It’s been one year since Belle Haven‘s You, Me And Everything In Between album came out. On the cusp of their tour to celebrate the album, along with Casey, I got on the phone with Belle Haven’s frontman and vocalist David De La Hoz. To me, mid-2018 sees Belle Haven less enmeshed the fraught tension of their freshly released album which chock full of confrontational aggression, and more in a wider landscape of ‘What now?’. This is especially more relevant with the recent announcement that the band’s drummer Jake Zammit would be leaving the band after the tour, with the line-up of David, Christopher Vernon, Tom Mitchell, and Daniel Marinakis remaining.
“Where do I begin?” I firstly said, feeling like I wanted to mentally download the last year of the band’s life somehow. When I asked “What’s happening in Belle Haven land?”, David’s answer was the same as my initial question: “Where do I begin?”
“Obviously we’re touring next month. Touring You, Me And Everything In Between finally which is really really cool. And we’re working really hard to prepare for that at the moment, which is stressful but also way too enjoyable to be allowed. Otherwise, [sighs] I mean Jake’s unfortunately leaving the band which sucks so bad.”
I confessed that Jake’s departure was a topic I wasn’t sure whether to touch or not, telling David “I didn’t want to make you cry.” Jake was a fan of the band before he was a member, and was invited to play live with the band to fill-in when drummer James departed, before ‘winning them over’ with his humour and overwhelming love for music. Having watched Jake in action behind the drumkit in Belle Haven, Caged Existence, and Broken, I acknowledged the sheer amount of energy that Jake pours into music, every single time.
“There’ll definitely be a lot of tears on the tour. There were definitely a lot of tears when he told us. He hasn’t cried yet, I haven’t seen him cry ever, but I just mean if he doesn’t cry I’ll never believe that he loves me, so. [laughs] But yeah no, it’s been pretty rocky, but it’s for the best for him and for us. I mean, you wouldn’t stay in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to be anymore, just because you don’t want to lose them. And it’s the same thing with the band. We love Jake so much. I’m so in love with playing music with him and I didn’t realise how much I loved playing music with him until he told me he was leaving. I guess to quote that band.. [sings “Big Yellow Taxi”]”Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, or whatever. Same thing. I just kind of took it for granted, then he’s like “Oh I just want to focus on hardcore” or whatever and we were like “Damn, that stings in the feels”. So kind of a bummer, but also stoked for him to be pursuing what he loves more than anything. You know.. what can you do? We still get to play this tour with him, it’s going to be a lot of fun. He’s still mega into it. He loves You, Me And Everything In Between and he’s so excited to make these shows cool.”
In the lead-up to my chat with David, the members of Belle Haven shared thoughts about the album, both touching on the significance of it, as well as hinting at the upcoming tour having an element of a performance. It also became clear to me that Belle Haven were coming to grips with the transition into ‘headliner band shoes’. David opened up about some of this, while also not saying too much.
“I can’t give too much away. But the Selfmade tour last year that was our first proper crack at headlining a full tour properly. We dabbled a little bit in some creative ideas, tried some interesting stuff with the outfits and stuff, messed around with some unconventional stuff. We didn’t just get on stage, play a bunch of Belle Haven songs and walk off stage. We were like “Let’s put on a show!”, and it worked really well. The audience had a great time, we had a great time, and we were like “Heck yeah, we get it”. We can sort of.. when you’re a headline band you can really put on a show. You don’t just have to get on stage and play some songs that people want to hear then leave, you can really put on a great show. We’re just working really hard to put on the best You, Me And Everything In Between celebration show that we can this tour. A lot of cool moments planned, a lot of cool moments planned for, and a lot of cool moments that are not actually doable which is going to suck [laughs]. I think in this case, our eyes are bigger than the stage a little bit.”
