By Ashley Zimmerman
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By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
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Chicago-based quartet the Hush Sound clearly had lady luck on its side in 2005, just two years after it first became a band. Using male and female vocal harmonies and passion-fueled pop-rock, the group sold 300 copies of its self-released debut, So Sudden, in just two nights. Not long after that, emo-punk-king Pete Wentz, who signed the band to his Decaydance label, rereleased the debut and secured tours with such acts as Fall Out Boy, Plain White T's, and All-American Rejects.
As for what the guys in the group are good at — they're able to captivate listeners with their wistful piano playing, simple guitar melodies, and lyrics that sound like broken-hearted poetry. Although the entire band shares vocal duties, pianist Greta Salpeter and guitarist Bob Morris provide most of the lead parts. The music moves from heart-wrenching, Fiona Apple-style ballads to '30s ragtime to alt-folk to catchy pop-rock. Even when the tempo is upbeat, the subject matter is generally a whimsical take on love or regret. On "Hurricane," one of the most gut-wrenching songs from their 2008 release Goodbye Blues, Salpeter sings: "You're the finest thing that I've done/the hurricane I'll never outrun/I could wait around for the dust to still/but I don't believe that it ever will."
Although the music business doesn't appear to be getting them down, Morris says there have been a lot of challenges.
"I don't think being in a band right now is easy for anyone, because [folks] went through the '60s and '70s where the only thing that could make your band huge was word of mouth and being completely amazing," he says. "You get around to the '90s and early 2000s, and MySpace is around, and it becomes really easy to be in a band. I don't want to sound pessimistic. There's just a lot of crap out there."
The band is also learning to sort through its own personal drama and be open about it.
"We recorded two albums before we ever went on tour," Morris says. "We just went through hell touring on these really amazing tours with really great bands, but doing it in a van by ourselves was pretty much the most brutal thing in the world. Driving 12 hours a night and not sleeping or showering, ever, was intense. It pretty much tore us apart. Then, on our headlining tour, we realized how stupid it would be for our band to break up, because we realized that this is something special. How could we possibly give this up?"
Of course, being the headlining act has a lot to do with his newfound appreciation for touring. But the 23-year-old Morris realizes that nothing can replace the rush of performing for an audience. "It's pretty amazing watching the faces of the people and seeing them sing along. It's the coolest thing in the world, because imagine writing a book and watching everyone read it, just being so happy that you're reading it with them. You get the ultimate high off of that. You can have [the audience] do whatever you want, and they love it, and you love them back for it. It's a pretty circular and beautiful thing."
Now that the foursome is working through the stresses of being a young band on the road and putting music as its number-one priority, the band is starting to look ahead. Plans for writing the next album (set to be recorded early next year) have already begun. What's best is that the two lead songwriters are finding better ways to communicate.
"For a long time, [Greta and I] had a lot of personal issues with each other, whether it be jealousy issues or this or that," Morris says. "But [we] learned that we're going to help each other out. Lately, I think us writing songs together for the first time since the first album has been a really exciting thing."