There are a thousand ways for the world to cut you up and cut you off. In their Drive-Thru Records debut full-length CD Life In Dreaming, HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW explores a few of them. A brutal rape in a back alley. A car wreck on the turnpike. Standing alone on a high rooftop and contemplating the fast way down. Unafraid to confront such dark impulses, the hard-rocking New Jersey quintet ultimately makes an eloquent hard-rocking case for the human spirit.
The band’s rising success is certainly no dream. For several years, HIPV ran a classic below the radar DIY campaign. They booked their own tours, released an indie EP and won countless fans across the country and in Europe. Now, with the new album, HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW takes their game to a much higher level.
Produced by Jim Wirt (Incubus, Something Corporate) and mixed by Josh Wilbur, Life In Dreaming rips the head off of most rock ‘n’ roll conventions. A good example is “Bleed For You,” a searing account of a date rape. Sings lead vocalist Joe Reo: “The cold concrete cuts against her back/and her spirit spills with blood onto the pavement/hands tied so tight behind her neck/and a silence falls and everything changes.”
Notes lead guitarist/lyricist Rob Freeman, “Two friends of mine were rape victims, and seeing how much pain they were in I wanted to relieve them. It’s one of the rawest things I ever wrote, and when I played it for one of them, she had tears in her eyes and said, ‘You nailed it.’”
“Ashes, Ashes” is a crushing rocker that shines light on what the band calls moral suicide. “It’s about being true to yourself,” says Rob, “and not taking things for granted.” The neo-symphonic seven-minute-long “Garden Statement” traces the anguished reflections of a soul on fire. “They broke you down and now your broken/And it’s sadder than the saddest movie/I ever saw but with out the beauty/So I stopped watching, I stopped caring,” sings Joe Reo.
Other songs, like “Twenty Below” and “A Minor Detail,” keep up the pressure. Says Joe of the band’s songwriting process, “When we get together, we sit in a circle with our amps plugged in and we share ideas. If we like an idea we jam on it.” Adds Rob: “We write the songs together. The best stuff always comes from what you’re feeling.” The track “In Memory” carries that notion further. “Rob’s grandfather had passed away,” says Joe, “and a friend of mine was dying from cancer. So we were looking at it from the same point of view, which gave the song more emotion.” Songs like “Halcyon Daze,” with its string flourishes, show a more intimate side, while “Top 5 Addictions” and “American Classic” showcase HIPV’s ability to blend power with melody. Says Rob, “‘American Classic’ is about growing up and the friends you grow apart from. You go to college, life takes over. Things aren’t as sincere as when you’re young.” He ought to know, since the partnership between Reo, Freeman and Amato goes back to their early teen years. Natives of Stanhope, NJ (40 miles west of New York City), they met in high school and soon after began playing together in local bands. HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW grew up with bands like The Police, Simon & Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, Foo Fighters, At The Drive-In, Nirvana, Green Day, and, as Joe put it, “Pretty much anything that raged rock n’ roll at a child. We loved it all.”
Rob also cites the local New Jersey music scene as of fundamental importance to his musical development. “Bands like Humble Beginnings, Midtown and One Cool Guy really got me into the independent/punk sound,” he says. “Even though we really aren’t a punk band I feel I owe so much to that scene.” Adds Joe: “As we took music more seriously, we developed a sound of our own. “Rob and I are both singers, so we got accustomed to writing harmonies.” As the HIPV style took shape, they band became a totally self-contained operation, booking their own tours between college classes. Adding guitarist Mike Seffert in 2002 pumped up the volume considerably. “Mike added a harder edge,” says Joe. “He was a more intricate guitar player.” Then 19-year-old Spencer Peterson came into the picture. Spencer had been a student at the Atlanta Institute of Music. When HIPV sought a permanent drummer, Spencer drove to New Jersey in the summer of 2003 to audition. Within a week, he was out on the road with the band. “Spencer is one of the greatest drummers we ever heard,” says Joe. “He made us all play better.”
HIPV released their 2002 six-song debut Operation: Cut-Throat on the Chicago-based indie label LLR. Shortly there after, Drive-Thru Records signed the band. Last year they released their self-titled debut EP on Drive-Thru Records. Produced by Chris Badami (The Early November, With Resistance) the EP has sold over 35,000 copies. That lead to extensive touring with bands like MxPx, Matchbook Romance, The Early November and Midtown. They also performed across Europe and co-headlined the Smartpunk stage for the 2004 Warped Tour.
The band did take time away from the road to record Life In Dreaming. Setting up shop in Santa Monica, CA, the confirmed East Coasters got into the L.A. beach life, but their focus remained on the task at hand. “We’re always trying to expand our minds and our music,” says Joe. “The new album is a little more diverse, but we tried to keep it more straight up rock ‘n’ roll. Our style has changed a lot. It’s a much bigger rock sound and less genre-specific than our last two EPs.” With the release of Life In Dreaming, the members of HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW are eager to hit the road and play the new album for fans. “This is four years in the making,” says Rob, “and everything we’ve been working towards. But I’m confident in what we’ve done. Now every piece is in place.”