South Florida’s The Haunt is a family affair, fronted by brother and sister, but this isn’t your usual sibling duo. Headed by lead singer, 15-year old Anastasia Grace, and her 19-year old, co-vocalist and guitarist brother, Maximillion Haunt, this band is making “noise” much earlier in life than you’d usually expect. It speaks to the talent and experience at the heart of this indie, alternative, rock, garage and blues four-piece with Anastasia having started performing live at the age of nine.
The recording process for their self-titled debut EP (which is out now) began all the way back in 2015 and The Haunt’s music is partially motivated by standing up for those that aren’t necessarily “accepted” in their youth, or even adulthood. The group looks to artists such as Jack White, Billie Holiday, The Kills, Ray Charles, Royal Blood, and Nina Simone in their songwriting. To learn more about The Haunt, we spoke to Maxamillion Haunt about their beginnings, their debut EP, their elaborate, original music videos, and recent touring with Palaye Royale.
How did the band come together and why did you decide to call yourselves The Haunt? Maxamillion (Max) Haunt: Anastasia has been performing since she was about nine years old. She would make me sit on the stage with her so that she felt more comfortable. I was literally doing nothing… (laughs). Eventually, we realized that making music together was what we wanted to be doing, so I started playing guitar or piano, with her singing and we continued to build the band from there. We eventually started adding other instruments which was pretty important to the sound.
Like… the fact that we played for almost two years without bass is crazy to me. We recently switched our name to The Haunt from AnastasiaMax. We’ve been tossing this name around for a while, and titled our EP, The Haunt so that the transition would be easier. When we got the tour with Palaye Royale, we figured, if we were going to make the change, this was the right time to do it. So we did.
To start, let’s get a little with the Halloween and horror movie-inspired music video for “All Went Black.”
From the name of the band to the cover of the EP to your music videos, there’s a definite aesthetic, a thread that runs through it. What are some of your influences, musically or otherwise (movies, books, comics, art, theatre, historical events, etc)? Haunt: We’ve always identified with the darker side of things, ever since we were young. People used to compare Anastasia to Wednesday Addams. It’s kind of always been a part of who we are. Anastasia especially has always been very strange and dark and different and I think that’s what The Haunt is built around.
The song “All Went Black” is quite powerful, but also really gets kicked up a notch with the music video. I can’t get the sight of all the spooky ghoulies out of my head. What’s the song about and how did the video come together? Did you rent the school bus? Haunt: We don’t really like to apply a specific meaning to the song because hopefully, it resonates a little differently with everyone, but it definitely correlates to a really hard time for Anastasia, during middle school. I think when you listen to the song and watch the video, there’s a clear undertone of feeling alone or attacked or ostracized and I think most people can relate to that feeling at least a little bit, especially young people, who are always feeling so much pressure to fit in.
When we started recording the song, which Anastasia wrote when she was 12, she had the full concept for the video already. We worked with Chris Hill, who has been our photographer since the beginning, because he always understood our imagery and vision really well, and has really helped us bring it all to life. And yes, we rented the bus, which was actually a lot harder to find than we thought it would be (laughs).
Check out the debut EP’s “haunting” cover artwork.
The video for “Bullet" was shot in New Orleans, a ghostly place long associated with voodoo and the occult. For decades, artists have been drawn there to soak up its spirits, Trent Reznor most famously living in a Garden District mansion near novelist Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles) while recording in a converted funeral home on Magazine Street. American Horror Story, with special guest Wiccan, Stevie Nicks, filmed its third season, Coven, in its hallowed confines. “Bullet” is very visceral, vocally, musically and lyrically. What is the song about and what drew you to New Orleans? Do you believe in spirits in the material world? Haunt: We’ve always been obsessed with New Orleans, ever since we first visited. The song “Bullet” has a very ghostly feeling, it’s about love and loss, it’s about being haunted by someone or something, and I think that’s why Anastasia felt so strongly about tying the song to New Orleans. We definitely believe in spirits and ghosts, and also the energy of people, living or deceased. Also, Anastasia is an empath and has a distinct connection to the past, both in this lifetime and many others. Oh, and Stevie Nicks’ American Horror StoryCoven cameo is one of the reasons that is was our favorite season. We’re both die-hard Stevie Nicks fans.
