The journey of a career songwriter is one filled with a seemingly endless series of what can rightly be called “pivotal” moments that can alter the arc of one’s professional career; the death of a loved one, the dissolution of a band, divorce, the misuse of alcohol and other drugs, marriage, worsening societal ills. Even if you’ve got your head screwed on in a manner we’d call straight, each and every one of those areas can seem daunting. When you couple any of them with the growing senses of fear and doubt and insecurity that can come, frankly, with being alive and even remotely paying attention to the world around you, it can prove enough to bring an otherwise strong individual to their respective knees.
In one form or another, Dave Hause has tackled all of those issues — sometimes individually, sometimes collectively — generally in a manner that can be poignant and heart-achingly personal. On his upcoming album, Kick, due April 12th on Rise Records, Hause has yet another filter to approach his life, and his craft, through: fatherhood. When we caught up with the now California-based Hause over the phone last week, he was out for a walk with his twin two-month-old sons napping quietly away in their stroller, affording his wife a much-deserved breather. Lest those who might be afraid that turning 40 and establishing roots on the sun-soaked west coast and becoming a dad would have dulled the daggers that Hause spent the better part of two decades sharpening, fear not; Kick is very much a return to form from the more positive, upbeat themes of its predecessor, Bury Me In Philly. “I think that Kick and Devour are a lot closer to one another than Bury Me In Philly,” Hause explains. “Bury Me In Philly was me moving to California and figuring out what that was going to look like and figuring out happiness. I didn’t want to write a bummed record if I wasn’t bummed. Little did I know that we were going to have one of the biggest heartbreaks as a society that I could have ever predicted.”
There are some weighty questions posited over the course of the ten songs that make up Kick. Many of them, like “Weathervane” and “Civil Lies” and lead single “The Ditch” tangle the wires between the personal and the political and reveal the obviously delicate balances that come with managing one’s own anxieties within the context of tides that are literally rising and a social climate that seems hellbent on allowing it to happen. The ride culminates in the album’s closing track, “Bearing Down,” a track which…well, let’s put it this way: if the Devour track “Autism Vaccine Blues” and its narrator outwardly considering whether or not they’d be better off dead tugged on your heartstrings, “Bearing Down” will use two hands and rip those heartstrings straight from your chest. The song finds Hause not only name-checking Hunter Thompson and Robin Williams (and insanely talented Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison, who provided backing vocal duties on the Devour track “The Shine,” in the liner notes), all of whom died from suicide after lengthy and sometimes public struggles with their own demons, but contemplating his own oblivion and weighing swan diving off the Golden Gate Bridge.
But then comes the pivot, that moment that the narrative shifts from being bleak to being heavy yet hopeful by way of our narrator finding that he’s got a newfound responsibility to be around for a while, and to help those that he’s close to through these difficult times. “What I was betting on with that final verse,” he explains, “was really like the old Buddhist philosophy that life is pain. “Hallelujah, we’re alive, and it’s bearing down.“ It is brutal. And if I can lighten that load for someone else, then I’m serving some grander purpose more than just my own selfish whims.” If you’re lucking, the act of older and going through some of your own trials and tribulations allows you the experience and perspective needed to learn from past mistakes. “I’ve got to stick around and not put my people through hell,” Hause notes, adding “in looking at the patterns of addiction and stuff, you start to realize that ‘wow…I’ve made some messes that I wouldn’t mind not repeating, so I’m going to stay in better touch!’ I look at it as more of a human responsibility.”
If there’s a central theme to Kick, it’s that yeah, the current might be strengthening around us or the ditch we’re in may be getting deeper, but that focusing on that isn’t going to fix it. “It’s a very dangerous proposition to look at the glass as either half-empty or filled with piss! Maybe that could be true, but I can’t really afford to ruminate on that. I have to come up with a reason to look toward the shore despite feeling I or we, collectively, are drowning. I have to. At this point, it’s a job as I have as a dad,” Hause notes, quickly adding that, upon reflection, his new duties aren’t necessarily “new” at all, though they’re certainly more intense. “To some degree, I’ve always had that job. I’ve been a brother and a husband and a friend and a songwriter. I’m supposed to try to be of some good use to people.”
