Keeping up with our premiere week, we go on a fever dream along with HAWK as they release their new music video for “In My Dream.” The video stars the band and Molly Jamison, and was filmed in Los Angeles and Chicago by the Hawk crew and Johnny Terlak.
David Hawkins of Hawk comments on the video: “This song was inspired by a really intense fever dream that I had when I was sick, complete with suicide machines and magical parades, and, of course, by the mighty Velvet Underground. The legendary Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas drives the song with his propulsive drumming, and Ken Stringfellow’s 60s Vox organ bounces just above the tangle of thorns that Aaron Bakker and I create on guitar. Vocally, I think I was channeling Dylan, but so was Lou in those early days. The video was inspired by Andy Warhol’s light show, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, that they projected onto the band when they played live. When I first discovered the Velvets’ music (through REM), I immediately fell in love; everything else paled in comparison; the range of emotion, the darkness and beauty intermingled, the dissonance, the light. Our love for them overflows out of the speakers and all over the floor on this song. It’s a beautiful mess. And there’s an exuberance in the midst of the bramble; we resonate with it and feel our way through it to something higher.”
On May 4th, the rock band Hawk, led by the enigmatic American artist David Hawkins, will release its highly-anticipated new album, “Bomb Pop, ” featuring the all-star lineup of Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, Elliot Smith) on drums, Ken Stringfellow (Posies, REM, Big Star) on bass, vocals, keyboards and guitar, and Gary Louris (The Jayhawks, Ray Davies) on vocals, and longtime Hawk and Be guitarist Aaron Bakker. Hawkins, also leader of the orchestral folk-rock band Be, is an acclaimed abstract painter and co-founder of the avant-garde ‘happening’ group The Black Mountain Collective.
“Bomb Pop” is the follow-up to Hawk’s acclaimed albums “I’m On Fire”, “Princess America” (which featured a cameo in voice and word by Lawrence Ferlinghetti) and college-radio sensation “Rock n Roll.” “This is my dream band,” said Hawkins recently at his home in Venice Beach when speaking of the new album. “To have Pete on drums, Ken on bass, vocals and multiple instruments, Gary singing with me, and Aaron on lead guitar, it doesn’t get much better than that. I’m really honored to have these guys playing with me.”
Hawkins and Stringfellow had originally planned to record at Stringfellow’s home studio in Tours, France, but an earlier opportunity arose in Seattle, where the two hit it off right away and worked on the second Be album, “You” and a host of other of Hawkins’ songs. “I brought 42 songs,” laughs Hawkins, remembering Ken’s reaction, “we worked on 12 that time, and since then (in two years) he’s played on over 60 of my songs. I love his playing and his passion for music,” Hawkins says, “And musically we’re right in sync. It’s been a real joy.” They then reached out to the legendary longtime Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas, who Hawkins greatly admires as well. Pete liked what he heard, and agreed to join them.
The drums were recorded at David Bianco’s studio in LA, (Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, AC/DC, LL. Cool J), with further recording in Venice, Seattle, Tours, France, and Louris’ home studio in North Carolina. Hawkins knew Gary Louris from when the Jayhawks would play in Chicago, and had always loved his voice and songwriting. “When I heard Gary was back in the US (from living in Spain for years) and the Jayhawks released the incredible “Paging Mr. Proust,” I knew I wanted him to join me singing on the record,” Hawkins said. “I was thrilled when he loved the songs and agreed to join us.” (Louris also sings on Hawkins’ upcoming 3rd Be album, slated for an early 2019 release, and plans to sing on the next Hawk album as well). “Our voices fit together perfectly”, says Hawkins, which is in evidence on songs like “Listen Like Thieves”, “Take My Time”, Not Just Lonely, “Dry Your Eyes” and “Around The Sun.”
Already hailed as an important new band in the States and Europe, Hawk is creating a stir around the world. Spanish bellwether Paisajes Eléctricos Magazine said “Hawk honors the best tradition of the genre, with very powerful songs in the vein of the Rolling Stones of the Seventies.” The Chicago Sun-Times said “Digging into the rich musical vein of the past from Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan to Hank Williams and Robert Johnson, Hawk’s music pulses with an infectious rock-pop beat, clever, meditative lyrics and finely honed melodies.” The band was featured on German National Radio for it’s incendiary album “Princess America”, and Chicago powerhouse WXRT has also been a big supporter of Hawkins’ work from the beginning, with DJ Richard Milne featuring his music often and referring to him as an “enigma”, referring to the fact that he records these incredible albums in often remote locales, plays a few legendary shows, and then disappears, only to turn up later living in Los Angeles or Paris.
