No Joke

HaHa Charade’s popularity is growing as it prepares to release a debut album this month

Beer. Beer. Beer. Rum and Coke.

That’s what the four members of the Newark-based band HaHa Charade ordered when they sat down with me at Iron Hill Brewery one night last month. There were smiles all around, and no wonder; 2019 had been good to them, and with the upcoming release of their first full-length album, this one self-titled, on Jan. 17, they’re confident that the New Year will be even better.

Their producer, Nick Holmes, of Occupy Studio in Newark, shares that confidence. Holmes has been working with the band since they came on the scene in March of 2019, and his praise for them is almost rhapsodic. “They’ve come into their own,” he says. “They’re making a name that will become known nationwide, if not worldwide someday. They just have to keep putting in the work.”

HaHa Charade, which evolved from a cover band by the name of Eleanor and The Roosevelts, consists of guitarists and vocalists Justin Lefler and Alex Wade, drummer Brendan McBride, and bassist Matt Bowe. They attribute their growing success to a “collaborative artistic approach,” and while admitting that being in a cover band was fun, having creative control over the music they put out now is much more enjoyable.

The band’s four-track EP, from March of 2019, titled We Are The Wolves, is proof of their collaborative approach. Wolves featured a uniquely diverse sound that left listeners guessing at the exact genre of the music while craving more.

Bowe says that the band’s sound comes from sitting in a room with his bandmates, sometimes all day long, and exchanging ideas. 

“Justin, Alex, and myself all write songs,” says Bowe, pausing to take a sip of his rum and coke. “We have sessions where we sit for seven or eight hours and hammer out lyrics and chords that we think could go somewhere. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. That’s part of the game, right? You’ve got to work at it.”

With three writers in the band, each creating his own music, creative disputes would seem inevitable. But the four debunk that idea and explain that the differences in tastes actually benefit the group dynamic. Wade, for example, tends to have more of a reggae style in his writing and taste; Lefler is influenced by indie-rock and bands such as The Local Natives, while Bowe reflects his roots in hip-hop and pop. The result is a unique experience that is HaHa Charade.

Making A Name

With each show, the band pushes to expand their fan base, hoping eventually to play to sold-out dates.

“We’ve played shows that had 15 people in the crowd and that was a bummer,” says Wade. “Now, we tend to draw larger crowds, especially in this area, but we’re branching out to other cities as well.”

They regularly play at bars and other venues in Wilmington and Newark, including such hot spots as Tonic, Oddity Bar, and The Queen, and have also performed in New York and Philadelphia. A goal with the upcoming album is to stretch out even further, play shows around the country, and make HaHa Charade their full-time occupation. For each, the band is an escape from their nine-to-five jobs.

“I work at a desk for eight hours a day,” says Lefler. “Writing, recording, and playing music is my outlet and I love it.”

Bowe, perhaps the most vocal about making it big as a band, believes their energy will fuel its success. They dance, they wear colorful outfits, they head-bang and they jump around on stage and in their music videos. Even sitting with them at a bar, you get a sense of the electric energy they give off when they perform.

“When we get on stage and we see people singing and dancing to our music,” says Wade, “there’s nothing like that in the world. It’ll never be a (real) job to us, even when we begin to make a living from it.”

“Writing, recording, and playing music is my outlet and I love it,” says Lefler (far left). Photo courtesy of Haha Charade

Eight New Songs

Wade proudly notes that the group has roughly four hours of music recorded between rough cuts, demos, and finished songs, but the new album will only include eight of those songs.

Besides the eight new songs, the album will include four tracks from Wolves, Bowe explains. “Three of the new tracks have already been released as singles to our site and streaming services. So, look for a few unheard tracks on the album.”

“Yeah, we were making music in my basement before we could afford studio time,” adds Lefler. “We’ve been doing this for a while.”

With hours of songs to their credit, it’s a wonder why the band waited almost a year to put out a full-length album. The consensus of the members, however, has always been the same. They strive to create something memorable and it happened to be in the form of a complete, and carefully produced album—one that was cared for by the folks at Occupy Studio, who have become friends.

HaHa Charade is quick to credit Occupy, especially Holmes. “Nick has been a blessing,” says Wade. “He’s a genius. He’s worked with us through and through and even when we are a pain in the ass, he rides it out with us.”

Adds Bowe: “Yeah, we’re a family now. He’s not just a producer, but a friend. He’s just randomly shown up at our shows without telling us. His support has been awesome.”

The self-titled album will set the tone for the future of the band and each member knows that. They’ve worked hard at creating their band, their sound, and their relationships in the music industry. What they need to do now is continue putting in the work to create their future.

We finish our drinks and the server brings the tab. I give him my credit card, look around the table, and ask, “Anything else to add, fellas?”

Bowe speaks up. “We want it all. We’re already in the process of working on a second album that we plan to have out by the end of 2020. All great bands release their first two albums in the same year. Why should we be any different?”

The full-length album HaHa Charade will be available on Spotify and Apple Music on Friday, Jan. 17, with an album release party hosted by Oddity Bar on Friday, Jan. 24. For information on upcoming shows, or to listen to other music by HaHa Charade, visit hahacharade.com.

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