When The Loved Ones released their debut full-length album, Keep Your Heart, in early 2006, it seemed at the time to be a welcome bit of fresh air in the punk scene. Here was a new band that, though its members were known entities in the punk rock scene, seemed to transcend any specific label; a bouncy, East Coast sound run through a West Coast, Fat Wreck Chords filter. The album was an opening salvo from a band that seemed destined for a lengthy and blindingly bright future. Inspired (for lack of a better word, because that honestly feels like the wrong word to use) by the death of frontman Dave Hause’s mother a few years prior, the baker’s dozen tracks on Keep Your Heart found the Philadelphia-based trio (Mike Sneeringer on drums, Michael “Spider” Cotterman on bass) nearly perfecting a high-octane, melodic punk rock sound that was all their own right out of the gate. The album was nearly universally well-received by critics, fans and fellow bands alike, and set a trajectory for the band that seemed, on paper, to trend infinitely upward.
On the surface, things seemed to be heading in a positive direction in the Loved Ones camp, but there was tension in the ranks. By the time they were ready to record a follow-up to Keep Your Heart, Spider had left the band and the relationship between Hause and Sneeringer was tenuous at best. Touring guitar player David Walsh was brought in as a permanent member, as was Chris Gonzalez, Walsh’s former bandmate in Boston-area punk band The Explosion after that band itself went belly up. The situation was unsteady, but the new lineup had displayed a great deal of chemistry on the road. With that and the momentum from Keep Your Heart still providing wind in their sails, the band teamed up with Bouncing Souls’ Pete Steinkopf and Bryan Kienlen to get to work on a new album that would find the band branching in different directions while trying to not abandon their punk rock roots.
The end product, Build & Burn, was released ten years ago today (February 5, 2008). Backed by a rock solid rhythm section, the album maintained many of the melody-rich, uptempo punk rock sounds that made its predecessor so beloved. But the album also stretched in a variety of musical directions that, at the time, didn’t immediately resonate with fans in the same coherent way that Keep Your Heart had. Layers of added texture and an increased desire to tap into some broader musical influences, from Foo Fighter-esque radio ready rockers to mid-90s radio alternative Lemonheads grooves to Oasis style stadium anthems made for an enjoyable and challenging listening experience to the punk rock ear. In retrospect, the album very much finds not only the band and its members – collectively and individually – at a crossroads, but came at a time in which the scene and the music industry and the nation were very much the same place.
The band aimed high, and while opinions may vary as to how successful they were (yours truly thinks its the superior, more relatable Loved Ones full-length), it’s undeniable that they built a bridge to what was to come for its members. To mark the album’s tenth birthday, Dying Scene caught up with its main players – Dave Hause, Mike Sneeringer, David Walsh, Chris Gonzalez, Pete Steinkopf and Bryan Kienlen – to dig deep into the closets and talk about the build up, and subsequent burn out, that produced this misunderstood gem. Check out our two-part story (The Build and The Burn) and track-by-track revisit below!