Hawthorne Heights comes to Pittsburgh

Hawthorne Heights decided to make their current tour an acoustic one, in order to make their performances more intimate experiences. (credit: Courtesy of Chad Davis) Hawthorne Heights decided to make their current tour an acoustic one, in order to make their performances more intimate experiences. (credit: Courtesy of Chad Davis)

After taking a hiatus from touring and performing to work on its music, alternative rock band Hawthorne Heights emerges victorious as it hits the road once again to tour and promote its newest album, Skeletons, the band’s debut on label Wind-up Records.

Skeletons is both a sign of the band’s maturity as well as its devotion to music. “It’s the longest period of time we’ve had to actually sit back and make a record,” frontman JT Woodruff said of his band’s latest work. “It’s more about giving you time once you write a song to sit back, listen to it, and dissect the song over and over.” He laughed. “We tended to over-think every single part.”

The band’s determination to get everything right shows in its music. The songs on Skeletons remain true to Hawthorne Heights’ style, but they also show a polish and maturity. The musicians’ drive to produce the best music possible is not only a sign of their dedication to artistic excellence, but also a testament to their friendship: As a band, Hawthorne Heights has been through a lot, most notably the death of guitarist Casey Calvert in 2007, later followed by issues with the group’s original label, Victory Records. However, most impressive is that even after all that, Hawthorne Heights continues to make great music.

For Skeletons, the band’s perfectionism is especially evident. The group started out with over 30 potential songs and then only chose the very best to include on its album. “End of the Underground” was one that the band was pretty happy with from the start, but others took more work. In particular, “Here I Am” was the most difficult to get right: “It was the biggest pain,” Woordruff noted. “We just kept changing the bridge.”

“The hardest thing we have to do really is not kill each other’s ideas, but help them along. A song sounds totally different in your head,” he said, explaining that the band members come up with ideas on their own but come together to work on songs as a group. “It’s not always easy, but it’s fun.”

Not being pressured to turn out an album in a limited amount of time made writing Skeletons a different experience than their other records. “Tons of time at least helped us know that there was nothing more that we could do to a song,” Woodruff said.

In addition to expecting the best from themselves in their music, the members of Hawthorne Heights are also trying something completely new on their tour. “This is something we’ve never done — just playing acoustic for an entire tour. Sitting up there with an acoustic guitar just lends itself to a smaller place.” He noted his band will be playing at smaller venues, including Pittsburgh’s Smiling Moose, rather than larger ones. “It’s more intimate. We try to get out there, put on a great show, and connect with as many people as we can.”

Woodruff hopes that Hawthorne Heights will continue making music for a long time. “We’ve still got a lot of fun to have,” he said. “We’re happy doing what we’re doing, and as long as we’re happy about it, why not keep doing it? It’s being able to do what you love, what you’ve always dreamed about — just playing music for people.”