With the release of their new self-titled EP and hit single “We Come Running,” Youngblood Hawke’s popularity has exponentially grown over the past couple months, but this band has not lost their sense of creative self despite their growing fan base. After an amazing performance at Echo Park Rising, I met up with Youngblood Hawke to talk music, goals, and super heroes.
Your new song “We Come Running” and your last-summer single, “Rootless,” both boast a certain theme of travel, wandering, freedom. I feel like this push to exploration and wandering speaks to a generation uncertain of the future. Where did you find the inspiration for these kinds of thematic songs?
Simon Katz: That’s the best question we’ve ever been asked!
Sam Martin: I think we all found it by going through it personally. We all dreamed of playing music, and we wrote the song when stuff really wasn’t going well for us.
SK: We felt disconnected from everything, but we still had an optimism for the future. Both songs are unintentionally similar because of what we were going through at the time. We were in a down moment, and we almost wanted to inspire ourselves.
SM: And I see a lot of people, you know, wake up in the morning, and they do something they don’t like and that, after a while, starts to affect you as a person. I think we all just consciously made a decision to not do that, and go after what we loved and what we were passionate about. I don’t know if any of us could live any other way. So this song is harnessing those weird doubts and frustrations and down moments of the band. During the process, everybody was looking at each other and wondering, “Do you think this is going to work?”
SK: There was always an uncertainty in any new endeavor.
SM: At one point we were like, “I don’t know if music is an option.” And then we thought, “That’s ridiculous. We have to do what we want to do.”
In your biography on the web, you mention that, in your previous incarnation of the band, Iglu & Hartly, you found the music industry to be “turbulent.” With the creation of Youngblood Hawke, you sought to keep the music simple and accessible. Do you think the band has achieved this goal of simplicity, and what approach are you taking this time around to make it so?
SM: Where our struggles came from wasn’t the industry. The industry is just a platform to release your music, a gate to put your stuff out there. The struggle with us came from artistic differences. Simon and I and Jarvis started this band [Iglu and Hartly] and grew up wanting to do different things. Simon and I were on the same page musically. We wanted to find a way to make music to reflect ourselves. When you’re making music that doesn’t feel close to you, how is anybody else going to connect with it?
SK: From what I’ve seen, being successful in the music business is all about perseverance. It’s fighting through the barriers. When someone tells you, “Great show, but it wasn’t up to par,” you could give up right there. Or you could write better songs, play a better show, and make yourself better, and eventually you’ll succeed. I think that approach works for everything you do in life.
To promote your new album, are you looking to any particular band to tour with in the coming months? Who would you love to tour with?
SK: Imagine Dragons are good friends of ours and also an amazing band. We’d like to tour with people who have similar ideals to us. Similar passions.
SM: And maybe somebody different musically. It could be cool to play with somebody that has a different vibe than us musically. The audience might get more out of that. But we played a couple shows with Imagine Dragons and the vibe, the room, was just good. People were having a good time, and I think both of our bands give that out. But really, anybody. Two Door Cinema Club.
Nik Hughes: Alex Clare.
SK: Rihanna. Let’s just get to the point. Rihanna and that is it!
You previously played SXSW, and now you’re playing at Echo Park Rising. What is your favorite part about performing in festivals versus going on tour?
Tasso Smith: We’ve done one-offs and stuff. We’ve experienced going out of town, playing in venues and clubs, which is amazing. It’s definitely a different vibe, though, than playing outside and at a festival. Usually you get a different crowd reaction, but tonight it was amazing. I had so much fun!
SK: The thing I love about festivals is that everybody is there to listen to music, and they’re there to experience new bands. They’re not there for, you know, one band in particular. They’re there because they might like three or four bands on the bill, but they want to experience new projects that people are doing. It’s an exciting thing because you can develop a lot of new fans.
SM: [At festivals], their expectations are wide open. So for a new band like us, it’s cool to come in and have a great time on stage and take people by surprise.
NH: Selfishly, it’s amazing to see all these rad bands. When you’re watching bands all day long, it gets you pumped up to play your own set. And when you see the crowd going nuts for all these other bands, you feel like “Oh man, I can’t wait until we play.”
