Prophesied for thousands of years, the Mayans predicted the world would end in 2012. It did though The Maya did not speak of the end of the world; specifically they said that everything transforms, that the only thing which remains is the spirit, in its journey of evolution toward higher levels. What they didn’t realize is that the journey would have a soundtrack, one colored with hues from the vortex of Andromeda as an emotionally-charged, genre-bending alternative rock waveform has forged a path for the wayward Earth.
Welcome to The Haunt.
Fronted by 15-year old, Anastasia Grace, who’s beguiling presence adds an air of mystery to the proceedings, she’s flanked by her 19-year old brother, Maxamillion, who shares vocal duties while shaping the sonic direction of their exposition. Musically interconnected their whole lives, the dynamic duo have been performing live for the past six years, with initial writing for their debut EP commencing in early 2015. Out of these sessions came the song that instantaneously cemented their status as a force to be reckoned with, the searing gothic mysticism of “All Went Black.”
Penned by Anastasia at age 12, its hypnotic refrain, “Where did you go, Are you coming back, Where did you go when it all went black,” is a stunning outcry against abandonment and the resulting darkness of being left behind by those we love. It doesn’t just leave a mark. It deposits a scar, but don’t be afraid of the dark because even in the depth of the night, there is light. A singular voice, brimming with soul, subconsciously encourages you to never let go, that strength built from moments of weakness will help console the hole in your soul. The corresponding visual, directed by Chris Hill, known for his groundbreaking video for Cut Copy’s “Free Your Mind,” which starred True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard, crystalized their vision as a school bus overrun by a frenetic monster-mask masquerade epitomizes the cataclysm. Its cinematography singes as the anxiety unhinges.
In conjunction with the video release, which went viral, quickly amassing 100,000 views, the group partnered with the Stop Bullying Now Foundation to help contribute to putting an end to the epidemic of bullying among today’s youth, empowering them through counseling, life skills training, open communication, and creative outlets.
Understanding the depth of The Haunt is to dig beneath the surface. Drawing from an eclectic palette of influences such as Twenty One Pilots, Cage The Elephant, Lumineers, Jack White and Billie Holiday, their self-titled EP is a whirling dervish of the ups and downs of two young souls navigating convergent and divergent roles. Merging bits of Alternative, Indie, Rock and Roll, Garage, and Blues, the expedition is an evenly spilt half dozen. Broken into Side A and Side B, the adventure begins with “Brat,” an instantly infectious floor-shaker that recalls the best of Catfish & the Bottlemen and Bad Suns. From there, it’s a sibling tour-du-force as Ana and Max effortlessly trade vocal lines on the voyeuristic vamp of “Dirty.” The duo then flirt with an Addams-family style bassline on the gothic “Streets & Lies,” which brims with undertones of Bauhaus, My Chemical Romance and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and prowls the dark recesses on the subconscious on “Get Away,” which its hair-raising vocal bloodletting of “Get away pain, I will rise to the sky and wave goodbye to the people who let their whole lives pass by.” It’s this sentiment that resurfaces in the frayed majesty of “Bullet,” The Haunt’s emotional centerpiece. It’s a devastatingly beautiful ballad that builds slowly from sparse instrumentation to a sweeping conclusion, both, literally and figuratively, as her ethereal yearning eclipses a shattered rainbow, “Running, I keep running off. Help me, I can never slow.” Xune Magazine christened Anastasia’s powerful range as “a young Florence Welch with far more attitude.”
Produced by Joshua Diaz and Maxamillion Haunt, the resultant excursion is an apt beginning to the textural journey ahead, one that explores all facets, and varied faces, of the human condition. Recorded in their home base of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this portrait is the product of many late nights, early mornings, arguments, celebrations, and learning to love something that doesn’t always love you back.
In person, The Haunt want reciprocation. Stemming from their familial bond and their all-for-one, against-all-odds belief, they strive to build a meaningful rapport with their growing fanbase. In concert, they faithfully recreate their evocative songs, with note-for-note clarity, encouraging on openness to immerse your senses. Feel it with every cell in your being. Channeling the likes of Karen O, Cat Power, Shirley Manson, Amy Lee (of Evanescence), Lorde and the ghost of Nina Simone, Anastasia is an indisputable talent, her powerful voice able to command your undivided attention. With a telepathic counterbalance from Maxamillion, and a steadfast rhythm section, the quartet embodies the essence of spontaneous combustion as they exploded onto the scene, quickly building a ‘ride or die’ following before embarking on their first national tour in early 2018.
The due diligence and allegiance to excellence is paying off. Word of their incendiary live show has provide the band with a continual stream of opportunities. Next up is a 42-city voyage with glam rock buzz band Palaye Royale which will see the band blaze venues in Europe and the UK from September 24 to October 5 before jumping back across the pond for a full North American run from October 24 through December 2. On the coattails of the cross-continental trek is the premiere of a 4K concert extravaganza filmed for Comcast Xfinity that will air On Demand to 24 million homes. And it’s only the beginning.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with The Haunt’s Anastasia Grace and Maxamillion Haunt to discuss their musical roots, bringing their unique sound to the masses, the challenges they have faced along the way and much more!
