What a difference a year and a half can make. The last time we heard from Close to Home (CTH), they’d just released their label debut, Never Back Down, on Artery Recordings/Razor & Tie. Crisscrossing the United States to support the album (and previous releases Picture Perfect, One Chance, One Time Standby, Let It Be Known and Legends Live On) with bands such as We Came As Romans, Silverstein and Sky Eats Airplane, CTH were dealing with a lot of changes. Still coping with the death of their close friend and bass player Brad Andress after a battle with cancer, the band’s rabid fan base was continuing to grow as the group were navigating the differences between putting out music on an independent label rather than on their own. As the members of Close to Home, which now include a new lead singer, ready the July release of their 2nd full-length album, Momentum, it is clear that their tuneful evolution and determination has made CTH one of the most unique musical entities in heavy rock.
Growing up, the members of Close to Home were all fans of 90s alternative rock. “Funny enough, we all listened to a lot of alternative and pop music. Blink 182 and New Found Glory were definitely big influences for us. We also loved Third Eye Blind, Gin Blossoms, Goo Goo Dolls…we know it’s kind of weird that the stuff we listen to all the time doesn’t sound like the stuff we play!” says guitarist JJ Cooper.
The “stuff” the Cincinnati based CTH play can best be described as melodic-hard core. Both heavy and harmonic, CTH has built an enormous fan following based not only on their DIY ethic, but their dedication to both their audience and themselves.
Coming together in 2005, best friends JJ Cooper and Brad Andress hooked up with guitarist Josh Wells through MySpace. When they met, they realized they not only all liked the same music, but also had the same vision of how they wanted their band to sound – an amalgamation of metal, pop and rock. Singer Nick Stiens was found at a bar the guys hung out in (“he was in a cover band and we were like, that guy has a great voice,” says Cooper) and drummer Travis Hartman was also a mutual friend who oddly enough, never let his buddies know he was a drummer even though they were looking for one. (“Thankfully, he finally said something,” laughs Cooper). The band’s goal was shared - to give 110% to their music career and never look back, only forward.
After putting out several self-released EPs, and the live album Legends Live On, which was the last recording to feature Andress, the band signed to Artery Recordings/Razor & Tie for the release of their first full-length record, Never Back Down. As the band were coming back together to record their second full-length, Momentum, singer Stiens got offered a full time gig at the fire station where he’d been a volunteer fire fighter. While his band mates were disappointed, they were characteristically supportive. “The way we are towards each other is that we act like brothers. Nick wanted to make the change and we weren’t angry at all. The way we look at it, if he hadn’t left, we wouldn’t have found Andrew.” Once again the Internet played a role in CTH’s destiny, as Facebook was the catalyst in bringing new singer Andrew DeNeef (who was previously in Eventine) into the band as lead singer.
After several phone conversations (DeNeef was based in Sacramento), DeNeef met his new band mates in person the DAY before they were to go in to the studio with Producer Andrew Wade (A Day to Remember, The Word Alive). Relates Cooper, “The whole process of recording Momentum was a team effort, which is really how we view all of our work, and it was amazing how Andrew could just step right in.” Once in the studio, the band began to write together. “We all work to make the songs something you want to listen to if you weren’t in the band. We’re such big fans of music, that’s how we judge our own songs.” Knowing that their sound is different doesn’t bother Cooper and his band mates one bit. “If we had to play one style of music on one album, we’d be so bored. We like to mix it up. We’re purposely all over the place, and want to blend all the styles we love on to one album.”
First single “Backstabbers Need Not Apply,” with its stalking rhythm and urgent riff, isn’t about Stiens, as many fans have speculated on the Internet. The hard-hitting, hard rocking song speaks to any one who realizes their friends don’t have their best interests at heart, and is actually about DeNeef’s experience with his previous band. The musically chaotic and melodic “Family Ties” (featuring We Came as Romans Kyle Pavone and Dave ???) whose lyric “Nothing stands in my way/I control my own fate,” perhaps best sums up the band’s credo of believing in your self first and foremost. The frenetic pace of “Young and Stupid” reveals the band’s positive philosophy of letting go and not holding on to bad feelings and Momentum’s last track, the anthemic “Nights Like Tonight,” ends the album on a high note, both musically and thematically, with a message of hope and optimism.
Close to Home is very much looking forward to getting on the road with these new songs, especially for this summer’s high profile Scream Like You Mean It Tour alongside Attack Attack!, We Came As Romans, Woe Is Me and others. The first time the band played Scream Like You Mean It two years ago, Close to Home were the opening band and now they’re in the middle of the bill, proving band’s constant belief in them selves continues to pay off. “We called the album Momentum because that’s what we feel like we have,” explains Cooper, “A lot of our lyrics are about changing and moving forward, so ‘momentum’ is a good word for how we’re feeling right now.”