Interview with Hawk Eyes – “We’ve already shown that we can do all the guitar gymnastics… we need to show we can do other things as well!”
Hawk Eyes have been gathering momentum supporting a wide variety of the best rock acts in the world, including the likes of Iron Maiden, The Wildhearts, Alexisonfire, Jamie Lenman and System of a Down. Having enjoyed great underground success with their second album Ideas (a record full of them) and 2013’s short sharp burst of an EP, “That’s What This Is”, they tell Remfry Dedman how they’re now looking to expand their musical horizons.
How is recording going for your third album?
Rob (Guitar): Most of the instruments are done. Actually vocals are also an instrument, so…most of the instruments aren’t done.
Ryan (Bass): It’s nearly there.
Rob: The songs were only partially formed when we went into the studio and we spent a lot of time changing the songs in the studio. Obviously, if you haven’t got a finished song, you can’t do vocals for it. A lot of bands do pre-production and have demos before they go in to the studio but we didn’t have that luxury.
Paul (Vocals/Guitar): We started recording this album 14 months ago now. A long gestation period is a common theme with all our records. We just like to take a step back and think which bits work, which bits don’t and then edit them, until they flow better. If we get bored of a song within two months, then someone who’s not invested in the band is going to get bored within two minutes. There are a couple of songs to do vocals on, and then it goes off for mixing and mastering. It’s all there we just need to put the icing on the cake. You don’t just want to weigh in with vocals as soon as it’s recorded fresh and ruin a good foundation by putting the first thing that comes in to your head over the top of it.
Is that why you tend not to write songs in a conventional verse/chorus/verse structure?
Paul: There will be more verse/chorus/verse songs on this album then before but it will still be slightly adventurous.
Ryan: Without being clichéd, I think it’s matured a little bit. And that was the case from (debut album) Modern Bodies to Ideas, but now we’re going from the second to the third and we wanted to try and move on, expand our musical horizons a little bit. Just be a little bit classier with the song writing this time around.
So there’s quite a big leap from Ideas to this third record?
Rob: I’d say so. We said a similar thing when Ideas came out, it would be pretty pointless for us to do the same thing again. You may as well just listen to Ideas again…
Ryan: Just put the songs in a different order.
Paul: We’ve already shown that we can do all the guitar gymnastics and we can still play those songs live. We need to show we can do other things as well.
Rob: We want to feel like we’ve accomplished something and if you are doing the same thing again, you haven’t really tried to do anything, you’ve just gone, ‘well, we know this has worked before let’s just do it again’. If you’re in a creative unit you might as well at least try and be creative, rather than ‘here’s Ideas Part two.’
Paul: We’ve reappraised our methods a little as well. We did some pretty big stuff last year with System of a Down and we feel like we’re a totally independent band. We don’t have any investment from record labels, we never have. We’ve had help from a lot of very kind people along the way to get where we are but we just looked at each other and thought we’re on a bit of a treadmill here. We might as well take a step back and actually do this record properly. So we didn’t try and rush it out for the summer to try and get on festival bills because we’ve done festivals already and we’ve done the things we wanted to tick off, now we need to make sure we do an even better record than we’ve done before.
Ryan: It would’ve been just churning one out to get on to the promo cycle again and that’s not the best thing for the record or the band at this point.
Rob: And we’ve already been offered a gig playing with Iron Maiden so you can’t top that anyway!
Speaking of that, you’ve had some brilliant support slots with bands like Therapy?, The Wildhearts, System of a Down, Coheed and Cambria… Do you relish having to play to a crowd who aren’t necessarily there for you?
Rob: I think we’ve been quite lucky. We’ve never played to a Slayer type crowd who are there just to see Slayer. I mean you always get the odd person whose just stands there going (mimes a one fingered salute). We played a gig once where…it wasn’t the right crowd for us and there was a girl at the front who was like that. And that’s fine, but I think generally we’ve been very lucky that people have been very receptive to us.
Ryan: We toured with Baby Godzilla last year on the Black Spiders headliner. They are reputable oiks! They’re van broke down after the first gig and they ended up being in our van for the rest of the tour. It was almost like touring with ourselves 5 years previously.
Paul: We like to play to lots of different crowds. We’ve just done ‘Kin Hell Fest in Leeds with the likes of Napalm Death and Anaal Nakraath, but at the same time we could quite happily play on an indie bill because we don’t really know what our crowd is. I imagine they’d be people like us and if they’re like us then they’re going to like all different types of music. Actually, we’ve probably consciously avoided engineering a fan base because it just doesn’t sit well with us. We play music and hopefully you’re open-minded enough to get it and if you’re not, then fine.
Are you producing the album yourselves?
Paul: We’re producing it in collaboration with Andy Hawkins who did the Mindhammers EP and That’s What This Is EP and he finished off Ideas. He’s really open to the tangents that we go off on. We’re very lucky to have that relationship because I think a lot of other producers would just sack us off. Our first record, Modern Bodies, we produced ourselves and let’s be honest some of it’s a bit of a mess, you know? His job is to make sure we don’t do that again.
Are there areas on this record that you’re exploring that you haven’t explored before?
Rob: Yeah, there are definitely new styles we’ve never tried before. It goes back to why re-tread the same ground? We tried to broaden our horizons with Ideas and I think we tried to broaden them even further with this album.
Paul: We’ve tried to make it more divergent. So we do less harsh stuff here and more melodic stuff there and then even heavier then we’ve been before here. So that’s what’s happened really, it’s sort of fanned out. We didn’t want to put 12 ideas into one song, we wanted 12 songs with one clear idea each.
Rob: It’s the type of record that I like listening to. I like diverse sounding records and all of the bands I like explore different ideas and don’t just churn out the same thing again and again.
The System of a Down gigs were some of the biggest shows you’ve played in your career. How was it opening up for such a legendary band on an arena tour?
Paul: I honestly think we did quite well, without sounding big-headed. The crowds were really into it.
Rob: I think a lot of that was to do with the atmosphere that the System of a Down crew created because they were so welcoming. They said, “We’ll make sure you get soundcheck, is there anything we can do for you? What do you need?” And they were just really really helpful. We’d heard stories of other support acts with bigger bands and they don’t get that, so we were quite lucky in that respect.
Ryan: We didn’t feel like an inconvenience
Paul: When you feel comfortable with another bands crew, you can just go out and play a good show. I imagine it’s different if you feel like an outsider.
Do you have any plans beyond the release of your third album?
Paul: Well, we definitely want to go back to Europe. We just think that the crowds that we’ve played to in Europe and the feedback that we get from there has been brilliant. In the future we’ll be looking at going back to America. If we can get on some more Andrew WK or Iron Maiden supports then we’ll absolutely do that as well.
Ryan: Give us a go on yer plane Captain Bruce!
Hawk Eyes as yet untitled third album will be released towards the end of 2014. They play a free show at The Old Blue Last in London on 23rd July.Tagged in: Alexisonfire, Hawk Eyes, Iron Maiden, Jamie Lenman, The Wildhearts
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