California-by-way-of-Philly rocker Dave Hause on meaning what you say and saying what you mean - LA Times
February 2, 2017 | By Sarah Rodman
One of the directives Dave Hause gave himself when recording his third solo album, “Bury Me in Philly,” out Friday, was to be positive without being cheesy.
“That was the key,” said the California-by-way-of-Philly rocker earlier this week, speaking on the phone from a jam space near his Santa Barbara home.
The former front man for the punk band the Loved Ones — and frequent side project participant including the All Brights and Falcon — was coming off the moodier vibe of 2013’s “Devour,” not to mention a dark time personally. He was ready to lighten up.
“There were all these super rad things happening and life was feeling better,” he said.
The emotional uplift began after the release of “Devour,” which reached the Top-100 on Billboard’s U.S. album chart, a big deal for an indie artist. He also met his fiancee and moved to SoCal.
“And then I was on tour and [Canadian singer-songwriter] Northcote was opening and I would feel good listening to his songs. He’s very much a pop guy, and he often discussed how when you listen to a Ryan Adams record, even if it’s sad, you want to repeat it. And then I’d go onstage and play these heavy songs and I thought, if I keep feeling good, I’m going to have to serve that master when we get to record three.”
Serve he did. Hause will celebrate the upbeat tone of “Bury Me in Philly” via a sold-out show Thursday at downtown’s Redwood Bar and Grill. Foo Fighter Chris Shiflett — in his new cowpunk solo guise — and L.A. rocker Johnny Madcap will be on hand to warm up the crowd.
“If my songwriting can be characterized, lyrically speaking, it’s sort of bittersweet,” Hause said.
“If ‘Devour’ is the more bitter side, this is the sweeter side. There’s still a little of that waiting for the other shoe to drop and existential dread in ‘Bury Me in Philly,’ even the title,” he added with a laugh. “But I think after the adult crash that formed ‘Devour,’ I figured out a way to stitch it back together and keep going, and that’s what this record is meant to be the soundtrack to.”
To help, Hause enlisted William Wittman of Too Much Joy and Philly brethren Eric Bazilian of the Hooters — studio veterans who have played on, produced and written for watershed albums by Joan Osborne and Cyndi Lauper, among others — to co-produce.
“I was possessed by the Hooters,” said Hause, who was taken by an uncle to his first show at age 7 to see the pop-rockers perform hits like “And We Danced” and “All You Zombies” in the ’80s. “My uncle said I was simultaneously completely freaked out by how loud it was and also totally in love, like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to do that.’”
Bazilian and Wittman helped Hause expand his musical horizons and sharpen his focus, and the pair also brought an undeniable pop buoyancy to the project. On the album, Hause continues to write and sing about a world of observers, dreamers and optimists, and songs run the gamut from snarly punk-tinged rockers to frothy power pop anthems.
“Dave has a great sense of story and a great sense of melody,” said Bazilian, who in addition to his own band and other production work penned Joan Osborne’s hit “One of Us.”
“He really represents everything I miss in popular music now, and if there’s any chance that this record could break through to a wide audience, it would be great, not just for him, but it would bode well for music in general,” Bazilian added. “Because it could open up the door to so many people who could say ‘Wow, it’s OK to actually tell linear stories.’ And the fact that it’s a rock and roll record.”
And, like many of his fans, Bazilian appreciates Hause’s sincerity. His songs — inspired by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Rick Springfield to Jeff Lynne and the Clash — may detail heartaches and disappointment, but they have an inherent commitment to hope.
“I’m not indie cool,” he says. “There’s that aloofness that you find in some of those huge indie acts that people seem to really tout, but that’s not really the way I roll. It’s a lot more heart on the sleeve. And I started to get spooked — for many, many reasons — when [Donald] Trump got elected.”
Aside from concerns about world affairs, Hause said, he worried, “‘Did I make the wrong record for the wrong time?’ But maybe now is the time that we need songs like this, that are heart on the sleeve and that do reach out across the great divide. The last vestige of hope often comes through art, and the hope is maybe this is 40 minutes of a reprieve.”
Hause believes there is something to be said for earnestness in this moment.
“I can stand with less wobbly knees thinking about it that way and thinking about artists like Patty Griffin and Springsteen, for crying out loud. They’re very heart on the sleeve and earnest and very much mean it, and I think when ... gets really bad, like super terrifying, they’re go-to [artists], whereas perhaps something soaked in irony and cloaked in a costume — I love so much of that music, but I haven’t found myself gravitating as much toward it than that vulnerability that you do find inRyan Adams and Jason Isbell and friends of mine like Chuck [Ragan] or [Brian] Fallon.
“Those guys,” he said, “mean it, and that’s maybe what we need a little more of: Meaning what you say, and saying what you mean because clearly we’re dealing with some dark age ... right now and you’ve got to hit it head on.”