David De La Hoz – Belle Haven ‘We’re An Emo Band NOW, So Suck It!’

Belle Haven i can't find the words

At the start of the month, we were treated with a shiny new Belle Haven song, essentially rebirthing the band back into the world. Frontman David De La Hoz has shared his struggles with mental health first-hand with their 2021 EP Time Changes Nothing, featuring the gutwrenchingly heavy (in context) tracks ‘Nobody Likes A Hospital‘, and ‘Hopeless. Empty. Lonely. Painful.

Fast forward to 2023, the band have a new lease on life which can be heard in their latest single ‘I Can’t Find The Words‘, which we’re here to talk all about it, their transformation from post-hardcore to emo world and what lies ahead for the now three-piece…

So getting straight into it, you guys have had a very triumphant return with this new track. What triggered that resurgence in motivation or inspiration to get back into everything?

I guess it sort of came from within really. We took a little while to decide whether we’re going to return into music, or return to Belle Haven specifically really was the first thing on the checklist. And once we’d made that decision, the excitement just sort of started. That excitement and dopamine really started coming from within, you know, whether it’s sharing music with each other, or just talking a lot more again, and writing demoing stuff that ultimately a lot of it we haven’t used and may not ever use, but just that process and that excitement, it just leads to further motivation. And now, every cog just seems to be turning so comfortably with almost an ease to it. So yeah, we motivate from within… a self-recharging battery, if you will.

Well, you’ve come back also with a bit of a change of sound, what’s inspired that transition into something a little bit more emo/Paramore adjacent. 

Paramore adjacent, I love that. It’s multipronged. Where do we even start? So obviously, there’s been some members changing within the band. CV stepped down as I guess, what was initially stepping down as a touring member of the band has, in a very healthy way moved to him sort of stepping down as an active member of the band. We still talk to him all the time, you know this, I still talk to him all the time. He’s my little brother, so I’m stuck with him forever. But that changed a lot of the internal creative dynamic within the band.

A large portion of that writing process for Time Changes Nothing was CV and myself. So with CV no longer at the table, in terms of writing that put that responsibility solely in the hands of myself and then Tom and Mara as well. The three of us have always, always wanted to push further into that realm of… What did you say? Paramore adjacent? You know how much we love Paramore. So that is accurate. But even before Time Changes Nothing, thinking back to like, You Me And Everything Between when Belle Haven really started touring a lot more. The three of us would talk about starting a side project together, outside of Belle Haven, because at that time, the band was so metalcore/post-hardcore. So, we were like ‘outside of this, we could look at doing something.’ I think we were going to call it ‘Hurricane Love’ as the working title for the project… I wonder if that’ll ever happen.

The plan with that project was to be far poppier than then what we’re doing with Belle Haven. But I think what I mean to say is, at the end of the day, CV was a big driving force for that sort of post-hardcore metalcore element within the band; taking that creative element out of the band and out of our writing process, whilst it is still very much Belle Haven internally, we don’t have that influence in that from CV as much anymore. We obviously still share our ideas with him and he offers us input etc. But at the end of the day, where we’re raising these songs from their idea inception and we don’t have that metalcore input anymore.

So this is Belle Haven without that metalcore input. We’ve got a far more alternative rock and emo-focused band. It’s still very much a band. It still sounds like a band, and will always retain that. But yeah, I think people have been referring to Belle Haven as an emo band for so long. Well, notably, the last four or five years I’ve definitely been referred to as an emo band both within the industry, but also just by fans too.

When really, the reality is, we’ve been far more of a post-hardcore band with very emo lyrics. But at the end of the day, we were still like a post-hardcore band. Well, now we’re an emo band. So suck it!

Thank you for a very easy title for the interview. That’s brilliant. What did that look like? When you were recording your vocals? Because obviously, that’d be a lot different. There’s not as much, well, there’s not really any screaming on the new track.

There’s one scream, but it’s buried. What did that look like? Well, incredibly fluid honestly. I’ve never really been one of those vocalists, well not for a long time anyway. A lot of singers that do screaming as well, they really sort of separate those two sorts of sounds, and especially when it comes to tracking they’ll track them very separately. I haven’t felt the need to be like that for a long time. So nothing really felt too different. At the end of the day, it was like I was just going to track a Belle Haven song. And it’s not the first Belle Haven song, that’s got next to no screaming on it either. ‘Forget Me’ has like a little bit. ‘Moving On’ that emo Christmas song that we did, has none off the top of my head. So ultimately, the actual recording process was much the same, I think what was a little bit different was the way that we approached things like runs, and layering and where the vocals really sit in the mix. When you’ve got a lot more riff action going on, whilst the vocals have always been the lead instrument, I suppose. 

There’s still a lot of other things within the music and within each piece that we really wanted to honour and we wanted to bring to light, whether it’s a cool riff or a drum fill or something like that. It’s not that there’s none of that now, because there is still, but the focus is more than ever on my vocal performance and the way that I’m delivering the lyrics. So I think going into it, with that in mind, it felt a little different in that way. 

For example, the first verse of the song where I sing “Seems to be the way I romance had to go” And then I do that little Oh, at the end of that. Typically, we just wouldn’t really have much room in a Belle Haven song for that, because there’d be a fill, or some sort of harmonised riff or something we want to allow to shine in that moment. But instead, even CV who’s usually a big advocate for dope fill or a harmonised lead in riff or something; even he was like, “yeah, no, that sounds really good. Yeah, let’s do that.” So I think just approaching it with this mindset of really focusing on allowing the vocals to lead the song. So yeah, tracking the actual vocals felt much the same. It was just like the philosophy or the underlying goal that evolved. I felt there was more freedom in the way that I could deliver and mess with my vocals even on stuff we’ve done since ‘I Can’t Find The Words’ messing with ideas that vocally I could have never fathomed working in a Belle Haven song, prior to this era of the band.