There’s a genuine art to being able to write a song that uses your own uniquely human experiences and resonates with other people in such a way that not only can the listener relate to your stories, but use them in a way that can move the needle in their own lives. “You know the Leonard Cohen quote “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in?” Hause asks, knowing full well what the answer is. “A lot of times what’s compelling to me is trying to look at the piece of pottery and trying to recognize that it is indeed cracked — and we cracked it! We fucked it up! — But then trying to find that light, because what else are you going to do? A joking alternate title for the record was “Suicidally Optimistic,” and I know that can kinda make the skin crawl, but a lot of times, I think that that’s my outlook.”
As was the case with Bury Me In Philly a few years ago, Hause was joined by his brother Tim for the creation of Kick. The latter might be sixteen years younger than his big brother, but make no mistake; he is not, by any stretch (and to paraphrase a line from the track “Civil Lies”) a kid anymore, displaying songwriting chops that match his previously-established guitar abilities. “Having Tim as my partner now is clutch. His whole theory is that you make a ten song record, and then, long-term, if you end up with three of them in your “greatest hits” set that we’ll play for the remainder of our careers as musicians, we did something right.” Tim not only collaborated on music and lyrics this time out, he takes on lead vocal duties on “Civil Lies,” providing an effect that’s familiar while still adding a layer we haven’t heard on a Hause “solo” album before. I use solo in quotes there, because it may not be that way for long. “I didn’t really want to be a solo guy (at first),” Hause the elder explains. “The financial collapse happened and I grabbed a guitar and just went. I didn’t realize (it would happen this way), I thought I’d be back with The Loved Ones after a record or two, but the cookie crumbled differently. I brought my brother in and assumed he’d be with me for a year or two and then go back to college.” Instead, Tim has turned himself into a vital cog in the process. “I think we’re just continuing to set the table for us combining streams and using both of our songwriting output and both of our talents toward the same end. Ultimately, we may just go completely under the last name so that it encompasses all of our writing,” a trend that’s started already, as evidenced by Kick‘s cover art.
While Hause will have Tim alongside him as he gears up to hit the road with a full band, The Mermaid, for the first Kick support shows later this week and through the remainder of the year, he obviously won’t have his family’s two newest members alongside. In order to gear up for life on the road as a dad, Hause has called on some old friends like Dan Andriano, Pete Steinkopf, Brian Fallon and Cory Branan not just for songwriting input, but for advice on how to best navigate these previously (for him) uncharted waters. While being away from his wife and two little fellas is obviously going to suck, Hause is hoping to use that as inspiration to dig a little deeper – as though that were possible – in his live performances. “I’m going to miss my family. I’m going to feel to some degree like a heel for not being there for first steps or things. I’m going to miss stuff if I continue to tour to support my life. But I’m trying to look at it like a two-pronged approach: 1 – what I do is cool and the kids will be psyched on that and 2- more importantly, if I can lean into that experience and be like ‘well, I’m in Berlin, and I don’t get to do this just willy-nilly; I can’t just pick up and go, it takes a tremendous amount of planning and effort and heartache to be away from my family, I’m going to really dig in on this Berlin show…or these two Boston shows.’ I think maybe it’ll make things shine up a little brighter.”
The new tour kicks off tomorrow (March 27th) in Hause’s hometown of Santa Barbara and takes a baby-steps approach through places like Boston, Philly, New York and Toronto before making its way overseas for three weeks later next month. Tour dates are available here. Kick is due out April 12th, and you can still pre-order it here.
More importantly, you can check out our full chat below; Hause and I have done these a few times, so as usual, we range pretty far and wide.
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So congratulations on Kick. I really, really like this record.
Dave Hause: Oh cool! Thanks, man. I’m glad you do. I worry, because I know that you suffer from the same thing I do, which is “Devour-itis.” Nevertheless, I chased the carrot and made few more songs and kept moving. I’m glad you dig it, that’s awesome!
I put the album on for the first time as I was on my way to work one day, and my ride to work is exactly as long as Kick, as it turns out. So I pulled into the parking lot just as “Bearing Down” was coming on…
Yeah, that made for a really weird headspace that morning.
Hah! Sorry about that.
