Hi Kasey, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been doing pretty well. I’m getting married July 21st, tour starts July 25th, and the record comes out July 27th so between that stuff and my day job I’m busier than I’ve been in a while but it’s good busy.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Bulletproof Hearts”?
I had the song lying around for a while, maybe a year, but couldn’t get it finished. When Tom Petty passed away last year, I ended up thinking and reading a lot about Gainesville, where the Heartbreakers started. Against Me started out in Gainesville too so that led me in a roundabout way back to the song. It was one of the last few we recorded for From a White Hotel. I think “The Dangerous Ones”, “Bulletproof Hearts (for Laura Jane)”, and the title track were the last three I wrote for the record, and those might be the three I’m most proud of.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
The song started out as being loosely about Laura Jane Grace and her memoir, Tranny, but I finished writing it as a reaction to the military ban this administration tried to impose, and the attempts this president and his base have made to try and narrow down the idea of who and what are and aren’t “American.” It just doesn’t work like that. By the same token, a lot of my friends who I’ve protested alongside are always talking about this ugliness and violence as though it’s “Un-American.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that, either. Violence and racism are part of this country’s fabric and part of its history and in order to change that – in order to really fight against what feels like a rising tide of emboldened hatred in this country – you have to acknowledge that it lives among us. It’s really hard to change something if you’re busy pretending it doesn’t exist or didn’t exist until two years ago. Laura Jane is a hero of mine so I tried to take her story and broaden the scope a bit. The idea that trans people who had volunteered to serve their country would somehow be a burden or a distraction is so offensive and infuriating to me, but I try to stay away from songs that are overly rhetorical – “This is bad, this is good; here’s how you should feel or think…” – to me, that’s not an effective way to deliver a message. I tried really hard on this record to ground whatever it was I wanted to get across in narratives that were more conversational and less rhetorical.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
There’s a lyric video that’s been out there for a few weeks now. I think that’s probably the extent of what we’ll do for “Bulletproof Hearts” in terms of video.
The single comes off your new album From A White Hotel – what’s the story behind the title?
I was in two prisons, and both were really nondescript, white buildings. About half the record was written in those places so it’s a reference to that. It’s also a not-especially-subtle reference to feeling like I left prison and walked out into a world that is now more or less captive to the whims and tantrums of a man whose name is plastered on a bunch of hotels and now occupies a white house.
How was the recording and writing process?
It was long. We worked in Jordan Richter’s studio, Room 13 here in Portland, and I couldn’t afford studio time but since Jordan’s in the band he let us work after hours or on the days he had free between sessions there, so the recording process was spread out over a year or so. I’d never worked that way before and it’s not ideal for the way I like to make records but it was so generous of Jordan to open his studio to us that way.
Some of the songs on the record came from writing I did while I was in prison, and others were written during the sessions. I was writing right up until the last day of tracking; this is the first time I’ve ever had songs leftover that didn’t make the record.
What role does Portland play in your music?
I think there’s a lot of this record that was a reaction to living here in this isolated, very liberal buy *very* white bubble where people weren’t willing to accept the reality of what was happening around them, and what had been happening around them. Thirty years ago Portland was a hotbed of white supremacist activity and the state of Oregon itself was founded on the idea of being a Confederate Utopia. Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, and at that time it was the only state in the union that forbid black people from living, working, or owning property there. Portland has this reputation for being very tolerant but its history, and the state’s history, is pretty ugly. So a lot of this record was, like I said earlier, calling people to wake up a little bit and stop acting like these problems just appeared overnight when one guy got elected. It goes much, much deeper than that and so enacting change is a much more difficult, complicated process than a lot of people are willing to admit.
How much your past has influence your music?
This is the first record where I really took a hard look at my own life, my own decisions and behavior, and allowed that stuff into the songs. I felt like, if I was going to put out another record and hope people were generous enough to take the time and listen to it, I needed to acknowledge the things I’d done, the things I’d put other people through, and the things I’d been through myself. That was a really important part of this record. Not all the songs are autobiographical in nature, but several are, and I didn’t want to romanticize anything or make excuses for myself.
How would this album showcase a new side as a band?
Well it’s the first record with these guys, as this band, so I guess any side would be a new side. The arrangements are a little more lush than the last few records I made, and I think the songs I wrote lent themselves to that.
What aspect of hope did you get to explore on this record?
For me this record is about taking the next step after finding hope. Hope is great, and there’s plenty of places out there to find it, but this record is about the work that comes after hope.
Any plans to hit the road?
I’ll be on tour all summer and then we’ll see about fall.
What else is happening next in Hawks and Doves’ world?
– Well we’ve all been living with these songs a while now so it’s nice they’re finally going to see the light of day. If people find this record, or if this record finds people, my hope is we’ll get started on another one sooner rather than later, but I didn’t expect to ever make another record again so I’m trying to just enjoy this part of the process and not get too carried away with what comes next.