Hostage Calm released their fantastic self-titled album earlier this year through Run For Cover Records, and have been receiving heavy praise from fans and critics ever since. The band recently wrapped up a run of dates with label mates Transit and recent No Sleep Records signing Aficionado, and the band’s guitarist Tom took the time to answer a few questions for us about the band.
Start off by stating your name, your role in Hostage Calm and the best record you have heard so far this year?
I’m Tom, I play guitar. 2010 has been a killer year for music and I’ve really enjoyed the new Tigers Jaw LP, the new Make Do and Mend LP and the new Grown Ups LP. John K. Samson of the Weakerthans also put out an awesome EP, that dude is just a master of his craft.
Can you give us a brief run down of the history of the band for those who might be unfamiliar with you?
Hostage Calm started in the summer of 2007 when Chris, Tim and my previous band (At All Costs) came to a somewhat abrupt end. We put out a 4-song demo that year, played some shows and short east coast tour and then recorded our first LP, "Lens." We did several national tours on that record, but never really stopped writing. We went into the studio the following May to record some songs that would eventually become our S/T LP. The recording process was pretty long, so now we’re focusing on touring everywhere we can.
The band’s new self-titled record has been out for a few months now, what has the feedback been like so far?
Feedback for the record has been incredible. It’s been better than we ever expected. We’ve met lots of new people on tour just from kids coming up and letting us know that the record or a certain song resonates with them and that’s really gratifying.
How would you compare this record to the band’s previous record “Lens”?
We get asked this question a bunch, and I think the best answer is that we just got progressively better at incorporating a wider range of influences into our music. The new record is not hardcore like Lens was, it’s more of a pop record in it’s approach to melody and song styles. That’s kind of an over-simplification, but hopefully you get the idea. As far as influences go, I would cite early-mid Beatles, The Smiths, Queen, Ted Leo, etc. as influences that are more prevalent on this record.
Did you approach anything differently with the writing and recording for the new record?
We didn’t really do much different, we didn’t sit down to write an LP. We kind of just continued writing as we always have and the record just took shape. We wrote "Overstayed" when we were in the studio tracking "Lens" and I think you can see how the song fits in that context. As far as recording goes, we took a long time to record, too long even. But the final result is a record we’re all really happy with. During the process, we took more time to experiment with additional sounds like piano, tambourine and more auxiliary percussion stuff. We also spent more time developing guitar, bass, drum sounds, etc. and those are things we’ll continue to focus on more closely in future recordings.
The new album marks a bit of a change in sound for the band, have you had many fans that haven’t been so receptive of the change?
Luckily, the vast majority of people have been really receptive to the change. Some people who really liked "Lens" aren’t on board with the new record, and that’s understandable. But so far, we’ve been really lucky to have fans who are very open-minded.
Do you have a favourite song on the record?
No, but I think Ballots/Stones is my favorite to play live. People dance and groove hard and it’s a great vibe.
The band has gained a reputation for being a very switched on band in terms of lyrics, is this something the band deliberately tries to achieve?
Thank you, and we definitely devote a lot of time and effort to the lyric-writing process. Addressing social and political issues is something that is important to us as people and by extension is a key part of our identity as a band. As the singer, Chris writes a vast majority of the lyrics. During writing for the S/T LP, after we had some skeletons of songs, we really opened up the editing process. On one tour, we all had printed out lyrics sheets and clipboards and we sat in the van poring over words and phrases until ultimately we ended up with something we were all happy with.
The new record was the band’s first record to be released through Run For Cover Records, how did the band end up signing with Run For Cover?
During the lengthy recording process for the S/T record, we sent Jeff from RFC a couple of rough demos and he offered to put out the record. It’s been great ever since, and his roster continues to grow in both diversity and talent.
Later this month you will be hitting the road with label mates Transit and recent No Sleep signing Aficionado, what are you looking forward to the most about this tour?
(Sorry this took so long to answer, I’ll just talk about the tour).
The tour with Transit and Aficionado was amazing. Both those bands are full of great people who are genuine about making and playing music. Stylistically, the tour was a perfect fit for us. The tour package was really diverse and as a result, lots of kids were open-minded about checking everyone out. Transit has been touring hard, and most of the turnouts were great because of them. This was by far our best trip to the west coast, all the shows were awesome.
How have you been preparing for these run of dates?
In preparation for the tour, we basically just tried to practice as much as possible. Generally we’ll decide on a set list weeks in advance, write in some song transitions and just practice the shit out of it. I think on the next tour, we’ll try to mix in some different songs so we’re not playing the same stuff every night, but generally that’s how we prepare. One thing that we’ve really been focusing on is playing to the room. In the past, we had some really personally disappointing sets because maybe everyone was too loud, or the guitars were drowning out the drums, etc. It’s tough to gauge sometimes when you go from playing a basement to an American Legion hall to a small venue, but it definitely makes a huge difference to how people receive your set. I think we did pretty well with that on this tour, but it’s a process of constant self-analysis.
What is your favourite and least favourite thing about touring?
My favorite thing about touring is hanging out with different people in different cities every night. We’ve been fortunate to have made some really good friends across the country and I always look forward to hanging hard. Also, when I’m not completely poor, I love eating at vegan restaurants. It’s hard to complain since the gig life is so much fun, but I guess my least favorite thing is hardwood floors. Sleeping on them sucks.
Has the band been working on any new material as of late?
Yes! We’re wrapping up a b-side from the S/T album this December and that should be released in some capacity in the Spring. We also have somewhere between 10-15 new songs that are in various stages of completion.
When do you think we could expect to see something new being released by the band?
Hopefully you’ll see a 7" single from the S/T LP along with the b-side in the early spring. As far as a new LP or other release, it’s tough to say since we’re in tour mode now, just focusing on getting the S/T record out to as many people as possible.
Who are some bands that we should be checking out?
Midi and the Modern Dance, The World Is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid To Die, Fugue, Baby Grand, Citizen, Mixtapes, Daylight, Loose Planes, Annabel, Native. Shit man, there are so many good bands right now.
What are the band’s plans for the rest of 2010?
We’re going to finish up that b-side. We’re doing a few shows, one in CT, one in Boston and one in Philly. In the first half of 2011 we’re doing an east coast/mid-west tour, hopefully going to europe and hopefully doing another US.
Thanks for the interview, any last words or shout outs?
Thanks for the questions! You can stream our new album at http://runforcoverrecords.bandcamp.com/album/hostage-calm
See you all in the new year!