With your music videos already in the vein of mini-films, do you see yourselves making movies one day? And if had to choose who would play each of you in a biopic? Rami Malek is brilliant as Freddie Mercury and Lady Gaga slays as Ally Maine in A Star Is Born. Haunt: I’m really into writing stories and Anastasia is obsessed with musical theatre. I’d say the movie world is something we could one day find ourselves exploring. We sadly still haven’t seen Bohemian Rhapsody, but Lady Gaga absolutely killed it in A Star Is Born. Anastasia would want Audrey Hepburn to play her and doesn’t care at all if that’s impossible, big surprise (laughs). For me, I guess if we’re gonna go that high-caliber, I’m gonna say Leonardo DiCaprio.
“Bullet” was the third single and music video released from the band at the beginning of 2018.
The dynamic of having two clean vocalists in a rock band is powerful (rather than one clean and one screamo) like you do on the song “Dirty.” It harkens back to the theatrical interplay of Meat Loaf’s epic treatise “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” from Bat Out of Hell. When you write songs, are you conscious of lyrical counterpoints? Do you determine the vocal parts in advance or does it happen organically while recording and moving forward, will you continue to explore this dynamic? Haunt: So far, when initially writing we’ve mostly just written singular melodies and then later in the process added what and where the other person would sing. Moving forward into our full-length album, we’re working on writing the counter-vocal melodies into the basis of the song. Something that we hope will elevate the sound overall. And thank you very much for the Meat Loaf reference.
Being from Florida, it seems to me like The Haunt needs to become the official band of The Haunted Mansion at Disney World and needs to headline Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios one day. What theme parks, rides, attractions, haunted houses are your favorite? Haunt: We actually love all theme parks. Universal Studios is definitely a favorite, but we love Disney as well. Anastasia’s favorite theme-park ride is The Mummy, although she says, “Spider-Man is the greatest thing to ever exist.” So there’s that. Personally, I like the original Harry Potter ride. We all love Halloween Horror Nights, fall is the best time to be in Orlando.
Over the past three months, you’ve been on the road with Palaye Royale, playing over 40 shows to packed rooms in Europe, the UK, Canada, and the U.S. How has the reception been and what have been your favorite cities to play and visit? Haunt: We couldn’t have asked for better reception. As main support in Europe, we played nine shows and grew our audience way more than we were expecting. The last show, in Europe, is still our favorite that we’ve played to date. It was at Electric Brixton in London. The North American tour, which was 33 dates, was the craziest experience of our lives. We were worried that, since we were the first band in a four-band lineup, the exposure wasn’t going to be the same, but it completely blew our minds.
We couldn't have been more wrong. The show on Halloween at the famous Trees venue in Dallas was insane, that was definitely one of our favorites, although it’s hard to choose just one. We want to thank Palaye so much for giving us that opportunity. It was the time of our lives. We really hope to work with them again in the future.
We'll get a little "Dirty" to end things off with The Haunt performing in a prison penitentiary with their second single and music video.
In concert, you do covers of Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” and Louis Armstrong’s “St James Infirmary.” Both are unique and interesting choices. What drew you to the songs and if you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose and why? Haunt: We were drawn to “St. James Infirmary” because of Anastasia’s innate love of the blues. “Ultralight Beam” kind of falls in the same category, it’s one of our favorite songs. The female vocal on it encompasses everything that’s great about soulful music. The entire song is rad as hell, we’d cover the whole thing if one of us could rap... it’s a masterpiece.
Anastasia would collab with Amy Winehouse although, most of her influences and inspirations are no longer with us. I think I would collab with people in the Third Man Records camp. Jack White has built a team of musicians that really care about making real, genuine music… But K. Flay would be a really great collab as well.
What’s on the horizon for 2019? Haunt: We’re about to start working on our full-length album. We’ve got a bunch of songs that are ready to be recorded, so we’re gonna get in the studio over the holidays and start working on those. Our goal is to have at least one new single out pretty soon, and then hopefully, lots and lots of touring in between. Being on the road is honestly the best inspiration.