Belle Haven

It seems that a lot of metalcore/post-hardcore bands these days are shedding their scene skin and hardening up for the more vicious blends of hardcore. Vanna, My Ticket Home, Ocean Grove, Hellions, Belle Haven; these are bands that are all evolving into something new and exciting. The latter is the latest of those few; coming out swinging last year with ‘Hunt For Health’, a short and swift punch to the guts. had a rather lengthy face-to-face chat with Chris and David Vernon at the Lounge Bar in Melbourne to talk about the band’s long-awaited debut album, ‘Everything Ablaze’.

Chris, David – how are you guys?

Chris: Good man, good.

David: Yeah, we’re pretty good man, how are you?

I’m good guys. With the two new songs, ‘Hunt For Health’ and ‘The Looking Glass’, they’re quite different from the split and EP that you’ve put out. Were these changes to the band’s sound intentional or planned or were they simply natural growths?

David: A bit of both actually. We kind of planned a natural growth. We started writing music that we knew other people would like, as opposed to writing music we liked. Then when we sat down to write the record, we thought about what we liked the most and that’s playing music that we loved. So we stared writing a bunch of jams that we loved. We wanted to make sure we were doing what we loved.

So now it’s much more personal for you guys, to actually play what you want?

Chris: Yeah, exactly.

David: The thing is, we know it’s good music. We’re all very confident in terms if musicianship and the quality of what you’re actually listening to. But the most important thing now is that we like it.

Good to hear. With the album title, ‘Everything Ablaze’, was that a name you had before recording it or did it come afterwards?

David: Well again, a bit of both. The album title had been created before we recorded the album, but it wasn’t an album title; it was a lyric in a song.

Chris: One of the songs that hasn’t been released yet.

David: For ages, we didn’t know what we were going to call it.

Chris: We had ideas about what the record would be about, but the names didn’t really relate to the album.

David: It wasn’t even that long ago that we choose the title actually.

Chris: Yeah, it was about the same time we got the final mixes and masters back.

David: It was our bassist’s idea [Tom Mitchell] to call it that. The reason for it is that it summarised what the album is, or at least what it turns out to be. By the time you finish it, you’ll go “Oh, I get it now”.

Chris: The record is very concept orientated though.

But you wouldn’t really label it as a concept record?

Chris: Yeah, we wouldn’t call it that. It is based around the same themes, and all of the stories relate. It’s not a timeline, like this happened, then this happened then this happened, nothing like that. It’s just all themes from the same five years or so.

David: Yes, and there is an overall theme to the record too.

Have these stories and themes been extrapolated from your own personal experiences, or are they actually relative to you guys and not just all fiction like some bands?

David: I think I said this in another interview recently, and there are quite a lot of bands that do that.

Chris: That’s not a bad thing though, I think they like to do it, and it’s why the story is like that.

David: When I write lyrics, they are relative to me and to all of us in the band.

I’m glad to hear that guys. I hate when I really like a song that seems like it has such a strong message or story to it and then it’s about nothing at all, and I feel like I have had an emotion stolen from me.

David: (Laughs) yeah, you feel cheated, don’t you?

Chris: Or when a song is really vague and that song means a lot to you and the creator comes out and says “It’s about having a good time with your friends”, and you’re just like, “What…?” (laughs).

With the album’s cover, I think it summed up the title really well and it reminded me of the artwork for Circa Survive and A Lot Like Birds’ last couple albums.

David: It’s funny you say that, because it’s the same artist who did the A Lot Like Birds album cover – Bradley Edwards. Not only is he an incredible artist, but he’s also an incredible human being. He did the single artwork for ‘Hunt For Health’ as well, and a lot of that he did in under a week. He’s just so genuine and he’s very image-focused. For the artwork, I told him that the general theme of the album is denial. That fire is a topic that’s brought up a lot through the record, and about Belle Haven’s all-seeing eye as well. He just went “Cool, I’ll come up with something”, and I hadn’t even told him that much. Then he came up with the full image representation of what the album was.

Chris: Also, everything that was there, he had an explanation ready to go. He didn’t put anything in just because it was cool. He explained each part really well.

David: Also, he just vibes with us so hard too. We even have a name for that character [the one on the album and single covers], The Onliest. He loves it, he thinks it’s amazing. When we got the single artwork back he said, ‘The Onliest rides again”. We loved that (laughs).

Chris: He gets really into it, and he’s really polite too.

That’s awesome to hear, that kind of effort and excitement is genuine too. As opposed to “I did your album cover, that’ll be $300 thanks”.

David: Yeah, that’s exactly it man.

With going over to record with Matt Goldman, are you fans of his work? Because I can see you have a tattoo of The Chariot and Underoath logos on your wrists David.

David: It was a joke we made that we should do our record with Matt Goldman. Then I found his booking agency’s email address and emailed him. Then they said “Hey, you’re from Australia? Let’s make this happen”. We were like “Okay then…” (Laughs).

Chris: He’s done some of our favourite records too. ‘Define The Great Line [Underoath album] is one of my favourite records, it’s not THE favourite, but definitely in my top ten.

