It's been a pretty trying two years for Hawthorne Heights, to say the very least.
All the drama started back in March 2006, when the release of the band's second album, If Only You Were Lonely, was marred by a rather curious e-mail sent from HH's label, Victory Records, to street teamers, urging them to "relocate" copies of Ne-Yo's In My Own Words album in record stores in order to help Lonely claim the top spot on the Billboard albums chart. Hawthorne originally tried to laugh the whole situation off, saying that they had nothing to do with the e-mail — despite the fact that it was signed "Your friends, Hawthorne Heights" — and that it was just the label's way of "rallying the troops."
Of course, by August of that year, they had changed their tune, claiming that the Ne-Yo incident was just one of many reasons they were suing Victory to be released from their contract, a laundry list that also included charges of "abuse" and rather creative financing that left HH more than $1 million in debt to the label.
The following month, Victory countersued, accusing the guys of libel and saying they were trying to get out of their contract in order to sign a larger deal with Virgin Records. "The case filed by the plaintiffs ... is really about greed," Victory's lawyer told MTV News at the time.
And then, for the next year and a half, both sides were trapped in legal limbo. Hawthorne were legally forbidden to even enter a recording studio, so they just kept touring ... until one fateful night in November, when guitarist Casey Calvert was found dead on the band's tour bus outside the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.
It was after that tragedy — coupled with the months of grieving that followed — when things suddenly changed, according to Hawthorne drummer Eron Bucciarelli. Suddenly, the legal wrangling and conference calls with attorneys didn't seem as important as getting back to the business of being a band. That's why, beginning in early January, Hawthorne and Victory began the process of reconciling, a process that finally came to fruition Friday (June 6), when both sides announced that they had put their differences behind them and are working together once again.
"For about eight or nine months before Casey died, we had sort of naturally been heading towards reconciling with Victory. ... We all started to realize that we needed to end it," Bucciarelli told MTV News. "And once Casey passed away, it opened our eyes, and we realized that this lawsuit isn't important and it doesn't matter. It wasn't important to us to try and prove that we were right, so we decided to take our egos out of it, and it all sort of went from there."
So in April, just days before Hawthorne Heights took the stage for the first time since Calvert's passing at the Bamboozle Left festival, they decided to sit down with Victory CEO Tony Brummel and try to hammer out a deal. Bucciarelli said that he and his bandmates were expecting their former boss to drive a hard bargain, but softened by Calvert's death, the usually gruff Brummel was willing to talk — and listen.
"Casey's death was a traumatic experience, not just for us, but with Tony too. But when we sat down with him for the first time, we didn't know that, so we were expecting the worst. Like, maybe he'd pull a gun out and shoot us or something," Bucciarelli laughed. "But it was the best meeting we've had with him. We gained insight, we addressed the things that needed to be addressed, which was something we had stopped doing. When we were recording our second record, we were disgruntled, so we cut off a lot of communication, which is why a lot of the stuff happened in the first place."
As soon as the meeting was over, HH flew to Bamboozle, played and then took up residence in a Chico, California, studio to begin work on their new album. The process was lightning-quick, since they had been writing, rewriting and rehearsing the new songs for nearly nine months. Within six weeks, they had finished the record, which they're calling Fragile Future.
Bucciarelli calls it "the most focused and complete record we've ever made," a brooding and powerful outlook on everything Hawthorne have battled over the past two years, plus a little speculation on the future.
"That's why we decided to call it Fragile Future, because it's a reflection on everything we've been through. It was this period where we didn't know what would happen to us as a band, or as human beings," he said. "And when we lost Casey, it sort of reminded us that we're not invincible people. It shed light on how fragile people are ... and I think that if we could make it through, and patch things up with our old label, all of that proves that there's a lot of possibilities for the future too."
The album hits stores August 5, and Bucciarelli said that Hawthorne will be shooting a video for the first single, "Rescue Me," sometime over the next month. They don't plan to premiere the album online or do a ton of promotion in the weeks leading up to its release; rather, they just want people to judge the record on its merits and its message — which is sort of how the guys see themselves today. They've made it through the tough part; everything from here on out is golden.
"We know that people are going to say a bunch of stuff about us and about us returning to Victory, and to them, I would basically say that we were faced with a life-or-death situation with our career, and it was either go the way of the dinosaur in trying to prove our point or suck it up and get on with our careers," Bucciarelli said. "So we're hoping that people will respect everything we've gone through and the decisions we've had to make, and they'll have a listen to the record, and then they'll make their judgments. But really, we could care less. We're so excited just to be back."