Band of brothers: Fourth of July grows Midwest fan base

A lot of bands spit out the old cliché that the people they play with are like family. But the guys in Fourth of July mean it. They are, after all, two sets of brothers who’ve recorded with another brother as their label mate in the past and just released a new album on a label that houses bands who may not be blood, but they may as well be kin.

Fourth of July has just released its third album, “Empty Moon,” and are playing a string of local shows and hoping to take the band on the road for a set of dates across the Midwest soon. Brothers Brendan and Patrick Hangauer and siblings Brian and Brendan Costello played an album release party earlier this month at the Jackpot Saloon and will play again this Friday at Love Garden Sounds as part of the monthly Final Fridays Lawrence arts celebration.


Photo courtesy of High Dive Records

Fourth of July band members, from left, Brian Costello, Patrick Hangauer, Brendan Costello and Brendan Hangauer

“Empty Moon” could be called a family affair, but just like any other family, the Fourth of July clan is seeing the kids grow up, some going off to do their own thing and some pursuing new ventures together. This is the band's first album on new label High Dive Records. Their previous efforts, 2007’s “On the Plains” and 2010’s “Before Our Hearts Explode,” were released on Range Life Records, a label run by another Hangauer brother, Zach. The label-running brother recently moved to San Francisco, and while the company is still issuing digital releases, they are no longer putting out vinyl and physical copies of new albums. That prompted the move to High Dive, when label rep Jeff McCoy reached out to Fourth of July.

The label is home to several bands Fourth of July has played shows and been friends with for years, including The ACBs, Ghosty and others.

“He’s been really supportive,” Brendan Hangauer said of working with McCoy and his label. “And they (High Dive) have pretty much all my favorite bands from Kansas City.”

The new disc also represented a few new changes. Kelly Hangauer, another brother who formerly played keyboards and trumpet, was not along for the new venture. The songs ended up with a bit more of a straight rock-and-roll vibe without those two pieces, Brendan said. The new album was also the first time they worked with Lawrence producer Chris Crisci of Appleseed Cast and Old Canes. A new man at the board brought an edgier sound and the band’s “least polished”-sounding album yet. That, coupled with a slightly new approach in song writing, sees the band covering new territory.

“My albums have been breakup albums in particular, it seems like,” Brendan, vocalist and principal songwriter, said. “I think, though, that this album shows more of my life and a timeline. It’s not all just breakup songs, it’s more a look at what it’s like to be alive and in Lawrence right now.”

While the album has been out less than a month, Hangauer said the reaction has been positive at shows in Lawrence and Kansas City.

“I think our audience is growing with us,” he said. “We still play all of our songs at shows, but I think people are relating to it (new album) well.”

Fourth of July hopes to hit the road soon, playing shows primarily in the Midwest in locales such as Iowa City, Iowa, Omaha, Neb., Chicago and Minneapolis. While those are all cities they’ve played before, they plan to continue building the fan base there and eventually tour nationally.

“I think everybody wants to launch the tour,” Brendan said. “It’ll take some planning for sure, but it will be worth it, that’s definitely the next step.”

Fourth of July will play at 8 p.m. Friday, April 26, at Love Garden Sounds. The show is free, and in a style fitting a family act, will feature Brendan’s silkscreen art on display and Patrick Hangauer’s electronic act One Million Light Years opening.


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