Long-time alt-rockers House of Heroes are on their fifth full-length now, working with producer Paul Moak (Lovedrug, Mat Kearney) on the album. Frontman Tim Skipper gives a breakdown of each song below.
“A Man Who's Not Afraid”
This is the first a capella song we've ever done. Just five guys around one mic over and over until we get it right. Our drummer, Colin Rigsby, came up with this back in 2007 and we sort of forgot about it. It just fit so well as a mission statement for the record. "In my dreams I see a man/A man who's not afraid of life and death." The rest of the record is about us desperately trying to become and embrace that man who is not afraid of life and death.
“Out My Way”
This is another idea we've had since 2007 that we just haven't found a place for until now. It's the first song that we recorded for the record. We were a little worried about doing this record with Paul Moak because he had never produced anything quite as rock as us, but as we started getting into this song he kept saying, "Turn up the guitars! Make it heavier!" We knew right away we'd be ok. Lyrically, it deals with the state of rock music. That's the music we love. We're drawn to it and we're not going to stop playing it just because it's not the most popular kind of music these days.
“Dance (Blow it All Away)”
This is one of the first songs we wrote for Cold Hard Want. We had to fight this song a little bit. At first, it was groovy. Then it was really ‘80s and synth-driven with minimal guitars. Eventually we came to the conclusion that the best way to approach it was to play it louder, faster, and in a key that really strained the vocals. That's the record in a nutshell. Aside from the chill tracks, we would always be on the side of rocking harder.
“Remember The Empire”
This is the first album with Eric Newcomer on guitar and this was the first song he really put his stamp on. I remember Paul saying something like, "Dude, it's really freaking me out how good you are at finger tapping." We wrote this song with the idea of how it would go over live in mind. I think this will be a huge live song when people eventually learn it. It deals with standing up for what you believe in in the face of overwhelming opposition.
“We Were Giants”
We've never really worked with drum loops or electronic elements at all but we wanted to give it a shot on this record. We created a drum loop out of organic instruments, so it's a loop without sounding too electronic. This song is as straightforward as we get. It's got a really cool Brian May-esque guitar hook in the bridge that I'm pretty proud of. It's a song about holding on to the one you love despite the inevitable hard times that come in life, especially in relationships.
This is one of our favorite songs that we wrote for our last album, Suburba. It fit with the original linear story that we had for that record but we decided to leave it off at the end of the day. It found its way back into the mix for this record with a lyrical tweak. I recorded this song live on the couch—just me, the guitar and two mics. We got a take that we liked and the Paul panned it to one side of my headphones and I doubled what I had just played. Then we panned both performances hard to the left and right and it gave the song a very Paul Simon feel.
This song is us completely embracing our love of ‘90s soft to loud, grungy rock. It's got a lot of venom behind it. We are Christians, and this is one of the saddest and most frustrating things we see within our faith. People who value comfort and security more than they value the call to love and serve people. It's an attitude that says I'm going to get mine no matter the cost. Christian or otherwise, I think that's a pretty terrible attitude. The riff at the end of this song is our "Soundgarden" moment on this record.
“Touch This Light”
This was another song that we really had to fight. The first few versions that we came up with just didn't sit right. Once we gave it that driving, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" type of rhythm, the song really started coming alive. This was another experiment with electronics and loops. We really went for a Nine Inch Nails drum sound in the verse, which was bizarre and awesome to incorporate into our music for the first time. I was a little worried what the fan response would be, but everyone seems really into it.
“Angels of Night”
We tried writing this song toward the beginning of the Cold Hard Want writing sessions and I really wanted it to have an upbeat but melancholy sound like “1979” by Smashing Pumpkins, or “Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups. Unfortunately, that just didn't fit. So we chilled it out and added some lush vocal harmonies (thanks to the lovely and talented Stephanie Smith). It turned out to be one of our favorite songs we've ever done and very unique in contrast with the rest of the album. The song means a lot to us lyrically because we're looking back on events from our lives with the benefit of hindsight. It's a little strange to be old enough to do that now but it's good to be able to remind people that there is another side. You don't always have to feel the pain you're in now. You just have to keep pressing forward.
This is the first song that we wrote together with the band that performed on this album. We got together in Colin’s [Rigsby, drums] garage on a ridiculously hot summer day in Columbus, OH and hammered this one out. It felt so good! By the time we came around to recording it, I think we lost some of our enthusiasm for the song, but when we got the final mixes this was the dark horse that really stood out to us as one of the better songs from the record. Wicked cool guitar solo from Eric Newcomer! Feels very Aerosmith to us and there is nothing at all wrong with that!
This was one of the last editions to the record. We weren't sure if we were going to record this song or a few others until the morning that we eventually did this song. We all looked at each other and said, "We will hate ourselves if we don't record this one." It was mostly because we wanted to play the killer riff in the bridge over and over again. Paul Moak loved that riff so much that he played a pass of it not because we needed another guitar track, but because he "just needed to get in on the action." At the end of recording we walked up to the Berry Hill Police Dept. and asked them to send a cruiser on down so we could record its siren for the end of this song. They were kind and gracious enough to do that and when I asked the officer for his name to credit him on the album, he said, "Just put me down as officer Monster." So thanks officer Monster!
“I Am A Symbol”
We always knew this was going to be the last song on the record. It summed all of the themes up so well and had such a triumphant and hopeful feel to it by the end. We had 14 or 15 people in the tracking room singing the final refrain of the song on that last day. It was very cool. This one, like “Stay,” we weren't too sure about until Paul put his production touches on it, making the dynamics really come alive and JR McNeely mixed it to near perfection.