Hurdcore readers from the Northwest should not be ignorant of Portland based progressive hardcore artists A Hope For Home, especially after our official introduction to the band in late 2009 (LINK). AHFH adds a depth to the movement within the hardcore scene which has been fighting against the syncronicity of sound that has been eating away at any progression or diversity in tone that might otherwise drive the scene to flourish as a creative beacon. Whether you’d label it post-hardcore or progressive, this West Coast quintet of melodious brutality remains humble in their pursuit to express themselves through music, inviting those with an open mind and divergent tastes to explore the outer limits of where innovation can take us. A Hope For Home will be releasing their 3rd Album ‘Realis’ on Facedown Records on March 30th, 2010 so we thought we’d catch up with the band to get an idea of what we might expect from this incarnation of the bands progression.
2010 is kicking off as a busy year for A Hope For Home, you are launching a national tour and preparing to release a new full length album ‘Realis’ on Facedown Records. The tour takes you from the Northwest into the Midwest and down South with several different bands meeting up with you along the way. Looks like you pick up In the Midst of Lions, Hands and Onward to Olympus once you hit the Midwest. Have you played/toured with these bands before?
AHFH We did a little stint with Hands last summer. They are probably some of our best friends in the whole world, and we are so stoked to be out on this tour with them. We’ve never met any of the other dudes, but it’s definitely been a great time so far.
In touring what has the reception for A Hope For Home been like and what are some of the most rewarding elements of being on tour?
AHFH Touring is an interesting monster. It can be really tiring, but I personally love it. My favorite part is honestly just hanging out with the bands every night. Getting to know another group of dudes and seeing new places every night. It is difficult to gauge reception because every tour we’ve done so far has been drastically different. But its always amazing going to a place you’ve never been and meeting one person who has been impacted by your music- that’s all I could ever ask for.
Last we spoke, you mentioned that you aren’t really a “dancy band” and I agree that AHFH’s sound while clearly hardcore in its roots is quite unique in the complexity of sound that you bring to your craft. What about your writing style and/or approach makes your sound so unique?
AHFH Haha. I just honestly write with my influences in mind, and that’s what I can say about everyone else. We aren’t consciously trying to be weird all that much. Being creative is definitely always in the back of our minds, but I would just say we are wearing our influences on our sleeves. Bands like Cult of Luna, This Will Destroy You, Thrice, etc.
If samples such as Post Tenebras Lux are any indicator of the direction you are headed with your latest release ‘Realis’, this is possibly a more brutal A Hope For Home than ever. How have your tastes in music as fans and performers changed over the years?
AHFH We definitely wanted to make this record heavier than The Everlasting Man. We tuned down to B and focused on bigger riffs and grooves rather than shredding and double kick. Our tastes have definitely changed as we’ve grown, I’ve been in this band for 4 years and gone from being influenced by bands like Beloved and Underoath to bands like the ones I mentioned previously. And honestly, I would rather create music I like to play rather than try and emulate whoever the biggest band in the scene is at the moment.
How have you seen fans respond to your music? Do you think AHFH is a sound that has to grow on you?
AHFH Some reactions have been a little disappointed, as I expected, but others have been really stoked that we are trying something new. We try to not really even think about that though and just write what we like to play. The minute you start thinking about who you are trying to please artistically is when, in my opinion, your art loses its value.
Your previous release, “The Everlasting Man,” was a concept album based upon a work by GK Chesterton of the same title, what drew you to this literary piece?
AHFH I was reading the book while listening to instrumental demos of the songs on that record we were recording, and thought that some of the themes would translate really well to the songs we had recorded would make for a good concept.
Writing music is a difficult enough process, does having the textual outline for what you want to communicate (ie Chesterton’s work) already laid out help the process or make it that much more difficult?
AHFH Well, we pretty much wrote all of the music for The Everlasting Man before any lyrics were written, and decided halfway through the recording process to base it off of the book. Realis was done the other way around.
You’ve hinted that your latest release might be a concept album as well, what direction did you go with “Realis”? For AHFH do you define “concept album” as an attempt to build upon a theme, where content drives the project or does it start with a tonal outline?
AHFH The Everlasting Man and Realis are two very different records and different concepts. The Everlasting Man is, I feel, an 11 song record with a bunch of songs and lyrics that allude to a concept. Realis, however, was imagined and outlined before it was written, and the concept pulls and pushes both the lyrics and the music. So, to answer your question, we have done it both ways, haha. While we wanted give Realis a lot of content conceptually and lyrically, we also did not want that to come at the expense of the music. So at the end of the day, concepts and ideas and all this lofty stuff can play a huge role in what we do, but if the music suffers because of it, then we are going about this the wrong way.
Your first single from “Realis” is entitled “The Machine Stops” which takes themes from a short story published in 1909 by EM Forster. What drew you to this work and how did you adapt that into your music?
AHFH The Machine Stops is somewhat of a one-off idea for the concept. I stumbled across the story one day, which you can read for free online, and was really impacted by it. The Machine Stops tells the story of a future where humanity basically begins to worship the technology it has built and in effect, becomes enslaved by it. The key part of the story is where the main character basically disconnects himself from that machine in order to regain his humanity. I thought it was an amazing metaphor and it fit really well at a point in the concept, so we decided to allude to it.
Like most literary pieces, the word pictures can be taken to mean many things, when you close in your adaptation with,
“Detach: can we pull these wires from our veins? Divide our flesh, our blood, our names. In the face of the machine I see my reflection stand and turn, as I walk. I’m never coming back.”
