This might be a bit of an abnormal way to start a lengthy feature piece about the pending release of an artist’s latest album, but in the interest of full disclosure, yours truly considers Dave Hause’s sophomore album, 2013’s Devour, to be the pinnacle of his personal list of ‘desert island’ albums. Very few, if any, albums have had the kind of immediate impact on me that that one did, and it’s only become more compelling — and more deeply personal — due to a variety of real-life issues that have transpired since its release. (Quick anecdote: the first time I heard Devour standout track “Autism Vaccine Blues” was live in concert when Hause opened for Flogging Molly in Boston, and I vividly recall my brother and I looking at each other when the track was over, each only able to mutter an awe-struck “Whoa…” — that’s the only time that’s ever happened in the many hundreds of band performances I’ve ever seen).
And yet, to paraphrase what a wise man once said, you don’t really exist as an artist until the release of album number three. And so it is that on February 3rd, Hause will release his third full-length album as a solo artist, a feat he has not accomplished with any prior musical endeavor (The Loved Ones went on indefinite hiatus after two albums. Paint It Black released three albums, but Hause appears only on the band’s 2003 debut, CVA). The idea that this is his third album with any one musical project seems to resonate especially loudly to the Philly-turned-Cali songwriter “It’s interesting to be hitting the point where I’ve had more releases and more time spent and more records sold and more shows played as a solo guy than I did in the Loved Ones,” he points out, adding that it would take twenty years for some of his musical peers who’ve undertaken similar solo endeavors (Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry, Brian Fallon, etc) to accomplish.
To say that there was a chance that solo album number three never saw the light of day is not overstating the matter. “I struggled for a while to get the record done,” explains Hause, adding that he “struggled with, well, did I want to continue making music or go back to being a carpenter?” For all of its immense virtue, Devour tugs on some weighty, dark heartstrings, telling equally of the tale of the demise of Hause’s marriage and the realization that our generation was sold a bill of goods by our immediate predecessors. Following up the gravity of that subject matter represented tough, uphill sledding to say the least.
But a lot has happened for Hause since 2013, not the least of which are a new engagement, a cross-country move to the California coast, and a deepening personal and professional relationship with his kid brother, Tim. Ever the razor-sharp observational songwriter, it was only a matter of time before the creative juices got flowing, though the path may have been a little more circuitous than normal. “The producer that I was working with (in the early post-Devour days) was not hearing what I was hearing in any of the demos,” says Hause. “He was, like, unpleasable. So that part of it was really frustrating.”
So ho better to bring in when you’re feeling stuck and frustrated, then, than…your kid brother, Tim, who’s more than a decade your junior? For the unaware, Tim made his touring debut playing keyboards and guitar on the 2014 tour in initial support of Devour, and fulfilled the same role on the two-month nationwide tour that Hause did alongside Chris Farren in support of Rocky Votolato the following year. While it initially fell during that aforementioned period of songwriting frustration, the tour proved fruitful in more ways than one. “I was complaining on that tour,” says Hause, “and I was like ‘I don’t know about this whole Santa Barbara thing; I feel like I haven’t seen a black girl in twenty-eight days’ and (Tim) said ‘that’s what you need to be writing about!‘” As Farren astutely pointed out at the time, such stuck points in writing tend to be followed by a flood of ideas, and that proved to be the case here, albeit eventually.
“I’ve always been pretty jealous of guys who have musical soulmates,” says Hause, explaining that while he felt lucky to have such counterparts in his earlier bands The Curse and Step Ahead, those partners were “lost to the crush of working class pressure!” (One owns a beer distributor outside Philly, the other is a teacher.) He found that Lennon/McCartney — or at least Steinkopf/Keinlen or Ragan/Wollard — connection again — hopefully once and for all — in his brother, Tim. “He has this really old soul,” says the elder Hause, a certain sense of wisdom that comes from having lived through the death of his mother when he was a child and his best friend in rather public fashion in more recent years. That wisdom “helps us relate on most matters,” says big brother, quickly continuing that “he’s also got this youthful energy that impacts on ways that I wouldn’t necessarily look at things…. He doesn’t have any punk rock guilt, he’s just fierce and he’s really creative.”
Once Hause brought his brother in the fold, a chance introduction to a childhood musical hero, Eric Bazilian of Philadelphia-based rock band The Hooters (best known for their 1985 radio staple “And We Danced,” and less well known for being the band that a then-seven-year-old Hause saw as his first concert) led to Hause’s renewed passion for songwriting. “I played the material I had for Eric and also for Dan Andriano and Pete Steinkopf, because I was driving myself crazy…and all of a sudden it became clear that I was just not working in the right environment.” Hause severed ties with the producer he’d been frustrated with, and Bazilian and William Wittman subsequently signed on to engineer and produce Hause’s third album. Collectively, Bazilian and Wittman have worked with a veritable “Who’s Who” of rock musicians who maintain melodic pop sensibilities: Cyndi Lauper, The Outfield, The Hold Steady, Scorpions, and on and on and on. While certainly not household names in the punk rock scene, they proved to be the ideal collaborators to pull on Hause’s strengths as a songwriter without shying away from Hause’s punk sensibilities. “They were very vigilant with the punk roots thing,” says Hause, explaining that he has “definitely heard over the course of making the first two solo records that ‘you really need to dial back your punk roots.’ Bill and Eric were not afraid of bands like The Clash or Green Day or The Buzzcocks as reference points in the studio.”