No, it was good. The first time I had that sort of visceral thing happen was the first time that I heard “Autism Vaccine Blues,” which I think I might have told you before, at the Flogging Molly show (in Boston, circa 2013), and after it my brother and I just looked at each other and went “Whoa…” I had it happen a little bit with a Craig Finn song on the tour he opened for Fallon last year, but when this song came on as I pulled in to work, I had let the whole song play, because I couldn’t just stop that one mid-song, and I had to take a minute to kinda compose myself after that one.
Sarah (Rodman) from Entertainment Weekly got the record right before we talked, and so that morning had heard it in full – I think she had heard a couple songs before – and she said she bawled actually and had to recompose herself to do the interview (*laughs*) …which I think is a good thing? (*laughs*) I don’t know, I certainly wouldn’t want to put anyone intentionally into a rough spot, but…I don’t know…there’s a reason “Bearing Down” is the last song. And there’s also a reason it’s not the single! (*both laugh*)
Good point! I think it’s a great thing to have that sort of a visceral reaction to a song. As I listened (to Kick), maybe the second full time through the album, I thought that this album is more of a direct, “post-Devour” album than Bury Me In Philly was. Bury Me In Philly was telling a different story, which I think is great and necessary and I listen to that album all the time. But this feels more like a post-Devour album than Bury Me In Philly did. Does that make sense?
Oh yeah! I think this is more like my songwriting than Bury Me In Philly. Bury Me In Philly ended up being an anomaly, and will likely be an anomaly. Now that there’s some distance from it, and having put out September Haze in the fall (of 2018), I think that Kick and Devour are a lot closer to one another than Bury Me In Philly. Bury Me In Philly was me moving to California and figuring out what that was going to look like and figuring out happiness. I didn’t want to write a bummed record if I wasn’t bummed. Little did I know that we were going to have one of the biggest heartbreaks as a society that I could have ever predicted. Thankfully, in terms of being topical, we had “Dirty Fucker,” which, as you know, ended up being sort of a sharp spear that we could throw in the direction of everything that came in 2017.
But this is…I think that this is more of what I do. You know the Leonard Cohen quote “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”? A lot of times what’s compelling to me is trying to look at the piece of pottery, whatever that is, and trying to recognize that it is indeed cracked, and we cracked it! We fucked it up! (*both laugh*) But then trying to find that light, because what else are you going to do? A joking alternate title for the record was “Suicidally Optimistic,” and I know that can kinda make the skin crawl, but a lot of times, I think that that’s my outlook. Another alternate title that Tim said “absolutely not” to was that I wanted to call the record HELLP – with two Ls. (*both laugh*) And he laughed, as you just did, and I said “no, no, no, I’m serious!” And he was like “are you fucking crazy? You can’t call it HELLP!” And I said, “well, the Replacements called a record Let It Be.” And he was like “let’s go Boss, not Paul Westerberg, please!” In any case, I think that’s the long way to say you’re right; as a person who’s been on the journey with me for a long time now, Bury Me In Philly is seeming more like an anomaly.
I feel like it was, like I said, a necessary thing. It’s where you were at that point in time, and it really put closure on the events that inspired Devour. But it’s almost like now we look outside rather than inside a little bit, and to paraphrase Warren Zevon, our shit’s fucked up.
Our shit’s fucked up, and yet we persist being human! For me, I just had kids, so I don’t really get to…(*sighs) it’s a very dangerous proposition to look at the glass as either half-empty or filled with piss! (*both laugh*) Maybe that could be true, but I can’t really afford to ruminate on that. I have to come up with a reason to look toward the shore despite feeling I or we, collectively, are drowning. I have to. At this point, it’s a job as I have as a dad. But, to some degree, I’ve always had that job. I’ve been a brother and a husband and a friend and a songwriter. I’m supposed to try to be of some good use to people. That’s, I think, what the search on the record is; yeah, our shit’s fucked up, but what are we going to do? And I don’t necessarily come up with that many things, other than to keep doing what we’re doing and do it harder. It’s almost like that thing where after there’s a super-traumatic event, they tell you not to stay in your house out of fear. Live in spite of the fact that there are forces out there that are seeking to drain humanity. Be more human. Be more compassionate. I don’t know, I think that’s as good an answer as I can find with shit being as fucked up as it is!
