It’s no secret that we have been living in very uncertain times. However, over the course of the past 365+ days, there has been one amazing constant — THE HAUNT. Whether it is dropping undeniably powerful music or documenting their journey as a young band through their wildly entertaining social media outlets, these stars on the rise have continued to burn bright during some of our darkest days. Through it all, The Haunt continues to fearlessly chart their own course through the ever-turbulent waters of the music industry. For their latest endeavor, the band teamed with seasoned producer Matt Good (Asking Alexandria, Hollywood Undead, Sleeping With Sirens) to create the ‘Social Intercourse’ EP. Their most ambitious and exploratory work to date, this undeniably powerful collection of songs beautifully showcases the band’s signature sound, style, and attitude. Simply put, The Haunt’s tireless dedication to their craft and commitment to artistic discovery ranks them as one of the most intriguing bands in the game today and they’re just getting warmed up! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with The Haunt (Max and Anastasia Grace) to discuss their meteoric rise, the making of ‘Social Intercourse,’ the evolution of their creative process and much more.
While 2020 might feel like a lost year for some, The Haunt managed to stay active and have been a bright spot during some pretty dark days. How did you keep yourselves on track, stay motivated and forging ahead creatively?
Thank you so much talking with us. I’m so glad that you’re feeling the new music! You guys have been great to us through this process and we really appreciate that. So I guess the answer is, that we made up our minds pretty early into quarantine that we were not gonna let this weird bubble of time hold us back creatively. There was a minute where we considered holding back the EP until the world started to open again but we quickly realized that no one had any idea when that would be…lol. We were definitely nervous to make the decision to release music at such a chaotic time in the world but in retrospect I’m really glad that we did it. It definitely gave us a unique opportunity to be home and present and really connected with our fans. It definitely turned out to be a really good recipe for us. While releasing we’ve probably written 30 songs throughout the pandemic. We basically took the whole experience and turned it into one big writing and recording Boot Camp. So definitely a lot of new music on the horizon from us coming soon.
The Haunt has a brand-new EP titled ‘Social Intercourse’ arriving in April. Tell us a little about the title of the EP. What does “Social Intercourse” mean to you?
“In order to engage in Social Intercourse, one must consider the other individual to be significant. This situation can be expressed through shared music, laughter, or deep and meaningful conversation.”
But I think what it really means to us and why we chose that as a title is basically just a small acknowledgment of the bizarre social environment that we’re living in right now. Social media, cancel culture, tension being so high in the world right now, with so much social injustice and unrest. We just kind of wanted to take a minute to acknowledge this weird little petri dish of an environment that we’re living in right now.
What was your vision for this EP going into the process and how did the finished product compare and contrast to your original vision?
I think our vision for the EP is pretty similar to the way that it turned out actually. There were some unexpected elements that Matt Good brought to the table that really helped shape the direction in a little bit more of a futuristic way then we could’ve anticipated but for the most part I think we captured what we set out to do on this album.
I assume the songs were pretty much already written ahead of Covid hitting, but did any of what was going on play into the making of the EP?
Actually no it didn’t, this EP was recorded in 2019, so the songs were all written and recorded before the pandemic. Ironically a lot of the songs have messages that apply to this period of time. I’m not sure how that happened but it’s pretty cool that it did.
You worked with producer Matt Good (Asking Alexandria, Hollywood Undead, Sleeping With Sirens) on this one. How did you initially cross paths with him?
We actually share an attorney with him, Eric German. He’s the one who brought Matt to our attention and we fell in love with his work. So it was really a no brainer for him to produce this EP for us.
What did he bring out in you in a creative sense and how did it impact the band’s output?
I think the main thing that he brought out in all of us was our ability to reimagine songs that we were really attached to. When you’re used to hearing something one way for such a long time, it can be really hard to look at it in a completely new way. He definitely helped us let go of some of those attachments and that really helped us elevate our sound.
How long was the process of writing and recording these songs?
The writing process itself is hard to put an exact time on because the ideas for the songs come up over a period of time. But we actually recorded most of the EP in less than two weeks. There were some edits and changes made after that but it all came together really quickly.
Which songs came easiest, and which was the hardest to nail down?
“Brag About” was definitely the easiest, we knew exactly what we wanted and there was a lot of synergy on that song right away. I guess the more challenging ones were “Twisted Dream” because we had a few different ideas of how that one could play out, and “Constant” was a little bit challenging I guess, mostly because of the attachment issues that I talked about earlier.
Was there anything you wanted to attempt with this collection of songs that you might not have tried to do in the past?
Yes, definitely! We really wanted to explore the possibilities of adding some of these electronic, industrial sounds into our music, which normally consists of four instruments and two vocals.
Last time we spoke, we touched a bit on songwriting. How has the songwriting process evolved for The Haunt over the years? Are there milestones for you in that regard?
