Thursday, 13 March 2014

Interview with HAWKMOTH

Hawkmoth cover art

HAWKMOTH are an Australian Instrumental Sludge/Post-Metal/Stoner Metal band who impressed me first back in 2011 when I reviewed their excellent S/T debut album.

It was a stunning hybrid of Sludge, Doom, Stoner and Post-Metal riffs that showed a band with a bright future indeed. Well 3 years later they have done it again with their even better brilliant new album – CALAMITAS which I described as:

Hawkmoth play out like a crazy as fuck hybrid of Karma To Burn jamming with Pelican If that sounds like a dream combination to you then you're in luck as Hawkmoth have delivered an excellent album to check out time and time again. They have written a great collection of tracks blending Sludge Metal, Post-Metal, Stoner Metal and hints of Ambient Post-Rock which will leave you begging for more..

Calamitas is a thunderous and brilliant ride from start to finish. It proves that Hawkmoth are one of Australia's finest upcoming Sludge/Stoner/Post-Metal bands. Check these guys out now. You won't be disappointed.”

I thought I should catch up with these highly talented Sludge/Stoner Metallers and see what they have to say to us here at Sludgelord HQ

Q1 – Hi Guys. Thanks for doing this. How are things with you all today

Glad to. We’re all pretty damn good actually.

Q2 – Can you give our readers a brief history of how the band started and where it is today.

Heath and I have been playing guitar together in various forms for a long time. A few years back we took on the idea of the type of music we wanted to play for both personal satisfaction and the inability to find a decent singer. Personally, the idea was to make heavy music with a dark movie score feel for atmosphere. Shitty vocals would definitely ruin that vibe so instrumental songs were the intent from the start. Aaron our bass player joined soon after with a shared view and appreciation for all things music related and we went from there. Today it’s still the three of us as the core of the band. Jase Canelas jumped on board on drums before the recording of Calamitas, which has made a massive sonic difference.

Q3 – How would yourselves describe your sound. As you guys play a weird and wonderful hybrid of Doom, Sludge, Post-Metal and Stoner Metal which is quite refreshing and original at times.

Heavy, and hopefully, emotive. A lot of the time it’s slow, drawn out, repetitive and abusive sounding with the intention to beat the idea into your head, but there’s also lighter moments to feel the full range of primal emotions when listening. Those styles you mentioned I guess are all evident in our sound as we feel they are the best vehicle to transfix both us when playing the music and hopefully the listener with emotions and imagery without the use of vocals or lyrics. The stoner orientated riffs with the groove and energy feel like a good release from the darker material.

Q4 – It's been a long 3 years since your debut album. I rated that album very highly. Looking back on that now. Would you change anything about it. Or are you happy with the way it is.

We still really like the songs but not the recording so much. We were too impatient when we started out to get our music out there so we recorded it ourselves and really rushed it. It sounds raw and aggressive but it’s also rushed and clumsy sounding.

Q5 – Now lets talk about your new album – CALAMITAS. Excellent new album. Why the name CALAMITAS. As it has a few different meanings such as loss, damage or harm. Does it have a specific meaning to the band.

-When writing the songs for the album it became apparent that there was a reoccurring theme or feel the songs were giving which is the imagery and feelings associated with a tragic or disastrous event. Like you said, loss, damage, harm etc. So we felt ‘Calamitas’ was a good title to encapsulate the theme of the album. It’s not exactly a heart warmer for the girls but oh well.

Q6 – Was it an easy or hard album to write and record for as It's very different to your debut album. It's more progressive and a lot more emotionally involved. Was that your intention to release something different compared to the last album.

The writing process came pretty easily and yeah, we definitely wanted to expand on the first album with a lot more range of sound and feel. We wanted more mysterious sounding softer passages to highlight the heavier sections. Knowing specifically want you want seems to make the writing process easier.

The songs were written a couple of years ago now but we made some more dumb recording decisions that didn’t do the songs justice so that wasted a lot of time. But it all worked out great when we came across Mike Morgan who recorded and mixed the album. He was incredible at immediately understanding what we wanted then delivering it. We recorded it pretty much live in a day and a half.

Q7 – I feel you guys have progressed as musicians and song-writers since your debut album. You have written some truly epic riffs. Have you guys been practising more and more over the last 3 years for the new album.

Thanks! Not so much practicing but more time thinking about the type of riff or song section wanted before fighting or caressing the guitar.

Q8 – I don't know if you know the answer to this question. But is it harder to write a song with no vocals/lyrics and that is purely instrumental. Or is it one less thing to worry about.