Do you view that as a responsibility for yourself (as a songwriter)? You mentioned being a husband and a father and all that stuff, and obviously that’s a responsibility when you’re in those roles, but have you viewed that historically in your role as a songwriter, that your responsibility is that “I have this gift, I have to help people through or make sense out of whatever situation”?
Um, yeah, although I struggle with feeling that grandiose. But here’s the thing: I get the messages from fans through Facebook or wherever. I try to keep up with that as best I can, but I’m not great at it. But when you see the impact of sharing the small gift you have and you try to cultivate, you see what that does for people, and I think for me that’s what changed the paradigm from wanting to be Eddie Van Halen to saying “okay, I think that maybe Patty Griffin is a more noble pursuit. And I say that with all respect due to the rockers of the ‘80s. I just think that I’m not delusional to think that if I were to go get a job at Home Depot that the world wouldn’t go on and be fine.
I’m more talking about a bigger, much more suicidal bent or something, where I’m going “I’ve got to stick around and not put my people through hell.” In looking at the patterns of addiction and stuff, you start to realize that “wow…I’ve made some messes that I wouldn’t mind not repeating, so I’m going to stay in better touch, and be a better uncle, things like that!” (*both laugh*) I look at it as more of a human responsibility. As far as the songwriting stuff goes, I’m just trying to do as best I can to make sure it all rhymes and give people a reason that they want to shell out fifteen or twenty bucks on a Friday night in fill-in-the-blank town. It’s tricky, though, because you also want to remain employed! It’s a strange balance, so for me, a lot of it is following your gut and saying “okay, well, I like “Saboteurs,” maybe somebody else will too. Let’s record it!”
You get good feedback historically at least from the people that I know or that we know overlapping on a lot of your work, but the feedback that I’ve seen from people about “Saboteurs” is probably the best of any isolated song that I’ve seen of yours. When Tito (Belis, PR wizard) sent me the album, he said something like “wait till you hear “Saboteurs,” it’s probably the one of best songs that Dave Hause has ever written.” And I keep seeing that!
I think so! It’s hard, because I don’t play it for that many people. I play it for my wife, and she’s like “ah, this is cool!” She’s got two kids to feed, so I don’t think she’s right in the headspace of trying to weigh out what the finest songs are. (Brian) Fallon and (Dan) Andriano and (Pete) Steinkopf and Cory Branan, my trusted cabal of songwriting genius, were all like “oh man, you leveled up.” Fallon said “we’ve all tried to write a Tom Petty song and you actually did it!” Which…(*laughs*)…I guess that wasn’t my intention, but I am proud of it. Tim has said he thinks it’s one of the finest songs on the record, and he helped me make them all…
It’s weird, man. My focus on those kinds of things has shifted. I try to do the work and make it sturdy, but anything that feeds the ego, even praise and stuff like that, I’m very hesitant to keep an ear out for. I think that I’m trying to stay absolutely as humble as I possibly can, because I kinda don’t trust this business at all, and the older I get, the less I do. So, for me, when I get to talk to you, it’s someone I can trust. But often times when you release a song, there’s a lot of chatter about “this is going to be the song that makes you…” whatever…and I‘ve been hearing that for twenty years, so I just laugh. I’m glad people like the songs, but I still plan to load-in in Cleveland in the same club I’ve always loaded-in to, you know? And that’s not fatalistic, but I have to guard my expectations and just keep working.
When Lucero was just here (in Boston), I hung with Ben for a while, and he kinda talked about almost the exact same thing…about how they’ve been Lucero for twenty-one years now or whatever, and every time they put out a song or an album, there’s a publicist and a manager and label person that says “this is gonna be the one! This is gonna be the one!” and he’s like “I don’t fucking care about that anymore. Like, if we’re putting out music that I like and want to put out, that’s what we’re going to do.”
