. It’s a fun song with an MxPx-meets-The Movielife kinda vibe. Lookout for the band’s debut album This is Fun? due out August 4th.

SPRING HEELED JACK – “Diggin’ a Hole”

New Haven, CT ska-punk veterans Spring Heeled Jack return with their first new song in 6 years! Well, kinda… It’s a cover of “Diggin’ a Hole” for the new Bim Skala Bim tribute comp out now on Stubborn Records. It’s good! Hopefully these dudes put out some new original tunes soon.

THE UPSHOT – “Haven Road”

“Haven Road” is just the second song these British punks have released, but The Upshot are off to a hot start. We hosted the exclusive premiere for this track, so you know it’s good! They’re like NOFX, but younger… and better.

KINGFISHER – “Cost of Comfort”

Ottawa melodic punks Kingfisher have been a busy bunch lately. I think this is the fifth single they’ve released this year. I think it’s their best yet. I get a really cool late 90’s NUFAN vibe from this song. Good shit.

SPOILERS – “Peaches & Cream”

Spoilers are another band of British punks I discovered this month. Their new single “Peaches & Cream” is great; listen closely and you’ll hear a slight hint of Snuff influence. Turns out they’ve been around for almost a decade! I’ve got some catching up to do.

ADELLEDA – “The Best Offence is a Good Defence”

It’s hard to go wrong with Canadian skate punk, and Adelleda’s new single “The Best Offence is a Good Defence” certainly doesn’t miss the mark. Recommended if you like Mute, Belvedere, or any other melodic punk band with exceptional guitarists.

There’s a few more singles I didn’t have time to touch on in the Spotify playlist, which also has songs from all previous months’ releases.

Anywho, that concludes the May installment of the column. Thanks for checking it out! Keep your eyes glued to Dying Scene for all things punk rock and follow our friends Punk Rock Radar on InstagramYouTube, etc. Join us again next month!

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School Drugs – “Disposition”

"Disposition" - School Drugs

Release Date: June 14, 2024 Record Label: Indecision Records Bandcamp Link: Listen on Bandcamp

One of the most interesting release collections of the last couple of years is scheduled for its final chapter next month.

Back in July of 2021, NJ hardcore band School Drugs released an EP called Visitation. Although, calling it an EP is a bit of an understatement, as it was really the first part of a four-EP arc. The plan was that the four releases would, when collectively assembled full Voltron style, result in a full LP called Funeral Arrangements. The second installment, Absolution, was released in August 2022, and was followed by September 2023’s Procession. June 14th of this year brings us to a close with Disposition. Here’s what the band’s dynamic vocalist Josh Jurk had to say about the title’s inspiration:

“I called a local funeral home to ask if the term “disposition” was commonly used in the industry. The director was a little surprised by the question. He said “yes” with some reservation. When I asked him why, he noted that it’s more of an insider term and derives its meaning from disposal, and the bereaved most likely wouldn’t be thrilled by the insinuation.”

Disposition is due out June 14th, and as is the case with the first three chapters, it’s due out on Indecision Records. Pre-orders are now up, and you can check out the lead single, “Feel Like Shit,” down below.

The Bollweevils release “Predisposition” video

The Bollweevils have released a video for their new song “Predisposition”. The video was directed by Chris Peters. The song is off their upcoming album Essential which will be out May 5 via Red Scare Industries.The Bollweevils will be playing Montreal’s Pouzza Fest in May and Florida’s Fest in October. The band released their EP Attack Scene in 2015 and their last album was 1995's Heavyweight. Check out the video below.