All roads lead to home

Hawthorne Heights performs hometown gig

By Tim Anderl

Photo: Dayton’s own Hawthorne Heights will play an all-ages show on Nov. 20 at Yellow Cab

Over the last fifteen years, Dayton, Ohio’s Hawthorne Heights have done and seen more than most of their peers. They’ve had multiple Gold records, a couple peak positions on the Billboard charts, a handful of line-up changes and have taken numerous trips around the globe. And rather than leaving their hometown in the dust for greener musical scenery in Nashville, Brooklyn or Los Angeles, the quartet relishes their hometown ties.

With a new EP under their belts, and hot on the heels of an extremely busy year of touring, the band announced they’d be performing a rare all-ages hometown show in the heart of downtown to cap off 2015. Dayton City Paper caught up with vocalist/guitarist JT Woodruff and guitarist Mark McMillon to discuss their latest lineup changes, songwriting and the forthcoming gig.

The band has seen some departures and some new additions in recent years. How has that changed the course of Hawthorne Heights?

JT Woodruff: Sometimes people need to move on and do something different. As an adult, friend and band member, you have to understand that. Luckily, Mark [McMillon] had been playing with us for a few years, so he took over a lot of Micah’s [Carli] parts pretty easily. Poppy [Chris Popadak] had been working for us for years, and is a great drummer … so that transition was pretty easy as well.

We were fortunate to cycle out old friends with more old friends. It hasn’t really changed the course of HH in any way, it just kind of dropped some baggage and streamlined the inspiration. You can’t allow yourself to get lethargic as a songwriter and touring musician. It’s too much of a grind to not be fully invested.

HURT is the last in a series of EPs, right? Can you explain that concept?

JW: Yes, HURT is the final installment. The concept is taking very real emotions, and winding music and lyrics together to fit those emotions. A few years ago the term “emo” got pretty outdated, which was a little weird to me. All of my favorite bands have emotional lyrics, which is why I connect with them. I wanted to make this project very lyrical and very specific. It doesn’t really have a story line or anything like that. Getting the production and chord structures to match the emotions was just as much fun as writing the lyrics. It was fun, because it took a little more planning and thought than just trying to write “cool” sounding songs.

How does the songwriting on HURT differ from the previous EPs?

JW: The songwriting differed a little bit, because it was just Matt [Ridenour], Mark and myself this time around. We didn’t have any input from Micah or Eron [Bucciarelli] on HURT. We didn’t use anything that was previously written. We also had to write in pockets of time due to some wedding planning, a honeymoon and a family vacation. Sounds real punk rock, right?

The writing actually came together really quickly, because we all had singular ideas that ended up becoming collective songs. Once you start to wrap the lyrics, melodies, and music together … we all start to generally get happy.

When did you decide that you wanted to perform this big hometown show?

JW: We decided that we didn’t want to do a whole lot at the end of the year, because 2015 has been very busy for us; four solid months of touring, and six weeks of writing and recording. Then we realized we hadn’t played a hometown show in over a year, so decided to get creative and plan one.

You guys are organizing the event yourselves, correct?  

JW: We are handling 100 percent of every aspect of the event.  We decided to do it this way, so we could choose everything about this special evening. We chose the Yellow Cab, because we wanted to keep it in downtown Dayton. We also loved their involvement with the Dayton Arts scene, and the fact that they would allow all ages. The fact that they have plenty of parking and two rooms really played a factor in choosing the venue.

Is the lineup curated by the band?

Mark McMillon: Yes, we took care of putting together the lineup ourselves. With so many friends that are in great bands in the area, it was extremely tough to narrow it down on who to ask to play the show. We ended up going with a combination of old friends along with some younger bands that are stirring things up in the all-ages scene and throwing their own shows in town.

We all started out playing at places like the Knights of Columbus Hall on Burkhardt Road and throwing our own all-ages shows wherever we could get away with doing it. We understand how hard it as a young band to throw an all-ages show in Dayton. It was important to us to have some young bands on the show with us and help capture that spirit. Good English and Jasper the Colossal are two bands that are starting to make things happen on their own and building a buzz both in Dayton and on the road. We are excited to have them joining us on the show. I am looking forward to seeing everyone.

What does the band have planned for 2016?

JW: 2016 is coming together quickly for us; lots of touring and hopefully a new full length. The music industry is a series of quickly moving waters, and luckily we still have a ship to navigate. All channels lead back to Dayton.

Hawthorne Heights will perform on Friday, Nov. 20, at The “Old” Yellow Cab building, 700 E. 4th St. Show starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 and the show is open to all ages.  Presale tickets are available at hawthorneheights.limitedrun.com/tickets/13123.

Tim Anderl is the web editor and a contributing writer at Ghettoblaster Magazine and maintains his own music blog at youindie.com. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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