After opening for the likes of Weezer, Stone Temple Pilots, Foo Fighters, Lit and Remy Zero, pop-rockers Home Town Hero will tackle their upcoming job as Incubus' warm-up band with a couple pieces of hard-earned wisdom.
First, don't do anything to tick off the headliners and get kicked off the tour. Second, travel in something that will go more than 70 miles before breaking down.
Having paid their dues in beat-up vans, the California quartet decided to upgrade to an early-'80s bus for its side-stage slot on Weezer's summer tour, only to see it break down the first day of the trek. Its replacement also drove its last mile before the tour was over. But the automotive woes of the Weezer outing don't compare to Home Town Hero's experiences opening for Remy Zero and Lit.
"It's kind of a dirty story," said guitarist Drew Stewart, referring to the Remy Zero fallout in March. "Like every headlining band, they left their drums onstage [during our set], which was fine with us for the first couple shows. But for the New Orleans show, we had some radio people flying out to come see us, so a couple days before we asked them to strike their drums, and they said they would. The day of the show, they had a bad soundcheck and didn't want to strike their drums. It was in New Orleans, the voodoo took over, we drank too much alcohol and got a little rowdy and by the end of our set our drums ended up on top of their drums."
Not surprisingly, Home Town Hero were sent home before their hangovers even began to kick in. The incident apparently gave them some notoriety in New Orleans, or at least at the city's House of Blues, since the group was dismissed from a tour with Lit the following month just before the bands were to perform at the venue.
Luckily New Orleans isn't on Incubus' fall tour, which will welcome the addition of Home Town Hero beginning October 5 in West Valley, Utah (see "Incubus Line Up Tour Dates").
Though Home Town Hero hail from the same Los Angeles 'burbs that spawned Incubus, only bassist Todd Burnes has an extended history with the platinum rockers, having attended the same high school in Calabasas. The area's other recent successes include Linkin Park and Hoobastank.
"I remember hearing about Incubus tours in backyard parties when I was younger," Stewart said. "There are a lot of bands from around here that are doing music that inspired and pushed other people around them, but all these bands that are doing well right now kind of did everything on their own, did their own thing."
Home Town Hero began when Stewart and singer Aaron Bruno met in high school in the mid-'90s. "Drew was the only one I knew that was just as nuts about music as I was," Bruno said. "[We] started a punk band called the Ice Monkeys. Sometime in high school we discovered hardcore music and made the switch from a punk band to a hardcore band. After playing in [a group called] Insurgence for a while, we felt restricted to that genre. We wanted to play in a band with complete musical freedom."
The pair eventually hooked up with Burnes and drummer Ray Blanco, who sealed the Home Town Hero lineup. After signing to Maverick Records in early 2001, they recorded a self-titled debut in the same Malibu house where Incubus made Morning View. The relaxed environment alleviated a lot of the pressure that often comes along with recording a first album, Stewart said.
"We wanted a place where there wouldn't be that studio stress going on," Stewart said. "We talked to the Incubus guys while they were in there, and it turned out the price was more reasonable than renting time in a recording studio. It was the most amazing experience ever. ... If I wasn't recording, I was hanging out poolside."
The band released the power-pop rocker "Questions" as the CD's first single, but influential radio station KROQ-FM in Los Angeles had different plans and started spinning the ballad "Eighteen." Although grateful for the exposure, Home Town Hero feel "Eighteen" doesn't really represent who they are live, and the group hopes to establish its grungier side with the next single, "Run Right Through."
Like many songs on the album, "Run" shows off the group's penchant for sharp dynamic changes, as the band moves from a straight-outta-the-garage assault to an abrupt drop off and then back again. That kind of moodiness, coupled with Bruno's surviving-but-barely lyrics, often gives Home Town Hero's music a feeling of simultaneous invincibility and volatility.
"There's a lot of anger and sadness in the way I write melody and lyrics," Bruno said. "I tend to be drawn to songs that come from some sort of struggle or pain, [but] sometimes I feel like I am invincible when I play music. I think that sometimes you have to feel that way in order to be confident."
After finishing their Incubus dates, Home Town Hero will continue touring with Hoobastank in late October.