I mean, great! Point me in the direction of late-night television or the Philadelphia Enormo-Dome and I’ll go! But really, I try to look at it like this: for my dad and all the kids that I grew up with, when a publication of some merit or whatever covers a record and they get to share it with their friends, they always say “you’re living the dream!” And so, I just say, “okay…” If people that are saying that are also having to go slog it out and do something they don’t like, I need to be responsible for that. I can’t really complain. I see what’s difficult about it and I see the incredibly shrinking rock-and-roll economy or whatever they call it, but for my friends from the neighborhood…like, me and my brother are just two working-class kids from Roxborough, a neighborhood in Philly. We get to go play guitars loud and sing songs we made up while eating Tostitos or something (*both laugh*) That is the dream! It is! So I have to say “I’m going to practice before these shows. I’m going to try to maintain this.” I think it’s a different thing than we were sold growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but it still is a dream in America to be able to create something that really is just a vehicle for your worldview and the way you want to present and have people meet you there and allow you to live off that. It’s a pretty incredible gift.
When we talked before the release of Bury Me In Philly, you talked about how that album took some work to actually get made and it took some jockeying back and forth in your head about whether you were going to go back to swinging hammers or if you were going to stay a musician. Did getting married again and having kids change that equation? And I realize now that I’m kinda asking a second question here too, but it seems like this album kinda came out of nowhere. Things were quiet for a while, at least on social media, and then BAM, new album.
I think it’s important that, if you want to keep working, (you have) to keep actually putting things out. The tendency is “well, let’s wait until we get it perfect,” you know? And what that does is make you not put out very much music. In the hip hop culture or the hip hop business, it doesn’t work that way; they just put stuff out. Having Tim as my partner now is clutch, because his whole thing is “look, man, we’re making records to find songs,” you know what I mean? His whole theory is that you make a ten song record, and then, long-term, if you end up with three of them in your “greatest hits” set that we’ll play for the remainder of our careers as musicians, we did something right. He goes: “think about how many dozens and dozens of songs get written and put out on records, and people go “I wanna hear this song!” For him, the search for “Free Fallin’” is what record making is for.
Once I start to wrap my head around that more as a working paradigm, it becomes an interesting way of looking at it. Rather than “okay, now everything’s perfect, everything’s in its place, now we can go ahead and record a perfect album and tour perfectly on it,” it’s more like “look, man, nobody gets through life in their job doing perfect work…(*both laugh*)…in an office where they work for an hour a day and spend the rest of it on Facebook.” I’m just kinda looking at it like, let’s make more stuff. Let’s be more human, and if we fuck up and put a bad song on a record, at least we got a record out, and we were able to go play for people. I’m fine to take that risk at this point.
I think that part of that is getting more comfortable with the craft; with knowing that I at least know how to get a song done, and knowing that if you’re open to the magic, that they’ll come. I’m hoping to be more prolific. I mean, I write a lot; there’s a ton of songs that didn’t make this record, there’s a ton of songs that didn’t make the last record, and there’s still songs from Devour that aren’t out. So it’s tricky; it’s like “why…why wouldn’t those live in the world?” A lot of it has to do with the commerce and all that bullshit. But, it seems like every time we step back up to the plate, people go “we love this!” So, we’ll keep making them! It’s nice to be able to make plans that way, rather than have it hinge on whether you made some perfect statement. That just isn’t the way that life goes.
So does that mean that your days as a carpenter are officially over? (*both laugh*)
I mean, I don’t know. I haven’t had to do any of that kind of work since Devour came out. I think the tricky thing now is that I don’t want to leave my kids. Here’s the cool thing, though: my wife and I finally went out and had a meal – I went out with her for my birthday three weeks ago, and we went to the sushi place we always would go to, and we’ve been so many times that it almost wasn’t special. But, once you can’t go for a while, you get there and you’re like OH MY GOD! To some degree, I think that’s how I’m going to try to look at playing shows; yes I’m going to miss my family. Yes, I’m going to feel to some degree like a heel for not being there for first steps or things. I’m going to miss stuff if I continue to tour to support my life. But I’m trying to look at it like a two-pronged approach: 1 – what I do is cool and the kids will be psyched on that and 2- more importantly, if I can lean into that experience and be like “well, I’m in Berlin, and I don’t get to do this just willy-nilly; I can’t just pick up and go, it takes a tremendous amount of planning and effort and heartache to be away from my family, I’m going to really dig in on this Berlin show…or these two Boston shows.” I think maybe it’ll make things shine up a little brighter. So far, that’s kinda what the kids have brought to me personally. You just kinda hope that what you’re bringing to them is even greater than what they bring to you.