Once principle work with Bazilian began, things took shape quickly. “The biggest learning experience with this album is to trust your gut,” says Hause, “to do the work and not second-guess yourself. Some of those songs (that ended up on Bury Me…) are exactly the way they originally spilled out on the first try, so it’s a lesson you’ve got to keep learning I guess as a creative type.” What resulted was not only the end product that is Bury Me In Philly, Hause’s most wide-ranging album to date, but also a whole lot more. “I wrote a ton of songs,” he explains, “I have another whole record that’s already tracked, it just needs to be mixed.” There’s also another All Brights EP in the can and due for release this coming Spring, plus another EP worth of what Hause calls “post-Devour malaise,” and “what could end up being a new Loved Ones record.”
Moving to California and falling in love seem to have inspired our friend Dave in new directions, ways that he hasn’t been inspired in quite some time, and the lyrics on Bury Me In Philly reflect that bit of newfound optimism. “Sadness and frustration and all of the things that (Devour) was squeezing out give you a false sense of being more compelling than joy and happiness do,” reflects Hause. “I think I’ve learned that that is A) not true and B) (joy and happiness) pull on a different set of heartstrings.” On songs like “The Mermaid,” “Helluva Home,” and “Divine Lorraine,” Hause branches out, incorporating different sonic elements than we might be used to, while still maintaining those elements that make a Dave Hause song a textbook Dave Hause song. He explains: “I think there’s a thing that you would identify, if you were playing a Dave Hause song, whether it’s a Loved Ones song or a solo song, that’s my thing. That straight-up, “No Surrender” influenced punk rock thing that a lot of us in our genre are pretty good at. Whether it’s “Lean On Sheena” or whatever, we all do that thing. But I’m never all that interested in just cranking out ten of those. None of my favorite bands did that.”
There’s also a sense of gratitude that comes through on songs like “The Ride,” gratitude not only from his new relationship but fueled at least in part by Hause quitting booze and drugs. That latter decision came at the beginning of the aforementioned tour with Votolato and noted O’Douls connoisseur Farren, and has continued in the eighteen months that have followed. “Touring is grueling, and drinking heavily is grueling on your ability to get more than one thing done,” he states. “It’s just easier to get all kinds of things done when your goal is not to get to the party or to get fucked up, and then the next morning you’re sort of shaking that goal off and trying to get other things done…with that off the table, your plate starts to clear up a little.”
Quintessentially Californian references to twelve-dollar juices aside, Hause’s newfound penchant for cleaner living doesn’t quite take center stage on Bury Me In Philly, and that’s by design. “There’s a handful of songs that I wrote that lyrically deal head on with that, and we didn’t put them on the record on purpose,” Hause explains, instead choosing to take his time letting that particular music see the light of day once it’s been aided by the context that only time can provide. “It’s such well-worn ground lyrically that I’ve got to figure out what the angle is on it that’s compelling to me.” Hause explains that while he’s not working a specific program of sobriety, he’s been inspired personally and professionally by the idea of taking things one day at a time. “The clarity that has come (from that mentality) allows me to compress in a different way, and I have a lot of gratitude for being able to do that…Instead of reaching for a bottle of Jameson when the thought of all that pressure comes on, it’s kind of like “okay, let’s just figure out the first problem and we’ll tackle the rest of it as it comes”.”
With kid brother Tim by his side, Hause is gearing up to hit the road as a solo artist accompanied by a full band for the first time. Named The Mermaid, the band also features Miles Bentley on bass. If the last name sounds familiar, he’s the son of Bad Religion bass player and de facto manager Jay Bentley. Jay proved inspirational to the Hause brothers on their recent nationwide tour together (along with Against Me!), and it was Tim’s decision to carry that family feeling forward when it came time to put together a band. They’ll all combine to give the album its full due; tours of Europe, the States, Canada and Australia are in the works, and Hause seems fired up to get rolling, just like he was in his early, post-Loved Ones days as a solo artist. “I hustled, and that comes from my working-class background,” says Hause. After the economy collapsed a half-dozen years ago, Hause’s construction business dried up. “I couldn’t swing a hammer because there was no money left in it, so I said ‘well, I guess I’ll go strum’.”
That mentality continues to fuel Hause’s artistic fire. “I approach this record just like I approached (his debut solo album, Resolutions). I think that maintaining that sense that there’s a lot of great music out there and I’m not entitled to any of your ears (is vital),” meaning that if he found his way into your ears and, by extension, your hearts, he’s more than earned it. “I think that’s the way to go, because you can’t assume anything these days.” The full-band accompaniment raises the stakes for Hause, but he seems hellbent on doing the work it’ll take to succeed. “It’s a little bit scary, but we’re gonna do the work that it takes to take on whatever comes next. In general, socially, I need to be thinking that way as an adult with the current political climate. Like I don’t know what’s next, but where’s the shovel, I’ll get digging!
Head below to read our admittedly lengthy interview. We cover quite a bit of the current political climate as you might imagine, all while extolling the wide-ranging virtues of Bad Religion, The Hold Steady, and 80’s radio gods Bryan Adams and Rick Springfield. There’s also a story about how Chuck Ragan, Brian Fallon and Dan Andriano are responsible for the lack of recent Loved Ones material, and how in spite of living in California, he may be more of a Philadelphian than ever. And as you might have guessed for an artist from the City of Brotherly Love, there’s plenty about Tim and his influence.