It won’t be just Belle Haven on tour next month. Their headline tour sees the Melbourne band join forces with Casey. Coming off the March release of their album Where I Go When I Am Sleeping, the UK band have established a firm reputation as creators of passionately raw music, going into some really dark places and expressing it powerfully and beautifully.
David shared that he initially heard of Casey due to friends several years ago, and became a casual listener of the band. In late 2016, Casey reached out to Belle Haven and the topic of touring was discussed then; with Belle Haven in support of Casey at that time. “We started talking about potentially touring with them here and supporting them. Unfortunately this didn’t really work out. It kind of sucked because we were really excited. Not only do we like the band, but a lot of people here like them as well. We were really excited to be the Australian band that gets to tour with them, I guess.”
It was when Belle Haven got the go ahead to start working on their headline tour that they started thinking of bands to bring along with them that Casey came to mind. “We were like “Who do we think of?” and we were like “Is it ridiculous to think of an international band that we could bring over?” and I think it was our agent Jayden that mentioned it at first. Like “Hey what about Casey?” and we were like “That is a great idea, let’s talk to them”, kinda hoping they would be into it but not expecting it at the same time. And they were so into it! Like “Yes, let’s do it. this is a great idea.””
“We made it work. Figured out their visas and everything and.. it’s happening! We’re SO excited, so excited to tour with that band. They’re a great band. We just feel super privileged to be the band that’s on their first international tour ever! Don’t get me wrong, we’re also mega excited to tour with Stateside, but there’s that special magic with bringing a band over from the UK and getting to tour with them. It’s pretty cool.”
I circled back to the impression that I got that the tour was a celebration of the album, and perhaps a closing of a chapter; both in the line-up changes they’ve had as well as perhaps in the focus of the band. I asked David “Does it feel like you’re coming to a point of moving into a new chapter and you’re wanting to celebrate for what it was but also looking ahead to what’s next?”
He took his time before sharing “If you had have asked me that a month ago I would have given a “yes” answer. The dynamic has kind of shifted and the plans have shifted a little bit, because, you know, with Jake leaving it’s a bit of a curveball.”
He shared that with the touring over the last few months that the band have been doing, as well as writing a lot in between touring, and the jobs of the band members, not to mention their personal lives, that it’s been full on for all of them. In his words “We’re just going to slow the Belle Haven car down a little bit. Not stop it by any means. Just slow it down and sort of be like “After this headline, let’s just hang out and chill for a bit” and then we’ll at some point over the next few months we’ll get straight back into it again whenever it feels right. At the moment we’re just a little.. worn out? We’ve just been working really really hard on the Belle Haven thing, and we want to make sure that Belle Haven is always something that we love to do, and if it becomes too much like work, then that kind of pulls away from the love of it a little bit. We want to make sure it’s always something that we love. So we’re just going to slow it down just a little bit, focus on some other stuff. I’ve got some other musical endeavours that I’ve been trying to pursue for awhile but haven’t really been able to focus on because Belle Haven’s been so loud in my life. Which is not a bad thing, but it’ll be nice to be able to focus on some other things for awhile. Then yeah, we’ll definitely get into the next chapter that’s coming for Belle Haven, whatever that may be. We’ve already started drafting it but we’ve gotta really start writing it properly.”
“We want to make sure that Belle Haven is always something that we love to do.”
In 2017, I remember seeing on social media that the guys had taken time out away together and had a holiday with the intention of creating new music. As we talked about it, David shared that just thinking about it was bringing a smile to his face, saying that it’s probably overdue for them to head to Wye River as a band, where You, Me and Everything In Between was written. When I reminded David of the supermarket footage they’d shared, featuring a whole lot of puns, he burst out laughing. “I totally forgot that was happening. I remember doing that with Tom. We were walking around a supermarket trying to come up with stupid puns. Oh man.”
