Five become one

Hawthorne Heights plays rare hometown show

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Dayton’s Hawthorne Heights play hometown show at Rockstar Pro Arena on Dec. 14

Since their humble beginnings as local band A Day in the Life, the band that would become known as Hawthorne Heights in 2001 has seen its trials and tribulations over its decade-plus existence. Band members have come and gone, lawsuits with record labels, fighting the stereotypes of being an “emo” band, wanting to expand their sonic palette and especially the accidental overdose death of long-time guitarist Casey Calvert in 2007 have all been challenges that sole original member JT Woodruff and company have shouldered over the years. This has been a busy year for the quintet with the release of an ambitious concept album Zero and the official addition of The Story Changes guitarist Mark McMillon to the band’s lineup, as well as participating in high profile tours such as the Vans’ Warped Tour and the “Scream it Like you Mean it” tour with Story of the Year. I recently got to chat with Hawthorne Heights’ drummer Eron Bucciarelliabout these topics, the formation of their own label Cardboard Empire and more.

It seems like it’s been a while since Hawthorne Heights has played a hometown show – How did your upcoming show at Rockstar Arena come about?

We always like ending our year in Dayton whenever possible. Isaac (Reeder) and Ben (Parker from Rockstar Pro Arena) hit us up about playing Rockstar Pro Arena and we weren’t going to be on tour at that point, so it made perfect sense. Dayton performances were rare for a while because there weren’t many venues in town that were all ages. We’ve had a great year of touring and to cap it off with hometown a show is going to be a blast! -Eron Bucciarelli

What’s your newest album Zero all about? 

It is a concept album. It takes place in a dystopian future. A corporation has taken over a small town in the wake of a big disaster. A group called the Zero Collective [is] fighting for their freedom. It’s part “V for Vendetta” and part “Red Dawn.” -EB

How has HH changed in the years since Casey Calvert’s death?

You can’t go through a traumatic experience like losing your friend without it having a profound impact on you. The experience has shown us that life is fragile [and] to really appreciate what you have right now and to cherish those around you because everything can change in a moment’s notice. Some fans will say we don’t feature screamed vocals as much anymore. To that I say we were slowly moving away from that element to begin with [which is] not to say we were eliminating it and never have planned to do so. -EB

How did Mark McMillon get involved with Hawthorne Heights?

We’ve known Mark for years. Our former band A Day in the Life played shows with his band The Story Changes – maybe it was Rod back then – and shared a similar passion for music. Mark started playing with us around 2010. At first, he was simply playing with us live and wasn’t an official member. About halfway through the writing process of Zero we decided to make him a full-fledged member of the band.  -EB

Was there a reason your last album didn’t get released through your own Cardboard Empire imprint? Did your lawsuit with Victory Records have anything to do with that?

Doing things on your own is great, but it also means that you don’t have the money to do what you want sometimes such as record with a producer or get your record into stores or even have a marketing budget. Those were big factors for us. The impetus for starting CE in the first place was to get our music to the fans. We had just parted ways with Wind Up Records and had a tour booked. There wasn’t time to shop around to other labels and release the music before the tour like we wanted. It had nothing to do with Victory, and our differences with Victory are pretty well documented. If we could go back in time, we wouldn’t have sued Victory and any issue would’ve been resolved more amicably.  -EB

Hawthorne Heights has often been tagged with terms such as “emo” and “screamo.” What’s your reaction to that?

It is what it is. In our minds, we’re not “emo,” but we grew up with what we would classify as true “emo” bands and we sound nothing like that. To the wider musical audience, we are perhaps their first foray into anything “emo” sounding. According to a recent NPR article there’s a new “emo” revival so if that means renewed interest in us, cool! -EB

What’s next for HH, both in the immediate future and beyond?  

Next year will be a lot of touring in support of Zero. We have something very special up our sleeves that we’re not discussing yet, but it will hopefully be very exciting for our fans! Beyond that, we’re going to keep pushing ourselves creatively and see where things take us. -EB


Hawthorne Heights will perform this Saturday, Dec. 14 at Rockstar Pro Arena, 1106 E. Third Street. Bearer of Bad News, Nightbeast, Witness and Vice on Victory are also on the bill.  Admission is $12 in advance and the show is all ages. Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information please visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at


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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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