Bury Me In Philly is out February 3rd via Rise Records.
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): Hey bud, how’s it going?
Dave Hause: Good, man. It’s the calm before the storm, I suppose…or maybe it is the storm, I don’t know…
Well, when did the storm start, and which storm are we talking about, I guess?
Oh yeah, no kidding. The other storm’s been going on since the 70s, or even before. The ‘40s or ‘50s. No, I just mean the album’s coming out in a little over a week. Band rehearsals start at the end of the week. Press is in full swing. It’s a busy, busy time.
Is it an exciting time? Do you look forward to this time, traditionally, as busy at it is?
Well, you know, I do. I think there’s a couple things that are different about it this time around. I think for one, I struggled for a while to get the record done, and struggled with, well, do i want to continue making music, or should I go back to being a carpenter? So to get to put out a record that I’m proud of and have people respond favorably to it and all that jazz is really affirming. And I’m also not on booze and drugs, so the clarity that has come allows me to kinda compress in a different way and I have a lot of gratitude for being able to do it. So I am into it. I’m excited about it. Even the sort of email interviews that aren’t always the best questions, rather than get frustrated with them, I’ve been trying to look at it as an opportunity to say what I do want to say, despite maybe not being asked what I wanted to be asked.
Well, congratulations on the album. I’ve had the chance to listen to it probably 40 or 50 times at this point over the course of the last week.
Awesome! Thanks, man!
I think you know what my thoughts on Devour were…it’s definitely a desert island album for me. And so, to be honest, I was a little bit nervous…
…because of the special place that has for me. But man, I really, really, really dig Bury Me In Philly.
Thanks, man. I’m glad you do. You were definitely a face I had in my crowd of people who might not like this record (*laughs*)…my boogeyman crowd of folks who are like, “well, it’s not as good as Devour.” I don’t think it’s not as good as Devour…it’s a different album and it marks a different place. Sadness and frustration and all of the things that that record was squeezing out give you the false sense of being more compelling than joy and happiness. I think I’ve learned that that’s A) not true and B) this pulls on a different set of heartstrings. So I’m glad you like it.
I didn’t really know what to expect after Devour, content-wise, but this does sound like a good bridge to moving on from that whole chapter of your life both musically and personally. There’s a lot of themes of moving on and rebuilding and figuring out what comes next, but being okay with what comes next. What was the sort of writing process there? I know it took a while once the Devour thing was sort of put to bed to figure out what comes next, but how long was this stuff ruminating around for you?
Well, there’s enough for a whole second record’s worth of Bury Me In Philly songs. There’s probably an EP worth of post-Devour malaise. There’s what could end up being a Loved Ones records. I guess my point, to sum up that statement, is that there’s a lot of songs. As I started to write, and just like I’m saying right now, when I was doing press for Devour I was saying that “I’m going to get right back in the studio to make another record.” Touring is grueling, and drinking heavily is grueling on your ability to get more than one thing done. So I wrote a ton of songs. I have another record that’s already tracked, it just needs to be mixed, that I wrote about writing this record.
Yeah, and who knows what’ll happen with those songs. Those are kind of more like “Dirty Fucker” in tone. They’re more rock & roll, jangly guitar burners. Like quick, two-minute old rock and roll vibes. So who knows what’ll happen with that, and who knows what’ll happen with all these songs, whether they’ll end up in the vault or I’ll release them piecemeal or what. But I started to write, and over time, I got more and more frustrated and distracted in the year between ending principle touring on Devour…summer of 2014 is when we ramped it back down and sort of got a break. Tim and I did the Hot Water Music tour, and then I wanted to write about moving to California, but I ended up scratching that itch somewhat with The All Brights. Skewering white culture and California culture in this sort of Randy Newman-meets-Bad Religion kind of way.
Yeah, that was a fun little EP.
It was! I think I just wanted to not write a record that was sad about moving someplace happy. I figured the least I could do was figure out how to write a funny batch of songs. We actually wrote and recorded another EP that’ll come out later in the year, which is even more ridiculous (than the last one). That’ll come out I think around Memorial Day. So as I dug in a little more, I started to bring my brother in, because the producer that I was working with was not hearing what I was hearing in any of the demos. He was like unpleasable. I came to find out later that he hasn’t made a record with anyone in a while, and I wonder if that’s why… So that part of it was really frustrating. And then, I started to bring Tim in. Tim was really excited, especially with the stuff that talked about A) moving West and falling in love and B) the discomfort with that…song like “Helluva Home”….and the other thing that he pulled on was that it seemed that I found that I’m more of a Philadelphian or an East Coaster now than I ever was based on the benefit of comparison. As he began to get involved, I was complaining on the Rocky Votolato tour that we did in 2015 …an eight-week long summer tour… and I was like “I don’t know about this whole Santa Barbara thing, I feel like I haven’t seen a black girl in twenty-eight days.” And he said “that’s what you need to be writing about!!” And Chris Farren was in the backseat saying “I feel like you’re really frustrated with your writing, but that’s usually right when you start to turn the page on it.”
