Article by: Lee Fraser
Sticky Magazine and Youngblood Hawke discuss portable studios, band marriage and the music-loving music industry.
Youngblood Hawke are, you might say, kind of a big deal. Their social networking is as busy and popular as Sam Roberts Band and they’re touring North America in a sizeable, late-model bus. They’re on Republic Records, the label that proudly carries Florence and the Machine, Gotye, Of Monsters and Men and Edward Sharpe, just to name a few. They’ve been on Jimmy Kimmel Live , Rachel Ray and The Tonight Show. All of this within the first year of their existence.
Meeting inside Lee’s Palace between loading in and that night’s show, we sat around one of the high top tables and spent some time sharing perspectives and perceptions. For a band with such an impressive resume, the band members are grounded and noticeably impassioned. The two founding members, Sam Martin and Simon Katz had already gone through the growing pains of a young and eager band, achieving rapid success only to come crashing down due to bad chemistry amongst the other members of that band. With nothing but the desire to make music in their veins, they took a more strategic approach this time. "What's the most important thing that we've learned? We have to have really good relationships with everybody in the band, and it has to be a family." says Katz, looking back on those days. Putting everything you’ve got into making a go of being a full-time musician, forming a band is truly entering into a marriage of sorts, and Katz and Martin wanted to make sure there was a solid foundation with that respect.
Recruiting old friends who are talented musicians with the same ideals, Katz and Martin then focused on continuous creativity. The band spent endless hours writing and jamming and piecing together songs that told stories of getting through rough times with an optimistic outlook. Throwing some of these pieces up on Bandcamp turned out to be a fortunate twist of fate.
The tunes they posted online drew sold-out crowds to shows they played in their home-town of L.A. Sold-out shows and the quality of their music drew the attention of folks with decision-making power, the power to sign them to Republic Records or to book them on Jimmie Kimmel. From there, the shows have grown and the interest from radio and TV hasn’t stopped. It’s interesting to parallel their story with the tale of similarly talented and business-minded Canadian bands. Does living in L.A. have tangible benefits that lead to more record sales, more sold-out shows and more life-changing opportunities? It's possible that Jian Ghomeshi or The Leake might turn up at your show and you might end up on a nation-wide program, but will you get the same audience and the same spin-off benefits?
As much as success has chased these guys, the mantra remains unchanged. Thanks to the compact technology of today, Youngblood Hawke are still constantly writing and recording music. Their “portable studio” (a couple of laptops, some pre-amps, a MIDI controller) affords them this luxury even while on tour. They still value and nurture the band marriage. They’re thrilled to see familiar faces in the audience and folks singing along to their tunes. This is not a band that acts like they’re kind of a big deal. They’re a band that act like so many hard-working, talented bands we all know and love.
Although Youngblood Hawke have already had their Toronto debut, there is no doubt that they will be back. Repeatedly.