Emily Sergent | Monday, 02 March 2009
They’ve been described as LCD Soundsystem/Strokes fusion, but basically all you need to know is that they make ridiculously infectious music that is shamelessly poppy. We dropped by just before showtime for a get-to-know-you chat with bass player Jerm and drummer Anthony to find out a bit more about the Portland-based band.
How did you guys get together as a band?
Jerm: We came together in Los Angeles while we were still at school. We were a two-piece for about two years and then we decided to look for other members. So we had this friend living in Spokane - a very out-of-the-way city - and we moved up there and by some cosmic twist of fate we met Tony here and kind of clicked. We started playing music together, then we moved to Portland where we live now.
What was the motivation for becoming a band as opposed to just a duo?
J: I think for the two of us it was just sort of having reached the ceiling of what two people can do musically on-stage, including songwriting and live performing. We sort of relied quite a bit on sound systems and weren't able to just show up somewhere and be a good band. Also, as far as songwriting goes we are able to do a lot more with that than we were before.
So who does most of the songwriting?
J: Oh, that's Ben our lead singer. We just try and be informants to that.
Anthony: ...And it also helped that Brian and I were playing in another band - we’ve been playing in bands together for seven or eight years now so we have a real history of playing together, so it's almost like...
J: Two and two coming together.
And where does the name Hockey come from?
J: We came up with that many years ago. It was just sort of something that struck us as silly...a little bit out there. It makes you a little sick to say it - you're like 'what?'! It struck our sense of humour at that time and we liked how it looked when we wrote it out.
Quite hard to Google as well…
A: That’s one thing that I really like about it.
J: Yeah, yeah.
A: It’s kind of cool.
J: It retains some of the mystique that bands used to have before the internet.
So, you already released an album a while back and then withdrew it - what happened there?
J: Well, we did it ourselves. We were just living and working in Portland and decided to make our own record in the basement. We managed to put some money together to buy a microphone and a few other basic things and spent about four months putting together the record in our own time. We ended up self-releasing it because we didn’t know anyone that would release it for us, and we really wanted to get an album out. We put that together and released it, then toured around a bit last summer and eventually we got with Capitol [record label] in the US and things started to pick up.
How would you describe your sound? There’s been a lot of different descriptions flying around on the internet.
J: We have a lot of influences like a mash-up of a lot of different sounds - there’s sort of an old soul and disco sound. Also an old Americana...kind of Tom Petty. A general classic, simple rock sound. I think it has a new energetic edge, though. It's very dance-driven.
A: I would say it's pop, before pop got a bad name. Pop didn’t use to be a bad thing and now it is. Let’s bring back pop!
Are there any bands in particular that you model yourself on?
J: People compare us to the Strokes or LCD Soundsystem - kind of a fusion of those two. We listen to a lot of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Talking Heads.
How do you feel about the many comparisons you’ve had with the Killers?
J: Pretty good - nothing wrong with The Killers...they’ve done very well for themselves.
A: Once a band becomes a certain size everyone just decides to go off them...they are a good band - it’s kind of a trade off.
J: At the end of the day, we are happy with whatever comes to us - we are playing our music, we love it and we don’t have any ambition to change that. If people like us for who we are, then great.
Do you feel any pressure to stand out, or make yourself different from other bands?
J: No, I don’t think so. I think we got a pretty good thing going.
Do you feel like you've had a good response in the UK?
J: Yeah, I think we’ve had a great response from the UK - pretty nuts. I really wasn’t expecting that.
A: When we go back to our hometown in Portland we’re just one of a sea of bands. And then we come over here all the way across the ocean and people kind of flipped out.
Do you notice much of a difference between the UK music scene and the US music scene?
J: I would say definitely - it seems like the British music scene is much more willing to pick up on something that's a little left of centre, a little strange, a little new or different - we really like it.
And are you enjoying your time over here?
J: Very much, it's amazing.
A: What can I say, I’d live over here if I could.
Are there any British bands you're liking at the moment?
J: Friendly Fires I really like - we just booked couple of tour dates with them in California, so that’s very exciting. I also really like Late of the Pier - they are very cool; they are on to something, taking music and making it really out there and really new and different.
What’s the deal with the eco-friendly reputation that you seem to have built up? Hows that working out in England?
J: I don’t know! That’s kind of got out of control and a bit out of context. It’s such a charged topic - when you start talking about that kind of thing it invites people to criticise you. I would say we do our thing and don’t want to push our view on anybody.
A: It’s a bit more in the past, but we still try to do our thing and be as eco-friendly as we can. That also reflects on Portland, where we are from - it's very common over there to be concerned, but then when you take it out of that context people are like 'oh my god, eco eco'.
Are you enjoying touring with Passion Pit?
J: Love them! They’re really cool, and Bear Hands as well. Everyone's great - we are having an awesome time - we’re going to these new cities for the first time, you know. We get along really well and Passion Pit always get everyone dancing.
Do you have any plans to perform at any of the UK festivals this year?
J: We’ve talked about it but I don’t think that anything is sure yet. Vague talk all around. Maybe Leeds and Reading. I hear about stuff, I hear about Glastonbury, I hear about Reading; I don’t know if any of them have been confirmed yet.
A: Maybe. Fingers crossed.
What do you have planned after your UK tour?
J: We are going to SXSW. We have to drive for like 30 hours - should be fun. I never been before.
A: ...and the whole festival thing is kind of new to us...
J: Total band camp. We know tons of bands from Portland who are all going down there. It’s like 'we're going to that', ‘oh we’re going to that too’.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t in the band?
A: I was writing before I met these guys as a freelance writer for a weekly publication in Spokane, Washington. So I’d probably be doing something like that; photographing, maybe.
J: I’d probably be doing art - I do all the artwork for the band: covers and stuff, it’s on MySpace. I do it as a hobby more than anything else, but in a perfect world if I wasn’t in the band I’d be making art, being an artist. But this [the band] is perfect. This is it. This is amazing. This is an amazing career, travelling the world and it’s happened really quickly - six months ago it was a totally different story for us.