SM: There’s also a community with other bands. Half of these bands you go up to and say, “Hey, let’s play together sometime.” That whole thing is so important.
SK: I actually like playing in front of complete strangers instead of friends. I mean, I like both, but it’s really cool to look at somebody’s face in the first song and they’re like, “What the hell is this?” And the second song they go, “Holy shit!” and they’re dancing and going nuts.
TS: You know they don’t know the words, but by the end of the song, they’re singing the words.
Your songs are so catchy! Even if you don’t know the words at the beginning, you definitely can sing along by the end.
SM: There’s always that one guy that’s giving me the stink eye for the first couple of songs, and then four or five songs into it…
SK: He’s putting the pony tail down!
Alice Katz: That guy was totally here tonight. He was movin by the end, and that made me so happy.
From a previous interview I read, it looks like Sam came up with the name of the band based on the book of the same name by Herman Wouk. I can’t say I’ve read it yet, but I’m intrigued. Who, fictionally or non-fictionally, has influenced you creatively?
SM: Peter Pan. He’s infinitely curious.
(A friend brings the band beers to the table.)
Friend: It’s a long story.
SK: I love it when our friend brings us a beer and says, “It’s a long story.”
Nik Hughes: Maybe Lord of the Rings for me. I’m kind of a nerd like that, but I just like the fantasy aspect of it. Anything can happen. Super powers are awesome.
SK: Sam said Peter Pan because we’re all struggling to remain children, in a sense. When you’re growing up, you have these passions and dreams, and you don’t think, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do that. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to be an astronaut, let’s say, because I’m in the lower half of my class.” No, you just go for it because there is no other option. We want to be musicians, we want to make music — there is no other option. I think that’s why we can relate to Peter Pan.
SM: Doc Holiday. He was a vicious, gun slinging guy, but he was also a dentist and super intelligent.
TS: Tom Sawyer. Just a rebel who made his own way, explored, and pissed people off but didn’t care.
AB: My answer is Hatshepsut. If I were to give an easier answer, I’m obsessed with all super heroes, and I love all super hero movies, especially female super heroes. But Hatshepsut was a female pharaoh, and she was more powerful than any king that ever lived, and no one really knows anything about her. I love the mystery behind her. She was a real figure, but because a lot about her isn’t known, she is like a super hero. She’s amazing.
Can I just say, off the cuff, when I saw you beat those drums in the show, I thought it was so cool that you completely took charge.
SK: She beats the shit out of those drums.
I knew there was a lot of percussion in the songs, but I didn’t realize the whole band got in on it in the shows.
SK: There’s something really tribal and exciting about it. It’s Nik’s idea to bring more drums into the band. It’s so instinctual.
SM: We usually start every rehearsal off with the “Nik Hughes Drum School Session,” and it’s so much fun! He just starts a beat, and then he goes “Solo!” and one person solos on the drum. It’s pretty awesome.
NH: The smiles on their faces is just awesome. They love it.
Where do you guys rehearse?
AK: Just down the street from here [Echo Park].
SK: We [Alice and I] have a two bedroom house that we have converted into a recording studio.
You have a really nice rock/pop sound that attracts fans of both genres. Where do you feel your sound is organically going? More to rock or pop? Or is it staying happily down the middle?
SK: Happily down the middle. We have some experimental tracks and also have some big choruses, but we can’t get away from that sound, because that’s us. That’s who we are.
SM: That’s what moves us.
SK: We never set out to be like, “We’re going to be an indie-pop sort of band.” This is the music that moves us. This is what connects us the most. I didn’t even know what the fuck it was when we first started making it! This is where we feel comfortable.
When interviewers ask who you think you sound like, I imagine it’s hard for the artist to answer, unless you’re really trying to sound like somebody. But in this situation, with your new album, you’re not trying to be like anybody.
SM: We’re just trying to write good songs. That’s it. That’s all we want — to write the best songs we can possibly write.
TS: That’s the whole mantra of the band. Write the best songs we can, and everything else will follow through from there.
NH: The look or the vibe doesn’t matter. It’s just about the sound.
AK: We have to all adore it. We have to all feel it.
For more info, check out Youngblood Hawke’s website.
Photos taken by Christine Perez.