Haste The Day interview—"When you view yourself as a savior, you’re just going to burn out."

Haste The Day are among the best known bands to emerge from the Indianapolis underground, a sort of New Millennium successor to ‘80s punk bands like the Zero Boys and Sloppy Seconds, or one of The Gaslight Anthem’s favorite bands, crucial ‘90s emo-core rockers Chamberlain. The band’s spirit-filled mix of melody and mayhem aligned them with the upper tier of Metalcore, earning support slots with As I Lay Dying, Atreyu and Bleeding Through.

Like their Solid State labelmates in Underoath, Norma Jean and Zao, they managed to switch singers (beginning with album three, Pressure The Hinges) without losing momentum. Only bassist Mike Murphy remained from the original lineup by the time HTD recorded 2010’s creative nadir, Attack Of The Wolf King. A show that merged the original lineup with the final touring lineup (released on a live CD/DVD as Haste The Day vs. Haste The Day) was said to be their last.

But suddenly, things were afoot in the Haste The Day camp this year. A new website was launched, an email list created. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first album, Burning Bridges, the original lineup reconvened for a hometown show and Mexico’s Exodo Festival.

Now, Haste The Day are back for realsies. On the eve of the launch of a crowd-funding campaign for a new Haste The Day album, AltPress.com caught up with Murphy and vocalist Stephen Keech. Are HTD 2014 the original lineup, or the final lineup? Neither. And both. Sorta.

We’ll let them explain.

Why did you call it quits in the first place, and what changed?
MIKE MURPHY: I always loved being in Haste The Day. But there was a point, after so many member changes—especially when my best friend, [guitarist/vocalist] Brennan [Chaulk] left the band—it was really tough. Trying to keep things on track without him was difficult. We made Attack Of The Wolf King, which, in my opinion, turned out to be our best record. But after that I lost a little bit of the love for touring. It was still great. But it became more of a chore. It started to feel more like a “job,” and I never wanted to have that mentality. It spoiled it. As soon as I wasn’t feeling as much joy from going on the road, it felt like the band had run its course.

As a band–the members who finished Haste The Day – I felt proud of Wolf King. It just felt like it was time to do a farewell tour. It felt natural. If we had just kept going, I felt like I would have just been holding onto it, with a death grip. I don’t know how Stephen felt…

STEPHEN KEECH: I was just tired. And I knew Mike was tired, too. All of the other guys were eager to keep on going, but Mike and I just had this feeling that it was time to go. I remember a conversation where we said that if [longtime manager] Mark [LaFay], Mike or myself ever quit, the band would be over. We felt we’d crumble without those pieces. So, when Mark emailed us to say he was leaving artist management–I remember, we were in the van. Mike and I just looked at each other after the email, like, “Well, it’s been a good run.”

How did the reunion of the original lineup happen?
MURPHY: It took three years to convince me. The rest of the original members had wanted to do it for a while. I wasn’t ready. Eventually, I agreed. The show was incredible. It definitely reignited passion in me, but I wasn’t thinking about doing a new record. After I decompressed, Stephen, Mark and I talked about what making another record might look like.

What is the lineup for this new album?
MURPHY: We wanted to pick up where Wolf King left off, stylistically, with the same principal writers. So it’s the Attack Of The Wolf King lineup [guitarists David Krysl and Scotty Whelan, drummer Giuseppe Capolupo, Keech and Murphy]. Plus, we’re adding Brennan, for his singing vocals, and [original vocalist] Jimmy [Ryan], for his screaming vocals. They are both important pieces of Haste The Day. We were thinking we could make the best album possible with that lineup, plus, from a fan perspective, it’s the coolest thing ever to hear Jimmy and Stephen together on a record.

We’re also going to have the original lineup [rounded out by drummer Devin Chaulk and guitarist Jason Barnes] do one song on the album. Haste The Day have had a storied past with people leaving… We think it makes a great statement to bring everybody together.

KEECH: You can’t really define Haste The Day as one particular lineup, because you’re always going to be leaving out a member or an era that was someone’s favorite. I’m excited to make an album that encompasses every phase of the band. That’s going to be really fun for us to do.

Iron Maiden, Killswitch Engage, Sleeping With Sirens–all of these bands were able to achieve greater commercial success with their second singers. Even Van Halen. Aren’t you worried that mixing in ex-members will lower the perceived value of the newer records?
MURPHY: Well, I think that’s the reason we’re not doing a full record as the original lineup. That was a great era of Haste The Day, but the band continued to grow with each album. That’s why we’re picking up with the Wolf King lineup. But the fans love Jimmy. We want to see what it sounds like when Jimmy screams over the more melodic style of the newer guitar players, plus what Stephen brings as a songwriter. We’ll have Stephen singing and screaming, then trading off screaming with Jimmy. Plus, there’s Brennan’s melodic vocals. I did wonder what Wolf King would have been like if Brennan had still been in the band. His voice is so unique.