There is no doubt that music is your true love, so let’s start at the beginning. What are you first memories of music?
Anastasia Grace: I started singing with my brother when we were very young. I remember singing in the shower and my family overhearing me and saying… “we should get her lessons.” I remember going to open mic nights when I was 9 or 10 and telling people to look the other way because I was so shy and didn’t like when they looked at me when I was singing! [laughs]
Going all the way back to your humble beginnings (both as an artist and as a band) what went into finding your creative voice early on?
Ana: We loved pulling pieces from all the music we loved which has always been super diverse. In our house there was always something different going on music wise- White Stripes in the morning, Wu-Tang at night. Finding our voice was basically figuring out which elements were the best from all of the genres and merging them. We don’t believe in genre specific music. My brother leans more towards the Rock and Alternative and I wanted to sing the Blues. I guess we landed somewhere in the middle.
I was wondering if you what you remember about the first time you ever stepped on stage to perform? What was that experience like for you?
Ana: I do remember and I think there’s a video of this. I was telling Max not to look at me, because I was too shy. He had to stay close, I wouldn’t let him leave me, but he had to look away! [laughs]
Who are some of the people who have had the biggest impact on you as an artist?
Ana: Our parents have had a lot of influence on our sound because they raised us to love music. And even though they have basically no musical background, it’s always been a musical household, even before we were musicians. Our mom has an amazing way of finding that little thing that a listener would love to hear, that a musician would never think of which helped shaped our sound a lot. Not to mention our dad’s an incredible poet which made us want to be song writers to begin with. They really always believed in us too. The moment Max and I looked at each other and thought, this is our future, they jumped right on board and we’ve never looked back. Their support gave us the confidence that a lot of artists lack in the early stages.
Dedicating yourself fully to your art is a big step. Did you ever have any reservations about taking the plunge?
Ana: Never. Not once. We kinda don’t like anything that isn’t musical or artistic. We went to Montessori schools all through elementary and the most important thing we learned is to think creatively and always try to do something you really love. This is definitely the one thing we are wholeheartedly interested in. It’s never felt like a risk, even though we know it is. It feels more like a purpose, as cheesy as that sounds.
The Haunt has a unique sound. What went into finding that sound and direction as a band? Was it something obvious from the start?
Ana: The root of our sound I think, comes from my constant desire to sing the Blues mixed with Max’s alternative and grunge Rock twist. We always knew what we wanted that to sound like, but it took us a minute to figure out how to get there, what to write or say to connect with people. Because we were so young there were plenty of people who tried to tell us that we didn’t know our own sound. That couldn’t be further from the truth and I’m really glad that we walked away from anyone who felt that way. What we really needed was someone to believe in our vision, and I think we found that. But, finding your sound is a journey that never really ends. I’m sure it will continue to grow and evolve as we do.
The Haunt released its debut EP in May. Did you have any goals, aspirations or a specific vision when hitting the studio for this batch of songs?
Ana: We were just happy people listened to it. To put out a 6 song EP and get this much traction from it has been an insane surprise. We really wanted it to be a solid representation of who we are as a band, and I think we accomplished that. We spent about 2 years writing these songs so it meant a lot that people seemed to enjoy them, because we really loved making them and put our heart and soul into them.
What challenges did you face creating the EP?
Ana: The process was not all that easy, but it was a lot of fun. We were constantly being told that we didn’t know what we wanted. We found a producer who believed in us and what we wanted. I think because we’re young, it’s hard for people to accept us as being creative. They saw us more as a canvas for them to push their own sound, or what they wanted us to sound like. But, of course, we refused. And that led to the making of The Haunt EP the way it’s heard on the record.
You’ve lived with this material for a while now. What songs resonate with you the most?
Maxamillion Haunt: I think the songs that resonate with me the most now that some time has passed, are “All Went Black” and “Get Away.” When you listen to them in that respective order, it feels like Anastasia’s journey is super clear. She’s in this dark place that she was in when she was younger, and rose out of that darkness as something so much stronger. “Get Away” is her message to everyone who tried to push her down, like “Fuck you guys, I’m out.” I really love that.
What are some of the memories that spring to mind when it comes to bringing this EP to life?
Max: A lot of arguments, some tears and disagreements on ideas. But then there were these moments of clarity and it was like “wow, that’s how that’s supposed to sound.” It was a messy journey for sure but in the end, it definitely brought us even closer to each other and to where we want to be as musicians.
We’re always interested in getting a glimpse inside an artist’s creative process. What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music?
Max: It’s always different. People love asking this question, and we’re always sad to shoot it down, but we don’t have a real answer. Every song is written differently. Sometimes it’s just me, Ana, writing my lyrics and melody at the piano with Max adding input later on, and vice versa. And then some are collaborative efforts between both of us.
How do you go about capturing the initial ideas for your songs?
Max: Lyrics, melody, and a whole lot of the Voice Memos app. Without that app we’d be nowhere! [laughs]
Where do you find yourself looking for inspiration these days?
