Interview with vocalist Brandon Wells | By Ridge Briel
Sacramento, CA has one of the most phenomenal scenes in music today, specifically the hardcore and death metal scene. Very few bands have stuck it out long enough to achieve success. Luckily hometown heroes Havenside put in work and are on top of their game with their fourth full-length album Living Our Darkest Days.
Being from one of the most condensed music scenes in America that shares a slew of popular and varied hardcore bands that infuses multiple genres, how would you describe the slow but steady rise of Havenside and the work that has been put in to achieve where you are today?
Very stressful, but rewarding. Putting out new music makes it all worth it. Playing shows, seeing new faces all over the place, puts it all in to perspective. We have always been in the shadows, so it doesn’t bother us. We are very proud of what we have done and accomplished over the years. We do this for fun, nothing more.
While it’s obvious you take cues from bands like Hoods and Terror, what is behind the drive to keep Havenside alive, despite the numerous lineup changes, financial difficulties, and all the other stuff I’ve seen over the years?
We just love making music. It wouldn’t mean anything if there wasn’t a struggle behind it. You have to work hard for what you love. That goes for anything nowadays. We stay alive because it always feels new. Every song we write fuels new life. See others bands doing what they love puts smiles on our faces. They also help drive us to make better music each and every day.
Sacramento is known for having a huge variation in the hardcore scene, but you guys have always kept it bare bones, street-raised hardcore. What is it that kept you guys from jumping on that bandwagon and shied away from the multiple fads that come and go in the city?
We found our sound and just kept with it. Don’t get me wrong, we incorporate different styles into our songs, but we like heavy, hard hitting, straight to the point, in your face music. Why follow trends when trends just come and go. I would like to think we have our own style, just call it Havenside. If it works, why change it, it will eventually grow into something great.
So tell me a bit about the title of your latest album Living Our Darkest Days. What sort of significance and inspiration do you want your fans to take from your lyrics?
If you’re in a dark place in life right now and need some motivation to overcome it, this album is for you. I wrote this album during a dark time in my life and wanted the world to hear my story. Everyone has a choice to make and how to live their life. It’s up to you to make it better. Much respect to everyone out there doing their thing through the good and bad.
One thing I’ve always liked about your lyrics is that you are always grounded in a sense of realism that translates to those who are listening. What sort of personal issues do you tackle in Living Our Darkest Days?
Dealing with an abusive drug addict as a father growing up, eliminating shady people in my life, trust issues, being a stranger to myself, holding on to something that I felt was right but was sinking me further down every day. There is a lot going on in this album, but those are few topics to name of the top of my head.
As always, to get the typical question out of the way, how will this differ in comparison to your past few albums?
Well we have matured in a way, we have more melodies in our writing on this album and yes we have some singing on this album that will probably throw some of you off but we felt that these songs needed it to be at the level they are. This album is different in every way. Combining influences from our Recognition (2010) album, Nemesis (2012) album and the Lost and Departed (2009) album. We feel this is our best album to date.
Now that you have a few tours under your belts, what sort of lessons have you learned on the road and from others that you put into your music?
To be more prepared with our set. Having more thought into transitions, from song to song. Start picking up our stage presence. Just all around, we felt we needed to be more solid.
I read recently that you have joined fellow Sactown legends Lionheart as their new bass player! How did that come about? Will this affect any further progress with Havenside at all?
Well, Lionheart is from the Bay Area, but yes some of them live in Sacramento. Well, as you know, I have filled in for them on tours in the past. When I filled in on this past tour, a week after, they asked if I would be interested in doing this with them on a full-time basis. I gave it some thought and decided that it would not affect Havenside in any way with future progress. So I decided that it was a great fit for me during this time.
To be honest, I’ve known you for years and I didn’t know you played any instruments! Did you write a lot of the music for the new album?
Well I don’t know if you remember this or not, but I did play bass for Jaguars (RIP) with Rob McCarthy (ex-Lionheart/ex-Hoods) in 2009-2010. No, Casey, Jaramia and Nik wrote all the music, granted I did give ideas and input, I just write the lyrics my man, well except (Standing Your Ground Pt.2), Casey wrote the lyrics for that song which turned out great.
Aside from Lionheart and Hoods, what are some other local bands from Sacramento you would recommend for fans of Havenside to check out to get the word out about the scene?
Conducting From The Grave, These Streets, Alterbeast, Murderlicious, With Wolves, Lifeforms to name a few.
It’s no secret that you all have been in multiple bands. To sum it up, what is the past band history of Havenside’s current lineup?
Jaramia was in Traits Of A Killer back in the day. Casey hasn’t been in any other bands that I know of. Nik was in a punk rock/metal band back in the day that I can’t name of the top of my head. Jordon is another band called Gigantes out of Chico, CA. Check them out.
What uplifting words of advice can you give to those who are curious to check you guys out?
We have always stayed true to what we put out musically. We speak true lyrics and put on the best live show we have the ability to do. Expect high energy when coming out to our shows. If you’re looking for some music to let off some steam to, you found the right band. Thanks for all the support since 2006. Much respect to our friends, family and most of all our fans that keep us alive.