As you probably know, I recently reviewed Youngblood Hawke’s August 6th, 2014 show at Brighton Music Hall in Boston. My review was wholly positive and I feel the same way about their debut album, Wake Up, which is, in fact, crammed with plenty of gorgeous anthems to rouse you. Each of its songs are stimulating gems rich in kaleidoscopic color and they’re even more vibrant live. Post show I was so hyped up that I simply had to interview the band. Below is my interview with lead vocalist Sam Martin. We’ll also have an interview with percussionist/backing vocalist Alice Katz in the not so distant future.
You met Simon at the University of Colorado at Boulder and spent time together in the band Iglu & Hartly. Were either of you from Colorado originally or had you both moved there for school?
Simon and I both moved there for school, Simon’s from San Antonio, Texas and I’m from Portland, Oregon.
Where were you born?
Was Iglu & Hartly formed in Colorado or did you form the band after moving to California?
We formed in Colorado while we were going to school. I met Simon my sophomore year and after a few years of playing ski towns around Boulder we decided to make the move to Los Angeles. We could only go so far in Colorado. We were hungry for a new scene and new inspirations.
Iglu & Hartly were a pretty big deal in the UK. How many hits did you have there?
Ha! We had one top 5 hit over there. Unfortunately, or fortunately, however you look at it, the band wasn’t around long enough to release more material.
What was the biggest festival you played?
We played Isle of Wight for 80 thousand people, its was insane. A sea of people… and an inflatable penis.
Do you still get decent royalty checks?
Hahah, No. We occasionally get random checks, but they’re only big enough to buy a burrito from Chipotle. If you don’t get meat…
Why did Iglu & Hartly break up?
Creative differences and relationships within the band. It became a nightmare. We were really unhappy, we were outgrowing the music and Simon and I were dying to express ourselves in a different way. It became so bad that eventually we weren’t “allowed” to have creative input in the songs – so we left. It’s like you’re on a basketball team but you’re only allowed to dribble, or something, it was ridiculous.
How long did it take you and Simon to put together Youngblood Hawke after Iglu & Hartly split? I understand you were knew the other members…
Simon and I began writing songs immediately. We had no idea it would turn into another band, we were just writing songs to get all the crazy things we had both been through off our chest. We really needed that release. We were in a pretty bad place. We went from having a top 5 song in the UK, to sitting in our living rooms jobless and poor, scraping coins together for burritos. Eventually we realized that we had a bunch of songs that we were really proud of and we asked some of our best friends to join the band. Luckily they all said yes… the rest just fell into place. 3 of our members grew up together in San Antonio, TX playing music together and the other 2 members we had known from previous projects. It’s a tight knit crew.
Did you record your EP before you were signed to Universal Republic or did that happen after you were signed?
Yea, we recorded almost all of the record before we were signed. We wanted to have creative control over the songs we were making. Nothing worse than a guy with a tie on coming in and telling us to sing something more accessible or something, The reason we started this band was for creative freedom.
How did you get signed to Universal Republic? You were on a major with Iglu as well with Mercury. Was there any temptation *not* to take a major label deal with Youngblood and go for a smaller label like Sub Pop?
Universal heard the songs, came to a few of our first shows and that was basically it. It happened pretty quickly. We were nervous about going with such a huge label, but the people we worked with from Universal were amazing. It was all about the people for us, all labels are pretty much the same, but we had a strong connection with a few people at the label and knew they would be fighting for us. They were really passionate about the songs and we had faith in them to follow through with their support.
What’s the biggest festival Youngblood Hawke has played so far? Are there any you’re looking forward to playing this summer?
We love festivals! We haven’t played too many yet with Youngblood, but we’re planning to. We played Voodoo fest, Sasquatch and Firefly festival. They were all crazy!!
You had/have a song called “Bring Me Home” on The Mortal Instruments’ soundtrack. Did you write and record this specifically for the movie or is there some other story behind this?
It was just a song we decided didn’t fit the album. They liked it and asked to use if for their movie. We weren’t going to use if for anything else, so we let them use it.
You recently released a new single called “Pressure,” which I think is spectacular, by the way. How did this come about — did you decide to record a one-off single or are you working on album number two already?
Thank you! We’re writing our second album now! We just wanted to release something in-between the first and second album. Something for the fans. We made pressure and decided to just put it out there. We’re about half way done with the second album. Can’t wait to share it with people!
Now, a few from our random questions bank:
What’s it like being recognized in the street?
Never really happens. Ha! When it occasionally does its cool, I guess. I don’t think any of us are too concerned with those types of things, we just want to make music and play shows. Thats where a passion is.
How popular would you ideally like to be? For example, there’s massive popularity like Adele and then there’s moderate popularity like Neko Case.
I’m mean obviously we want to be successful, successful as possible. I hope we would! I think our goal is just to be able to make music together for as long as we can. I think we all feel extremely fortunate that we’ve been able to do that. Just trying to keep it going…
What do you think of to summon up the emotions you project on stage? How much is theatrics?
Its ALL theatrics! Clowns, fire, midgets and hoola-hooping sea lions with birthday cake smeared on their faces! No, all our music is very personal to us, we dump our whole lives into these songs. Anytime we perform these songs we go back to that place, those emotions, that were first there when we created them. Playing live is our way of breathing new life into the songs. And sometimes they start taking on new meanings. Also, beer helps.
Special thanks to Rose Campbell at USvsTHEM for making this possible and to Janell Shirtcliff for her spectacular photos!