Max: If you look too hard for it, it’ll never come. I think it has to come to you. Feelings that you have on a random day at a random time. We write a bunch of shit down in our phone that will eventually be a song one day. Random words or sentences from a conversation that resonate really well, road signs, quotes from other people that trigger ideas. It’s really pretty random.
Obviously, you have a great chemistry as a band. What do you bring out in each another creatively?
Max: I think that Anastasia has a creative intuition that really brings out the best in people. She’s not always great at communicating her ideas, so I act as her translator. I think I’m really good at feeling out the image she has for each song and orchestrating it into existence. She’s extremely particular on how she wants things to be and she trusts me and Nat and Nick to respect her vision. The band dynamics that come from that are really loving and positive.
What do you consider the biggest challenges you’ve faced and overcome as a young band?
Max: In our local music scene in south Florida, there’s this pretentious energy of not wanting to “sell out”. Which we can agree with to a certain extent, but there are a lot of people who think that if you make money, you’re selling out in some way, or that if you’re successful, you’re no longer as cool and that’s bullshit. So, we just decided that we’re not gonna let that mentality hold us back. Also, as I mentioned before, people think that because we’re young, we don’t know what we want or that they know better. People still think they can tell us what to do, especially Anastasia, and that never goes over well. [laughs]
It goes without saying that it is challenging to make a livelihood in the music business. What are the pros and cons of being working artist today and what excites you about your future in music?
Max: Luckily we love the road. We really enjoy traveling, playing music live and meeting fans in person. The whole reason we do this is for the fans and the live show. That makes musicians like us pretty lucky. It’s hard to see any cons right now. I know that sounds naive. Maybe check back with us in a couple of years.
Where do you see yourself headed in the future? Is there still musical territory you are anxious to explore?
Max: There is SO MUCH territory to explore. We are just getting started. We want to explore all sorts of genres. We’re gonna go wherever our creativity takes us.
As an artist, so many things can be said about the music industry. What are the pros and cons of being a working artist today?
Max: Like we said there are not many cons. We are blessed to be able to do what we love, which is be on the road, play music for fans and open for Palaye. We are having the time of our lives!
You are currently on tour with Palaye Royale. What aspects of this tour have you the most excited?
Max: Opening for Palaye Royale has to be the highlight of the tour so far. I can’t explain how much we love these guys. It’s not just because they’ve given us this amazing opportunity, but also they are genuinely great fucking people and unbelievable musicians. They’ve been where we are at now and are such great role models. We can’t ask for much more than being able to tour with them and see them live every night. They were so supportive during our European leg of the tour and we are having an amazing time with them in the US. We are so excited to get out there every night and perform before them and pick up new fans. It is truly special!
The Haunt has lent its collective voice to an amazing organization — The Stop Bullying Now Foundation. How did you get involved and what has that experience been like for you?
Ana: I had a really hard time in school when I was younger. In middle school I ate lunch alone almost every singe day. No one would want to sit or talk to me all day. That was a lot to handle at such a young age. Kids in school said horrible things about me and it really got to me. I was in a really dark place when I wrote All Went Black, but I made up my mind that I would do something positive with the negative energy instead of letting it continue to hurt me. I want to do everything I can to help other people who are going through stuff like that.
What is the best way for fans to help support the band and keep the project growing?
Ana: Follow our Instagram and Facebook @WeAreTheHaunt. Listen to our EP on Spotify! Stay up to date and in touch with us. We always love hearing from our fans. And look out for some new music coming soon!
You have certainly faced your own challenges and learned some things from your time with this project. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
Ana: Trust your instincts. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something or that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t stop. Even though we’re young, we’ve been doing this for almost 4 years and it’s never been easy once. But it’s so fucking worth it! So, just keep moving forward.
Catch The Haunt live! The band is currently on tour with Palaye Royale, Bones and Dead Posey. Check out the tour dates below!
10/31 — Dallas, TX @ Trees
11/01 — Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live (Studio)
11/02 — Pensacola, FL @ Vinyl Music Hall
11/03 — Spartanburg, SC @ Ground Zero
11/04 — Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
11/05 — Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
11/06 — Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s
11/07 — Pittsburgh, PA @ Foxtail
11/09 — Worcester, MA @ Palladium
11/10 — Hartford, CT @ Webster
11/11 — Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
11/12 — New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre
11/14 — Toronto, ON @ Opera House
11/15 — Montréal, QC @ Le Ministere
11/16 — Syracuse, NY @ The Lost Horizon
11/17 — Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
11/18 — Chicago, IL @ Metro
11/19 — Detroit, MI @ Loving Touch
11/20 — Milwaukee, WI @ Rave
11/21 — Minneapolis, MN @ Skyway
11/23 — Edmonton, AB @ The Rec Room
11/24 — Calgary, AB @ The Legion
11/26 — Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw
11/27 — Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
11/28 — Portland, OR @ Bossanova Ballroom
11/30 — San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s
12/01 — Sacramento, CA @ Holy Diver
12/02 — Pomona, CA @ Glasshouse
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.