Stephen, you had to come in and make a name for yourself when you replaced Jimmy Ryan. Isn’t it somewhat uncomfortable to have your predecessor on the new record with you?
KEECH: It’s not weird to me at all. It would be weird if he was, like, challenging my role in the band, or threating anything that I’ve done. But I don’t view it that way. Jimmy and I had very, very different roles. He was more of the “crazy frontman for Haste The Day,” and I was more of a creative director in other aspects of the band. I can continue to play the role I’ve been playing. I care more for the song as a whole, the end product, than I do about hearing my voice all of the time. It’s hilarious to see when kids tried to create beef between us. Jimmy and I always joke about it. “Yeah, that’s right. There’s beef between us!” But we’re both too nice.

Now that Haste The Day isn’t the No.1 priority in your lives, is there less pressure?
MURPHY: Oh, absolutely.

KEECH: I feel free. We can just do it and have fun. There’s no looming uncertainties like, “What if this record isn’t hardcore enough? What if it isn’t metal enough?” Now, we’ve been out of the game for a while. We’re just stoked to make a heavy record. It will be fun.

In the interview I did with Tim Lambesis, he mentioned that many of the people in the “Christian” bands out there aren’t believers. They change their views but don’t tell anyone. Where does Haste The Day stand? Is this still a band made up of Christians?
KEECH: When I look at all of the people in this band, I still see the same drive to talk about God onstage, to talk about Jesus. When we get together, there’s talk about what God’s doing. Honestly, I think the term “Christian music” is a little bit doomed. These bands are fresh out of youth group, and they go on tour, and they don’t ever step foot into a church. Nobody is brave enough to talk about God, because everyone wants to be cool, so it’s kind of doomed. Without any accountability or any mentors, it’s difficult to remain super strong in your faith.

MURPHY: You’re a 16-year-old kid. You bring together your love of Christ and your love of heavy music. Then you dance with success. You’re touring, you’re speaking about Jesus at shows, you’re putting yourself out there. You build relationships with people with great intentions of bringing light into darker spaces. But eventually what I’ve seen, and even recognized in myself, is that it starts to develop into a savior complex. You see yourself as trying to save the world. You’re trying to live up to this standard of who Jesus would want you to be. I hope I’ve grown out of that. I view myself now more as needing to be saved and redeemed, as opposed to having to save everyone in the world. The script flipped for me.

When you view yourself as a savior, you’re just going to burn out. All of a sudden you don’t know what you believe anymore. Christian bands get famous, you’re signing autographs, taking pictures, girls think you’re hot, whatever. You think you’re cool because you’ve got a tour laminate on. It all inflates the ego. Humility, the grace of Jesus, that stuff gets slowly pushed aside. And then you don’t even know who you are. I’ve seen that happen.

KEECH: One thing I’m proud of with Haste The Day is that we always came back to the same thing, which is Jesus Christ, following the teachings of Jesus Christ and explaining to people that it’s still important to us and that there is something more out there.

What made you decide to crowdfund this album?
MURPHY: I never imagined we’d do it. I used to see it as bands hitting up their fans for money. But I’ve come around to the idea that, hopefully, a fan is going to buy your album regardless, but this way, they know their 10 bucks is going directly to the band. It’s an intimate relationship, and they know exactly where the money is going and that the band is getting it.

KEECH: Yeah, I thought it was bands asking for charity, but I realized it’s really just a pre-sale. It’s better than going into debt and having to pay it back. It brings the fans into the forefront, too. Without Kickstarter or Indiegogo and the like, you’re pretty isolated when you start making a record. This will be different, in the sense that we know for a fact people want to hear this record and they’ve already paid for a copy. It changes your mentality. You’re really bringing the fans into the process. It’s almost like you’re making the record with them.

MURPHY: It cuts out the bloated middleman of the music industry. It’s a direct connection.

One of the perks gives young bands a chance to open for Haste The Day.
MURPHY: When we were starting, we’d have gone to any length to open for Zao, Living Sacrifice, P.O.D.… So we thought that’d be a really fun one to offer.

Are you offering anything super-crazy?
MURPHY: We should put one where if we hit $300,000, we’ll do a European tour or something. We did talk about this. I don’t know if we talked about it with Stephen [Laughs.]

KEECH: Is this the official band meeting about it? I’m down. I mean, if we hit $3,000–I mean $300,000–then, yeah, wherever.

Too late! You said $3,000.
KEECH: [Laughs], Yes, when we hit $3,000.

What should longtime fans expect in 2014? And why should a new fan care?
MURPHY: This is not a moneymaking thing. It’s not something we have to do. It’s something we became re-inspired to do. We all caught the itch again. Our passion is pure about it. We really do think we have all the right pieces in place to make the best Haste The Day record. I mean, I don’t know what the album is going to sound like, but I feel like—

KEECH: That’s what’s exciting about it though. We don’t know.

MURPHY: We don’t know what bringing all these pieces together is going to sound like. We’ve cooked with these ingredients independently of one another. But we’ve never put them all together. We don’t know how it’ll taste, but it’s probably going to be delicious.

KEECH: [Laughs.] It’s going to be delicious.

MURPHY: And for new fans, this is going to be like a greatest hits record, but they’re new songs. You don’t have to get the best of record. You can get this record and get a taste of Haste The Day in all of its incarnations, in its best form. That’s why we’re so excited. ALT

Check out Haste The Day’s indiegogo page for their new album.