Interview: The Hawkeyes

The Hawkeyes play rock and roll music. Nothing more. Nothing less. But they do it in a refreshing way. They know exactly what they're putting out into the world and they're doing it deliberately. Their honesty makes their music very refreshing and you can't listen to them without getting the feeling that they're just four guys who love music trying to have a good time on stage. We met up with The Hawkeyes after their performance at the Strip District Music Festival.

FoundSound: You guys live all over the place.  So, how’s meeting up to practice? Do you guys, just practice at someone’s house, or find a central location?

The Hawkeyes: We have a central location. It’s a big storage unite that we’ve appropriated for our devices. We brought some extension cords, because where our unit’s at, the power is a complete three hundred yards down to the end of the building. Hence the name of the record. “One plug in the wall.” That’s where that came from. That old practice spot. It’s like that whole concept of, where does a band start get started? In a place like this. That’s the whole attitude. We’re still there.

FS: Yeah, absolutely. So, you mentioned the record. How was the recording process for that?

HE: It was, you know, it was for me, long but it was necessary. Because you hear stuff and you want every little nanosecond to be perfect, in your mind. It all needs to work and be cohesive. But, the producers we work with, they did a bang-up job.

FS: What does the writing process look like for you? Is it all collaborative? Does someone do more of the front-end work?

HE: Jay will bring in a skeleton. He sits home, he fleshes out a lot of songs, he’ll play then at his solo gigs, test them out, see if they survive the live stage, and if he thinks they’re ready he brings them in and we just throw in our parts. It’s very collaborative. You can tell what song packs an audience. We went in with maybe 15 songs and we whittled it down to 9.  You just could tell which ones worked. You know, there’s no formula. If there is a formula, then I think you’re doing it wrong.

FS: Who would you count amongst your influences?

HE: Oasis, for sure. Drive by Truckers, the Black Crows, Cracker. Mellencamp, Springsteen. Jason and the Scorchers, a lesser- known band. We all like them. Wilco, Ryan Adams.

FS: Did you guys all get together and decide, we want to be this kind of band with this kind of style? Did you form to make a certain type of music? Were you friends beforehand?

HE: That wasn’t the original plan. It’s evolved into what it is purely by accident and by grinding it out, fortunately. Two of us played together years ago. Our old guitar player had a band. We were a country music gas station. We were Hank Williams, twice as loud, twice as fast. And then, Colin was like, you know, Jay, why don't you come jam with my band? Because Jay could get shows, but he couldn’t keep a backing band. We were a great backing band, but we couldn’t get shows. We really just stemmed out of that. And Jay was just straightforward Americana rock. And We were more Sonic Youth old country. And it wasn’t necessarily a train wreck.  We wrote a few songs at our first jam session.  But we were definitely marketing ourselves as a country Americana rock band, whereas now, we are more straightforward American rock ‘n’ roll. We’re by no means gonna fix a truck, or you know, harvest corn. We’re kids from suburban steel towns. It’s a really tired term, ‘Rust Belt,’ but that’s exactly where we’re from, and that’s what we write about.

FS: Do you guys play out a lot in the city, or more since you guys are scattered throughout, you guys play more outside of it?

HE: We don’t play in the city. Maybe once a month at most. We don’t go maybe more than two months without playing in the city because if we play too much in the city, our crows will thin out. We’ll do something like Strip District Music Festival, then we’re not in the city until like the end of March at Thunderbird. So, in the mean time, we’ll do something like Youngstown. Especially in the winter. Keep the trips short. We might do something in Beaver County or Butler County. We’ve got a show at the end of the month. It’s a radio station up in Butler that we’re playing an event for.

FS: Do you have a favorite city you’ve played?

HE: Indianapolis is a great place to play. We have some really good friends out there and we have a good fan base there. I mean, I’d say a close second is Milwaukee.

FS: Do you have any stories from Indianapolis in particular that you guys really like, or from touring anywhere else?

HE: The first time we played Indianapolis, well we used to do the whole “Who” thing when we opened shows. Smash a few guitars. Well we took it one step further, our drummer took a broken cymbal and wheeled it around like a tomahawk and it went right in the drum. I mean, just, - crckkk- There’s a facebook video on our timeline of the aftermath, he’s picked the drum up, kicked the handle off the drum. And there were all these people in the front and I was like looking at it and I thought, if that thing had just skimmed the wrong way, that would’ve been really bad.  But the whole place went bonkers. It was a great finish. We had to really work to get that finish. It was an accident the first time we broke our instruments, but then we didn’t do it one night, and people were bummed that we didn’t break anything. And then we started doing it every show. And that was the dumbest idea. I lopped off part of my finger in Michigan. One of us took the cymbal to the eyebrow in Canton. We don’t do that anymore. We just want people to like us for our music.  I said, you know what guys, maybe people are only showing up to see the end of the show. Probably the next, the CD release of Thunderbird was a real good memory because it was jam packed, crazy, you know, guys taking their shirts off. You dream of playing shows like that, with people right up in your face, you know, singing along to every word. We hope we have more like that.

We also opened for The Clarks which was nice of them. They didn’t have to do that, you know. They don’t do it all the time. They do whatever they want. So they were gracious enough to just give us a shot, put us in front of their audience.

FS: Yeah I feel you. So, with this event, you guys played last year and stuff. How do you see, especially because you guys tour and go out to other places, how do you see the music scene in Pittsburgh compare to other cities?

HE: It’s grown a lot since I started about ten years ago, I mean, it was nonexistent ten years ago, at least it seemed like it was, and it has just grown exponentially since then. I mean I’d say it has some catching up do to with Milwaukee, and Indi, but not by far. I mean, it’s a hell of a lot more supportive than Philly and New York. Those are cutthroat places. Some other towns we’ve played like Columbus, I think we’re a little bit, not even, but ahead of the game. There’s just more venues at Columbus. College town, definitely. I actually played there a couple times. I was in another band before this one, and my favorite memory is a Laundromat that had a bar inside of it for college kids. So you could stay near your laundry and get hammered.