For the past five years Killing the Dream has been delivering blistering metallic hardcore that is infused with a tinge of melody. This intense musical experience is only heightened by the personal and introspective lyrics of vocalist Eli Horner. Scene Point Blank recently spoke with Horner about the reincarnation of the band, the recording of their new full-length Fractures, and much more.
Scene Point Blank: We'll start it simple. Tell us who you are and your role in the band?
Eli Horner: My name is Eli. I sing for a band called Killing the Dream.
Scene Point Blank: The band just released its new full-length, Fractures. Just after the release of your previous offering, In Place, Apart the band lost two members of the band. How did this change the musical focus of the band, if at all? Did it have an impact on the songwriting for the new album?
Eli Horner: Losing Bart and Joel changed a lot of things for us. Joel is a great songwriter and it was definitely an intimidating task to find someone who could take over for him in that department. We were lucky (if you can use that word) that when Bart and Joel left, we had JUST recorded the music for In Place, Apart and it wasn't going to be out for another four or five months. That was really important for us to kind of get familiar with the new songs and each other in general. Luckily, both Phil and DJ had played more than a few shows with us in the past and had a base to go off of.
At that point, I think we all just wanted to sort of focus on promoting In Place, Apart since it was just released. We all knew that we would have about a year or so before we'd even need to really think about writing again, so it was almost like an unspoken agreement that we'd all just play shows and promote In Place, Apart and worry about writing new songs when the time came. That time came pretty quickly, and it was a little overwhelming at first, just getting in any sort of rhythm was difficult. We wrote some songs that were awful, but the base was there, and we knew they'd get chopped up and rewritten. Even though we didn't really end up using much from those first few songs, we had laid the foundation down of how we were going to go about the whole thing. I know DJ felt a lot of pressure to live up to the standard that Joel had set with the first few records, and I think the first few songs he wrote were him trying to rewrite one of Joel's Killing the Dream songs. After a few practices we all just eased into it and just stopped trying so hard, and that's when we really hit our stride. I think we did a great job of writing a record that was us without just rewriting In Place, Apart.
Scene Point Blank: For Fractures the music was recorded with J. Robbins this time. Why did you choose to work with him as opposed to returning to Kurt Ballou?
Eli Horner: It wasn't a J. verses Kurt type situation at all. We loved working with Kurt and we all learned a lot from him...and we were all so pleased with how that record came out. But with Fractures we felt almost like we were a new band - we had new members, new songs, and we just wanted to try something new. We all love a lot of the records J. had done, and one of the biggest reasons we wanted to work with him so much is because he has done so much non-hardcore stuff (Fairweather, Jets to Brazil, The Promise Ring, etc) but still had punk rock roots and worked with punk rock bands. Plus, Fairweather is like my favorite band ever, so it was pretty cool to just annoy him asking a bunch of questions about them all the time - haha
Scene Point Blank: Speaking of recording, for the past two records you have had to record your vocals separately from the music? On In Place, Apart this was due to a persistent throat illness. What's the current status of your throat?
Eli Horner: Same as ever, I suppose. good days and bad days. I'm trying to be a little smarter about stuff, and I think somewhere over the last couple years my voice changed a little. I don't know if it is as obvious to other people as it is to me, but it definitely changed. I just hope it was natural and not a result of me abusing it.
Scene Point Blank: Do you feel that recording the music and vocals separate from each other has had an effect on the dynamics of the Killing the Dream sound?
Eli Horner: Not really. That's always kind of been the dynamic for us anyways. We'll come up with the music for songs and stuff separate from the lyrics/vocals, which I write on my own whenever I can. In the past I would always just kind of put the lyrics to each song as we finished them, but for Fractures I waited until we had all the songs recorded because I really wanted it to flow and for the songs to fit each other. Not that they didn't on the other records, but you know what I mean.
Scene Point Blank: Musically, the sound of Fractures is a little more refined as compared to the early Killing the Dream recordings. The songs are much more focused and structured in the songwriting department – less dependent on sing-alongs and breakdowns. Is there a particular reasoning behind this development or just the band progressing and coming into its own sound?
Eli Horner: Like I said before, we are literally a different band than the band that wrote those first records. So obviously it was going to be a little different. But no, we didn't set out to write certain songs and we didn't have any specific goals in mind, other than just to make a hardcore record we were all happy with.
As far as the sing-alongs and stuff, I don't think it was a conscious thing at all. After I finished all the vocals, I was listening to the songs thinking 'damn, there's only one song with gang vocals on this record...' I was a little bummed at first, but honestly, had there been more on there, it would have been the result of me forcing them into songs just for the sake of having them. Musically, I don't think this record quite lent itself to gang vocals as much as the others, and in most of the spots where I could have put them, the lyrics were just too personal for it to be a sing-along. It's just how it worked out.
Scene Point Blank: Killing the Dream is a band that while noticeably heavy and aggressive on the surface, also interjects its music with a lot of melody. What particular artists do you credit with this influence the band's sound?
Eli Horner: I can't really speak for everyone...we all like a lot of different bands. But I have always liked bands that were more melodic, even before I got into hardcore. Bands like Good Riddance or Strung Out or H2O, man those used those be my favorites. I still love Strung Out - haha - but I'm not really sure if there are any specific bands that we are influenced by. I guess you could say bands like Stay Gold, American Nightmare, Carry On, In My Eyes… actually I think we all really like Strung Out. But it's never something where we've ever really went out and tried to duplicate a certain band or a certain sound.
Scene Point Blank: You seem to focus your lyrical approach to personal situations. Do you ever second-guess expressing your feelings in song? Is there one song that really sticks out to you and that you're most proud of?
Eli Horner: Not at all. I don't think my songs are that specific or detailed to where I'm naming names or straight spelling it out for anyone. It's all just things I've felt and things I've gone through. I think most people go through the same things. It's really cool to hear someone tell you that a song really means a lot to them, and not even from an 'artist' standpoint, but just that it is really nice to know that other people are feeling things that I've felt, you know? I can't second-guess how I write, because it's really the only way I know how to, you know? I can't write about politics or "scene" issues or other stuff, because it's just not in me. That's actually what the first song on the record is about...when I started writing lyrics, I felt a little pressure to write "mature" songs or songs that were about bigger stuff than my own stupid problems. It didn't take long for me to realize that I am not capable of writing about that stuff, and if I tried, it would just be faking it. So I just wrote songs I felt and hopefully there are people that can identify with them.