Framing Hanley showed a ton of promise when they first started out in the late 2000’s. For the most part, they delivered on their potential. Maybe they didn’t quite see the success they deserved in terms of sales and financials, but in the era that Framing Hanley came up in music virtually nobody did. Framing Hanley did what hundreds of other bands couldn’t do in that era; they made their way to be a known entity with bands like Shinedown and Three Days Grace. They were able to do that because they spent a lot of time touring and working on the road and because their music was tremendous.
The band’s first two albums, The Moment and A Promise to Burn are both outstanding records and their third LP, The Sum of Who We Are is impressive in its own right too. Framing Hanley never got to the upper echelon of bands who could sustain a comfortable living and make enough to support more than themselves on the road, but they were damn close. Ultimately, Framing Hanley burned themselves out and ended their first run after releasing their third record.
Now? Now Framing Hanley is back with a new album called Envy. It’s the band’s first record in almost six years and it’s arguably their strongest release to date. Alternative Addiction spoke with Framing Hanley’s Kenneth Nixon about the new record and their break away from making new music.
“We needed the break,” said Nixon talking to Alternative Addiction. “We needed the reset. When we walked away, at the time, we had walked away for good. I needed to reach a level where I wasn’t depending on music to support my family anymore. I was fortunate to find a career outside of music that I was successful in.”
“Getting back to music was for the right reasons this time,” added Nixon. “We were back at having that feeling like we all had when we were fourteen and making noise with instruments in our parents’ garages. I wasn’t trying to pen some single to keep us on a tour for a year and a half. I was writing about shit that I was going through or that my friends were going through.”
Nixon’s mindset isn’t the only thing that’s changed for the band. As things have progressed, the lineup for Framing Hanley has too. Nixon remains the stalwart member of the band at frontman but outside of him, the original members of the band are gone. The lone holdover other than Nixon is guitarist Ryan Belcher, who is unable to tour with the band anymore. So now, Nixon is joined by Nic Brooks, Shad Teems and Jonathan Stoye.
“Stoye transitioned to playing guitar because Ryan can’t tour with us these days, so that’s different,” explained the Framing Hanley frontman on the band’s current lineup. “Nic Brooks is an old friend that used to tour manage us. He and I had written some tunes in the past together for another project. When this album was being put together, I thought, ‘man, Nic could probably really add a new approach to our music.’ That’s what he does.”
“As for Shad, I’ve known that guy for eighteen years. Originally, I met him when he threw a piano intro on a song by my high school band. Later I found out he was a beast at drums. I always said that I wanted to play music with him in some capacity. Shad also came out with us as a drumtech for a bit back in the day too. Shad had to fill in for our former drummer one night and it was wild how we didn’t miss a beat that show. I really like what he’s able to do too.”
Listening through the new album, Envy, it’s like Framing Hanley never missed a beat either. The songs are all strong, (more on that in a bit), but the production of the record is better than it was with the band’s first three records despite the band being much less of a focus for Nixon and the rest of the guys that it was six years ago.
“Most of the music was recorded at Gnome Recording Studios in downtown Nashville with Corey Callis engineering,” said Nixon regarding the production of the record. “We did some vocals with my old buddy Brett Hestla, he produced our first two albums. A lot of the vocals and some other instrumental stuff was done at my buddy Josh Baker’s studio Burning City Sound. Josh and I produced the entire album together, he was a huge help.”
Writing the music was different for Framing Hanley this time around too. There used to be a lot of pressure in that process for Nixon, but with this record – he was writing to write – the songs were compiled over the years while Nixon wasn’t planning on doing Framing Hanley again.
“The songs were accumulated over the years. ‘The Way Down’ was a riff/idea that Ryan and I had back in 2014 that we were going to put on the next FH album. We didn’t know we’d break up first. ‘Baggage Claim’ and ‘Throwing Knives’ existed then as well. When Ryan and I started writing together again, it was never under the premise that we were writing a new Framing Hanley album. That just naturally happened. We originally started working on a roots country/singer-songwriter type thing – it was kind of along the lines of Jason Isbell – that kind of thing. The more we wrote together though, the more we turned the gain level up on amp. As the stuff had more and more crunch, we realized that we were writing FH songs.”
Nixon and Framing Hanley are benefiting from not having the pressure that they faced with their initial tenure of Framing Hanley. Everything with the creation of Envy was free and loose – like making music should be.
“I knew early on we were creating something special,” said Nixon when asked about his feelings during the recording process. “’Puzzle Pieces’ was the first tune where I had to take a step back and think to myself, ‘this is the best shit we’ve done in the entirety of our career so far, and it’s not close.’”
When music isn’t your primary job, you’re fighting with the schedule of your primary job to make it. Then, when you’ve got a family you have additional things to take care of, finding time to make music when everybody in the band has that stuff going on too; that’s the most difficult thing to do.
“We all have families and careers outside of music now,” began Nixon. “On top of that, the studios and engineers have their jobs and schedules too. So, we couldn’t set aside an entire month to get in the studio and knock it out. It was, ‘alright we can all make THIS weekend happen, let’s do it.’”
“I think that worked tour benefit really, because had we just jumped in the studio and knocked it all out in the beginning back in 2017, ‘Forgiveness is an Art’ or “Joke’s On Us’ wouldn’t be on the album. We wrote those songs in December of 2019 – just two months before the album was released.”
There’s a lot of pride from Nixon in the new material, that’s evidenced by the way he talks about the songs. He’s passionate about music again. The band is playing the new music a big chunk out of their live set when they play shows and the response for the new material has been extremely positive so far. Nixon loves music again. He talked about that in the interview and then had a pretty bold statement to close things out.
“When I walked away, I had a disdain for music. It had become a job and there was no passion in it for me anymore. I resented it and I didn’t even enjoy being around the guys anymore. When I was done, I cased up my guitars and I stopped writing altogether. I reached a very dark place in life because of that too. Months later, I reached a point where writing became therapeutic for me again, something that wasn’t the case for a long time. I surrounded myself with guys that I loved hanging out with and loved creating with. It was the spark that was so goddamn necessary in my life where I was at. I’ll never stop again. I’ll go ahead and say you can count on some more new stuff from us later this year and it will blow everything on this album away.” -aa