What do you get when you put a couple of pop-punk guys together with a few near-legendary dudes from New York's underground hardcore scene? You get Hazen Street, a hard-edged but catchy, two-singer-fronted band that has become the first act to be signed to Benji and Joel Madden's D.C. Flag imprint.
The signing of Hazen Street is neither a leg up to a buddy band nor an attempt to cash in on a current trend (see "Good Charlotte's Morrissey-Loving Maddens Start Their Own Label" ). For the brothers who call Good Charlotte their day job, putting out the new supergroup's debut is a chance to show some love to the hardcore scene they've always respected.
"The New York hardcore scene, I think [Hazen Street] is going to give kids a little look into it," Joel Madden said recently. "Even if kids never get into that hardcore side of it, they're going to see this band and I think they're going to love it, because it's so real."
Hazen Street's lineup includes New Found Glory's Chad Gilbert and Box Car Racer's David Kennedy on guitar, Madball bassist Hoya and Mackie Jayson, who's played drums for such seminal bands as the Cro-Mags, Bad Brains and Shelter. The band also features the melodic vocal talents of H20's Toby Morse and the streetwise growl of Madball's Freddy Cricien.
"Freddy's got like the hardest voice," Joel said of the man who got his start thanks to his brother's band Agnostic Front, and who named the band after an area in New York's Ryker's Island prison where he did time. "[His] voice captures who he is and what he's done. I think of Freddy as the 50 Cent of rock. He's been there. Whatever you want to name, he's done it. He's been through it."
"Freddy has a distinctive voice and I do too," related Morse, sitting with his bandmates in the Hollywood studio where Hazen Street are tracking their debut with producer Howard Benson (P.O.D., Papa Roach). "We trade off on different lines and choruses and stuff like that. We haven't performed [live] yet, but it's going to be pretty crazy."
Hazen Street's music has elements of punk rock's catchy bounce, juxtaposed against the harder edge of hardcore with a little bit of a hip-hop cadence. For all involved, it's something different than their normal bands.
"It's playing harder music than New Found Glory [for me]," Gilbert said. "And I get to play in a band with members of bands I grew up listening to."
"I like the fact that we're able to express different sides of our identity," Cricien agreed. "This band has given us the opportunity to try out stuff that we normally wouldn't with our other bands."
Which isn't to say that any of the guys' other bands are through. Gilbert is working with New Found Glory on a new album. Madball just released an EP, which they are backing up with a European tour with Suicidal Tendencies. H20 are taking a break while Morse's brother and bandmate Todd plays guitar with actress Juliette Lewis and her band, the Liks.
As for Box Car Racer, "the way it will work is the way it originally worked, where it was extremely spontaneous," Kennedy said.
Nevertheless, some hardcore fans are seeing Hazen Street as tantamount to some sort of pop sellout, while at the same time accusing Gilbert, Kennedy and the Maddens of mooching off their New York friends' well-established street credibility. But none of that is of any concern to the group, which is simply looking forward to releasing its debut in May.
"You can't live your life and play one style of music forever," asserted Gilbert, who used to sing for the Florida hardcore band Shai Hulud. "And even if this comes out and in 10 years we look at Hazen Street like, 'What were we thinking?,' it's like, 'Who cares?' We're having fun and it's good to be able to play with our friends."
Despite their busy schedules, the band is hoping to hit the road in support of its record — perhaps even with a particularly exhausting bill.
"The tour we're talking about is H20, Madball, Hazen Street and New Found Glory," Gilbert said with a wide smile. "Everyone does double sets, and then Box Car plays."
"And you know," he finished, looking at Mackie, "a Cro-Mags reunion."