A couple weeks back, Belle Haven released their brand new single, ‘The Carving Knife’ and the response well and truly exceeded the band’s expectations, with the song hitting #1 on the iTunes Metal Charts and holding its ground there for nearly five days. It also helps matters that it’s a kickass track as well! Now, the last time that we interviewed the band was back in February of 2015, right before the release of their solid debut effort, ‘Everything Ablaze’. Since then, a lot has changed in the world of Belle Haven. After recruiting new drummer Jake Zammit, touring the States in support of Norma Jean, working once again with Matthew J Goldman, firing their manager, personal changes for vocalist David Vernon and a whole lot more, a follow-up interview with the band was long overdue. So I jumped on the phone this past weekend to speak with Vernon to catch up on all things Belle Haven.
Seeing ‘The Carving Knife’ making it into the iTunes charts was rad, but to also have it stay there made me really stoked for you guys. As it shows that interest and engagement were held and maintained and that it wasn’t just a sharp rise and a sudden sharp decline in listeners.
Yeah! We’ve never had a song do that before. When we released ‘Everything Ablaze’ and the singles – Hunt For Health and The Looking Glass – it went up and came down the next day, or at least started coming down the next day. With ‘The Carving Knife’ it hit number one on the Metal Charts on the afternoon of its release. It got up pretty high on the rock charts but it just stayed at #1 on the Metal Charts for like five days. It was so cool. We had never experienced anything like that before and every day it was still number one, we were just texting each other asking if it was a trick or a prank on us [laughs].
Yeah, it was so awesome to see. The song is lyrically quite personal to you and at first, I thought it was maybe about a group of people or perhaps an institution, but then I thought that it was about someone in particular, like say an ex-partner… or a former band manager?
[Laughs] no, this song isn’t about an ex-band manager – not this song at least. But this song is in reference to an ex-partner of mine and is a message to those who feel that they’re in a toxic relationship in general. It’s so easy to feel trapped and to feel that you can’t talk about it, and that’s exactly what was happening to me; I was trapped in this emotionally and physically abusive relationship. The only ones who knew about it and how bad it was were the other guys in Belle Haven, and they were trying to help me but it was like I was under a spell. It was crazy. Then one day, I just woke up and stood at the end of the bed, looking at her and knowing that I was done with it all. That I was finally free in my own mind and that I was ready to leave. That’s what the song’s music video represented as well when I stand up from the chair and the hands come off me; that’s me leaving her after being chained and being pinned down for so long.
No, that’s rough man. But I think that that perspective from the man’s point of view is sometimes tossed under the rug; that it can’t have been the woman that may have been the one in the wrong sometimes gets pushed aside. That’s not to say that there’s a big political or social agenda to this song, though.
Yeah, well we really wanted that song to have more aggression to it than just “oh poor me”. It’s more of pointing the finger and saying ‘You did this to me. You have a problem and you need to sort it out’. That’s what the whole outro of the song is; that I had to deal with this for so long and that no one knew anything about it. Talking about the actual specifics of the songs, there are always two sides of the story, but I’m just more fortunate to be able to express my side musically and artistically.
For sure, and I love the way the song, and the video to some extent, builds to that epic finale; that huge emotional release. While I’d hate to not shit all over the meaning of the song, the first two-thirds of that music video with having the hands all on you just made me think, ‘Man… I really hoped they washed their hands first!’
[Laughs] oh, man, I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of anxiety involved in having three dudes sweaty palms on your face. As it’s a one shot clip, we did easily at least 50 takes of the video. So I had a lot of sweaty hands on me. I don’t know if any were washed but I try not to think about it too much!
[Laughs] good idea! In the press release, it said that the video was shot as a one-shot, one-take deal. And with it taking so many takes, did you guys ever think that you should scrap it and try something else for the video?
Oh, for sure! See, I didn’t even have it the hardest. Christ [Vernon, guitar] got it the easiest, he got to stand on the side of the set for the whole time. Mara [Daniel Marinakis, guitar] and Tom [Mitchell, bass] and our close friend Luke were all under this black sheet the whole time. It was so stuffy under there and they had to sit completely still, one of them still had their instruments on them the whole time, and they had to sit completely still for a few minutes, getting sweaty and struggling to breathe and then breaking out to perform the song for the last minute. It was killing them, as Tom was just dying. So we definitely considered not doing that one-shot method but we had tried so many times and we knew that we had gotten so close… and then we got it! So I’m glad that we kept at it.
