Hawthorne Heights frontman JT Woodruff can scream like nobody’s business, but when he’s speaking to you one-on-one, it’s in soft, hushed tones, like his voice has been wrapped in a woolen scarf.
And his voice gets even softer when he’s asked about his band’s recent successes: the record that’s climbing the charts, the headlining slot on this summer’s Warped Tour and the video that’s just been added to MTV’s rotation. It’s one thing to be uncomfortable in the spotlight, but Woodruff’s aversion to sudden fame is downright Rivers Cuomo-esque.
“Uh, well, it means more kids are coming to our shows. And it means we get to meet new people, which is nice,” he mumbled. “I don’t know. We’re always touring, so you don’t really notice sales or things like that.”
Hopefully Woodruff and the rest of Hawthorne – guitarists Casey Calvert and Micah Carli, bassist Matt Ridenour and drummer Eron Bucciarelli – have had a chance to check the charts and the newsstands recently. Because their debut album, The Silence in Black and White, has slowly been climbing the Billboard 200 albums chart and will be at #104 next week (it’s sold more than 270,000 copies). And their scowling mugs graced the cover of the March 2005 “100 Bands You Need to Know” issue of Alternative Press.
They’ve accomplished all of this without the help of a massive promotional budget or a single “impacting” on modern-rock radio. Basically, they’ve spent the last year busting their butts at show after show, sleeping in vans and on fans’ couches. And they’ve done it all on indie stalwart Victory Records.
“We’ve managed to get some success because of constant touring. And we do have quite a bit of promotion – not on radio or MTV, but a lot of print and Internet – thanks to Victory,” Bucciarelli said. “They make sure our record is in stores, and we make sure we’re out on the road all the time. We’ve heard through the grapevine that there are some majors interested in us, but we’re not even considering that.”
“We don’t even worry about it. I mean, we have a top 200 record with no radio and no video, so something’s going right here,” Woodruff said. “And we feel we’re a good match for Victory.”
But now they do have a video – their first – courtesy of the good people at Victory. It’s for the song “Ohio Is for Lovers,” a longing, screamo-riffic ode to their home state. They tapped director Shane C. Drake (who’s made videos for emo-punk acts like Fall Out Boy and Armor for Sleep, to name a few) to helm the dizzying, performance-based clip. And if you thought Woodruff was uncomfortable being interviewed, you should have seen him when the cameras started rolling.
“We had no idea what to expect,” he said. “It was one of the first things we’d done right out of the studio. We were new to the whole process of making a video. We didn’t know how to listen to our songs over loudspeakers and act like we were playing them. We’re not very good actors.”
“We had to perform the song 20, 25 times during the day,” Bucciarelli laughed. “We weren’t too good at it.”
Just because they’re video stars now, it doesn’t mean that Hawthorne are giving up their hardworking ethos. They’re booked as headliners on the second stage of the Warped Tour, and after that it’s back to the studio to begin work on the follow-up to Silence.
As their fame increases, so will their newsstand presence. And if they ever want proof, Hawthorne can just swing by Carli’s mother’s house.
“Micah’s mom has every scrap of press we’ve ever gotten on her wall, going from the Troy Daily News all the way to Alternative Press, ” Woodruff laughed (finally). “It’s a pretty wide array of the good and bad things we’ve done.”