Now living in Venice, California, Hawkins grew up in Central Illinois, not far from where Michael Stipe (REM) and Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) went to high school, both of who would influence him greatly. A Dylan disciple from a young age, a pivotal moment was hearing REMs “Murmur” for the first time. REM in turn led him to the band that became his greatest influence; The Velvet Underground. “The VU changed my life”, Hawkins said recently in an interview, “much like Dylan and the Beatles and Stones had earlier. The range of emotion, the darkness and beauty intermingled, the dissonance… they made everything else pale in comparison.” As Hawk’s sound evolved, the harder rock influence of the Rolling Stones and AC/DC along with other 70s rock bands that Hawkins listened to growing up began to play more heavily in the bands’ now trademark sound.
But “Bomb Pop” is more distilled, compact, even upbeat; verging toward power pop over the Stonesy blues of “I’m On Fire”. It blasts out of the gate with the 60s-twinged power-pop perfection of “Allison’s Gone,” with its tight, driving beat, an infectious melody that gets stuck in your head, and a jangly sweetness in the chorus that recall equally early REM and the pristine pre-rock pop of the “Wrecking Crew” heard on such 60s pop gems as the Monkees, the Beach Boys, and the Mamas and Papas. This is a bona fide radio hit. Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Pete Thomas’s propulsive drumming kicks off “Listen Like Thieves” and ratchets up the energy even higher in this song of unrequited love in too-close quarters; Hawkins’ driving guitar and he and Gary Louris’ pining vocals capture the awkward frustration and ambivalence of being lovesick in too-close quarters, with masterful guitar work by Stringfellow and Bakker. The psychedelic pop of “I Lied” takes the listener on a magic carpet ride of rationalization and avoidance in this tongue-in-cheek apology for “not telling more of the truth,” while the band creates a swirling Beatles-esque sonic tapestry befitting Sgt. Pepper, with Stringfellow’s backwards keyboard lines and Hawkins’ soaring vocals. “Mrs. Anderson” is another crystalline piece of 60s pop perfection; the chirping organ lines and joyful harmonies recalls pop as pure as Nancy Sinatra’s white leather boots. Hawkins sings of his onetime lust for a childhood best-friend’s mother (and it’s imaginary consummation), with Bakker’s crunching AC/DC-worthy guitar elevating things to a sweaty lust-filled dance party by the end.
“Not Just Lonely” is a poignant love song that celebrates synchronicity and fate and highlights Hawkins’ and Louris’ vocals as they weave together in an emotional peak just as the strings come in; coalescing in a powerful, spine-tingling finale. This is great songwriting, and unique; it’s difficult to categorize by genre. The shining crunch of the opening chords of “Around The Sun” and tinkling piano takes the listener back to a hard and sweet70s rock bliss while contemplating our orbital realities and daily struggles. “Take My Time” is yet another Hawkins classic that feels age-old yet brand new, combining an ‘On The Road’-esque lust for the road, an irrestistible melody and shimmering vocals by Louris and Hawkins with a low lead-guitar nod to the great Glen Campbell by Bakker. The deep gospel soul of “Lay Me Down Easy” takes it to Church; all gritty New Orleans fonk, with Stringfellow’s soulful Wurlitzer stoking the band’s intensity and propelling Hawkins’ heartfelt vocals, while the dark throbbing groove of the Velvet Underground-esque “In My Dream” takes you into a dark underworld of suicide machines and soul-eating dragons. The album concludes with another Hawkins classic “Dry Your Eyes,” a Gram-Parsons saunter that starts as a seekers journey and arrives in Memphis heartbroken and lamenting America’s deep and persistent racial divide. Like many of Hawkins’ songs, it works on several levels, the historic, the symbolic, and the spiritual. By the end of “Bomb Pop”, you just want to hear it again. And again. This is a rich and powerful song cycle that will renew your faith in rock music; a breath of fresh air in American music.
And you’re one of the first to hear it. Put it on, and turn it up.