Max: I would say our process is still pretty much the same, Ana and I split the writing process about 50-50. She’ll start a song with lyrics and melody and then I’ll come in and show her some ideas for instrumentals. The main thing that’s evolved has really been our music knowledge. The more songs you write, the easier the process becomes. We’ve also made it a point to listen to tons and tons of music to constantly expand our knowledge.
Looking back on the process, what were the biggest takeaways from the process of carving out this EP?
I guess the biggest takeaway from the EP would be just learning to let go. Letting go of old ideas or rules that you made for yourself about your music and just appreciating the space to figure out what’s next.
The Haunt has developed a great following over the past few years. Did building that fan base and knowing there are people that might have expectations now put more pressure on you while creating new music?
Maybe a little bit, there might of been a few moments where we were concerned about how the fans would feel about the new music, but ultimately I think the risks that we took paid off and our fans have been really great about supporting us through this little bit of evolution.
The Haunt also managed to release awesome videos in support of this EP. A video for “Permanent” is one of those. What memories spring to mind (the good parts and the more challenging parts) when you think back on bringing all of these to life?
Our process for filming music videos is complete chaos. Some of them are done in a really professional way with a crew and a set, and others are like, “hey let’s record a bunch of stuff and see what happens”. Out of the six songs, 4 of them were done by Chris Hill, “Digital Cypher Productions”. He’s done almost all of our music videos and professional photos for years. He’s a creative genius pretty much. One of them was done by Darren Stein, who also directed “G.B.F.” and the cult classic 90s movie “Jawbreaker”. Filming “Twisted” with him was an incredible experience. He’s also one of my favorite people.
The Haunt has come a long way in only a few short years. Looking back, what are one or two things that you could pick out as being highlights for this band, things you’ve accomplished?
I mean obviously besides this EP, which is our biggest accomplishment, touring with Palaye Royale is definitely the catalyst that changed our path. It wasn’t just the experience of touring with them and the fanbase that we built through those 50 or 60 shows, it was also what we learned from them and what we experienced watching them on tour and seeing how they interact with their fans and who they are as musicians. It was hands-down the best experience of our lives so far.
Being brother and sister, you’ve known each other for ages and have unique insight into each other’s lives. While it can be difficult to view your own evolution as an artist, I was curious how each of you thinks the other has most evolved over the course of the past few years.
Max: Well, with Ana this is kind of an easy question, I have literally watched her grow up on stage and in the studio. She started this band as a 11-year-old girl in middle school, being bullied and writing songs about her pain. When she first started singing, she would make us all face the wall, and eventually she found her strength started commanding audiences. It was amazing to watch.
As I said before, I know you have a lot of irons in the fire when it comes to your career. Has it been difficult for you to find and maintain a balance?
Maybe a little bit, but I think that’s part of the fun. The pressure gets really high, you feel like you’re going to crack but somehow you’re surviving and then you realize all these things about yourself that you didn’t know before. Going through those experiences and watching my bandmates go through the same experiences is pretty dope.
You are on the front lines of the music industry. What are the best ways for fans to support their favorite bands right now?
Well, I guess engagement is probably one of the most important things right now. Having that constant open line of communication through social media to hear the feedback in real time and know that what you’re doing is affecting people in a positive way is priceless as an artist. Our fans are really great about that stuff and I think it’s really what drives us at this point. Streaming our music through the Spotify Curated playlists like “New Noise”, “Fierce Femmes”, and “All New Rock”, also helps us out a lot! And most importantly, share our music with everyone you can!
I’m sure you get asked about your influences quite a bit, so I wanted to change it up a bit. What springs to mind when you think of the albums that impacted you the most at key points in your life?
Max: The first album that I listened to as a child that made me truly appreciate music and songwriting was ‘Elephant’ by The White Stripes. After that I really got into the defiant punk music of my time, most importantly Green Day. Later on, as I got older I started to really appreciate some of the more common “greatest bands” like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
Anastasia Grace: I grew up listening to a bunch of bluesy sounding music, which has always shaped my writing style. I loved listening to artists like Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone, and Billie Holiday.
From what I understand, you are already plotting a return to the studio for a new album. I totally understand if you can’t put it out there quite yet. If you can talk about it — What can you tell us about that and where do you see yourselves headed sonically?
We can absolutely talk about it, the next album is well underway and we are beyond stoked about it! We felt like it was really important to continue releasing in a consistent way. Our fans are responding really well to it and it’s also helping to drive us as musicians. The sonic side is a little bit more difficult to discuss because we have a few surprises coming up, but you won’t have to wait long, we are already beginning to plan for the next releases.
What can we expect from The Haunt in the year to come?
Music, music, and more music! We are writing and recording an insane amount and we are praying for the world to be safe to tour again! As soon as that happens we will be out there! We miss our Pham so much and can’t wait to be back out there doing what we love.
Follow the continuing adventures of The Haunt on social media via Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Visit the band’s official website at www.thehauntband.com. The band’s ‘Social Intercourse’ EP everywhere — Get it now!