Hawthorne Heights Gain Strength From Helping Bayside After Fatal Crash

Band continues work on new album in wake of friend's death.

After a typically energetic show in Colorado on October 30, the members of Hawthorne Heights packed into their van and headed for the next night's Halloween concert in Magna, Utah. The band was on the road with the Never Sleep Again Tour, which also featured labelmates and friends Silverstein, Aiden and Bayside, and everything was on schedule. But as Hawthorne Heights approached Cheyenne, Wyoming, traffic on the icy road slowed to a crawl. Soon they discovered why. Illuminated by the flashing red lights of numerous emergency-rescue vehicles was Bayside's van, which had skidded on a patch of ice, flipped over and crashed, killing drummer John "Beatz" Holohan and breaking the backs of bassist Nick Ghanbarian and drum tech Dan Marino.

"It was completely surreal and we were crushed," Hawthorne Heights frontman JT Woodruff said. "You never think anything like that's going to happen to you or your friends. We had driven the same route five times in the past year in pretty much the same van with the same trailer. So how did we make it and they didn't?"

After the accident, Hawthorne Heights canceled the Utah show and drove to the hospital to visit with their friends. They figured the tour was over and their only concern was helping Bayside cope with their loss. But after talking to the band's frontman, Anthony Raneri, they decided to return to the road. "We weren't even thinking about the tour," Woodruff said. "Then the first thing Anthony said to us at the hospital was, 'What time do you guys have to be at the show?' And we were like, 'Dude, we're not going to the show today.' And he was just appalled. He was floored by that. So we decided to stay on tour to be respectful of what Bayside wanted."

For the remainder of the tour, which runs through December 11 in Chicago, Hawthorne Heights will donate proceeds from merch and ticket sales to Bayside and Holohan's family. Hawthorne Heights have also set up a Paypal link on their Web site for donations to the John Holohan Memorial Fund. In addition, each of the members tattooed "R.I.P. Johnny B." on their arms in tribute to their fallen comrade. On November 16, Raneri and Bayside guitarist Jack O'Shea rejoined the tour in St. Petersburg, Florida, to play an acoustic homage to Holohan.

Communication eases suffering, and in the months ahead, Hawthorne Heights will likely continue to sing Holohan's praise. They may even write about the accident. But their new song about driving in fear, "Pens and Needles," was penned months before the tragedy. The song is one of several cuts being considered as the first single from Hawthorne Heights' upcoming album, If Only You Were Lonely, which will come out by early March.

"I actually wrote that song on an icy night a long time ago when we were driving, and it's about being afraid the van is going to crash," Woodruff said. "Any time it's snowing, anything can happen and every night there's some kind of close call."

If Only You Were Lonely is darker and heavier than the now gold The Silence in Black and White, which was recently re-released with a bonus DVD. In addition to reflecting the frustrations of being on the road away from loved ones, the new songs will address the deaths of Woodruff's stepfather and bassist Matt Ridenour's grandfather.

"It's definitely darker, because we've grown a lot and experienced some difficult things, but there are also some pretty poppy, happy parts in there because we've had the best two years of our lives," Woodruff said. "So, the darks are really dark, but the highs are really high. And I think we really realized what we're good at and tried to trim off all the fat of the last album — parts that were unnecessary or were played too long."

The band started writing If Only You Were Lonely right before last year's Warped Tour and finished a good chunk of it before getting off the road. Then the group wrapped up the songwriting during the month it had off and entered the studio in early September. By mid-October Hawthorne Heights were done, but while the recording only took a few short weeks, they finished just in time.

"We had to head over to England for a headlining tour," Woodruff explained. "So we had to do it quickly, but we rehearsed a lot, so we didn't rush anything. We're not the kind of band that writes 30 songs and tries to dwindle them down to 10. Once we finished writing the album's worth of songs, we just went in and recorded them. We were all amped up to play new songs, so everybody brought good stuff to the table during the writing process. We're all really happy with the record."