When I wrote an article about him in the Coastal Point two years ago, Cole Haden was preparing to leave Dagsboro for the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was his class valedictorian at Sussex Central High School, and an activist and leader for gay rights in Sussex County schools.
He had acted in several school plays and at Clear Space, regularly did stand up with the Delaware Comedy Theatre, and played keyboard and performed musical theater at the Freeman Stage.
He could taste the future and was so ready.
Fast-forward. What has happened in these past two years?
To nobody’s surprise, Haden has taken advantage of every opportunity and kept his head firmly on his shoulders.
The bottom line is that Haden is the frontman for the band Model/Actriz, which is spending its summer on a 12-seater bus with another band and all their equipment, on a 15-city, national tour. Those cities include Los Angeles, Chicago, Brooklyn, Houston and Milton, Del. Oh, and this is after performing in various European capitals during the spring!
“Moving to Boston really influenced the way I make music,” said Haden. “There is so much diversity at school and in the city. Meeting so many new people has opened my mind to all the differences in people, and, even more, our similarities. As humans, we all have the same desires, dreams, sufferings and loves…”
Haden’s first year and a half at Berklee was a whirlwind of schoolwork, different jobs, performing on the radio and in videos, and connecting with fellow classmates.
Most important was meeting Jack Wetmore, a guitarist, Ruben Radlauer, a drummer and Austin Corona, a bassist, and the band they called Model/Actriz. The band grew a following, which led to a deal with a small record label in Los Angeles and the release of an EP called “No.”
Haden, Wetmore and Radlauer were subsequently accepted to participate in Berklee’s semester abroad at the campus in Valencia, Spain.
“I had been feeling overwhelmed and fidgety with all I was doing in Boston, and Spain was to be my escape,” said Haden. “It was my first time out of the country, and it provided me with an immensely precious and stimulating experience.”
“I loved it all, but I really gravitated to London and Berlin. They are such international cities and had nightlife scenes like nothing I had experienced. It was mesmerizing.”
Two years ago, Haden sported under-eye blue glitter as a trademark look, and he was one of the first to wear his hair in a “man bun” or two. His electronic music was playful, and his costumes were bright.
“I still use glitter on occasion,” he said of his aesthetic today. “Back then, I was trying to create a uniform look — perhaps almost a mask. Now I’m comfortable switching it up. I shaved my head, have a tragus ear piercing and have grown a mustache.”
The new look matches a new sound. It’s called post-punk. Haden is the vocalist, but more urgently, he is the performer… on the stage, leaning backwards off the stage, in the pit, throughout the audience.
He is everywhere, like a lithe being waiting to pounce, moan, scream, sing and swing his microphone while totally in control of his audience, who watch his every move and feel his every sound. All this is while the musicians play an aggressive, non-harmonic, slow and crescendo, non-stop beat, sometimes called noise.
And that is what audiences around the country have been experiencing from Model/Actriz, along with the Los Angles based band Orchin.
“It’s atonal dance music,” said Jeremy McLennan of Orchin, referencing the young people who had taken over the back of the theater and who were dancing — or, rather, jumping — frenetically with each beat of the drum, lick of the strings.
It is a young crowd’s sound. It reflects pent-up angst, with manifestations of sex, death, power, rage and, ultimately, relief.
Brian Kraus was two years ahead of Haden at Sussex Central High School. They shared an interest in music and worked together on theater projects. Kraus has stayed in touch with Haden and made sure he was available to come to the Milton performance.
“I believe Model/Actriz will be the band that sparks a new revolution of punk rock,” he said. “Watching them perform reminded me how good it feels to let out aggression through music. Cole is nothing short of a hardcore fusion between Anthony Kiedis and David Bowie. I can only imagine how far he will go in five years.”
In contrast to Haden’s on-stage persona, he is still the same Cole to his parents and grandparents, who were also in the audience.
“He is on the path to his vision,” said his mother, Kristin Haden. “He has grown even more independent and sure of himself. But he’s really good at staying in touch. In fact, while he was in Spain, we Facetimed so much, it was hard to think he was that far away. And, often, I find out he has been on the phone with one of his sisters, just to chat. I love that he’s doing what he wants to and is doing so well.”
Haden has always been close to his younger twin sisters, and nothing would have kept him away from their graduation from Indian River High School a few weeks ago.
“Lexi is going to the University of Delaware to study nursing, like my mom,” said Haden. “And I’m so happy that Erin picked the University of Boston to study medicine — although she made sure I knew my being in Boston had nothing to do with her decision!”
Both Cole and his father, Rick Haden, talked about his appreciation of the ocean, quietude and family.
“I need to return to Delaware periodically,” said Haden. “It helps me set my direction.”
For now, however, there is a road trip to finish.
“We all get along really well,” said McLennan. “But, in one way, Cole is giving the rest of us a bad name. He is so neat. If you look in his suitcase, there is a place for everything, and everything is folded up perfectly. When we’ve stayed at different families’ homes across the country, they always unfavorably compare our clutter to Cole!”
“I’ll be ready to go back to Berklee and Boston’s energy,” said Haden of life after the tour. “I’m itching to make new music again.”
“I’m really happy,” he added.