Well…they bring an awful lot to us, so that’s almost entirely impossible. You mentioned having the people that you go to as your songwriting cabal. All those guys have kids now; do you go to them for the same sort of feedback about how to do this as a dad?
Yes! I have! I’ve asked all of them about it. Steinkopf, when I first told him, said “look, I know you’re trying to figure out what an Uber driver makes and what kind of benefits they offer in the plumbing section at Home Depot, and it’s fine to have that panic, but just remember: you can do all this. You can continue to be you and have them. Part of you is that exact thing; it’s how you met your wife, and you certainly got married under the pretense that you were going to go out and play for people. You’ll figure it out.” Fallon said the same thing. It’s daunting. They’re little, so to think about leaving for even a couple days, or at the end of April we go to Europe for three weeks, it’s terrifying. All those guys have said “look, you can do it.” Andriano’s been doing it for years. They all just say “look, you’ll figure it out, just like your parents figured it out” Granted, my dad didn’t go on tour, but they certainly had their hands full. It’s comforting to have those friends who are further up the road and are willing to share that wisdom with me. It’s helpful.
Although none of them have twins. I have one kid and she’s super easy, but I’ve got a cousin who’s got twins, and then they had two kids after that – all boys – and I just think all the time “oh my god, you are a crazy person.”
That’s the trump card when I’m in these situations. There’s a culture of sort-of “extreme parenthood” now, where it’s like “oh, did you decide to breastfeed?” or whatever, and all these people comparing notes. To me, it’s hard enough on a woman to go through that experience and grow those children and keep them alive, so I try to tune that all out. But one of the trump cards we have is that someone might say “well, we’re good, we do this this way,” and we’ll say “oh yeah, that’s good if you have one! We have two!” And everyone just goes “oh yeah…shit…right. You have two at the same time.” I have a friend in town, my friend Donald, who’s a musician and a songwriter, and he had twins a couple years ago, and he’s been helpful. He’s been making sure that I go out to lunch with him every now and again, and he’ll say like “okay, man, here’s the next marker, and you’re fucked for a little while!” (*both laugh*) It’s awesome, because they’ve got a buddy. It was a high risk pregnancy – they shared a placenta – and I said and I maintain that if those kids got here and they were healthy, you’re not going to hear me complain. I’ve been trying to stick to that as my pact with the universe.
And ultimately that’s been my philosophy as well. Granted I only have one, but, she had a tough go when she was born, but somehow we’ve kept another person alive for eleven-and-a-half years at this point…we’re doing okay!
It’s very, very humbling. It brings you to your knees, this ‘having kids’ thing. For all the people who say “oh I can never imagine what my life was like before,” I’m like “you’re fucking out of your mind! I know exactly what my life was like before I had kids! (*both laugh*) It was great!” I think it brings you to your knees in the best way because it teaches you about your own selfishness and your own loop that you might get into. You look at them and you’re like “man, I gotta do better.”
Yeah, right! And I think that that sort of mentality sums up the end of “Bearing Down,” which is kind of why it’s perfect at the end of the album, like you said before. That sort of shift happens in the middle of that song, and you go whoa…this is heavy, but this is my job. I have to be here for you, whether it’s your wife or your kids or your family or whoever…that particular shift in that song resonated with me a lot.
I’m glad! I didn’t know if it was too abrupt a shift. What I was betting on with that final verse was really like the old Buddhist philosophy that life is pain. “Hallelujah, we’re alive, and it’s bearing down.” Another line that came to mind was (from The Band’s “The Weight) “take a load off, and put it right on me.” I had it kinda twisted, in that ultimately the joy and enriching part is bearing down. It is brutal. And if I can lighten that load for someone else, then I’m serving some grander purpose more than just my own selfish whims. I think that’s what I was trying to go for. “Hallelujah, we’re alive, and it’s bearing down.” It’s a little bleak, but in a way it’s not; it’s trying to reckon with the real world and to come up with some loving way to get through.
I don’t know, I find it more heavy than bleak, really. It’s really kind of a hopeful thing. If you can look at whoever your using as that sort of guiding light, it’s telling them “alright, I’m here, we’re doing this.”