Is this primarily a reference to cutting the cord between man and technology or are you addressing something deeper than that?
AHFH Realis deals mainly with a struggle of faith and belief. I really think there comes a time in everyone’s life when they begin to look at the world around them and try to decide where they fit into it, or how it relates to them. I think it is very important to understand what your beliefs mean for your life and the rest of the world around you. Different ideological systems will lead to a completely different understanding and relation to ones environment. Maybe that is something wrong, or divisive, or whatever. But I think it is true. At this point in the concept, and not to condone his actions, the Man sees the world around him as a metaphoric machine, churning gears toward no specific goal. He decides to “unplug” himself from his fellow man and abandon everyone.
Often fans want to pigeonhole their favorite bands into a corner of what they expect that band to sound like, will this AHFH be recognizable or will we hear significant differences?
AHFH Not sure. I try to not think about that too much. It is definitely different, but we didn’t come out of left field with anything. I would like to think of it as a drastic progression.
For AHFH, the studio process is _____? (ie a grind, the most beautiful experience, all of the above). What do you like/dislike most about the recording experience?
AHFH I really wish I was doing this in the 60’s or 70’s sometimes. Everyone talks about how the Beatles got tired of performing live, so the last however many years of their careers, they just sat in a studio and recorded music. That is so awesome. I wish I could do that, honestly. I love recording and writing music and as soon as we finish a record I always wish I was back in the studio working on another one. We always end up getting rushed toward the end or not being as prepared as we should be, and that kind of sucks. But at the end of the day, I feel much more comfortable recording in a studio than I do on stage.
As musicians are you at the place where you are able to get your instruments to communicate all the nuances and subtleties of emotion that you are trying to express or is there still a struggle to work through that process?
AHFH I think we have come a long way as players since our first record. I’m pretty un-confident with myself as a guitar player. I think we could all do more, and that’s actually something I’ve been thinking about. I really want to push myself as a player on the next record, to step it up a notch. That said, I’m pretty proud with a lot of things we’ve done in the past. I think the day you achieve total comfort and ease in your ability is when you start to lose perspective though. There is always room for improvement, and in our case, I think a lot of improvement, haha.
In our previous interaction, you mentioned that your founding member had passed away early in the founding of AHFH. I’ve since read some more from you, particularly the superb write up in Hopecore Magazine (LINK) and there is so much more to this story. How has God continued to use your very personal story to draw you and others to Himself?
AHFH Those were definitely a very difficult couple of months. Kyle never wanted anyone to feel sorry for him, or to be the focus everyone’s pity. I remember sitting with him on the couch in the last days of his life, skin and bones spitting blood into a plastic bowl, asking me how I was doing. I would be stupidly complaining about something and he would always tell me that he couldn’t understand what struggle I was going through, and that it must be tough to be going through something so difficult. I always felt like an idiot after he would say something like that, but the fact is that he always put other people first and never once felt sorry for himself. He was by far the most selfless person I’ve ever met. After his death we weren’t too sure what to do, but one thing I remember thinking about was how mad he would have been if we would’ve given up or made everything we did be about him afterward. I think it would’ve been a disservice to him if we had become “Kyles band” or something like that. I felt the best way I could honor his life was to keep pressing on and let the band evolve, just as life was evolving after Kyle’s death. Kyle never let cancer keep him from anything, and I know he would’ve been pissed if we had stopped the rest of our lives at that point.
AHFH started as a local project and through continually taking it to the grind, you have built the foundation for your rock empire with Strike First and Facedown Records. What is the biggest difference between being on your own and having the backing of a known label?
AHFH Its hard to say. I don’t really think of it as that different. It is such a blessing to be able to get connections for booking and the promotion that comes from having a national company push you. I would honestly say the promotion is half of it. Jason and the rest of the Facedown family are so supportive and just knowing that we have somewhat of a solid foundation to build off of is very encouraging. I always see bands so worried about the next record, or the next show, or the next tour, and how much better things will be next year, or whatever. It never ends. Getting signed doesn’t change everything, we are still just as broke as we were before. We are only busier if anything. If we start to worry about “getting huge” or the difference between being signed and not I think we all will forget that we are doing what we want to do right now, playing music every night.
Now that you are full time musicians, how do you stay fresh in your approach to music? Is it ever a battle to keep the passion as you labor day-by-day to make your mark in a competitive and arguably saturated market?
AHFH We are definitely trying to do something different with our music. What gets difficult at times is not trying to be different as much as it is feeling that we never really fit in with any scene or any band we tour with. Most kids who go to heavy shows these days just want to dance, and they just look at us with crossed arms while we play. Playing with softer bands is just as weird since we don’t have catchy choruses. Like I said before, we write what we want to play. That’s really all there is to it.
Obviously there is a spiritual component to your band and you’ve been pretty open about that, how do you maintain a closeness with God while on the road? How do you keep from killing each other when several smelly dudes are packed into a van for an extended road trip?
AHFH Tensions definitely rise when 6 dudes live in a van for months at a time, haha. We just try to stay as grounded as possible. It helps that we are all on the same page goal-wise and, I feel, all in this for the same reason. No one in this band is expecting or wanting to be famous or sell a million records. We are just playing music because we like to play music.
A Hope For Home (Portland, OR)
Hardcore – Facedown Records
To Book AHFH contact The Radiant Group – firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit AHFH’s MySpace Page for music, concert info and news
A Hope For Home has posted a blog on their MySpace giving a full write up and rundown of the lyrical content (LINK) for their latest release Realis, set to launch March 30, 2010 on Facedown Records.
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