Yeah, it’s a great clip. With Jake Zammit coming on board for the drums and with the band writing all on the same page now, is that something that you’ll replicate for future material? As it seems to work really well here!
It was definitely a change of place to how we write with this song, and it’s how we intend to continue writing moving forward. Our music, we’ve discovered now anyway, works the best when we’re all putting our hands equally on it. I could write a lyric and pitch it to the guys and anyone could voice up and ask to change it. In the past, my process was just so separated from there’s as the lyrics were like my baby, so to speak. But with ‘The Carving Knife’ we all wrote together. The first draft of the song’s chorus, vocally, Mara wrote all by himself. That’s just one example of how everyone was just so hands on with any and every element of the song, no matter the instrument they played. It was a really great experience.
Right on! It’s interesting you talk about how everyone is so invested in the writing process, as that’s how I feel when I see you guys live; you’re all so into the show and your performances. Now, the other half of the band’s spectrum has had that same approach and considering where your live sets are at now, that’s just a recipe for… pure awesomeness [laughs].
[Laughs] I am glad you’re so optimistic about it, man. We’re definitely feeling the same as you’re speculating. The chemistry in Belle Haven right now is just so perfect. Just as friends, we’ve never been happier in each other’s company. In terms of the business side of things, the band feels so natural and perfect. We can’t wait to keep writing new music like this together and then playing it live. It’s the dream!
That’s so good to hear! Just on your live shows, I wanted to talk about the US tour you guys did with Norma Jean. I saw the band’s updates and the ones you and Chris made on Facebook so I know that it was going really well Having seen you guys play many times, you personally will say something like ‘We are Belle Haven, you are Belle Haven, we are a family!’ at the start of each set. Now, you already somewhat have the name here in Australia, but when you step out of that bubble and take it to overseas markets like when you supported Norma Jean and Sleepwave, did you ever feel a disconnect in trying to bring all of these new people on board?
Yeah, I get what you mean, as we were quite nervous going into that tour, how people would take what we preach – unity and family. But pretty much every show, I’d get up there and put my fist up and everyone would join in. Maybe because we were Australian, I don’t know, but everyone seemed to want to engage with us. Four shows in or so and I was thinking that this must be what a real band feels like! Having people wanting to engage with you like that, who don’t know who you are, but who want to give you that chance and let you show them what you’re about. That’s what our experience in the States was like; it wasn’t awkward at all. Everyone was so kind to us and enjoy our live show. It was so good. We couldn’t thank the Norma Jean and Taperjean guys enough for hooking that up for us.
Ah, good stuff! Well if we’re going to talk about live shows we have to talk about the band supporting Atreyu tomorrow night at The Corner Hotel. With a line up of yourselves, Dregg, Cane Hill, Jack The Stripper and an Atreyu set that’s just well, all I’ll say is goddamn. (You can read our write-up of the show here.)
Oooh yeah! We only found out about ‘Death-Grip On Yesterday’ set when it was announced. Cane Hill are buzzing right now, so we’re excited to see what they’re all about. I think that with Jack The Stripper, it’s Luke Frizon’s last show with the band, which is sad but it’ll be cool. He put a lot of thought into it, I’m sure and he’s a complex individual and I just want him to be happy. And then you know, Dregg are obviously a dope band too!
Yeah, it’s going to be a full on show. So what’s your take on Atreyu, as I know you love bands like Underoath and of that ilk, and if so, do you have a favourite Atreyu record?
Oh man, that’s a good question. Personally, I love Atreyu. They’re an old favourite of mine and I love the record they’re playing at the show tomorrow, ‘A Death-Grip On Yesterday,’ but it’s not my favourite. I think I could safely say that my favourite Atreyu record is ‘The Curse’.
Not a bad pick, but I would have to say’ Congregation Of The Damned’ is my favourite. Now, finally, it’s a massive bummer about the Saviour tour being cancelled. Is there anything that you can say about the tour’s cancellation at this point?
Yeah, we’re really devastated about that. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about it. The decision was made by Saviour alone, neither Stepson or Belle Haven had any say in it. As to why it was cancelled, there’s not a whole lot I can say I’m afraid.
Belle Haven will support Atreyu alongside Cane Hill at The Corner Hotel on Sunday, October 23rd. Tickets can be purchased here. [It was a fucking rad show, too].