Nixon- vocals, piano, guitar
Ryan- guitar, piano, back up vocals
Brandon- guitar, back up vocals
Luke- bass, back up vocals
By the time the anthemic rock band Framing Hanley entered the studio in 2009 to start working on the follow-up to their 2007 debut The Moment, they were practically a different band than the quintet that emerged from Nashville, Tennessee three long years before. Sure, their music was still infectious, euphoric and at times melancholic, but they bore the marks of finesse and experience that only come from years of touring.
“We toured for 250 days out of 365 days a year,” says vocalist Kenneth Nixon. “And we became better musicians and a better band, no doubt about it. We also realized what was the most fun for us was to play live, and what the crowd reacted to the most. So, when the time came to work on a new record, we wanted to have songs that we really loved, and that a live audience could get into.”
Being on the road with artists including Saving Abel, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and The Veer Union also made the other members of Framing Hanley more attuned to each other’s style of playing. Even during jam sessions, the musicians didn’t have to guess what their band mates were going to do next; they just intuitively knew and fed off of that communal energy to create some of their strongest songs to date.
Framing Hanley’s second album A Promise to Burn is full of tight-fisted melodies, soaring guitars, and yearning harmonies that express the joy of artistic expression and the duality of being in a rock band with lines like “My life is a WarZone/ torn between what’s right and wrong” (“WarZone”). Unlike The Moment, which was written by a bunch of giddy kids who had never left their home town, A Promise to Burn was culled from years of experience, revealing both the triumphs and tribulations of being in a successful rock band. It’s an honest, unflinching record that illustrates how hard it can be to find the silver lining inside the dark clouds and at the same time, how some of the best rewards can come from not giving up on dreams.
“‘The Promise’ was the first song we wrote with this lineup and the last song on the album is ‘The Burn,’” Nixon says, explaining the name of the album. “The title is really about how something so promising, that you look forward to your whole life, can end up burning you in the end. It’s not always the way you predict it to be but it can also be everything you want it to be.”
A Promise to Burn marks the studio debut of guitarist Ryan Belcher, who, in 2008, replaced ex-guitarist Tim Huskinson, who left the band on good terms to spend more with his family. “Having Ryan in the band definitely took us in a whole different direction creatively,” Nixon says. “Ryan and I are more on the same page, and I think as a band we were both a lot more comfortable with the music we were writing together than we were the last time. As a whole, this record is more up-tempo stuff and there’re a lot of layers in our band now that we didn’t have before.”
“The band and I got really close and figured out how we all work as far as writing and we were able to really compliment each other playing because we were all interested in doing the same kinds of stuff,” Belcher adds.
Framing Haney started working on A Promise to Burn in 2008 during brief breaks from touring for The Moment. But just when they started gaining momentum with some of the songs, they decided to play a live cover of Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” as a joke for a hometown crowd. The song went over so well, they started covering it at other gigs, and pretty soon they decided to enter the studio and record “Lollipop” for a re-release of The Moment. The song blew up and Framing Hanley returned to the road for nearly 18 months straight.
“It kind of put the new record on hold and put a breath of fresh life into the old record,” Nixon says. “The good thing was we got to play two new songs on tour and when we came back to the studio we knew parts that we definitely wanted to change and try different things on those songs.”
The band went to Orlando, Florida in the beginning of November 2009 to work with producer and ex-Dark New Day vocalist Brett Hestla. Since they had been on the road for so long, Framing Hanley had only a handful of new songs to work with, so they worked nearly nonstop for a solid month with Hestla and came up with a strong album’s worth of material.
“Originally we were worried that we would get down there and bang our heads against the wall in frustration, but that’s the opposite of what happened,” Belcher says. “The songs just flowed out of us and with the help of Brett, they came together pretty quickly.”
In December 2009, Framing Hanley flew to Soundmine Recording Studios in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania to record A Promise to Burn with Hestla and a variety of other producers and engineers. In addition to recording at the facility for hours on end, the band lived there as well, enabling them to fine tune their songs at all hours, day and night.
“It was cool because it was the first time we’ve been in a studio where we didn’t have to worry about waking up at 10 a.m. to drive an hour and a half to record,” Nixon says. “There were live-in quarters that were really comfortable, so we just stayed there and worked whenever we felt like it. One day everyone slept in and [guitarist] Brandon [Wooten] and I woke up and started jamming on an idea he had on acoustic. Brett was there to oversee it and I started jamming on the Wurlitzer, and we created the rhythm structure of a song. We thought “this could turn into something cool.” And then everyone woke up, and that day, we recorded the entire song, which became ‘Photographs and Gasoline,’ which is probably my favorite song on the entire record.”
From the plaintive piano and heartfelt vocals which open “Weight of the World” to the electronic beats and winsome melodies of “A Fool With Dreams” to the layered serpentine guitars and propulsive rhythms and undeniable refrain of “Wake Up,” A Promise to Burn expands Framing Hanley’s sonic boundaries while remaining true to the catchy, immediate song-craft that endeared them to mainstream rock audiences on The Moment.
“I think there’s definitely a bit of a departure from our first record, but you can hear the transition from the old Framing Hanley to the new Framing Hanley throughout these songs,” Nixon says. “Everything that we did happened naturally on its own and led to the creation of this record. We didn’t go into it thinking we had something to prove to anyone, we just wanted to do something we were very, very happy about.”