Yeah it is one less thing to worry about. We don’t have to worry about potential horrible lyrics confusing or conflicting with the songs feel. When writing instrumental songs you got to create an atmosphere or groove that carries the song along. Obviously you got to try and avoid writing songs in such ways of intro riff, verse riff , chorus riff then repeat because you’ll be thinking this is boring where the fuck are the vocals?! That’s for both playing and listening.

But in saying all this, we are open to the idea of adding vocals at some point long as it fits the vibe.

Q9 – What is your favourite track off the album and why.

That’s hard to say. We had enough trouble picking track order for the album!

Q10 – Now you have read my review of your new album. How would yourselves describe it.

When we’re feeling cocky we would describe it as an instrumental soundtrack to the cataclysm. ..It’s definitely a heavy but lonely sounding album.

Q11 – Where did you come up with the excellent song titles. Some very intriguing titles.

Thanks for noticing that because a lot of thought went into the song titles. Being instrumental, it’s nearly the only chance to use language so it’s not treated as an afterthought. Firstly is about really understanding how each songs speaks to us, makes us feel and what images the songs conjure. From there we pick the subject matter and then choose words that have an interesting spin on the subject matter.

Q12 – I love the album cover. Who designed it and did you have much input into the overall design of it.

I literally sifted through hundreds of images looking for the right cover image to go with the theme of Calamitas. When I saw it, it was instantaneous, like ‘that’s the one!’ It’s an image of an oil painting. We like it because it can be interpreted in different ways and it’s engaging. I bought it off the net and then designer Gabriel Cameron tweaked the image and did the cover for us.

Q13 – Which bands and artists influenced you all as musicians.

The big ones are Neurosis, Swans, Boris and the the Melvins . Stylistically the are all different, but they all share the same attributes of longevity with an evolution of sound, experimentation and an obvious devotion to their craft. This should be inspirational in any musicians book. Plus the music is always amazing which helps.

Q14 – What is the song writing process in the band? Is it a group collective or is just down to one individual.

I write the bulk of the material individually and Aaron makes some solid writing contributions as well. Once the song or the foundation of a song is conceived it’s put to the whole band where it can undergo changes or further development collectively.

Q15 – What is the live HAWKMOTH experience like.

Loud and energetic. We try to get our heavy low end frequencies pummelling the audience. We haven’t yet reached our goal of volume induced audience vomiting a la early swans but hopefully one day. We are still learning.

Q16 – I am a big fan of the Aussie Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal Scene. Have you noticed everything different about it over the last few years. Is it easier to perform and release new records. Or is it still a hard place to release records and play shows.

So are we. There definitely seems to be more interest and a broader awareness of it. But it’s still ultimately underground. Though this is the appeal of it for many. It’s awesome to see blogs such as yours devoted to it to make it so much more accessible for fans. To be honest we are kind of detached from the scene as far as constantly playing with other bands in the genre goes. And we’ve never felt any great demand for the style to make performing and releasing records any easier.

Q17 – What are you thoughts on the crowd-funding scene where bands and artists ask fans to help fund their latest album, tour or release. Are you fans of this medium. Would yourselves ever go down this route.

Any avenue to get music out there. Why not? Though it’s the ultimate litmus test on how much your music is wanted. We haven’t discussed it as an option. Are we comfortable asking strangers for money and to put trust and faith in something that’s not readily available? Yes!

Q18 – If you could change anything about the Sludge/Doom/Stoner/Post-Metal scene. What would it be and why.

The scene with its associated fierce bushranger like beards, smoked out fuzzy guitar tones, middle aged beer bellies, big amp stacks, trance inducing sonic soundscapes, creepy mythology references. Hefty riffs originating from huge testosterone filled balls etc etc , are all fine by us.

Q19 – If you could give any advice to people wanting to start a band what would it be.

Well we’re by no means experts, but it would be to just commit yourself and do it. Don’t expect and seek shortcuts and commit to the financial and time sacrifices to do it properly.

Q20 – Apart from the new album what else do you have in store over the next 12 months or so.

We’re in the process of organising our album launch and other supporting Sydney shows now. Jase copped a foot injury so shows have been unfortunately delayed a little. We are going to support the album with shows In Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne. And any other place that wants us really. A new album worth of songs will be in the bag this year too.

Q21 – Well guys thanks for talking to us here at Sludgelord HQ. Do you have anything to say to your fans.

A big warm thankyou! To your blog and fans both for your attention and support. Also to check our facebook page for gig announcements. It would be great and we would be super appreciative to see you at a show.

All the best guys. Best of luck with you album. It's a brilliant album that you have there.

Calamitas is available on DD and CD now from BandCamp now.

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Written by Steve Howe