And I had just stopped drinking on the tour, so Tim and Chris Farren were both urging me to pull on some of the stuff that you’re talking about in the van and see if you can work that into lyrics. So Tim and I started to co-write, and he ended up with some of the most incredible lines. For instance, “the middle of the road takes a toll” in “Divine Lorraine.” That’s Tim. The kid is so young and so wise. So we started to co-write and an album emerged from the many, many, many songs I played for him. He kept going to “Bury Me In Philly” and “With You” was a big one for him…those are songs that I wrote that he just thought were my keystones. And then I played the material for Eric (Bazilian) from The Hooters and also for Dan Andriano and Pete Steinkopf, because I was driving myself crazy. I was sure that this producer was right and that I had lost my mojo. So I played it for them…people from all different backgrounds…and all of a sudden it became clear that I just was not working in the right environment. They all said “these are great songs, you have an album here; in fact, you might have two albums here.”
So once I severed ties there, I called Eric from The Hooters and we had the session booked and a couple months later we had the album done. It was incredible. So the biggest learning experience with this album is to trust your gut; to do the work and to trust your gut and not second-guess yourself. Some of those songs are exactly the way they originally spilled out on the first try, so it’s a lesson you’ve got to keep learning I guess as a creative type. The story with Eric was just that a local radio from WXPN who was a really big fan of “C’Mon Kid” found out that my first show ever was going to see The Hooters as a seven-year-old kid. So she introduced me to Eric Bazilian and was like “look, you guys will be friends, and I imagine he’ll love your record.” And it turns out he did, and he came out to the Philly show on the Devour tour and played “And We Danced” with me and the band. We formulated in this friendship that culminated in the album — and I mean, who knows where it’ll go from here, I talk to him once a week now. He’s this childhood hero that’s turned into a real guiding light on just how to be a songwriter and a creative person. He’s been wonderful to me.
And he got what you were going for on this one right away.
He did. He and William (Wittman)…it’s interesting, one of the musical touchstones for the record was to try to return to rock music that was exciting to me as a kid, so things like The Hooters, things like Cyndi Lauper, The Outfield, Bryan Adams, all those kinds of things that were great as a kid to listen to. That’s their wheelhouse. William made that Outfield record (Play Deep), he and Eric together made the Cyndi Lauper and the Hooters records. So these guys ended up being the perfect team to bring that kind of influence legitimately to what I do. And they also were very vigilant with the punk roots thing. I’ve definitely heard over the course of making the first two solo records “you really need to dial back your punk thing.”
Yeah, and “you really need to focus in on what Jason Isbell and Ryan Adams and all those guys do.” And I love those guys. So naturally, when I hear that from other people, I think “well, I obviously would rather go see Jason Isbell than a punk rock show almost any day of the week.”
But what these two guys were really vigilant on was “no, no, no, we’re talking Joe Strummer here. Your unique way of delivering well-crafted and thought-out singer-songwriter songs, but the thing that’s unique about it for you is that you do come from a punk background.” Both Bill and Eric were really, really vigilant on that front and were not afraid of bands like The Clash or Green Day or The Buzzcocks as reference points in the studio. Those weren’t buzzwords, and in other sessions those were.
I’m glad you mentioned the Outfield and Bryan Adams…I don’t have my original, first-listen notes on me, but there’s a song on the album that on my first listen, I wrote down “The Outfield, Bryan Adams, Rick Springfield.” But then, I asked a friend of mine…”like, I think that Dave would get it, but if I were writing a review of an album and I said that a song has the same sensibilities as a Rick Springfield song, how is that going to translate to someone on a punk site?” So I sorta scratched it out because I thought, well, maybe that’s not the best reference to make in this context…(*both laugh*). But I’m glad you weren’t afraid to approach that. That’s the music I grew up on as well, and the music my parents listened to especially.
Well let’s face it, most of the people that are coming out to see bands like Against Me! or Gaslight Anthem or even the (Bouncing) Souls were raised on the same stuff we were. A lot of that was when radio was still a huge influence, and those were the songs that were actually on the radio. And I think now more than ever, we need music that’s going to bring people together. It’s one of the few things we have left in our culture that doesn’t divide. That was one thing that radio did. Everyone got together and sang “Summer of ‘69” or everyone got together and sang Def Leppard. The things that divided people were less focal points, and I’m not afraid of that stuff. So I think the punk rock thing…there’s only a few sacred cows that play pop or rock music — Springsteen or Tom Petty and the ones that we all love, for sure.
But everyone was raised on just as much Billy Joel or Bryan Adams…or maybe more…than they were Springsteen. It’s just funny how those rules get dictated out to you. But no, you’re right, I would not be afraid of a Rick Springfield reference because sonically, he was a guy singing melodic songs over a Telecaster guitar. In hundred years, in a music appreciation class, there’s really no difference between Born In The USA, Reckless, and whatever the name of the biggest hit Rick Springfield record was.
Oh damnit…I forget the name of the record…(*editor’s note – it was Working Class Dog*)
Yeah, that’s because he didn’t make it into that Pitchfork echelon! (*both laugh*)
So, you’ve mentioned a few times, both here and when we’ve talked previously, being off of booze and drugs. I’d imagine then that this is the first time that you’ve written anything without at least the peripheral influence of alcohol or other drugs?
Ummm…yeah, since…I don’t know when. Maybe since my first band, Step Ahead? My Philly hardcore mixed bag punk rock influenced band in the ‘90s? Yeah, I would say then.
Did that change things for you?
