Home Town Hero’s guitarist Dave Stewart joins us for a few questions.
When did the core of Home Town Hero come together?
I’ve been with Aaron Bruno, singer, since I was a freshman in high school and he was a sophomore. We played in punk and hardcore bands for years. We loved music a lot, but we knew we wanted to make it a bigger part of our lives and make money in order to survive. So we decided after playing in all these punk bands that we wanted to expand. So a few years ago we started writing different songs. It all happened so fast. We meet up with Todd (Burnes), our bassist, and meet Ray (Blanco) our drummer, who was in a competing band, and we just talked about starting this rock ‘n’ roll band. Everyone really loved music so we did it. The first year as Home Town Hero we toured a lot and stayed around L.A. We really learned how to play with each other.
Were you originally playing simple chord progressions and then had to learn guitar again?
Totally. In the punk bands it was simple stuff. We really learned a lot along the way. The first demo is stepping-stones from hardcore to our current sound. It was a lot of experimenting with singing, instead of singing. The second demo was more for us and it was more pop songs. I can’t believe we wrote those, but if you blend the two demos and then you can see how we came to what we are now.
Were you excited about the new direction you wanted to take as a band or worried?
I wasn’t too worried. We’ve always written, Aaron, and me has been just going with it. It’s pretty stupid, we just say we are going to do it and don’t really know if we can, but luckily it has always worked out for us. We kind of go at it and not think about it. The first songs we wrote were as our original band, but they sounded so different that we decided to change the band name too.
Which demo did you get signed off?
Our manager got our first demo from a friend; I don’t know how he liked it. But for some reason he saw something in us and came to us after that. We played a showcase for them and then it went from there.
When you met up with your managers did you tell them what you wanted to do?
Yeah. We always had this kind of fuck it attitude. We wanted to do it the way we wanted to. They knew we weren’t going to give up until we succeeded. We all quit school and had jobs so that we could come and go, as we wanted to. They saw we had dedication and they picked us up and worked as hard as we did.
A lot of bands do get signed and go after it while giving up a lot. Does it drive you crazy to think a lot of people will just think you just got there without knowing how hard you worked and the sacrifices?
I know some artists that just happened to get signed. They think it’s so easy, but those are the ones that fail. We know the label isn’t going to do all the work. There is a lot of work to be done.
Did it give you the sense that when you got signed that you were seeing some of the pay off?
It hasn’t really paid off yet. We got a great record label and a great record, but the work isn’t anywhere near done. We take a step up and look around and its cool, but we know there is a lot more work left.We just want to keep touring and working.
What was it like working on the album?
We got luck as hell. We got to record in Malibu. I don’t know how we worked that out. It was amazing in that house. There was no rushing, it was relaxed. We had the greatest vibe. It was the greatest experience.
Did you go in wanting to learn more about production?
We picked John Travis as our producer and he came to one of our shows at the Viper Room. For some reason he stuck with us because he saw little things that could make them better. We wanted someone who could take us to the next level. We all individually learned a lot. We had six weeks of pre-production before we recorded. That really helped a lot.
What tracks did you go in with and come out with where you couldn’t believe the changes?
“Saturday Morning” went through some nice changes. The guitar sounds came out amazing. There was some tweaking here and there. The sound of the record was fantastic overall.
What are the steps of songwriting?
It usually works out that Aaron will come out with a melody and a chord progression and I’ll sit down with him at his house and work it out with the guitar.
Since we are talking about guitar, do you miss the days of guitar solos or do you find them cheesy?
I’d rather write a good guitar riff than a silly ass solo. I’d rather kick your ass with a riff than flex my muscles.
Are you learning by playing?
I taught myself how to play guitar over the years. I just mess around and figure things out, sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t. It’s cool because you can discover your own sound.
Is there a moment where you were playing and you were like ‘wow’, maybe when you first figured out a barre chord?
I can’t think of an exact moment, but I know that sometimes we’ll just be jamming and I’ll be surprised by something I’ll play. Sometimes things happen and you don’t know how it happened.
Kids in the last few years only learn barre chords now so it doesn’t seem like they are as technically sound.
I know. When we were in our punk band I only played power chords. But I already knew the other chords thankfully.
If you wanted to play Nirvana you needed the power chord.
Who do you look up to?
George Harrison, both for guitar and songwriting. He was amazing. I like Neil Young. I love the Silver And Gold album. The new album, Are You Passionate?, is great.
When you dreamed about all this how much has it lived up to what you expected?
You always hear about the horror stories about the record labels owning you and you never get anything. We heard that all the time and because we went in with our attitude, we acted more confident than we should have, our label laid back and let us do what we had to do. They didn’t show up at the studio at all until we were almost done. They let us do our thing that was amazing. Not many bands get the freedom to do what they want on their first record. Just being signed was good, but the way Maverick has treated us has been so much better.
Did you like the idea that Maverick signs artists that are good, not necessarily those who’ll sell the most records?
That was another reason why we signed with them. We had the feeling we were going to sign with them before we signed with them. It was weird. The Deftones is a good example of a band they signed and let grow. Times have changed, and Maverick is different now, but they only have five artists that have records coming out this year. You get tons of attention and the same financial backing as majors.
If there were a dream-opening gig who would you open for?
I would love to open for Paul McCartney or Neil Young. But that’ll never happen. It’s all a dream.
The Stones would be great.
Yeah, that would be awesome, but we’d probably get a lot of shit thrown at us. Like one show we had cheeseburgers thrown at us. It was kind of funny. I love when people hate us because its fun to have a challenge and try to win them over. That’s the most gratifying.
+ charlie craine