My Lonely Heart is an exciting pop punk band comprised of Chris Russo (vocals/guitar), Dee DiMeola (guitar/vocals), and TJ Haefner (bass/vocals). The New Jersey group released the EP Learning How to Live in 2015. Since then, they have lost one member—drummer Adam Rarela, who tragically died in a vehicular accident in August—but have continued to make honest, emotional music that fans of Warped Tour bands will love. Currently, they are in the studio working on a new release.
Recently, we had the chance to ask the members of My Lonely Heart some questions about the past, present, and future activity of their band. Read on to learn about their early encounters with pop punk music, their lyrics, and their favorite concert memories.
The Young Folks: Let’s start off by introducing you to the readers who haven’t heard of you before. If you had to describe My Lonely Heart in three words, what would you say?
Dee DiMeola: Are we talking our music, or us as people?
TYF: Let’s do music first, and then you as people.
Chris Russo: Okay, music. Emotional…
DiMeola: No… no.
Russo: Angsty. There you go. Emotional, energetic, and angsty! (laughs) And I guess as people… Loud…
TJ Haefner: Obnoxious…
DiMeola: No! Maybe you.
Haefner: Loud, obnoxious, and hilarious!
TYF: You’re recording new music right now. What’s it like to be back in the studio?
Russo: It’s the best thing ever!
Russo: It’s been super fun. Everything from the new EP is fusing together really nicely. We’re a little ahead of schedule, too, which is cool. We have a little more time for the finishing touches and whatnot.
TYF: What can you tell us about the songs you’re working on?
Russo (to band): Don’t spoil anything!
DiMeola: They’re, like, a step up from the first year.
Russo: Yeah. It’s different in a good way… It’s definitely a lot more mature than our first EP, too. Like, we’ve grown a lot as people since the first release, so it’s a lot more emotion out of us, and a lot more experience out of us. Does that make sense?
TYF: Yeah, definitely. Awesome.
Russo: It’s definitely a side of us that I don’t think we’ve really shown in our music yet. It’s cool.
TYF: You play pop punk music. How did you first fall in love with the pop punk genre?
DiMeola: I heard Paramore’s album Riot! back when I was, like, ten years old, and that’s what started it for me.
Haefner: It’s not pop punk, but when I got into Green Day, that was it. That was it, man. Green Day, and then I listened to Sum 41 and everything… That was in my younger days. Then Panic! at the Disco came, and everything fell in.
Russo: And then for me, I’ve always been listening to that kind of genre since I was little, thanks to video games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Gran Turismo, but I didn’t realize I loved it until… like, 2012, when I heard The Dangerous Summer for the first time. And then I realized, Okay, I really like this kind of stuff. What is this? Let me find more. So I’ve just been involved with it, in love with it ever since.
TYF: How does the songwriting process work in your band?
Haefner: Surprisingly smoothly, but really on edge at the same time.
DiMeola: It depends on the song.
Haefner: Someone either thinks of a lyric or writes a part, and we’re like, “Oh, crap! That sounds cool!” So we all just sit down together and work on what’s good. We all put in our different styles and different ideas and everything.
Russo: Or TJ and I will come up with a full thing of lyrics, and we’ll just write music, play until we think it’s figured out. So it really just depends on which song you’re talking about.
DiMeola: It depends on what comes first. The music or the lyrics.
TYF: If each of you had to get a tattoo of one of your lyrics, which one would it be?
DiMeola: What even are our lyrics?
Haefner: All right. For me, it’s [from] one of the new songs we recorded. It would be the first line of the chorus. It would be, “Don’t be ashamed if you don’t understand.”
Russo: I think I would get “I won’t watch this fall apart” off of one of our other new songs.
DiMeola: That’s such a good question! Props to you! That’s the first time we’ve ever been asked something like that… I think I would get “Take this to your grave” from our song “Keeping Secrets.” I think it would look cool. (laughs)
TYF: Your song “2 Years, 10 Seconds” discusses the difficulties of growing up. Being a teenager, I definitely relate to that, and I’m sure a lot of your fans do, too. Was there a specific experience that inspired you to write about this topic?
Haefner: Actually, yeah! (to Chris) This is all you, man.
Russo: I remember sitting in my room, right before I started going to college, and just thinking, “Oh, crap! This is about to happen!” I was kinda arguing with my mom about it that day, too… It was like, “Okay. I’m growing up. I really don’t want to, but at the same time, I know I have to.” So yeah, it was kinda written out of fear that I wasn’t enjoying my life the way I wanted to.
