Interviews by Michael McCarthy
I am a music junkie. I always want more and I can never have enough. One of my favorite places to find new music is Noisetrade, a wonderful website where thousands of artists give away their music in hopes of building a following. You’re free to tip them, and I often do, but it’s not required. If you’ve never been to the site, you’re missing out and I highly suggest you check it out and download some new music as soon as you finish reading this interview.
If there’s one problem I have with Noisetrade, it’s this: whenever I go there, I go on a downloading frenzy. Being that I’m a fan of just about every genre of music under the sun, almost everything seems appealing to me. So, I end up spending hours downloading one thing after another every time I visit. As a result, sometimes I download so many things that it can take me quite a while to listen to them all. I keep a list of what I’ve downloaded so that I get to everything eventually, but sometimes it’s a couple of months before I get to something. One of the artists I downloaded months ago but only recently got around to listening to is a band called The Hawk In Paris, who were giving away a few songs from their E.P. entitled His + Hers. When I double-clicked on their first song on my iTunes player, “Put Your Arms Around Me,” I had no idea what to expect. I’d already listened to three Noisetrade releases for the first time that day and was almost hoping that I wouldn’t like them because I was reaching that point where I’d had enough new music for the day and wanted to listen to something familiar. But I was more than pleasantly surprised; I was blown away. It was easily one of the most beautiful songs I’d ever heard, like a cross between The Killers and Tears For Fears with a dash of Death Cab For Cutie. Before the super synthy pop rock gem was even over, I was already searching Google, eager to learn everything I could about them. And I was just as floored by the two songs that followed, “Curse the Love Songs” and “Between the World and You.” I could not believe that this band wasn’t one of the most famous bands in the world already because they were quite obviously one of the most talented. Before the third song was over, I was looking them up on iTunes. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any music available there. From reading their Facebook page and official site, I’d learned that the three songs from His + Hers that I’d downloaded on Noisetrade were only part of the E.P., which actually consisted of seven songs. There was also mention of another E.P., entitled Freaks. And so I sent them an E-mail, hoping to find out where I could get the rest of their music. Even though publicists are always sending me material to check out for free, I would have been happy to pay for their E.P.s. I also wanted to know if they’d do an interview for Love is Pop. The bad news was that the E.P.s were no longer available. The good news was that they were working on an album and were interested in doing an interview, which they let me listen to their new material to prepare for.
The Hawk In Paris are a trio consisting of producer/writer Jeremy Bose, producer writer Matt Bronleewe and writer/lyricist/vocalist Dan Haseltine. (Although I had no idea at the time, it turned out that Dan was already famous as the lead vocalist of Jars Of Clay, one of the most successful Christian rock groups of all-time.) The group was born when the three friends got together after a decade and decided to write some songs together, having no idea what they’d end up with, much less that they’d form a band. In the following two-part interview I catch up with Matt and Dan and we discuss the band’s past, present and future.
PART ONE: MATTHEW BRONLEWEE:
You’ve recently launched a Pledge Music campaign. What made you decide to go that route?
We spent a long time deliberating over the crowd funding mechanisms, and even whether we wanted to take that particular route to help in the process of bringing The Hawk In Paris to a broader audience, and for a long time it didn’t feel like the right fit. Sometimes those platforms can feel desperate, or can be set up as a means to finance a broken business plan for some artists. So we did as much as we could to finance the project ourselves, as we truly believed in the music we were creating. It eventually became clear that we wanted to bring our small fan base into the conversation. Music has moved from being simply transactional, (pay money for a CD or album), to collaboration not only on a musical level, but on a business level. We don’t want to treat people who buy our music like kids who write our band name on school desks, and make scrapbooks with puffy paint. Our fans relationship should be more sophisticated. Treating fans more like patrons seems a better way. They want to invest in the creative process and help bring an idea into tangible design. That was the light bulb that drew us into the crowd-sourcing model.
What prompted you to to choose Pledge Music over Kickstarter and other sites?
Pledge Music felt like a more mature model of crowd sourcing. Its language and aesthetic feels a bit more artistic and collaborative. It seemed like the better platform for what we wanted to accomplish.
Are you planning to release the album yourselves by raising money, rather than seeking a traditional record deal?
We live in a time in history when all the tools are available to us for making music and getting it out to people. The large record label model is not as necessary. It serves a purpose, and it is still difficult to compete with a larger label’s grasp on pop radio and large scale marketing campaigns, but this is still another opportunity to bring fans/patrons into the collaborative process of releasing music. We are much more reliant on our fans to blog about the songs and the band, and keep the story of the Hawk In Paris alive. We all love to be the ones to discover new music and share it with our friends, now this discovery and word of mouth has become invaluable to the success of artists like us. And that is a great thing because it keeps us connected to our fans.
I only have three songs from His + Hers, which I downloaded from Noisetrade a while back and foolishly didn’t get around to listening until recently. I understand those three tracks are going to be on Freaks. Correct?
FREAKS is a combination of new songs and songs that were previously released on our two digital EP’s. The songs have been remixed, and tweaked a bit, and we allowed them to evolve a bit. Even though there is a consistent narrative in the music technology story about how everything is moving to a digital environment, we kept hearing from fans that they were hoping for a physical copy of the music. We decided to take the best of what we have created so far and release a full length album on CD and vinyl.
