Music Features

HAWK (interview)

London-based quartet HAWK are starting to make waves on the music scene. Lead singer Julie Hawk only started collaborating with guitarist Matt Harris in 2012, but already the band have gained support from several noteworthy music magazines and websites, as well as plays on BBC 6Music.

The band’s Facebook page describes them as noir alt-rock, which goes some way to demonstrating how difficult they are to put a label on. Latest EP – awarded 9/10 in the No Ripcord Singles Bar – majestically swoops and soars, combining gossamer guitar lines with the kind of intense build-up more usually associated with fierce post-rock.

Julie and Matt were kind enough to speak to Joe Rivers about the origins of the band, and their plans for the year ahead.

Joe: Your work seems to defy easy categorisation; is this something you strive for?

Matt: Not really, we have a lot of influences within the group and they do tend to result in a quite unique sound. It’s nice to think that we have our own little place in the universe. But then at times that can be difficult because people like to be able to compare. It is difficult to get someone interested in what you are doing without a point of reference they’re more familiar with, so it’s a blessing and a curse.

Joe: How did the four of you end up making music together?

Julie: Matt and Chris were in another band when I met them; they’ve known each other for years. I’d just started braving open mic nights in London, and Matt was hugely supportive (I was a very nervous player). We ended up working together after a while, originally as an acoustic project, but I don’t think either of us ever set out to make acoustic music. So when the sound started to develop, getting Chris involved was an obvious step, as they had a great history of playing together already. Sam was the last to join. He was drumming on our friend’s project at the time, and we asked him along to a rehearsal. It’s strange to look back on that first rehearsal before we knew if we’d all mesh. I remember waiting for Sam to realise that our jokes were jokes and that we were not just constantly being asses to each other. Thankfully, he didn’t take long to pick up the tone of the room. And he was a great drummer too! 

Joe: You've moved slightly away from your more traditional, folky roots. Was this a conscious decision or did it evolve that way?

Matt: Both. Writing Hush was probably a bit of a turning point. It was the first time we had really turned up the guitars and put a bit of distortion and a darker atmosphere in the mix. At the time we were playing more delicate songs with a different character. So we weren’t sure how it would be received, but it quickly became a highlight and we enjoyed playing it a lot. As a result we gravitated towards that kind of sound and that feels like the direction we are naturally going in at the moment – louder and darker.

Joe: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? How does a HAWK track come into being?

Julie: There isn’t a perfect pattern of how our songs come together. Matt’s got this constant bibliography of musical ideas, sometimes going back years. Whereas I tend to have one idea for a song going on at one time and I can’t get it out of my head until it’s been nailed or canned! These days, the tracks tend to really come into their own in the studio, where we can all experiment a bit. Sam and Chris have a huge role in this too. Stuff gets added, chopped, and changed – we might realise that a seven minute outro is a bit ambitious! But outside of that, there are a lot of other layers going on. Matt has a great ear for details; he works with a lot of samples and acoustic instruments in the production stages. We’ve been lucky to find an amazing violinist, Alice Barron, who played on some of the EP. In the end, no matter how the track has come together, we want there to be something new to discover every time the listener hears it. 

Joe: Are you pleased with the reception you're getting with the new EP?

Matt: Yes, it has been really interesting to see what different audiences and reviewers have latched on to, but the support and encouragement has been great. Having people saying that they’re excited about what we’ll do next just makes us all the more motivated to get our new material written recorded and ready to go.

Joe: Is there an album on the horizon?

Matt: Absolutely. We talk all the time about what would be on an album and it is a really exciting prospect. But I think we perhaps still feel there’s a bit of development to come first. The reception to the EP has led to some opportunities to work with new people in the production process that we are really looking forward to. So we’re investigating those avenues at the moment. We will definitely be looking at a follow up release in the next few months but the format is yet to be decided on.

Joe: What next for HAWK in 2015?

Julie: We’re heading on tour in Ireland soon! Which is very nice for me and Sam as we get to double that up with a bit of a homecoming – see our mums, eat brown bread etc. And we always get very lucky with the weather when we tour Ireland! Seriously though, the crowds over there are wonderful; we can’t wait. Closer to home, we’ll be working on another release for 2015 so spending plenty of time in the studio, getting ideas into shape. We’re already getting new video ideas down with James Byrne, who directed Hush and Clock Hands, so we’ll probably get together for another video shoot soon. I won’t say which song just yet, but we’re excited to get things started.

The Clock Hands EP by HAWK is available now on Veta Records. HAWK are playing a free gig at the Dublin Grand Social on 8th March, and will be supporting Orlando Seale and the Swell at The Sebright Arms in London on 26th March.