Yeah, yeah! The other part is “you’re the one I want to wither with/ I want to see you when you’re old.” It’s good when you’re 41-years of age, to be able to call a friend you’ve had for thirty years and shoot the shit. I know my buddy Brendan, in Philly, now that he’s old! It’s cool! I see him with his kids. It’s more sort of geared towards a lover, I suppose, in the lyric, but generally it’s the idea that yeah, we’re gonna wither, but I want to do it with you. I want to go through the fun and the goodness together, but I also want to take the lumps together too. It’s being committed, I guess. But yeah, it is heavy.
Sure, but viewing it that way keeps it from being too, too bleak. We’re still here to be able to experience it, you know?
Yeah, I’ve been trying to harp on that for a long time. You go back to that first Loved Ones EP, and there’s a song (“Drastic”) with the lyric “if the ship’s going down, you’ll find me with the band.” I think you’d be a fool to not look around and see the precarious nature of where the species is at. But you’d also be a fool if you just stay there. There’s so much beauty and so much wonderful stuff to get from the journey that you’ve gotta try to pull that in too, and not just focus on the water rising around you. That’s the problem with watching Vice, that news show, every day! (*both laugh*) I’m like “holy shit, this is bad!” You’ve gotta put SpiderMan on every once in a while too, you know?
Oh absolutely! There’s another song that I wanted to dig into a little bit, and that’s “Civil Lies,” because that’s Tim singing lead for the majority, and we haven’t heard that before. Did he write the song? Who’s idea was it to have him sing the bulk of the lead?
It was my idea, because yeah, that song was mostly him. I think I contributed something to it that we probably edited out. (*both laugh*) I think this’ll be a challenge, because I didn’t really want to be a solo guy, I just did it. The financial collapse happened and I grabbed a guitar and just went. I didn’t realize (it would happen this way), I thought I’d be back with The Loved Ones after a record or two, but the cookie crumbled differently. I brought my brother in and assumed he’d be with me for a year or two and then go back to college. Turns out, he’s every bit as good a songwriter as he is a guitar player, so I’m faced with that economic conundrum, where, okay, do we turn this into The Avett Brothers? That’s really more what it is. I don’t want to perform without him, whether it’s in the band setting or quote-unquote solo, I bring him. He’s integral.
I think we’re just continuing to set the table for us combining streams and using both of our songwriting output and both of our talents toward the same end. Ultimately, we may just go completely under the last name so that it encompasses all of our writing. Also, let’s face it, one of the best things about Hot Water Music or Alkaline Trio records is there’s two guys singing. It’s cool to switch it up and have a different vocal in there. And that song is so, so cool and so specific to his experience, but also works on an American level: how can we be so bloodthirsty and also be benevolent humans? It’s a big question! He played that one for me and I said “oh my god, that’s gotta go on the record! And you’ve gottta sing it!”
It’s funny, when I referenced earlier Tito and other guys saying that “Saboteurs” is probably one of the best songs Dave’s ever written, after I listened to the album a few times, I thought “you know what, “Saboteurs” might be my third or fourth favorite song on the album…
Wow, that’s cool!
Yeah. I really, really like “Civil Lies,” I really really like “Bearing Down” obviously. And there’s a lot of other things: I like the way “Eye Aye I” starts out the album, “Weathervane” and “The Ditch” are kind of that classic, Dave Hause “thing.”
I always laughingly say when I’m arranging a song with a band “well, we’re going down the Jersey Turnpike!” (*both laugh*) It’s sort of that Souls and Fallon thing, we’ve all been doing that uptempo, right around 175 beats per minute rock thing. Honestly, that’s where I’m the most comfortable. I love “The Ditch” and I think that’s probably the best chorus on the record, and Tim wrote that. That’s the other thing to consider; he’s bringing so much to the table now that he needs to be recognized for that.
Was he ever at a point where he was at all gun-shy about approaching you with songs, whether because you were the big brother or the touring musician for a long time?
Yeah, maybe. He showed me some songs when I was making Devour. That’s when we started, like I showed him “Same Disease” and he was like “oh rad!” I think he was in a songwriting class or something at the time, and I was like “wow, these are great man” (about the songs Tim was writing). I think it really is just borne of so much concentrated time together. Once we did that 2014 tour together, his first tour was a ten-week-long run across North America. We were in a room together for ten weeks, and it was great. It was super fun, and he sort of blossomed as a musician a lot on that run and it’s just been this natural progression of me bouncing a lot of ideas off of him and then him doing the same and then you end up with a song like “The Ditch.”