Is His + Hers still available? I looked for it on iTunes but couldn’t find it, or any of your music. Likewise, I couldn’t find you on Amazon.
Once we committed to the idea of a full length recording, we decided to pull the EP’s from the digital environment. This helps us focus on the messaging and avoid confusion about various musical projects. Since we are independent in all facets, it helps to keep things focused and gives us the ability to tell a unified story about the band and about our passion for this music. So anyone who was able to pick up the His + Hers EP or the FREAKS single, were the lucky ones.
When I looked for you on Amazon, it brought up a jazz album by a guy named Coleman Hawkins. Is this where you got your name?
The name THE HAWK IN PARIS, as a title has a wonderful ring to it. I first discovered it as the title of an experimental jazz project by Coleman Hawkins. But it wasn’t inspired by the music as much as the artwork on that album. Our desire to make music free of any weight to fit in a genre or have any direct depth made us move toward this name.
Who does what within the band?
The roles in the band are intentionally undefined. Every one of us has years of experience as producers, musicians, and writers. Certain songs require certain skills to surface from each of us. This has been a brilliant part of the creative process, as it allows each of us to weigh in on songs and musical ideas with the same gravity and influence. There are no egos and such high levels of respect toward each other that we trust each other’s ideas and suggestions. This doesn’t always work for bands, and can usually be a recipe for mediocrity when a band decides to make a record by committee. For some reason the chemistry between the three of us works.
How do – or how will – you replicate the sound of your album when performing live? Do you have any other musicians who’ll perform live with you so you don’t have to go without all of the synthesizers and electronic elements?
The Hawk In Paris is mostly a studio experiment. We have not entered into the live performance arena yet. We all have ideas about how to bring this project to the live environment, and those ideas represent a highly placed bar. When we finally get to a place where we are able to perform these songs live, we hope our presentation will be innovative and immersive, and unlike anything people have experienced before.
I’ve read that you wanted to make music that sounded like artists you remembered listening to as a kid, but that you specifically wanted to base your music on your memories, rather than going back to the source material. Can you elaborate on that?
The musical influences of The Hawk In Paris are quite vast. All three of us spent our formative years with a soundtrack of pop music in the 80’s. With the exception of Jeremy, who spent more time immersed in classical music, Arena rock and New Wave music had a great deal of influence. Songs from our past became a pool to dip into as we formed the sound of The Hawk. We wanted to nod to those influences without simply mimicking or parodying the genre or specific songs. We leaned more heavily on our embellished memories of songs rather than referencing the actual songs themselves. This was a discipline that allowed us to create something new.
PART TWO: DAN HASELTINE:
You’ve been the singer in Jars of Clay for something like 20 years, but I listen to The Hawk In Paris and I’d swear I’m listening to a 20 year old sing, partially because your voice sounds so youthful, but also because you really nail adolescence so well in your lyrics, which would make one think you were a teenager just yesterday. Are you drawing from your own experiences growing up when you write the lyrics for The Hawk In Paris? If so, were you the shy kid who sat there too scared to ask the girls to dance at dances?
I imagine that there was something locked away inside of me from my own adolescence. Most artists have an element of arrested development that they are working out through their artistic expressions. The beauty of artistic creation is that is is a wild and unpredictable activity. The kinds of shadows that immerge and the kinds of words that form are not truly bound by our control. We don’t often know what a song is about until after we have lived with it for a while. So, if I have captured well, the experience of adolescence, it is probably because there is a part of my soul that is still trying to answer questions about my time spent there. I love movies and great stories, and find that they were the mechanism for learning about the world for me. So, I definitely write in a visual manner. My metaphors are quite vivid. I love when a phrase can paint a picture or set a backdrop, or be a provocative kind of light. So I strive for that in my writing.
Do you find it liberating that you don’t have to write songs that are quote unquote Christian with The Hawk In Paris?
As far as the dichotomy of faith and pop music, I have never understood it. It doesn’t really exist. It is a cultural construct that was man-made and serves no purpose. Springsteen once said, “Write what you know.” If people actually came to Jars of Clay’s music without the prejudices of the “religious” label I think they would hear music about the human experience. Jars of Clay has continued to make music under a shadow predominantly made up of other peoples baggage with the church, or bad religious experiences that they projected onto Jars. When you read a Jars of Clay “music” review, there is rarely a mention of the music, and mostly just a clever quip about the church or religion, or morality. Probably because reviewers never actually listened to the record, they just made a judgment call based on their own assumption of what they thought we were doing as a band. I get it. I wouldn’t listen to music if I thought it was going to try to sell me something toxic, so I understand why people in the general music culture dismissed Jars. We are most frustrated by this because their prejudice is misguided. I have grown used to the tension of that, but it is refreshing that The Hawk In Paris can be free of those kinds of dismissive labels.
How have your fans from Jars of Clay reacted to The Hawk In Paris so far?
The fan reaction to The Hawk In Paris has been positive overall. There are some that are confused by it, and some who ask if Jars will be performing Hawk In Paris songs. It will take some time for people to understand that the two creative projects are completely different.
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