Did you find that more daunting or exciting to you having such a focus on your vocals now with the new stuff?

Absolutely exciting! I feel like my talent is being celebrated. I feel like I actually believe in myself. I feel like it’s conducive to me feeling less insecure about what I can do. It’s not that I have… I was gonna say, it’s not that I’ve ever doubted that I can sing. Actually, I have, what am I even talking about? You’ve met me? Of course, I have, I’m so insecure. But yeah, things are very different. And with my brain, and I think having that freedom, and focusing on my voice, without any hindrance. And the whole band is on the same page as well.

So, when we’re writing; so many times, it comes down to if we’re writing a section, we’re not sure how we’re feeling about it yet, we’re just like, let’s leave it there for now and let’s see what happens when we get some vocals on there. Because that’s such a pivotal point for how a song feels for us. Now, like I said, it has been historically as well, but now more than ever. So I think it’s been really positive for me. I feel more confident than ever, even though in theory being quite an insecure dude, you’d think I’d be a little bit more daunted by that weight and responsibility, but I’m loving it. I feel free. I just believe in myself, it feels really good.

You’ve gotta love the irony that the moment you officially become an emo band you’re the healthiest you’ve ever been.

I know! I was talking about this earlier today. I would consider especially lyrically, both ‘Time Changes Nothing’ and ‘I Can’t Find The Words’ to be quite grim in a way and both very authentic, like, very authentic. But one didn’t require me to need real serious life-saving help.

‘I Can’t Find The Words’ is sad, and it’s very genuine. I still feel sad about what I wrote that song about. But I’m not there. I’m not in that place, you know? So yeah, it is funny, though, isn’t it? Like, we are really more emo than ever, but I’m less depressed than ever.

Sort of on that actually, you are pretty vulnerable in your work, to a really brave extent. And your fans noticeably find a lot of solace in that and tend to confide in you with how it’s assisted them and whatnot. How do you maintain that boundary between what you do and don’t feel comfortable with sharing either in your music or just publicly about your own mental health struggles and journey?

These days, I almost feel like there are no boundaries. And I feel like that is so positive for me on so many different levels. It keeps me accountable. First and foremost, not just like in my personal relationships, but in a grander scheme as well. If I go into the industry and into my working life as a performer, with a degree of almost like, unhinged transparency; I just cannot help but share. And then people ask me, ‘what were you thinking about when you when your writing Time Changes Nothing or where were you at?’ It’s like, ‘oh, I wanted to die. I was really really depressed, like really, really sick.’ And going into as much detail or as little as that individual is comfortable with ultimately because I don’t want to be trauma-dumping on people either. That’s not what I’m about. But it also means that if I do something that I’m not proud of, which still happens, it allows me to…I don’t really know how to phrase it, it’s like my closet is emptier than ever. I have so little skeletons in there because I’m just bare. I’m so aware of some of the awful and selfish decisions that I’ve made in the past, and hurtful things that I’ve done through emotional outbursts and through emotional trauma responses to things. I’m so painfully aware of all those things, because I’m so self-aware now and I’m so switched on with it.

But ultimately, what I mean to say is, I feel like having unhinged transparency helps me to feel like one step ahead of my mental health and one step ahead of that little, small, crying miserable child in me that still, every now and again, gets triggered and jumps into the pilot’s seat and really takes over. I feel one step ahead of that all the time. Because every person in my life, whether it be my partner, my family, my friends, or whether it be that fan in Sydney that comes and talks to me about their experience and stuff. The large majority of people in my life know, at least a little bit about what sort of life I have led over the last five years especially, and it makes me feel less ashamed. There’s a newfound degree of understanding amongst our little Belle Haven community where when it comes to my mental health and my journey, I found it to be really overwhelmingly positive to just be transparent, because that feeds back. People find avenues in their life, or whether it is just coming up to me at a show and sharing a small portion of what they’ve been through. For all I know a lot of these people that do talk to me or message me may not have previously felt comfortable talking to anyone ever about any of that stuff. So if I can inspire one person to just open up a little bit, and communicate what they’re going through, then job done as far as I’m concerned, that’s fantastic. 

That’s the only thing that I kind of have always struggled a little bit with is setting those boundaries though. Because I’m not a therapist, either. I’m just a dude that is trying to change, trying to be influential, as much as one simple man can be in terms of how we approach mental health and how we talk about it, and how candidly we talk about it. Because for some still, like, not for you and I because, we have a friendship that extends beyond this conversation. And we’re both incredibly candid about our mental health. And I think it’s been positive for both of us dramatically. But a lot of people don’t feel that at all, like a lot of people feel this restriction and this tension and this elephant in the room feeling about it still. And that’s so negative, and it’s so detrimental. Imagine me going through what I was going through the last three or four years and not being able to talk to you or not being able to talk to my partner. I wouldn’t be here, simple as that. I would have gone mad and then some. I just want to be able to help to change that.

But at the end of the day as well, I am not a therapist, so sometimes it goes beyond what I am comfortable with, and people will message me in really unsafe situations in their life. This is where I need to learn to, draw a bit of a line and be like, ‘cool. Like, you know, I have love and respect for you. I’m sure you’re a lovely person. But David from Belle Haven is not a therapist, and I can’t help with this and it’s too much for me.’ That’s something that I’m starting to learn how to navigate. I think people have respect and understanding of that for the most part as well. If I feel like something’s a little bit too much for me, I can usually voice that and that’s received pretty well, I’m finding. We’re getting there.

Interview by Bree Vane.

If you or anyone you know needs help with their own mental well-being call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or find your closest Suicide Prevention/Crisis Support Organisation on Google…

Stream ‘I Can’t Find The Wordshere

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