Framing Hanley Guitarists Brandon Wootten and Ryan Belcher Talk New Album, 'The Sum of Who We Are'
Framing Hanley’s new album, The Sum of Who We Are, is an inspired collection of modern alternative rock infused with inescapable pop hooks.
Funded entirely by the band’s loyal fan base via a Kickstarter campaign, the new album also is the band’s boldest artistic statement to date. From the anthemic “Criminal” (Hear it below) to songs like “Twisted Halos," “Crooked Smiles” and “Crash & Burn,” the album takes the listener on a journey of struggle and triumph, weaving those feelings into every track.
Framing Hanley consists of Kenneth Nixon (vocals), Brandon Wootten (guitar), Ryan Belcher (guitar) and Chris Vest (drums).
I recently spoke to guitarists Wootten and Belcher about the new album and more.
GUITAR WORLD: It’s been four years since Framing Hanley released a new album. Why the long wait?
Belcher: It wasn’t something we expected. After our last album came out in 2010, we went through a lineup change and a few other things. But we’ve always been writing, recording and going out on the road. It’s an incredible feeling to now be able to put out an album we’re all proud of after all of this time.
Wootten: The long wait wasn’t the plan. We had a change of label and management, and with that came a little down period. We actually started recording the record in August 2012, but being the perfectionists we are, we kept writing and demoing tracks until we had the best record we could release.
Where did the idea for a Kickstarter campaign originate?
Wootten: While we were sitting idle, we realized we had tons of songs but no way to fund the recordings. So we looked into Kickstarter and fans for help. We have some of the best fans in the world, and the outcome was overwhelming. They really went above and beyond what we ever could have expected.
Why the title The Sum of Who We Are?
Wootten: It really is our lives the past few years. Every bit of it. We put everything we had into this album. It really IS the sum of who we are.
What was the writing/recording process like for this album?
Wootten: This album was a different process than usual for us. For our last album, A Promise to Burn, we had no downtime between touring in support of our debut (The Moment) and recording the new record. We went directly into the studio and started writing and recording. With TSOWWA, we got to record our demos and live with each song before we recorded it. When you record an album, it’s stamped in time forever. When we go back and listen to the previous records, we sometimes talk about how we would have done things differently. It’s a good feeling to know that The Sum of Who We Are is exactly how we wanted it to be.
Can you tell me the origin of the song and lyrics for “Criminal”?
Belcher: Nixon writes most of the lyrics. He draws from personal experiences and from all of us in the band and our lives. Most of our songs have to do with experiences we’ve had or with people who are close to us. They all generally hit close to home.
Wootten: That song’s origin is funny because originally Nixon wrote the chorus about his 4-year-old son’s obsession with Taylor Swift. He would always try to get his son to listen to Foo Fighters or Biffy Clyro or a rock band, but all his son would wanna listen to is Taylor Swift [laughs]. Then, when Nixon wasn’t around his son, he’d find himself listening to Taylor Swift’s Red album while driving alone in his car. So he was basically breaking the “law” he was laying down. Obviously, the song ended up going in a totally different direction, but that was the original inspiration behind those lyrics in the chorus.
When did you first start playing guitar?
Belcher: I have a few musicians in the family and grew up around my grandfather who played guitar. I’ve always had an interest in it but once I turned 13, I started listening to the Misfits, Jimi Hendrix and Metallica and that was it. It started out with me just listening to the radio and learning chords and I slowly taught myself the ground floor of music.
Wootten: I first started playing when I was 8. I remember I could hardly reach around the acoustic guitar my grandmother gave to me. I put it down until I turned 13 and got my first electric guitar. Once I got the electric, I formed my first band and started playing shows. My parents used to have to tell me to put my guitar down and get my homework done. I would even lie in bed late at night when my parents were asleep and just play guitar until I passed out.
What are you looking forward to now that the album is complete?
Belcher: I’m excited to get out and meet people and play this new music for them. It’s also fun to wake up in a different city every day. It’s a good feeling.
Wootten: For the fans that have been around since the beginning, we’re doing some songs we haven’t played live in a long time. We’re also going to be playing a bunch of new material to highlight our more mature sound. I’m really looking forward to it.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.