There’s not a whole lot of that theme that we allowed into it. There’s a handful of songs that I wrote that lyrically deal head-on with that, and we didn’t put them on the record on purpose. I think that that’s an extension of the themes going on on Devour, and I wanted to focus on concise, clear and hopeful material. And those songs will come to life in some other way, and maybe I’ll just figure out how to write them better over time. But it had an influence. I’m not necessarily what to say about all that stuff. I don’t want to be too vocal about it, because things can change over time. To use the program…and I’m not operating under the program…but one of the best things you can take from that is taking things one day at a time. I don’t really know where that will take me. But it definitely allowed for a different relationship with music and a different relationship with the people working on the music, and I really, very much appreciate that difference.
Do you find it easier or harder to write without that influence? Or was that not necessarily part of your whole songwriting process anyway?
I think it’s easier just to get anything done. As you know, as a writer, the hardest things are getting started and getting finished. Once you’re in it, you can turn around and chase your tail and all that stuff, but the hardest thing is sitting down to write and at the end saying “it’s done and I’m happy with it. t’s not War & Peace, but it’s good for what I set out to do. I achieved a goal.” So in that sense, it’s just easier to get all kinds of things done when your goal is not to get to the party or to get fucked up, and then the next morning when you’re sort of shaking that goal off and trying to get other things done during the day (*both laugh*). If you’re able to eliminate that, and that’s a big part of the conversation that’s very difficult and very tricky, but I think with it off the table, your plate starts to clear up a little bit.
Well, hopefully it starts to clear up a little bit, because why bother stopping otherwise?
Haha…that’s a good question! At the end of the day, I’ve spent so much time doing that, that even just the sheer simple idea of doing something else for a while was attractive. So yeah, it had an effect. We’ll see how it works its way into more of the lyrics over time. It is a big…clearly a ubiquitous problem and one that I would love to address lyrically, but it’s such well-worn ground lyrically that I’ve got to figure out what the angle is on it that’s compelling to me.
That’s tough to do without coming across as preachy…
Yeah, or exploitative. There’s a lot of ways to do that wrong. Because, for all intents and purposes, that’s still my crew. That’s my people…the drunks… I didn’t go through and systematically change every one of those relationships. In fact, I spent a lot of time in The Falcon this year (*both laugh*). So I’m not looking to abandon all the drunks or any of that stuff. There’s a lot of wonderful people who spend time doing that. It’s an ongoing process, so I think that’s why I need to wrap my head around it a little more before it makes its way into the songs.
Stylistically, you did a few things differently this time out. The songs tend to be concise and you still have your sort of groove, but there’s some different sound elements and feels to a few of the tracks. “My Mistake” is a little different. “The Mermaid” is totally different…I’m not well-versed enough to know what that sound is at the beginning of it. “Helluva Home” is a totally different sound for you. Was that a goal, to be more not creative but to be open trying new things that way?
I mean, that’s always a goal in any musical project I do. I think there’s a thing that you would, if you were playing a Dave Hause song, whether it’s a Loved Ones song or a solo song, that’s my thing. That straight-up, “No Surrender” influenced punk rock thing that a lot of us in our genre are pretty good at. Whether it’s “Lean On Sheena” or whatever, we all do that thing. And I love doing that. It’s super fun to play “Autism Vaccine Blues.” It’s super fun to play “Shaky Jesus” in the new record. “With You” feels great; it’s an old jacket that you like putting back on. But I’m never all that interested in just cranking out ten of those. None of my favorite bands did that. I like all kinds of music. And yeah, the melodica that comes in on “The Mermaid” definitely sets you up for that crazy “Fool In The Rain” beat that drives the whole ship there. And that song is super lyrically influenced by hip-hop.
So that’s always a goal. And this is the first time I’ve ever made a third record. Loved Ones didn’t get that far. By the time Paint It Black did but I wasn’t in the band. I’ve heard a lot of people say, critics and the like, that you don’t really exist unless you’ve made three records. So in a way, the more music I put out, the more of those sounds and musical left turns we’re going to continue to experience together, because there’s just a huge world of music out there that you can be influenced by. Paul Simon is one of my most favorite songwriters, and he’s a guy who’s always deconstructing or adding new flavors, and is always interesting and awesome. So that was a goal and I think in some ways we achieved that.
(*At this point, I make a rather rambling point comparing the stylistic left-turns in “The Mermaid” to a song on the upcoming Craig Finn solo album — also his third– but I’ve been sworn from commenting publicly about that album until early March, so I’ve redacted that part.*)
Yeah, and that was why we put it up so early in the sequence. I didn’t want to bury it. There’s some weird feels on Devour — “Father’s Son” is sort of a sleezed-up Lucinda Williams vibe, there’s a finger-picked song on there (“Bricks”), there’s a song in 6/8 timing, “Stockholm Syndrome,” but they’re deeper into the record. This was not the intention, but sometimes just by virtue of trying to put your…not “best” but “most recognizable” foot forward, you end up putting those songs later on an album, so they seem a little buried or like deep cuts. I didn’t want that to be the case here. I knew we had a short, concise record, so I thought “let’s put some of the newer, weirder feels right in the front.” And with “My Mistake” and “Shaky Jesus” right beside it, it just gets enveloped into the lexicon hopefully.
On “My Mistake,” that intro riff is such a Hold Steady vibe — sorry, I’ve been on a big Hold Steady kick lately — and that song is your lyrics and lyrical pacing over what could be a Hold Steady song. I really dig that track.
