This wasn't supposed to be the way Hawthorne Heights celebrated the release of their second record.
Yet at 7 p.m. on Monday — roughly five hours before If Only You Were Lonely was due in stores — their label, Victory Records, sent out an over-the-top "manifesto," urging fans to head to the stores and pick up the album, not just for the benefit of the band, but because the fate of rock and roll as we know it hung in the balance.
"ROCK music needs your support. Our society and culture has put rock music on the back burner. If our album can debut at #1, all of us will have taken ROCK music back to the top of the charts where it belongs," the statement read in part. "Please help us create history tomorrow. This is a 'call to arms,' a 'battle cry,' not just for Hawthorne Heights, but for all the other great ROCK bands and independent labels that we love."
Of course, the manifesto — which also took potshots at Def Jam artist Ne-Yo, whose album drops Tuesday (February 28) as well — was signed "Your friends, Hawthorne Heights," which meant that the band would be spending Tuesday (and the foreseeable future) not only answering questions about a supposed beef with the R&B crooner, but having to shoulder the load for the entire indie-label world. Which is pretty annoying, especially since Hawthorne had nothing to do with the missive in the first place.
"We didn't write it," drummer Eron Bucciarelli sighed. "That was the label trying to rally the troops. That's the way they like to do things. And once I saw it out there, I was like, 'Uh oh.' I mean, it's cool that our label is excited about our album, and that they're promoting it to such a great deal, but I don't think that our fans are going to say, 'Oh wow, that album debuted at #1, I need to go pick that up.' They're going to go buy it because the album is out."
"[The manifesto] was supposed to get everyone together to support independent music," frontman J.T. Woodruff added. "And that's all it was supposed to be. A lot of people in this industry expect us to go up against hip-hop acts, and how is that supposed to happen? The same fans aren't buying our records. So it was sort of in response to that. And we want people to know that if they buy our record or come to our show, you're going to get to meet us at the merch table. And that only happens on the independent-music level. You're not going to see a five-times-platinum artist signing autographs at the merch table."
Still, Hawthorne Heights realize that answering questions about this stuff is part of the game. And they'd be lying if they said they weren't aware of just how high the stakes are. Many industry insiders are projecting Lonely to sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 copies in its first week, and if it does debut atop the Billboard albums chart, it would be the first indie-label rock album to do so in more than 15 years. And with their first record, The Silence in Black and White, still holding strong on the albums chart after 60 weeks, Victory is looking for Lonely to deliver the goods.
"If the new album does debut at #1, I'd be ecstatic," Bucciarelli said. "Just being on the chart is a huge accomplishment, but to be on top would be amazing. But we're not going to sit there and think about it a lot. We want to get out and play shows. That's it."
With the video for the Lonely's first single, "Saying Sorry" (see "Hawthorne Heights Channel Boyz II Men In New Video"), riding high on the "TRL" countdown, signs are good that the album will debut strong. But can it overtake Ne-Yo to claim the top spot? Only time will tell, and, honestly, the guys in Hawthorne Heights really couldn't care less — despite what you may have read.
"We'll probably call each other and yell a bit if it comes in at #1, but that's about it," Woodruff said. "I mean, we're pretty lame. We might have some Oreos and watch some NCAA basketball. We haven't even seen a bottle of Cristal, if that tells you anything."