Hot off the heels of a monstrous comeback record, “Coward” and a smattering of reunion shows, I got the chance to chat with Stephen Keech of the legendary band Haste the Day. Check out the interview below and be sure to pick up “Coward” wherever fine music is sold.
First and foremost with the generic question: What made you guys want to get back together and continue playing music?
Stephen Keech: In 2014, the original members played a reunion show in Indianapolis. I got to be a part of playing two songs with them. It was a rush. I think in our transitions out of the band life and into a more normal, structured life we had forgotten how much fun it was to play together. I think it was a few months after the show that the concept was born and we started taking steps toward a new record.
With that being said, what made it click that you wanted to get everyone who’s ever played under the Haste the Day name to get in on this record?
SK: Anyone who has every followed HTD knows that we have had a significant amount of member changes. Between When Everything Falls and AOTWK we had a different line up for each record. But through all of that I believe Haste the Day became more of an organization than a 5 member band. So it didn’t seem right to limit a new record to one line up. We needed to bring in everyone for it to make sense.
What was it liking working together to craft songs once again? Were things a bit rusty or did ideas flow?
SK: It was tough to get going at first, but after a while we found our groove. I think it eventually became easier than it used to be because our minds were not oversaturated with heavy music like when we were touring. It felt exciting again. And that made us write like we were young.
What was the writing process like in the both the musical and lyrical sense with so many artists working on one project?
SK: It was difficult to organize. We all live in different states. Scotty and I would send ideas back and forth from Nashville to LA and back again. I would go up to indianapolis to write with Brennan, Mike, and Jimmy. Giuseppe came into Nashville for a weekend to work on drum ideas. It was a lot of email and dropbox. I was surprised at how well we ended up making it work since we couldn’t be in the same place at the same time. We had almost 20 song Ideas and were able to cut them down to the best of the best.
How was the album recorded? Were you all able to take a couple days out of the year and work together, or did you email parts to one another and piece them together?
SK: We demoed all of the songs by emailing them back and forth. On January 5th, Giuseppe, Scotty, and I started drums at Glow in the Dark Studio in Atlanta with Engineer Lane Johnson. Then we headed back to Nashville a few days later to record guitars at my studio. We spent about two and a half weeks working on guitars with Scotty and Dave. Mike came down right when we were done with guitars to lay his bass down. Jason came down for a weekend to record his parts. Devin tracked his drums at threshold studio in Indianapolis where I worked with Brennan, Mike, and Jimmy on vocals. And I did my vocals in over the course of a few late nights in Nashville, some by myself and some with the help of friends manning pro-tools. It was a tiring process to say the least, it was so good to be able to spend time with everyone even when it was scattered. I feel like our record benefited from the chaos. We never got bored. There was always new scenery.
How was it decided who would tackle lead vocals on which songs?
SK: The decision was left up to me. But Jimmy and I talked about the songs that he liked the most and which ones he was most passionate about. Take was the first choice for Jimmy’s vocals. And we were both really excited about Shadow. I had a vision of us going back and forth for the first time in that song. Everything just fell into place eventually. It was awesome to work with Jimmy and share ideas together.
What are some of the lyrical topics touched on the album?
SK: Why the name “Coward” for the album?
Most of this album is based on the idea that we all have the potential to be cowards in our own way. One of these ways we do this is through communication with the ones we love. For some reason this is an obstacle. Its been a real challenge for me and I have had to find was to overcome. Most of these songs are about making choices to overcome the cowardice in our own lives.
Did you guys feel like you had a lot of pressure with this record since it was funded by fans who all more likely than not had expectations they wanted upheld?
SK: I don’t think we felt too much pressure to sound any particular way. We were all just excited to make heavy music again and I think that shows.
With the average band, coming out with an album every 2 years, you feel like you just need to outdo your last album. With “Coward” did you feel like you had to outdo your whole discography?
SK: Of course we want to progress. But I feel like every record we have release over the years is different. There are things that every record has that cannot be out done. So we don’t make that our goal. We want to make each record special. This record did hint on a lot of old themes. But overall, it sounds different than any other record we’ve made.
What’s been the general fan reaction to “Coward”? Are listeners still disputing which era of Haste the Day is superior?
SK: I honestly couldn’t believe the reaction to Coward. People seemed to really enjoy it. I used to dread releasing new music. But the reaction has been great. I think people will always go back and forth about which era was better. People still talk about Jimmy and I. I joined Haste the Day almost 10 years ago and people still call me the new guy. haha. But music is relative to the listener and their experience. There are albums that are so important to me that no one else seems to agree with but that is because I got into the album at the right time in my life to make an impact.
With quite the repertoire of a back catalogue, did you guys try to draw on past music for influence, or attempt to craft an all new sound?
SK: I think we just kind of started from scratch. I listened a little bit to AOTWK because that was my favorite until Coward.
Since you spent time away from writing metalcore music and worked with your solo project, was it hard to get back into the heavy music writing process?
SK: A little bit I suppose. But once I drop tuned my guitar and turned up the gain it was pretty easy.
With the crowdfunding projects becoming more and more of a success, where do you see band reunion albums going from here? Conversely, what 3 bands would you fund a reunion album for?
SK: I don’t really know. I feel like its almost a coin toss anymore which projects are successful. I big part of the crowd funding campaign is organization and good incentives. I guess if I wanted to hear anyone make another album it would be Phantom Planet. But I doubt they will need to crowd fund a record.
What do your album release shows look like? Are all the members making the road trip?
SK: The shows were great. We had a great time playing together. At some points we had 7 people on stage. It was also really good to share the stage with Jimmy.
When Haste the Day existed the first time, I’m sure music was at the forefront of your concerns. Now that you’re older, have your priorities shifted? Where does creating music now sit in your life?
SK: I love music and I have dedicated my life so far on developing my skills in music. I now have moved most of my efforts into producing other artists and bands and helping them develop their sound.
How does it make you feel knowing that Haste the Day has become a “Legacy” band, who has inspired dozen of other bands to create music?
SK: I remember when WEF came out as a single, I sat in my parents basement and listened to the song over and over again with my band. It really effected me. I still can’t believe I was able to become part of that Legacy.
What bands would you like to pass the torch to?
SK: Any bands that feel the music that they play and are passionate about the lyrics they sing. Metal and Hardcore needs that right now.
If there was one tour that would bring Haste the Day out of touring hiatus, what bands would be on that tour?
SK: Honestly probably not. We are too busy with our jobs and families to be able to make an entire tour happen.
What does the future of Haste the Day look like? Can we expect more albums, a handful of shows in the years to come, music videos, etc.?
SK: I guess time will tell! We have no idea what will come next. But we have all had such a good time making this record and playing these shows. So that doesn’t hurt the chances of more happening. We will see what happens!