Oh thanks, man. You’re the second person today to say that. I did send it to Franz (Nicolay), who would have been the guy in the Hold Steady responsible for that sonic palette, and he approved! (*both laugh*) He wasn’t bummed, so I think we’re in the clear. It’s certainly an ode to them. I can’t think of a band — and I don’t mean a single songwriter, because there are songwriters all the time that come along and blow my mind and reaffirm my faith in music — but there hadn’t been a band until they came along and there hasn’t been a band since they came along that altered my fundamental faith in rock and roll. They had that big an impact on me toward the back half of The Loved Ones, and getting to tour with them was certainly a phenomenal experience. So that’s certainly an ode to Boys & Girls In America. Who, actually, are only one generation away…so William, the guy that co-produced Bury Me In Philly, was the mentor to John Agnello who produced Boys & Girls In America…
Yeah, and Stay Positive. So just like we’re all connected, Craig Finn and I are pals and I’m sure we’ll probably tour together on these records at some point either this year or next, a lot of the producers and engineers are friends as well, so it’s cool when stuff like that overlaps.
Yeah, and it becomes a way to find new music and a scene in and of itself, and I feel like that’s been lacking for a long time. You used to have studios to a certain producer and a certain sound, so if you liked one in particular, you could flip through their catalog and discover new things, and I feel like that element has been lacking in the last handful of years. So I think it’s cool if that stuff starts to happen again in our generation.
Yeah, those rock guys still have it too. For all intents and purposes, all of us are still making guitar-driven rock music which, while it may be dying on the charts, the guys who are really good at making those albums are even better at it than ever, so to get to work with some of these guys who made records that I bought as a little kid is mind-blowing. It’s awesome.
Do you talk much to Tim about how this whole process has been for him? I know you brought him on the road with you for the first time when Devour kicked off and he’s been side-by-side with you aside from the Falcon stuff. Do you talk to him about how this whole process impacts him?It’s got to be a pretty cool thing.
Yeah, I’ve always been pretty jealous of guys who have musical soulmates. I mean, I had one in The Curse and in Step Ahead, my old bands, my buddies Dave and Brendan that I did those bands with, but they took the path of professionals. One’s a teacher and one runs a successful beer distributor in suburban Philly. I felt like at a young age, I lost my musical soulmates to the crush of working class pressure! (*both laugh*) So guys like Pete and Brian from the Souls, or Lennon and McCartney, or anybody that has a chance to have a two-person team I’ve always been a little jealous of. So to find that in my own brother, who’s so much younger than I am, has been just awesome. He doesn’t have any punk rock guilt, he’s just fierce and he’s really creative. His influences are a wide, millennial-style range of types of music. So, his youthful energy and the wisdom he has from having a lot of loss in his life — he lost his mom when he was a little kid and his best friend a couple years ago died in a really highly publicized way – he slipped into the river.
Right, yeah, I remember that incident.
As a result, he’s just got a really old soul and that helps us relate on most matters, but then he’s got this youthful energy that impacts on ways that I wouldn’t necessarily look at things. I think he’s well aware. When I talk to my sisters or my dad, they say “Tim is so fired up for this record and so proud of you!” and all of those kinds of things. He doesn’t necessarily say all that when we’re watching Kenny Powers after the show in the hotel room (*both laugh*)! It’s pretty awesome. This will be his first brush with publishing, which is cool, because he’s going to get rewarded for his work. He’s got people that it took me a long time to work with that want to work with him straight away. That’s rad, and that’s not lost on him. He was certainly blown away by the Bad Religion tour, just in complete awe of getting to see Against Me! and Bad Religion every night. He learned so much from them, and their level of acceptance not just for me but for him was pretty staggering.
That tour didn’t come here, but when you and Jay (Bentley) and Atom (Willard) played those songs together, did Tim play with you or was it a three-piece?
Yeah, it was all four of us. Tim would play guitar, and we did “Dirty Fucker” and “We Could Be Kings” every night with them as the backup band. My general rule of thumb is that if I can help it, you won’t see me without Tim as long as I can possibly help it. We just have that link. As we put together this band, actually, there was a little bit of an extension from that Bad Religion tour, because the bass player in The Mermaid is going to be Miles Bentley, Jay’s son. He’s like 25, and he’s a really good guy, and we just locked him in. There were a litany of bass players that we potentially were going to play with, and Tim really wanted to keep the family link with the Bentleys, because Jay was sort of our guru, and a really, really big supportive force for whatever the Dave Hause thing is. He’s been awesome, so it’s cool to get Miles involved. He’s got his old man’s feel, which is rad.
Jay Bentley is genuinely one of the nicest and most sincere people that I’ve come across in this scene in a long, long time, so I can imagine his kid would be.
Yeah, me too, man. So there’s that element where you’re blown away by how humble and kind he is, and on the other side, you realize that he’s been doing this almost as long as The Clash. And that’s why on stage, it was intentional to introduce him as a ‘punk rock warlord.’ That’s what Strummer wanted to be called, and there are few people who have been able to come from that time period and maintain a dignity and class and ferocity in output. It put him in my mind in a really unique class — that grace and kindness coupled with that I mean he’s the fucking bass player and de facto manager of Bad Religion. For the whole time. So it’s a pretty incredible legacy he’s built.
If I have my timeline down pat, Bad Religion I think started in the fall of 1979, and I was born in September of 1979. And they were definitely my first punk rock show too, so I’ve always had this connection with that band and their music. But I’m fucking 37-and-a-half now, and they are still doing it and doing it at such a high and relevant level.
