With their 2004 sleeper debut The Silence in Black and White still in the Billboard 200, Hawthorne Heights now have a bona fide sophomore hit on their hands: If Only You Were Lonely debuted this week at Number Three. And the Dayton, Ohio, emo boys took some chances to make it happen.
"It was a little bit rough at first," frontman JT Woodruff says of returning to the studio, "because going from our first album to our second, there was a lot more to lose."
After touring constantly behind their gold debut, Woodruff, bassist Matt Ridenour, drummer Eron Bucciarelli, and guitarists Micah Carli and Casey Calvert confronted their fear of a sophomore slump head-on with producer David Bendeth (Killswitch Engage). Adding to the challenge was Bendeth's style.
"He's more hands-on-the-songs," Woodruff says, "which is exactly what we wanted. He helped us with the arrangement side, strengthening a chorus or shortening a verse." The resulting collaboration actually had the band scaling back their signature screamo elements to focus on melody, tapping into the sweet, mellifluous quality of Woodruff's voice.
But If Only You Were Lonely is still packed with hooky rock songs, a number of which deal with the perils of the music business. The lead number, "We Are So Last Year," takes a swipe at dismissive industry nobs, while "Pens and Needles" deals with the perils of long, late-night on-tour drives. The track -- which includes the lyric, "We drive into the cold and dark with fingers crossed" -- was written before Hawthorne Heights tourmates Bayside got in a tour-van accident last October, killing drummer John Holohan.
"I wrote that song for exactly the reason that that could happen. So it's kind of weird," says Woodruff. "Maybe people can take something from listening to that song."