Losing a band member during the writing process of a new album is hard. Losing a lead vocalist and lyricist can either sound the death knell, or force a creative push into unchartered waters.
For Melbourne’s House Vs Hurricane, the shock departure of lead vocalist Chris Dicker was a creative catalyst and with the addition of Dan Casey (formerly of Louis Blanc) their new album Crooked Teeth was born. Tone Deaf checked in with the band’s bassist Dylan Stark to talk about touring and the out of the ordinary lead up to their new album.
Ultimately, the decision by Dicker to leave the band came down to the rigorous touring schedule the band faced upon the release of Crooked Teeth. “Usually you tour most when you put a record out so we’re starting to book for the next 12 months or so on the back of this record,” explains Stark.
“Once you put a record out you book an Australian tour and then the band is looking at getting a bit more international with this album and he (Dicker) kind of realised that we would be pushing more into that market and it would be more of a commitment once the album was finished.”
The bassist continues “we started writing Crooked Teeth around March last year. We got home from a tour and stopped booking shows and tours. We took about six months to start writing, we spent a few months just jamming in the shed with Chris, our old singer, and then about halfway through the year when half of the record was done, Chris decided to leave.”
“In about October,” continues Stark, “maybe earlier, we got Dan from Louis Blanc to join and then we finished the rest of the record with him. We had most of it demoed by that stage; Chris was doing demos on it and Dan basically came in, wrote some stuff and demoed it then we sent it off to the States to record with Dan being in the band for about two months.”
Stark calles it “a avery different process” to the band’s previous records, understandably with the loss of the singer, “who was writing all the lyrics” explains the bassist. “It was a big change to go through and it put us up in the air for a bit but luckily we had a guy that was keen to do it and once he got in it just went real smooth” he concludes.
Stark is candid about the decision not to keep any of Dicker’s material on Crooked Teeth, explaining “we didn’t keep anything he wrote, he was kind of at the point where he was going to stay and do the album but he didn’t want to commit to the touring side of the band. He was going to do the record and then leave but then we spoke about it and we felt that it wasn’t really the best option for him to write his personal stuff and then have someone else sing it so we just decided to go fresh and have someone new come in.”
When asked about influences going into Crooked Teeth, Stark gives an interesting answer. “We wanted to learn from the last record and do what we didn’t do on the last record. The influence and motivation was just to compare it to our last record and improve on that.”
Not, as is typically the case with acts – other bands “We didn’t really look at other bands or other styles or what was doing well. We just wanted to take the mistakes or things we wished we did differently and applied it to this record. It was more the motivation to better ourselves than to look at influences from other sources.”
The bone crunching first single from Crooked Teeth, “Blood Knuckles” harks a new era for House Vs Hurricane, as well a passing of the torch from Dicker to Casey.
Speaking of the single, Stark remarks: “It was one of the first few songs that we wrote for the record. Chris had all of the music written for it and we had this demo for it and Ryan had recorded his vocals to it so we had this song with a chorus but we didn’t have any heavy vocals for it. I think it was the first song Dan recorded when he came over from Adelaide.”
“He came to Chris’s house and we just did demos in his bedroom,” remembers Stark. “It was the first song we had as a new band pretty much. Because we had it for that long we felt kind of attached to it and when it was time to put out a song we still really liked that one and we felt it was the first taste of the new stuff so we thought it would be the best song to put out.”
As they gear up for another tour, a quick glance at their tour dates shows a fair few all ages gigs out in the suburbs – something close to the collective House Vs Hurricane heart. “We love playing the east of Melbourne, that is where the band started, so whenever we have all ages gigs out there kids seem to come to them and there is always a good vibe. I love playing out in the suburbs, especially the all ages because that’s where a lot of the kids in the scene are. They’re not so much in the city but out in those kinds of areas.”
Stark goes on to explain “I grew up in Geelong, but the band pretty much did grow up going to shows in places like E.V’s and TLC in Bayswater so for them I’m sure playing there now would be kind of an achievement.”
A larger scale achievement for the band is their recently announced addition to the iconic Big Day Out lineup for 2013, a first for the band. “It is our first time playing at Big Day Out and we can’t really believe we got an offer for it but as soon as we found out we said ‘yes’ and couldn’t wait to announce it so now we just have to wait till it happens.”
So which luminaries are they most looking forward to playing alongside? The question is barely out there when Stark gushes “Chilli Peppers! I am a massive, massive Chilli Peppers fan. I could not care who else is playing as long as I get to see Red Hot Chilli Peppers, I’m fine.”
What’s the appeal? “I just reckon they’re going to be wild, to play music that funky you can’t be a normal dude. The Killers will be cool too, I like The Killers.” Somewhat less enthused he adds “I know Dan is real keen for The Bloody Beetroots, I don’t know why.”
Crooked Teeth is out now through We Are Unified. House Vs Hurricane play Big Day Out 2013 in January.