Yeah, they’re definitely the closest thing that our scene has to a Stones.
I’ll start to sort of wrap up and circle back by saying, or reiterating, that as nervous as I may have been to give Bury Me In Philly that initial spin, you really nailed it.
Aww, thanks man. It’s really tough because you have to serve your ambition a little bit in order to get anything done. So there is this element of having to set some goals and figure out where we want to go and where we want to be at the end of the tour cycle and all this other jazz. Which I understand the need for, to keep people paid and to keep going. But to be honest with you, and I know that this is an oft-used, trite term, but the reward really is in the work. Getting to tour with a band and getting the record out and having anyone at all fired up on it is really 90% of the reward and everything else is just icing on the cake.
So I feel maybe like a little bit of a late bloomer finally getting to my third record, but the universe gives you what it gives you when you’re ready I guess, and I feel ready. I’m looking forward to touring on this and we’ll see where it goes. It seems like there’s an early fervor, which is a good sign. If it’s selling out Middle East upstairs for the next ten years, I’m fine with that. If it gets to be bigger than that, which I think everyone is certainly pushing for, that’s fine too. It’s a little bit scary, but we’re gonna do the work that it takes to take on whatever comes next. In general, socially, I need to be thinking that way as an adult with the current political climate. Like I don’t know what’s next, but where’s the shovel, I’ll get digging!
When you were putting Resolutions together years ago, were you sort of plotting ahead as to what you wanted this thing to be solo-wise? I feel like you’re in a good place now, personally and professionally, but how much of this was the plan?
I wasn’t. In fact, I just did an interview with a UK paper where they were asking about the Revival Tour in 2011 and how that came together because it seemed like this monumental tour. And looking back it does, but at the time, I had every intention of making Devour into the third Loved Ones record. So we were on that tour, and individually, it was almost like each of the other guys on that tour — I don’t know if they talked amongst themselves — but each one of them individually over beers or coffee or whatever, almost in the same week, were like “um, this solo thing, dude? You need to do this. I’m not sure if you’re paying attention, but this is catching fire over here and your band seems an old trusty truck that you’ve got on blocks in the backyard, but this is like your brand new motorcycle and you need to fucking go.” Brian, Chuck and Dan said that, so all you Loved Ones fans out there can blame those three guys… (*both laugh*) But that tour was a huge eye-opener, and following it up with tours with the Trio over there and Gaslight over there, those were huge opportunities that I hadn’t bargained for. Looking back, I was kinda playing like my life depended on it, because it did. My construction business had dried up. The Loved Ones couldn’t get their act together to get on tour or figure out how to soldier through and push through. There were internal struggles that have long-since been sorted, but I was playing like my life depended on it.
Because it did, yeah.
Yeah, taking every possible show, recording every song. I hustled, and that’s also part of my working class background. I couldn’t swing a hammer because there was no money left in that then, so left me go strum. So I guess looking back, it amassed its own little life. But with all of that being said, I approach this record just like I approached that one when it comes to when you get it done to the best of your ability and it’s time to promote it, is anyone even listening to me? And I think that maintaining that sense that there’s a lot of great music out there and I’m not entitled to any of your ears, so if you want to grace me with them, great. I think that’s the way to go, because you can’t assume anything these days.
It seems like this whole thing has grown organically, but do you feel with the band thing starting now that you have to sort of plan things out a little bit now that there’s other people involved, especially Tim and whatever the Mermaid turns into?
Well, I sorta planned a lot on the last record. Once I decided to make Devour my second solo record, that was a crossroads. There’s been a plan in place since then. I think we probably lost a year to distraction between Loved Ones anniversary shows, The Falcon touring way more than any of us had planned, and just struggling to see what this record was going to turn into. I probably lost a year, but there’s a plan. You can only really plan six months or so in advance because you don’t know what the response is going to be. I may need to put out another record in eight months because people might hate this thing!
So there’s this weird balance of trying to plan and also knowing that you’re in this very peculiar job where nothing’s guaranteed! So the plan now is to give the album its proper cycle. We’ll be supporting other people, we’ll be headlining, we’ll be going to Europe multiple times, we’ll be doing the States multiple times and Canada and Australia. We’ll be doing it all, and then probably assess, because I certainly have never had this much overhead as an artist doing anything. Because when it’s you and a band, you’re paying that band. It’s not like “hey, we’re all getting in the van and hoping it all shakes out.” Those people are all depending on you, so it’s a new set of circumstances. But again, I feel like it goes back to the fact that I feel ready for that now. Instead of reaching for a bottle of Jameson when the thought of all that pressure comes on, it’s kind of like “okay, let’s just figure out the first problem and we’ll tackle the rest of it as it comes.” I’m going to enjoy the ride instead of being afraid any of the challenges, you know what I mean?
Yeah, and there’s a point on the album where you sort of talk about not needing Tweedy’s hat, not needing to write whiskey songs and make them sound new and sincere — to me, that’s what you were just talking about, the idea of owning this next “thing” truly as yourself, that this is the Dave Hause thing going forward and your real voice …
Yeah, that’s why it’s called “The Mermaid.” That’s what the record was going to be called until we sort of panned out a little bit. There is a little bit of magic in that. When you’re doing this job, you’re doing a magic trick you’re running…”running down a dream” probably said it best (*both laugh*). That thing is all part of the soup, and it’s time to see what this thing is going to be. We’ll see. I can always second guess it, but for now, we’re pressing the pedal down and going for it. I’m super excited to be playing these shows… Having these shows all sold out or close to sold out on the East Coast is a huge vote of confidence, to have gone away for a while and to have headline shows come up that sell out in advance is cool to see.
