HOUSE VS HURRICANE
By Brent Balinski
Rise and shine!” bellows House VS Hurricane’s new set of lungs Dan Casey in the premiere song, “Blood Knuckles”, from its newie Crooked Teeth. After a couple of years between releases, Melbourne metalcore behemoth HVH are back with Crooked Teeth and maybe the most fitting three-word reintroduction we’ve heard this year.
It hasn’t been the smoothest year-and-a-bit for the five-piece. They kicked out their keyboardist Joey Fragione at beginning of 2011, then Chris Dicker – vocalist and also a founding member – left at the end of it.
“It just wasn’t working any more, and we just felt a change was best, by moving on without him,” says Chris Shaw, lead guitarist with HVH, of Fragione’s departure. “It was obviously a pretty difficult decision to make because our old stuff was very keyboard-influenced. And we kind of felt like that would probably lose a lot of fans. I guess it was between that and ending the band.”
Their screamer leaving wasn’t much fun either. “We were all in a bit of turmoil together,” remembers Shaw. “We got about six months down the road and then our old singer, Dicker, decided it wasn’t anything that he wanted to do any more, which is a pretty hard call to make: deciding something you’ve put your life into isn’t right any more.”
But line-up changes weren’t going to stop the remaining lads from continuing to put their lives into their music, with a little help from their friend Dan Casey. Casey and his band Louis Blanc (formerly Nazarite Vow) had been on the road with the Hurricane hombres a couple of years before and he was an obvious choice as far as the then-singerless band was concerned. “We stayed with [Nazarite Vow] every time we’ve gone to Adelaide and it was just a natural decision,” says Shaw.
“He’s an incredible personality, very wild – which is a good thing. And live, it’s just amazing to see him running around with more energy than all of us put together. What does he bring to the band? He’s incredibly loud and passionate and is a great guy and we get on really well. He fits in really well with the rest of us.”
And for Fragione’s replacement? The band didn’t find one. This might be a surprise from a band with such a heavy electronic aspect on their much-loved releases Forfeiture EP and the divisive Perspectives,with seemingly every review singling out the distinctive “ambient” keyboard parts. Why not hire a new synth slinger? “Obviously finding someone to fill his shoes would be difficult, because he’s a very talented writer,” says Shaw. “He’d been with us since the start and we didn’t want to find someone just to fit in for the sake of having a keyboardist.”
Writing the new album was already a few songs in when Casey joined. Things started to get catchier, heavier, and more energetic – as you can hear on cuts like “Blood Knuckles” and “Haters Gonna Hate”. Not that this was premeditated. “We didn’t really approach it like, ‘Oh shit, there’s no keys any more. We have to fill it with something else,’ explains Shaw. “We kind of looked at the songs and thought let’s give them space, let’s not have 100 things going at once, let’s keep the focus on making good songs as opposed to ’let’s try and fit in a breakdown with keys in it.’
“That was one of the things I tried to put into it when I was writing – keep everything super-energetic, super-flowing and have good hooks. Our older stuff was a little more progressive and would only have one chorus in a song, stuff like that. So we just said, ‘Let’s make good songs.’”
The band headed over to the Machine Factory in New Jersey to make Crooked Teeth, enlisting the services of über-producer Machine (Amity Affliction, Lamb of God, Clutch, Every Time I Die). “One of the most insane people I’ve ever met!” says Shaw, who’s long been a fan of Machine’s work. “A lot of his stuff we’ve listened to for years – he did that 28 Days album, Stealing Chairs, from memory. We all listened to that when we were 14 or 15 and that’s just the guy for the scene at the moment, everything he touches turns to gold. We got our manager to email him and he was interested.
“He’d really pick songs apart and say, ‘What are you expecting to get out of these parts?’ or ‘Where is this song meant to be going?’ He’d give his input on sections: change little riffs, change little fills and just nitpick the whole thing. He’s just the man for that kind of stuff. He picked apart the whole album and made it what it is, and we’re really proud of it thanks to him.”
The stay at the Machine Factory studios wasn’t all perfectly smooth, however. “A week after we got to the studio it kind of got sprung on us that Thy Art Is Murder, the Sydney death metal band, were coming to record, and they were sharing our accommodation,” says Shaw. Space and resources were, well, limited. “There was this one bathroom for twelve dudes staying in the studio. And the shower had a ten-gallon hot water tank, which ran out after about a minute and a half,” remembers Shaw, possibly with a shiver. “It was pretty disgusting. And Lee from Thy Art Is Murder, every time I saw him [he was] either naked or he had a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in his hand, for pretty much six weeks.” Sounds like a legend in ’s books.
The video for the first single, “Blood Knuckles”, was also recorded during the band’s American trip, and takes in sights like Central Park and Times Square. It features a “Subterranean Homesick Blues”-ish theme, with lyrics scrawled on cue cards and held up, as well as stop-motion effects. “We decided on writing it on cards and doing it around New York, because... well why not? It was paying homage in a way to Bob Dylan, but it wasn’t trying to use that exact idea,” explains Shaw. “We thought, ‘Hey it’d be awesome to write the lyrics on some paper and run around New York.’ I guess that’s the thinking behind it. It’s just a bit of fun, gave the kids something to watch and at the end we thought we’d use it as the actual music video.”
is out July 13 through UNFD/Warner