Published in Drum Media (WA) | 02.08.12 | Issue # 299
After the release of their debut album, Perspectives, in ‘09, Melbourne post-hardcore rockers House Vs. Hurricane were riding a high. Then it came time to pen a follow-up record and a storm began brewing over their success. Guitarist Ryan McLerie tells Daniel Cribb how they weathered it.
Amongst the first artist announcement for next year’s Big Day Out, House Vs. Hurricane can’t seem to do much wrong. But while on the surface they may appear to have made a seamless transition from album number one to two, the truth is the time between albums almost saw the demise of the band. The songs that appear on their latest offering, Crooked Teeth, didn’t come together as perfectly as they flow on record. After the Perspectives touring cycle died down, the band were in a prime position to take some time off and start penning their second album, but at the same time a case of second album syndrome kicked in and their keyboard player and vocalist departed the band.
When they lost keyboard player Joey Fagione, they didn’t bother to find a replacement, which was a bold move considering they had made a name for themselves with the instrument’s use. “It wasn’t the fact that we wanted to make a new sound, it just wasn’t working with him, so that was part of the reason that we didn’t feel like we wanted to get another keyboard player,” guitarist Ryan McLerie explains. “We just kind of thought, ‘Look, let’s just do it a bit different and move forward without it’… There are a couple more mellow tracks that have keyboard on them, but they play more of a supporting role, as opposed to our previous stuff where it’s been more of a lead thing. There’s still a little bit of keyboards on the album, but not used in the way they were used.”
But there was one member they couldn’t continue without – a vocalist. “We hadn’t really written much for [Crooked Teeth] and we were struggling to find a sound that we were all into that we could move forward with,” McLerie admits. “We were all kind of a bit down on it. It just wasn’t going that well, to be honest. Then we had a meeting one night and Chris sort of said at the start of the meeting, ‘I’ve got something to tell you guys. I’m going to leave the band.’ That was kind of a surprise, but at the same time, not really.
“In hindsight it was actually good timing and gave us time to get a new vocalist. There were a few weeks after Chris left when we were like, ‘Do we want to continue?’ I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to continue with it. There was no point in continuing if we couldn’t find someone who was equally good, or better. As soon as Chris said he going to leave, we all had the same sort of idea as to who we wanted to sing for the band; it was Dan [Casey]. He was playing with [Nazarite Vow], and still is, at the time and we just put it out there and asked him.”
Considering the intense touring and dedication that fronting a band of such stature would require, Casey had a big decision to make. After a few days of thinking, he came back to the band and accepted the offer. “It was really easy for him to come into the band because we’d known him for years, so it wasn’t like we were just getting some random muso joining us… It’s given a new voice to the band. It’s a pretty drastic change, but Dan’s a really awesome guy. Personally, as well as creatively, he’s brought heaps to the band. It’s just awesome having him around and having him be a part of the band and doing the album.”
Even before he stepped on stage with the band, they jumped on a plane and headed over to New Jersey to record with acclaimed producer Machine, who has worked with Bullet For My Valentine, Enter Shikari and other heavy hitters of the genre. The venture proved it is indeed a small world after all. “Machine’s like a crazy mad scientist at music, he’s a freak. He was just always so encouraging and good to hang out with. It was like he was an extra member of the band for the six weeks we were there. He just brought heaps to the table.
“There’s another producer that works there, his name is Will Putney,” McLerie continues. “The metal band from Sydney, Thy Art Is Murder, was recording there with him and they started like two and a half weeks after we did. We’d never met them before, so we were like, ‘Man, we’re either going to get along with these guys or it’s going to be the worst thing ever.’ They came, we met them and they were awesome. We hung out with those dudes heaps and kind of got involved with each other’s albums, which was cool. We listened to songs together and it was a lot of fun.”
With the Crooked Teeth Tour being their first proper Australian tour in about six months, Casey has already shown he brings a different vibe to the band on stage, one that McLerie believes better represents what the band is all about. “I don’t think we’ve ever been too serious. We like to have fun on stage. Chris was a lot more serious than Dan, so I guess that will show on more live shows to come.” One of the band’s first few shows with Casey in the band was at Loud Fest in Melbourne, during which his pants made their way to his ankles during their set, a joke that provided a hilarious contrast between the intense and serious sound their music conveys and their easygoing and fun personalities. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” McLerie says. “I mean, we still want to put on a professional show and for people to vibe it, but we’re not taking ourselves too seriously.”
Maybe the downtime between albums was simply the eye of their success storm, rather than a damaging series of events. “We just wanted to write a good, solid album, with a good dynamic and feeling and I feel like we’ve done that with Dan. We’re more of a solidified group now, probably more so then we’ve ever been.”