Do you find that it’s Dave Hause fans coming out to see you at these shows, or that it’s Loved Ones fans, or really a mix of the two?
I think it’s probably a little bit more Dave Hause fans, but I don’t think that the two things are different enough that I wasn’t able to carry some people through. Well…I say that, but then again, touring with The Falcon or even on the Bad Religion tour in a really “punk rock” environment, super genre-specific, a lot of people were like “where have you been since the Loved Ones?” and I’m like “uhhh…I’ve been working…” (*both laugh*). But especially abroad, it’s an entirely different thing. The Loved Ones just played a couple years ago, we did a mainstage show at Groezrock, and a lot of those fans said they felt like they were watching a side project or something. It was a trip, it was a cool.
But a lot of that prioritizing different acts…I try not to do that. When I do something, I like to go all-in. When I was playing guitar in The Falcon, or releasing a couple songs with this electronic “side project” thing so to speak, none of that when I’m creating it am I like “oh, this is a side thing.” I love making music, so I try not to put too much emphasis on that. It’s like “this is what I’m focused on now.” I think playing under my own name, that’s what I spend the most time with and derive the most enjoyment out of, so that’s why I do it the most. But the Loved Ones fans have been real supportive of me and this music.
Well, and it’s not like you went on a complete left-turn stylistically.
No, not at all.
You haven’t gone the complete folk singer-songwriter, grow a beard and play harmonica route yet.
No, though that was certainly an option, but it just didn’t feel legit. For a guy like Chuck to do that, it made sense. He’s a guy that was raised around that. I’m from Philly (*both laugh*). I know as much about fiddle as I do about fishing. I know nothing about either! (*both laugh*) So for me to put on that suit would have been inauthentic, whereas for him it’s authentic. If I was really serving where I’m from, it would make more sense to put hip-hop beats under my music than it would fiddle. But yeah, it’s not that far off. It’s rock and roll at the end of the day.
But it’s interesting to be hitting the point where I’ve had more releases and more time spent and more records sold and more shows played as a solo guy than I did in the Loved Ones. It’s a nice place to be at. I’m excited about that. I think for a lot of my peers who have gone this direction, it would take them twenty years to do that. I think that Tim Barry and Chuck in particular, as amazing as they are at playing under their own name and doing their own thing, they just spent so long in those bands and made so many amazing records that it’s always going to be part of the story. And not that The Loved Ones isn’t. We made two albums and toured for five or six years, and I think it’s really cool how much of an impact the band had. But it’s not this thing that I have to constantly get out from under, whereas for Joey (Cape) or for Chuck or Tim, it’s a harder thing to differentiate from just from the sense of hours logged.
I think one of the first times I talked to Tim in this sort of context, we were on the phone and in the middle of him keeping his chickens away from attacking his kid, he said “you know what, I think it’s been like ten years this month since I played my first Tim Barry show.” He sort of had this moment that I could hear of self-reflection as we were talking, because I was asking him about the whole “Tim Barry fans versus Avail fans” thing. And he was like “I played an anarchist collective in Asheville, North Carolina,” and I think that the story was that Avail was supposed to play but broke up so he made the trek by himself and played and that was the origin of the “Tim Barry solo” thing.
Yeah, I mean it’s an achievement. It’s something I’ve been afraid of because you hear about Damn The Torpedoes or Born To Run, and you think “aww, the third record’s the one.” And when you look of your batch of songs when you go to press “record,” you think “oh, do I have that?!?”
Well, you can’t hold yourself to Damn The Torpedoes or Born To Run.
Well, but you also forget that that was a very different time. And you’ve got people who are very good at reminding you how great those records are, and stand to gain from doing so, which helps those records take on new life. And, the rest of it can go to hell! I think we put an enormous amount of work and passion into the record and now it is what it is. There’s other songs that I have that are ready to roll and that will put everything into context over time. Ultimately, you’ve got to do your best at not becoming so myopic that it shuts you off from being able to complete anything.
This album, especially, I think does a good idea of putting the first two in their proper context and accurately reflects the better place I think you’re in right now.
I think that, as a kid raised on Star Wars and trilogies or whatever, maybe this is the end of writing about “me”…well, you’re always writing from your own experience, but I would like to turn the pen outwards, like after writing “Seasons Greeting From Ferguson,” and seeing that the working people in this country are so divided and trying to understand what that’s about, I’d be interested in trying to turn the pen that way a little bit and seeing what shakes out and hopefully, life won’t be as interesting! (*both laugh*) It’ll just be simple and quiet and happy and we can get on to other things.
For you personally, it sounds like that’s where you’re at, but for “us” collectively I don’t have great hopes for things being hunky-dory for the next few years, so you should have a large pool of subject matter to write from.
I’ll tell you what, man. I marched two days in a row this weekend, and it helps. It really helps to be a part of that experience was something I haven’t felt since I’m a kid. It was pretty amazing to be in that Women’s March, and that was just in Santa Barbara, a tiny town in privileged, white-bred America, but it was all creeds, all kinds, all ethnicities. To see that ripple go all over the country and know that I was a part of it was super rad, and I would highly suggest, if you have the option, to do it as often as you can. It does make it a little better.
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