If you leave Philadelphia, does Philadelphia ever leave you?
That’s the question Dave Hause wrestles with on Bury Me in Philly (Rise ***), the Roxborough-reared Santa Barbara rocker’s album that came out Friday and that will bring him home this month for three dates.
Hause (rhymes with “paws”) will play Feb. 17 with his band the Mermaid for a WXPN-FM (88.5) Free at Noon show at World Cafe Live; an in-store performance the next day at Main Street Music in Manayunk; and a proper tour date Feb. 22 at Boot & Saddle in South Philly.
“Can I move to California and keep my head held high?” Hause asks on Bury Me’s self-doubting title track. To get his answer, the songwriter needed to consult with two Philadelphia helpmates instrumental in making the album.
First, there was his brother Tim, who’s 15 years younger, with whom he has forged a new musical relationship since the junior sibling joined his band in 2013. Second, there was Eric Bazilian, co-front man of 1980s Philadelphia rockers the Hooters, who co-produced Bury Me and whom Hause saw play at the first concert he ever attended, at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby when he was 7. Bury Me was recorded at Bazilian's studio in Wayne.
In 2013, Hause released his album Devour and migrated west to live with his girlfriend, Natasha Deacon, now his fiancee. Looking to expand his punchy rock band’s range, Hause -- who also fronts on-hiatus punk band the Loved Ones -- recruited his brother on guitar, keyboards, and harmonies. At the time, Tim was attending Temple University and sitting in at twice-monthly jams in Andorra with their guitarist father’s band Circle of Syn.
The siblings had never spent much time together. But on the road, “we clicked,” says Hause, 38. “It was like I found my lost musical soul mate.” When Hause set about writing his next solo record, he soon had more than three dozen songs, but “nothing was abundantly clear until Tim started to hear the songs.”
Torn away from his roots, unaccustomed to too-friendly supermarket cashiers and uncomfortable with the relatively homogenous demographics -- Santa Barbara is 75 percent white and less than 2 percent black -- Hause worried that he didn’t fit. “I was having culture shock.”
Grousing to Tim, Hause observed, “I haven’t seen a black girl in 28 days,” a line that made it into “Helluva Home,” one of the half-dozen Bury Me songs the brothers co-wrote.
“He was like, ‘That’s what you need to be writing this record about,'” Hause says. “‘You fell in love, but there’s an existential rub here. You left all your people and the culture you’re familiar with. That’s fodder for your album.‘”
Writing with a clear direction, the brothers went to see Creed, director Ryan Coogler’s 2015 Rocky-franchise sequel. “It was just the two of us,” Tim Hause, 23, says in a separate interview. “We got in the car afterwards and tried to wrap our heads around what it means to be a Philadelphian.”
Their answers were partly shaped by tragedy. Shane Montgomery, the 21-year-old student who died in 2014 after falling into the Manayunk Canal on the night before Thanksgiving, was Tim Hause’s best friend.
“He was missing for over a month,” Tim Hause recalls. “Roxborough and Manayunk came together in a way that was unprecedented. I think that was a lightbulb moment for Dave. We were just overwhelmed by the outpouring of support of love and community. That was informing everything we were doing.”
The brothers wrote a song about Montgomery called “Schuylkill” that remains unreleased, unlike other 2015-inspired Bury Me tunes, such as the wistful “Divine Lorraine.” “It would have cast a pall on an otherwise pretty uplifting and sunshiny record,” Tim Hause says.
Being a Philadelphian “means you’re an underdog,” he says. “In the shadow of New York, you’re overlooked. Underpaid. You’re working-class. You’re familial, provincial, territorial. And there’s a community that will do anything for you.”
WXPN’s Helen Leicht connected Bazilian and Hause in 2014, and “I just loved him immediately,” the Hooter says. “I loved his energy. I loved that he’s a linear storyteller, that, without being obvious, his stuff has layers to it. There’s a poetry to it, but he’s got this punky thing, too.”
The Bury demos “all spoke to me,” says Bazilian, who co-produced the album with William Wittman. “I really got the thread of the story he was telling. It’s a common thing for all of us there. We’re born in Philly, Philly is in us. And at the same time, you want to leave. He’s an expat, he did move .... Who knows? Maybe our career would have gone to a whole other level if we had left. But we stayed, and I love it. I love it, and I hate it, because Philly is a love-hate thing.”
Making the album was “a paradise,” says Bazilian, who hopes to continue to collaborate with Hause. “We did it in my backyard, and I got to play lots of guitar, which is my favorite thing to do.”
Hause remembers being “totally scared and forever changed” by the sound of the first chord at the Hooters show his Uncle Steve took him to in 1985. Thirty-plus years later, he got to make Bury Me with his childhood hero, with key contributions from his younger brother. “It makes me want to be a better bandleader,” he says of playing with his bro. “I want him to keep that purity of heart and soul.”
Bury Me is the Philadelphia record that Hause had to move to California to make.
"It was a way of planting my flag,” he says. “No matter where I go, that’s where my heart is. That’s what shaped me. Coming out here, it became clear: I’m Philly as hell.”
Dave Hause and the Mermaid at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., at noon Feb. 17. Free. Register at xpn.org, starting Feb. 10.
With Eric Bazilian at Main Street Music, 4444 Main St., Manayunk at 4 p.m. Feb. 18. facebook.com/mainstreetmusicpa.
With Jackie Thousand and Vapers at Boot & Saddle, 1131 S. Broad St. at 8 p.m. Feb 22. Sold out. 267-639-4528.