Eye Of The Storm

10 July 2012 | 8:18 am | Brendan Crabb

“It feels like a second chance for us... The last album didn’t do so well."

“It feels like a second chance for us,” Christopher Shaw, guitarist for Melbourne melodic metalcore crew House Vs Hurricane says of the new lease on life the band have found via second album, Crooked Teeth. “Especially with [new label] We Are Unified picking us up the way they did. The last album didn't do so well and with all the member changes, it may have looked like we were dying to those outside. They took a chance on us when it looked like we were in trouble. Not many people get a second chance like that. Now we have to prove to everyone why we got it.”

A few years ago, House Vs Hurricane appeared on the verge of major success. Having already supported the likes of Bullet For My Valentine, Enter Shikari, The Amity Affliction and The Devil Wears Prada, as well as having Soundwave and No Sleep Til appearances on their résumé, they seemed to be establishing momentum despite the somewhat underwhelming response afforded debut album, Perspectives. The band were hitting their stride after a headlining run across Europe when lead singer and founding member Chris Dicker announced his departure from the band at the end of 2011. This was preceded by keyboardist Joey Fragione being shown the door at the beginning of that year.

After a period of reassessment, they enlisted new vocalist Dan Casey, a friend who also fronts South Australian hardcore band Louis Blanc (previously called Nazarite Vow), an act House Vs Hurricane had clocked up more than a few road kilometres with. However, they decided against recruiting a new keyboardist – a risk really, given how prominent keys had been in much of their previous output. Shaw openly admits this wasn't an easy call, but quickly reiterates that the previous band dynamic wasn't really working for them anymore.

What impact then had the lineup shifts had on the other members. “I think it had a really positive one. It brought us all together and made us think about the way we were writing our songs and structuring them. Dan has brought an incredible dynamic to the band that we've never really had before, both on and off stage. He's just a strong personality and has more energy than any of us on stage. He's just a crazy, insane guy who just wants to have fun. If people in the band are feeling down, he can brighten everyone up. We've been friends with him since 2007, and when we needed to find a new singer he was really the only logical choice.”

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Was there any nervousness about soldiering on sans keyboards though? “Yes and no. Our older stuff was very keyboard-influenced, [so] in that aspect it was difficult to see how we'd move on. Once we started writing, it just flowed and there was no room for them. It was cool to make them serve the songs, and put them in a few places they were needed, but not because they had to be. In a few songs you can still hear that influence; we kept a bit of that stuff, but only if it needed it. If anything, it opened up the band to being more creative. When we started writing [the new record] we had lost our keyboardist, but still had our original singer. [When Dicker left] we weren't sure what was going on, but we just pushed through, found our singer and it just fell into place. After the first weekend we worked together on some demos, there were no more worries.

“[As for the keyboard element] we've been playing for a year-and-a-half with a backing track. It's still recognisable as us; we've edited the backing tracks ourselves and the old stuff still sounds like House Vs Hurricane.” Shaw also eagerly points out that the remaining players bear no ill will towards their former bandmates either. “Last I heard Joey was living in Sydney and Chris wanted to get his life together with a job. It's a bit of a struggle to be in a band for this long and be in debt. There's no hard feelings; it was just a decision he had to make. We respect the decision he had to make.”

Like the core of a sports team that rallies together to prove their critics wrong after a series of defeats and/or the departure of high-profile personnel, the member shifts have galvanised the quintet to return, better than ever. “I personally think it's the best incarnation of House Vs Hurricane. We're the closest we've ever been. We're all loving the album we've just written and are very proud of it. There's nothing negative in the environment. There has been negativity in the past; six guys in a band for a long time, things can happen… There was a lot of negativity in the past. [Now] everybody's just really good friends and there's no problems. Everyone realises little arguments and little problems don't need to be held onto. When something like that [lineup changes] happens to a band it can really go either way, but it worked out well for us. Everybody just became really good friends and we realised how much it meant to all of us.”

Those aren't the only lessons 23 year old Shaw has absorbed since the band's formation in late 2006. At the time of taking this call, he's walking back to the call centre where he works to pay the bills and admits undertaking a day job that's “not that exciting” gives him greater perspective of opportunities offered by the band. “I've just learnt to deal with different types of people. Learnt a lot about the country we live in, taking each day as it comes and being appreciative of what we have. Also, that we get to do so many things at such a young age. Being in a touring band, going overseas… We're incredibly lucky with what we have.”

Many local heavy acts spoken to readily espouse a love of touring their homeland, and Shaw is no different when excitedly discussing House Vs Hurricane's upcoming capital city and regional jaunts. However, one point of difference between him and numerous others is that while some audibly can't wait to board the first plane out of these parts to try their luck in foreign lands, Shaw doesn't feel limited by Australia's music scene or its geographical obstacles. “Definitely not,” he says. “There's so many people in Australia into this style of music and so many bands doing it well.”

The band are understandably still exploring overseas touring offers though. “I'm never going to decline an overseas holiday,” the axeman chuckles. “But this style of music is doing pretty well here. Parkway Drive and The Amity Affliction are drawing thousands of people to shows every night and paving the way for other bands. Then Soundwave is getting thousands of kids to shows all around the country. There are plenty of opportunities out there for us.”