It’s easily my favourite Underoath record.

Chris: Oh for sure. And he did ‘Lost In The Sound Of Separation’ too?

Yes, that he did. What’s your favourite Underoath record David?

David: Underoath are my favourite band. But in terms of my favourite record…

Chris: I think it’s ‘Disambiguation’ for you.

David: Yeah I really like ‘Disambiguation’. It’s just a really good record. My friend Hugh said one time while we were driving in the car, that “That album sounds the most like Underoath to me”. I listened to that record and thought, “This is an Underoath record”.

Interesting you say that, because that album didn’t have Aaron Gillespie on it, who was a huge part of their sound.

David: I loved Aaron but I just love it for Spencer [Chamberlain, vocals] (laughs).

A lot of my friends who like that band say that ‘Disambiguation’ ruined the band for them, and I’m just like, “Did you not hear ‘My Deteriorating Incline’ or ‘Illuminator’ or ‘In Division’? They always say yes, but I don’t think they really listened.

David: Yeah (laughs), go listen again!

That’s what I tell them! With supporting Norma Jean, whenever I listen to ‘Hunt For Health’ I just hear Norma Jean, and even in how you guys move around in the video too.

Chris: Well, I actually wrote that song with The Chariot in mind…

Oh, but you can almost interchange the two of them?

Chris: That is true.

David: Josh [Scogin] is in both of those bands. There’s a piece of him on both of those bands. You know, it’s funny you say that, because before we announced that tour, obviously we knew about it for ages – Andrew from Taperjean brought that up to us a long time ago. So many people said, “Please tell us you’re at least doing one show on that tour?” But obviously we couldn’t tell anyone, and then when we announced, everyone already knew in a way. I kinda like that.

It’s always good when an international band comes over and you can sort of pick whom the local supports may be. Speaking of which, I imagine a tour of sorts is in the works following the album’s release and the Norma Jean tour?

Chris: A lot of that is still up in the air at the moment. 

David: Inclusive of the Norma Jean tour, there’s multiple tours being worked on, but none of them of are being close enough to be announced yet. There is one coming up though. We’re really excited, it’s great to support your favourite bands, but it’s better to be doing it for yourself. It’s like a celebration, and knowing that kids have come out to the show because you’re headlining – that’s an amazing feeling.

You guys were a little vague about what had held back the release of the album, so I wanted to know if it was multiple mixes, re-recordings, anything like that? 

David: It was the combination of a lot of things. Genuinely, for other people in the industry, we can’t say much as it makes them look really bad and it also reflects poorly on us too. We were stagnant mainly because we didn’t understand a lot about our situation because we had a record…so now what? Do we do it ourselves? Do we get a label?

David: With talking with labels, and you’re just a little local band, you just don’t understand how hard it cam be, but we learnt a lot in the end. There was so much back and forth between labels that just went nowhere, and that was maybe because of how we handed it. That’s the truth, we were just very naïve I think.

Chris: There where things like us still owing money for the recording of the album as well. In fact, the album was hard to mix. At first we thought to do it like a heavy rock album, but it’s too fast to be mixed like that. Then maybe more on the metal side, but there’s some really songs on it as well.

David: There was a lot of back and forth between us and Matt.

Chris: That’s not to say that Matt Goldman is a bad mix engineer. It’s just hard going back and forth between emails and trying to convey what I have in my head.

David: At this point, we were back in Australia and our time zones are completely different. So we were talking about once a day. He’d send the mix, then 12 hours later I’d look at it, send it back, and then 12 hours to hear from him, and so on.

Well still, it must have been a pretty positive experience to go to a whole other country to record your debut album. In terms of writing, did you have the pre-production down before you left?

Chris: We started the month before we left and before then we had been using Guitar Pro a lot. We use it as a reference, and it’s easy to send each other ideas. It’s a lot easier to write into it, but it doesn’t always convey what you input clearly in playback. So a palm-mute won’t sound like one in real life.

Yeah, it’s very MIDI in that regard.

David: We’re writing a lot more natural with this record, and the next one may be even more so. So when we made it to America, and Matt had the pre-pro but we spent the first two to three days getting it all down. With ‘The Looking Glass’, that whole first half, we re-wrote it. I had to write new lyrics because Matt said “This verse is rad. This part, not so rad”.

Chris: The thing I loved is that he cared so much about it, so that he would tell us what he really thought. My favourite time was when he told me to finish this part, and left me for an hour to see how I went. He came in after an hour of me sitting in this room and I showed him that all I had done was add in one new note, and he said “I love it”. Just three clean chords and he loved it (laughs).

David: There was a lot of trust with Matt. He just gets it, and he really cares.

Chris: He’s basically like, “You’re paying me money, this is my baby, so I’m gonna raise it right”.

I suppose that’s why he’s so sought after; he has great interpersonal skills too. So it’s one big relief off your shoulders now to have it coming out?

David: It’s been pretty rocky, and now it’s actually happening.

Chris: Once it’s out though, there’s still so much more to do. You’ve gotta tour more, practice your sets more as you’re playing new songs, so you have to be better at them because they are new and you haven’t played them for three years. There’s still a lot of work to do for us.