He shared that they’d begun work on future music there, but in a very low key way. As the band were soon after drawn into a fast pace of activity with the album release, they haven’t had time to explore it further. “After that trip, we kind of went straight back into You, Me and Everything In Between mode and working that, touring, and we found out we were playing Unify Gathering 2018 and stuff. It was all very exciting and we kind of couldn’t focus on writing for a bit. It was only this year we really got back into writing again. New Belle Haven is very very exciting. I love writing with those guys. So excited to keep doing it. We’ve gotta make sure we’re happy and healthy and not burn out in any way. Definitely going to happen, definitely going to be a thing, definitely something we’ve already talked about a lot and worked on a lot as well, but it’s going to take some time I think.”
While the interview with David was intended to focus was the upcoming tour, I couldn’t not appease my curiosity about the album’s emotional content, in the context of where they are as a band as well as the future for them, saying “You, Me and Everything In Between is so angry. Is some of that anger dispersed in upcoming music, and what’s next? A new way of creating?”
Sharing as much as he could, without revealing more than his bandmates would like him to, David said: “It’s something I can’t talk about too much, because the guys will probably punch me in the nose. You are right. Long story short, you could say that some of that anger has dispersed a little bit. It’s more that I think we’ve learnt how to deal with it a lot more. I was saying this to someone earlier. We learnt very quickly after releasing You, Me and Everything In Between that there’s a difference between learning lessons from bad experiences and being like “Man, X person really screwed us around. We should really not fall into that trap again”, and just being a grudgey butthole. And we were becoming grudgey buttholes. Every person we were working with, be it a photographer, merch person, whoever, it was like we would discuss internally how to cover ourselves and make sure they can’t screw us around. It’s a very negative way to operate something you love, to be so afraid. It just started feeling very ‘us and them’ all the time.”
“We as people have steered away from that behaviour now. Doesn’t mean that we don’t get angry when people mess with us. I think we’re trying to, as people and as musicians in Belle Have, focus on the people that we love and the people that we love to work with. You know, forgiving, laughing. I guess an expression we’ve been using a lot is ‘at least trying to laugh through the pain a little bit’. We’ve tried to grow a lot as people the last year. It’s been rough. We’ve been working really hard.”
Totally intrigued and curious to see what develops for Belle Haven when they’re ready!
With the upcoming tour, Belle Haven are experiencing a lot of ‘really cool’ moments, recognising where they are as a band. “There’s a lot of venues on the tour that we haven’t headlined. The Evelyn. When we got the go ahead to headline that venue, we were like WHAT, we’re a band that can headline at The Evelyn now? That’s so cool. That’s really exciting for us. We’re headlining a show in Newcastle for the first time. Wollongong for the first time. Headlining Rad Bar is really cool. Crowbar we’ve played but never headlined before, same with Red Rattler. To finally be at a level with Belle Haven where we can finally play these venues as the lead act for the night and perform at those venues.. It’s very very very exciting and a little nerve-wracking but mostly exciting.”
I asked David about handling nerves for shows, and whether that ‘focus on the love’ perspective has also come into that for the band. He shared about the arrival of nerves most pointedly when there are steps taken forward into new places. “You’re always going to get nervous. Especially when you’re taking steps. If we were just playing venues we’d played on the Selfmade tour or whatever, we’d still be excited, but the nerves wouldn’t be there as much. But for this tour, we’ve got an international band supporting us, you know we want to show Casey a great time in Australia and try to create a strong relationship with these guys and you know bond with them and stuff. That’s kind of exciting and nerve-wracking, and we’ve got these bigger shows we’re playing. We’re playing songs on You, Me and Everything in Between that we haven’t even rehearsed together before. So that’s nerve-wracking. When you’re taking leaps like that and doing new things, there’s always nerves. But I guess we just love Belle Haven so much it just kind of overpowering. We just so thankful to be able to get to do this tour in general, that none of those nerves and fears are really relevant I guess.”
Grab your tickets right now: https://greyscalerecords.oztix.com.au/
[Images of Belle Haven are courtesy of Corey Bonadiesi]