When news broke in August that the database for online dating service Ashley Madison – the one with the tagline “Life is short. Have an affair.” – was compromised, you just knew it was going to be fodder for a song.
Jon Haber, guitarist and songwriter for DEC3, was already a step ahead.
“What happened with that song is that I wrote it before the scandal broke,” Haber said of his band’s new single, “Hey Ashley.” “I think I heard about them (Ashley Madison) on The Howard Stern Show – they advertise quite a bit – and I thought ‘that’s an idea for a song.’ Then it morphed into what it became, which is the guy going to cheat on his wife and the song basically chronicles his day. It goes through his tinges of guilt in the bridge, and then finally, the girl shows up, and it’s his wife, who was also cheating on him, but he didn’t know that.”
Catchy, tongue in cheek, and certainly topical, “Hey Ashley” is in so many ways the perfect song for these times, and listeners are gravitating toward it.
“We’re getting a little buzz on it,” Haber said. “People seem to like it – and the subject matter.”
He laughs, happy to have struck while the iron was hot on this one while giving the band’s fans a little taste of what’s to come from their second album, which is in the process of being recorded.
“We’ve been recording quite a bit of stuff and I’m real excited about it,” Haber said. “There are a lot of really cool things on there. This one though, obviously due to all the news concerning Ashley Madison’s website, I wanted to get this out to take advantage of that, so that’s why we put this one out.”
Haber enjoys having topical matters to write about, as he’s not from the “raise your hands in the air” school of songwriting. And as an adult and a businessman (Haber owns the Alto Music chain) who is raising a family, songs about meeting at the mall and teen romance don’t really fly either.
“I’m not a kid,” he said. “I’m an adult, I have a family, I read a lot and follow what’s going on with the world, and if I write a song like “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” it’s not gonna fly coming from us because we’re older. But there are a lot of topics out there. Not to compare ourselves to other people, but throughout the 60s, you had guys writing songs on topical issues, and it creates a unique way to go about writing a song and it gives you something else to talk about. A lot of times, lyrics are pretty much take ‘em or leave ‘em, and so I try to bring something to the table as far as that goes.”
“Redline,” from DEC3’s self-titled debut album is the perfect example, as it discusses the Syrian Civil War.
“‘Redline’ came out last year, but we were prescient on that one and it probably means more now than when I first wrote it,” he said. “I think it just brings a different hook to the songs. I’m sure there are other musicians doing similar things; I just may not be aware of them. But it makes it more interesting.”
Add in the band’s power pop leanings and other local New York groups in this criminally neglected genre like The Turnback getting good notices, could we be seeing a new movement back toward music with hooks, guitars and thought-provoking lyrics?
“I write the way I write,” Haber said. “I’m a huge Beatles fan, so if I don’t have a good melody and a good chord change, the song pretty much doesn’t go any further. I don’t really write based on rhythm – it’s melodic with good vocals and harmonies. But there’s other good stuff like that. There are amazing groups and artists, and they’re just not getting the attention. Like Five for Fighting, their last album was great. If I could burn the grooves off a CD, I’d burn the grooves off that one. Some of the songs are just amazing. Butch Walker has put out amazing stuff, Shawn Mullins – these are my favorite current guys. So is it a movement? I can only hope it’s a movement. Until all of us die off.”
That won’t be happening anytime soon, not if Haber and company have something to say about it. And whether the industry is with them or against them, Haber’s not going to stop making music.
“We put the album out last year and thousands of people on social media are saying ‘I love it, I’m buying this,’ they’re telling their friends, and one of our songs was shared a couple thousand times,” he said. “People don’t do that unless they like it, and that was the reward. We’re certainly not doing this to eat. (Laughs) It’s a lot of work, but it’s what I love to do, and the fact that other people also enjoy it is very rewarding.”