|I See Hawks In L.A|
The fact that they don’t really have any hits didn’t stop L.A’s famous countryrockers I See Hawks In L.A from putting out the album Shoulda Been Gold 2001 – 2009. And why the hell should it? Even though these guys may not be regulars on any charts, they still play hard rockin’ and fun lovin’ country music like it should be played if you have the privilege of being from the same city as country rock itself. In this interview, Americana UK speaks to Paul Lacques from the band about the hits, 9/11 and of course, Lady GaGa.
Interview by Soren McGuire
‘Shoulda Been Gold’ is a greatest hits collection and a fine one indeed if I may say so. Only thing is, you’re not exactly biting Lady GaGa in the arse when it comes to racking in the actual hits. What was the thoughts behind putting together this collection? And did I just ask the rudest question in the history of country rock?
American Beat offered us the compilation deal, which was a pleasant surprise to us because of the lack of Hawks hits. We are, however, working on a video that is so outrageous that Lady Gaga will be consigned to the dustbin of history.
How do you think the band has grown or evolved during the first ten years?
Innocence lost, innocence regained. Our first batch of songs were personal and rather spiritual, musings on planet earth, and then 9/11 and the dark Bush years descended, and our songs became political, or indirectly influenced by world events. Of late we've returned to more personal songs. We've all gotten married, too, which has started showing up in songs.
Was there ever a set plan for how the band should achieve world domination and get to put out a greatest hits collection ten years in the future, or did you always.sort of stumble upon the succes you’ve had?
We plan days ahead. Sometimes weeks.
Over the years, you’ve worked with Chris Hillman, Brantley Kearns, David Jackson and a number of other legendary players from the Californian countryrock-scene. How have those people influenced and helped you as a band?
These guys are legends for a reason. When you put them in front of a mic, that cosmic sound flows instantly, like water from a spring.
When you deal in alternative country or Americana, you deal with a genre of music that has never really been fully defined, at least not to my understanding, But since you’re in the city where country music was first approached from different, new angles, that must have given you the opportunity to take country music and twist it in any way you liked? How would you define your own approach to country music?
One of the best things about Los Angeles is its almost complete lack of hierarchy. In Nashville you can feel the presence of an all powerful and judgemental Music Industry in every club in the city. L.A. is very porous, and players and ideas jump from genre to genre with ease. The country rock scene has always been a bit
under the radar here too, with exceptions like the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt, so it's not self conscious. Our first recording/writing efforts were quite spontaneous, and we've tried to follow the rule of no rules ever since.
You’ve never been a band to shy away from the odd political comment here and there. I know a lot of artists dislike this question, so I’m going to apologise in advance, but do you considder yourself a political band?
Yes. There are diverse political views within the band, but we all follow world events closely. Writing about events isn't exactly our goal, but the last decade has been too outrageous to let pass without comment.
The press release mentioned that you were faced with a new sense of appreciation when you first went to tour the UK in 2006. Please tell me more about that experience? What attracted you to this place? Surely not our food or the weather?
We like dark clouds and rain, both rare commodities in L.A. And real beer, which arguably doesn't exist in America. And we all felt a distinct sense of spiritual homecoming when we encountered the green rolling hills of England, Scotland, and Ireland. We all have British Isles ancestry, and the feelings of ancient familiarity were palpable. And country music fans in UK are really knowledgeable about the genre, and super appreciative.
A few days ago, I sent a bunch of questions to another great new band from California, Old Californio. What do you see happening in California these days when it comes to music? And do you think I insulted them by suggesting that the musical grandeur of the SunshineState all lays in the past, burried for forty years when Chris Hillman left The Burrito Brothers and The Eagles started kicking each others arses on stage?
Old Californio are the perfect example of west coast music's perpetual renewal. They're very good friends of ours, and we're big fans. The Eagles might have been the last big financial success story from California country, but today's scene is quite rich.
The liner notes to Shoulda Been Hold say that the summer of 2009 feels a lot like the summer of 1999 when the band was formed. Have you always had this ability to maintain your musical youth, like every song written and gig played was the first?
It still feels like a grand adventure. We never take it for granted.
Artists have always seemed to release greatest hit records for two different reasons. One – they need the money, and two – it provides them with a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over with a new chapter of their career. Though I haven’t checked the Billboard charts lately, I take it you might also be doing this to close the book on the first ten years of your musical legacy?
Again, the compilation was offered to us, and we wouldn't have done it on our own. But the process of putting the songs together definitely made us reflect on the 10 year journey. But our next batch of songs is the real story, and we're excited about it.
I See Hawks In L.A’s Shoulda Been Gold is out now on Big Book Records. More info at MySpace.com/iseehawksinla