I personally don’t like it when bands play new songs live, I would much prefer to hear a song that’s been released, one that I actually know. No one knows when to move or mosh or anything.

David: That was a constant discussion in Belle Haven before we released the record. We ultimately opted to play a few new songs live to demonstrate our new sound, as it’s our sound. But I definitely feel you man.

Chris: Yeah I have to agree as well.

David: As much as I want to play the new songs, we won’t be playing any new stuff live until the albums out. I don’t actually know if we have any show before the Norma Jean tour starts…

Chris: I guess the big thing now is preparing for the album to come out. A band like us gets show offers all the time, but they are kind of half-assed. If we played those shows all the time, we’d be playing four times a week, have no time on our hands and we wouldn’t have any money. It costs a lot of money to be in a band and travel and tour.

Oh, totally. I play drums so I definitely know all about expenses (laughs).

David: I hate it when we have to talk about money, but an epiphany I had recently was that music is the love of my life. Because of that, money is a factor. I have to accept the reality that we need money, I need an income so I need a job so the band can survive. I need money to keep pursing the love of my life. When we write a song we don’t think “Is this going to make us a lot of money?”

Chris: It’s more like we sit down and ask “Is it going to make us cry?” (laughs).

David: (laughs) but still, it’s something that is very important.

Well, with money, what do you guys do for jobs? David, you’re dressed pretty sharply, but Chris and I are just going casual.

Chris: I’m a studio engineer and I produce and record bands from my flat, which is cool.

David: I work for a health insurance company. I basically help pay for people’s heart transplants and surgeries.

You get paid to help pay for peoples costly medical needs…

David: Yes, exactly. It’s pretty fulfilling actually.

Chris, on the audio side of things, what’s your go to DAW?

Chris: I prefer Reaper. I can use five or so others, but I use Reaper the best. I can find my way around it really easily, and I even created macros with friends to help with work flow, so I can focus on the song and not worry about how quickly I can get some drum samples blended in (laughs).

(Laughs) I personally prefer Pro Tools, though I have Reaper I’ve only used it like three times. I know that Sam from Ocean Grove prefers Reaper as well.

David: Oh, Sammy B!

Chris: I know he likes Logic too, but he’s a Reaper guy. He’s very talented too. I love his work.

On the topic of Ocean Grove, the transition to their new sound with ‘Backbone’ is something that I thought was similar about how you guys coming out with ‘Hunt For Health’. The same goes for a band from the US called My Ticket Home.

David: Yeah, I know that band. They’re like a heavier Nirvana. I think the similarity between us and Ocean Grove are there. Their lifestyles have changed quite a bit then when they wrote ‘Outsiders’, we knew them back then and they were just kids like us. We were both in the same mindset, writing what people would like, and we have an attractive bassist who can sing, let’s utilise that. Now Dale [Tanner, bass/vocals] can still sing but now he’s screaming. They do what they want now, and they’re the best dudes. They’re writing the music they want.

Chris: The thing I love seeing is if you want to be rich, don’t play in a band. That’s just the dumbest idea. Be in a band because you want to be. So we figured we’d write music that we like, music that others want to hear. We love The Looking Glass, because it’s a good song and not because it’s different, or because it’s us selling out or anything like that.

The way I look at it is if you blindfolded someone and showed them ‘Hunt For Health’ and ‘The Looking Glass’ they’d probably think it was two completely different bands, but it’s the same. It’s like comparing Pepsi and Coke.

David: (laughs) that’s a very serious topic for me, man. Coke Cola is very important to me.

Chris: (laughs hysterically) ‘Hunt For Health’ was like, “We’re still here”.

David: Then ‘The Looking Glass’ is like “Hey, we’re doing an album”.

I liked that you kept it clean the whole way through on that song, with no screaming whatsoever. Also, congrats on getting that song onto Channel [V] as well.

David: Oh thanks man!

Chris: I remember when I was younger and hearing screaming and just hating it. Then when I was about 15 or 16 I loved it. When I hit 19 or 20, I came to like both. So when we did the album, we felt if the song needed to be sung, we’d have singing, and if it needed to be screamed, we’d have screaming in it.

David: Where would you put screaming in that song? It’s just such a charming song. Before Belle Haven I was just a singer, and then when I joined Chris said I had to learn how to scream.

Chris: (laughs) You were so bad at it to begin with too.

David: Now these guys all love singing as well and there’s no reason for me to go back to it. ‘Onus’ was really loud and emotional and obnoxious, now it’s about what can make the song the best it can be.

Chris: It’s really hard to tell if there’s more singing or screaming on the album either. There’s nothing that was planned, it was just us going with it and if it sounded good, then it sounded good.

Exactly man, that sounds like the best way to go about it. Well guys, we’ve been at this for well over half an hour now, I think we’ll have to wrap it up now, thank you so much for your time today.

David: Cool, thanks so much man. It was great chatting with you.

Chris: Yeah thanks dude, it was a great interview.

‘Everything Ablaze’ is set to drop on March 27th via Shock Records/Halfcut.

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