TYF: In that same song, you talk about wanting to “turn back the clock.” If each of you could time-travel to any moment in your past, what would it be?
Russo: Ohh… Hmm… The last show we played with Adam.
Haefner: Yeah. I have to agree with that.
Russo: The last show we played with our drummer Adam. I’d do anything to get that show back.
TYF: Recently, you performed at Loud Fest with artists like Broadside, Whitechapel, and Ice Nine Kills. Any interesting or funny moments from that experience you’d like to share?
Russo: I have a few, because that was such a great day. My friend was there, from a band called Cover Your Tracks. And him and I were talking, and I found out he jumped into the pit mid-set when we were covering Sum 41, and I was like, “Oh wow! That’s awesome!”… Paul Rose! That’s his name. Paul Rose jumped into the pit mid-set. And then, this is more of a personal moment for me… I got to do guest vocals for the band Rarity, which really made my entire day, ‘cause I really like that band.
Haefner: A couple of hours after we played our set, I got sick and went home… Yeah.
DiMeola: It’s always weird things that happen to me at those shows. Like, some dude was hitting on me and I was like, Please go away! This is weird, go away!
TYF: You also played a show with Set it Off, Against the Current, and As It Is. What was that experience like?
DiMeola: That was not our best show…
Haefner: I wasn’t even in the band at the time.
DiMeola: Our original bassist screwed us over and left the band two days before that show.
TYF: Oh my gosh.
DiMeola: So we had to figure out how to three-piece it… It wasn’t our best set.
Russo: And on top of that, we were having major technical difficulties that day, so that show didn’t go well for us.
DiMeola: Our part of it didn’t go great, but the rest of the show was cool. It was a fun time.
Haefner: I was there.
DiMeola: Yeah, TJ was there, but…
Haefner: I wasn’t in the band. I was talking to Dee [at the time]… She was like, “Yo, our bassist left!” and I was like, “I can help you out, but I don’t think I can learn songs in two days.”
TYF: What would you say is your favorite show you’ve ever played?
Haefner: Can I have two? Starland Ballroom and the Adam memorial show. That was… that was a show.
Russo: I have three. The Starland show, the Adam memorial show, and the last show we played with Adam.
TYF: Can you guys tell me some more about the memorial show? How did that go?
Haefner: That was actually a really good day. It was phenomenal. We made $700 in donations.
Russo: No one was… I can’t say no one was grieving, ‘cause obviously people were grieving, but people were celebrating, because that’s what Adam would’ve wanted. He wasn’t the kind of person to be sad. He was always a very bright, happy, energetic person. That’s why everyone was happy. We had a good time.
Haefner: A bunch of great bands were there… Some bands even got back together to play this show!
Russo: That day was definitely unreal for us.
TYF: Do you remember the first original song you wrote? If so, what it was about?
DiMeola: We don’t talk about that.
Haefner: What was it called?
Russo: I don’t even remember.
DiMeola: Wasn’t it called, like, “Alive” or something?
Russo: Oh, yeah.
DiMeola: We don’t talk about that song. It doesn’t exist.
TYF: If you could create a music video for any of your songs with no limitations, which song would it be for, and what kind of music video would it be?
DiMeola: It’s funny you say that, because we’re trying to figure it out right now.
Russo: There’s one song that we think is gonna be the single off the EP just because of how well it’s been going recording-wise so far. So it’d probably be that song… I guess we don’t really know how to answer the question because we’re still figuring that out. (Laughs) It would definitely be a cool music video, though.
TYF: We’re at the beginning of a new year. What are you most excited about in 2017?
Haefner: For me, it’s putting out the new EP and seeing how far we get with it.
DiMeola: Just like, finally being able to play these songs… It’s gonna be fun. Like, we don’t have to play the same four songs all the time now! We’ll have more variety, more options.
Russo: And hopefully more out-of-state shows this year. That’s definitely a mission of ours—to play more shows outside of Jersey.
TYF: When do you think the new EP will be out?
Haefner: We’re not exactly sure, but judging on how it went last time, I’d say two months. I’d give it two and a half.
TYF: Is there anything else you want to say to the readers before the interview is over?
Russo: Thank you for taking the time to check us out and give us a shot, honestly. Whoever is reading this interview and just giving us a chance, thank you. And if you’re someone who knows who we are and is reading this just to support us, that means the world. So thank you.
Haefner: Tell your friends. The more the word gets out that we exist, that we’re here…
My Lonely Heart’s debut EP “Learning How to Live” can be purchase through their Bandcamp page.