He was a kid back then too. Wasn’t he like twenty-one, or not even, on that first run?
He was twenty on that tour. We celebrated his 21st at a big show on a pier in Philly that following summer. *both laugh*) He was really young…like, almost getting thrown out of venues because we were drinking whiskey and I was like “how ‘bout my brother doing a guitar solo! He’s only twenty years old!” And the bartender is going “what the fuck?!?” (*both laugh*) In these last five years, he’s really come into his own. It’s impressive to watch, and it’s kinda scary to watch.
Yeah, he’s really, really talented.
He is, man. I’ve got half a mind to just put him in the middle and I can just sit at a piano in the back and let him rip. (*both laugh*) Who knows.
All the shows you have coming up are full-band Mermaid shows, yeah?
Yes. We’ll be doing Mermaid through all of ‘19 and then into 2020, and then it’s sort of up in the air what we’ll do. I have no clue. I think I’ll want to pivot, I’m sure, by then after doing so many gigs loud. But yeah, these are all Mermaid. A little headline American run, a big European run, festivals in the summer, and then we’ll do stuff in the fall.
Do they play on the new album too? That’s one thing I haven’t seen is liner notes so far.
Kevin plays drums, and then it’a an amalgam of different people playing. I would have liked to do that, but part of the reason this record is even out is because we jumped through an available window, and that window didn’t include that whole band being available. Honestly, I think what you’ll see is that band changing. Generally speaking, I think what you’ll see is what happened in the Resolutions era, where certain shows are full band, and you might see Spider or Chris from The Loved Ones, or my buddy Brendan, because I think in order for me to remain inspired and fluid, it’s going to be tough; you really have to work a lot to keep (a full band) busy enough to not have to look for other work. I don’t want that to become a tether, as much as I’d love to have my own Heartbreakers, it just may not be in the cards, I don’t know. I’m just kind of endeavoring on being a parent for the first time, so if it makes more sense to do some duo touring and do full band in a more surgical-strike kind of way, then so be it. I’d love to be able to take them to Indianapolis or Davenport every time, but sometimes it’s just logistics and economics.
Is that part of why this first run seems to be maybe not all the big markets, but Boston, Philly, New York, Santa Barbara – places that are big for you?
The reason for that is really that my booking agent was saying “hey, let’s get in here and show people what we can do. I think we can sell these clubs out, and some of them will go really quickly.” And I said “okaaaay…I guess. But can you make them spaced out so I can get home to my kids?” There’s a bit of a balance there, and I think the idea is that we’ll try to come back and play some bigger places, because a lot of them did sell out so quickly. I think the way that it’s set up is really so that my wife and I can figure out what touring’s going to look like. Two shows in Philly, two shows in Boston, then go back home for a couple days and pick back up in Minneapolis, Chicago and Toronto. That way I can take little bites of the apple before I’ve got to go to Europe.
I think my wife and I were looking at the tour dates together when they first come out, and we both kinda said “I bet this is him taking the kids back to Philly to show them off for the first time, and we’ll play some shows on the way!”
(*laughs*) No, it was a grander plan than that. I was hesitant to put the shows even up because I wasn’t sure the record would get done and mixed, but my friend Andrew (Alekel), who produced Devour, mixed this record and came through clutch and was able to deliver it and get it out for that April window. That’s what made it all possible. But I wasn’t sure we could keep the schedule, because these are two little grenades we just threw into our lives. Really, really cute ones! But it’s a little hard to figure out what the rudder is. My theory is that I didn’t want to just tour for the sake of touring. It’s asking a lot of the fans. If we can deliver them new songs, maybe they’ll come out. So far so good. It’s nice that this third baby was able to be delivered (*both laugh*) into the world!
Three babies in a year. God bless you. (*both laugh*)
It’s crazy. It’s all really good stuff. You have to maintain your perspective. But, it does seem a little crazy to me right now, even trying to keep up with the laundry seems to be a daunting experience, let alone going out on the road with a band.
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