On Oct. 12, 2002, Haste the Day released its first EP, “That They May Know You.” On Nov. 22, 2010, the band announced its impending demise. But the Haste the Day behind last month’s “very difficult announcement,” as its website reads, wasn’t the same as the one made up of three Carmel High School kids, scraping together basement shows.
Between those dates, the Indianapolis band had cycled through almost 10 members, released five albums with sales approaching 250,000, toured up and down Europe, Africa and North America and helped mint a new genre of heavy-metal music called Christian metalcore.
When bassist Mike Murphy talked to Metromix from his Indianapolis home one afternoon in late November, he spoke slowly, knowingly. He’s a decade older than the high school kid he was in 2001, the one who started Haste the Day with best friends Devin and Brennan Chaulk. He said he’s been watching the crowds shrink for a few years now, that he feels disconnected from his fans — who largely stayed the same age while he’s grown up — and that he’s ready to move on.
“Maybe I’ve said all I could,” he said.
As the sole remaining original member, it was ultimately Murphy’s decision to lay Haste the Day to rest. But it’s not easy to agree with him. The band’s most recent album, last summer’s “Attack of the Wolf King,” was largely hailed as its best, 40 minutes of pummeling, thrashing drums and brutal, deep guitar tones sped up so that screaming along doesn’t just feel good, but necessary.
On “Dogs Like Vultures,” those guitars chug along, syncopated in perfect time. It sounds like marching, like what Murphy’s done with Haste the Day for a decade. After almost four minutes, the guitars jerk to a halt. Maybe that’s the whole point.
“We put out the best record we could, and I felt like our time had come,” he said. “I want to go out while we were still a relevant force in the music scene. I didn’t want our last tour to be to five kids who don’t care. I want to go out while people care, with dignity. With respect.”
“A light in dark places”
Around 2001, “the Indianapolis hardcore scene was way different. It was still very entrenched in vegan, straight-edge political punk,” said Mark LaFay, the band’s longtime manager. That Haste the Day hit the scene playing metalcore — hardcore punk speed and intensity with heavy metal riffing — was one thing. That the band was then a quintet of born-and-raised Christians whose faith played heavily into their lyrics was another entirely.
“A lot of people not involved with Christian music had no palate for it,” said LaFay. “They weren’t stoked on the band, and (the band) was ridiculed.”
Secular crowds weren’t alone with the eyebrow raising.
“The screaming and aggression were so taboo within conservative Christianity,” said Murphy. “It’s easy to plug yourself into the mainstream ways of being Christian and deny yourself certain aspects of expression because you’re told they’re wrong. But the hurt and anger of the underground scene, that’s a force we were drawn to. We wanted to be a light in those dark places.”
But by the time they’d cut the debut EP, the still unsigned Haste the Day was drowning out local opposition. A record release show in Carmel drew 500 fans, making enough money to launch the band’s first tour. A VHS tape of.that show, along with the EP, made it to Christian metal label Solid State while Haste the Day was on the road.
“The passion, energy and heart of Haste the Day was the epitome of what we strive for,” said Jonathan Dunn, head of A&R at Solid State.
A deal hit the table, 8followed by “Burning Bridges” in 2004, “When Everything Falls” the next year and its best- selling release “Pressure the Hinges” in 2007 — the band’s first to crack the Billboard top 100.
“We went out and 8hustled,” said LaFay. “The band would not stop touring.”
Plus, by the mid-2000s, Christian metal wasn’t such an oxymoron. Underoath, As I Lay Dying and Norma Jean were all packing clubs with kids who loved dark, loud, wildly flailing rock’n’roll, Christian or not. A 2007 issue of Revolver Magazine even called Christian metal the phenomenon of the year.
Beginning with the 2005 departure of original singer Jimmy Ryan, though, Haste the Day slowly began to unravel. In 2008, guitarist Jason Barnes was asked to leave the band; he’d become an atheist.
“The whole group has to feel the same about its purpose and goal in order to achieve it,” said Murphy, quoting Abraham Lincoln: “A house divided will not stand.” Later that year, Devin Chaulk played his last show with Haste the Day.
“At one point, we were losing a member a year,” said Murphy. “It’s hard to recover from that.”
“Dreamer” in 2008 was the first album to reflect Haste the Day’s undoing, selling about half of its predecessor.
“I don’t know if that was too much of a departure from their style, but (“Dreamer”) was where we started to see the decline,” said LaFay. “On that tour cycle, everybody noticed that the spark was going out.”
Founding member Brennan Chaulk left in 2009, bailing “before (the band) became a bitter part of my life,” he said. He is now married and a server at The Melting Pot in Castleton. “Because of the time I left, I’ll look back on the band as a very positive time, the best time in my life.”
The final farewell
As the band’s trajectory curved downward, Murphy was growing up. A teenager at Haste the Day’s inception, “we would just goof off. The thing we were most concerned about was farting,” said Murphy. “I was second youngest in the band when we started. But then I was the oldest. It forced me to step up, be more responsible, be somewhat of a role model because I’ve toured the longest.”
“I feel that pressure,” he said.
In a genre often most appealing to teenagers (you’ll nary find a full-blown adult in Hot Topic), Haste the Day was losing its footing.
“I used to go play shows for my peers. Now I play shows for kids who are a decade younger than me,” said Murphy. “There’s a disconnect. You come from two different worlds.”
He’s not alone, either. The biggest names of mid-2000s post-hardcore and metalcore — think Taking Back Sunday, The Used, Thursday, Thrice — have found increasing trouble holding their audiences, let alone connecting with new ones. Teenagers are a fickle breed; they want something that’s theirs.
“I still care about kids who are hurting, and I still love heavy metal,” said Murphy. “I tried not to throw in the towel at every bump. I tried to hold on ..... ”
This isn’t easy, he said. It wasn’t even a unanimous band decision. The younger members want to continue; they still have shows to play, things to prove.
Haste the Day will play one last tour in 2011. It’ll be a tour of label mates, longtime friends; a tour of fan favorites and farewells. It will wrap up on March 11 in the Murat Egyptian Room in the city where it all began.
The show will probably sell out; it’ll be loud and fast and the crowd will jump and scream, and most will remember the first time they saw Haste the Day years before. And then it will end. Everyone will go home.
“You might see me working at Starbucks,” said Murphy, thinking past that final moment.
Murphy is 27. Time to retire. Time for life to begin.
Haste the Day w/ Oh, Sleeper,Our Last Night and Conditions
When: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18, Earth House Collective, 237 N. East St., $13, (317) 636-4060.