5 bloggers, 5 questions, 1 band, hand-picked by the MWA writers. Welcome to FIVE x FIVE. This week: Chicago indie pop quartet, The Hudson Branch.
Last September we wrote a brief piece about The Hudson Branch and their efforts to fund their third album via Kickstarter. Needless to say, the campaign was a success, and now the group is ready to release the product of their labors, Kina Ze Swah. Two sets of brothers, The Hudson Branch has been making music in Chicago for the last six years. The new record showcases the group’s soul, rock, and electronic influences wrapped into a beautiful pop record. In advance of Kina Ze Swah‘s 5/6 release date, The Hudson Branch was kind enough to answer a few of our questions for this week’s FIVE x FIVE.
Did your approach to writing/recording Kina Ze Swah differ at all from your previous records? | Eric Slager
It was 100% different. Besides using the same instruments, we approached everything else different, from the first demo to the final songs on the record. Instead of building the songs in a practice space, we pieced melodies and progressions together on the computer, then we all kind of took turns singing in the vocal booth to see whatever sort of words/ melodies would come out of us in that moment and that is what the base of this album was built on. In fact the name, Kina Ze Swah, comes from that process. Cobey (lead singer) was spouting off nonsense in the vocal booth and that expression kind of fell out. We liked his melody so much that we kept the gibberish phrasing and created our own meaning from it. We thought it perfectly represented our process with this album, a ‘je ne se quoi’ mentality. To us that process is what has propelled us forward in this stage of our career. It’s the idea that you can create something from nothing.
With several successful Kickstarter campaigns used to fund your recordings, do you see the crowd-funding platform replacing label involvement in the future? Do you plan on funding upcoming Hudson Branch releases the same way? | Dan Jarvis
Kickstarter (and other “crowd-funding” platforms) are a tricky thing. It has been an amazing tool for us in making our records, but that is only one aspect of what a band has to pay for. People think of it as a sustainable model for the future of artists and I’m not sure that is true. It is a great way to get something off the ground, to “start” something but it will never be able to take the place of a dedicated team of people who believe in the music or art or invention that you are making. At its core it is just a platform for fundraising, a very well engineered platform, but limited. What I would love to see replace the old “label” model is what you have seen happen a lot in the hip hop community. There are these established artists with large budgets and platforms seeking out the next artist that they feel has something special and investing in their development. I’ll never understand why we keep putting those decisions in the hands of people that stand to make a quick buck. Investing in the development of an artist, giving them time to find their voice, will always reap higher rewards, both creatively and monetarily, for those that make the creation of art and music their living.
Does working with family make it easier for you to stay on the same page, or have there been difficulties to overcome? | Alyssa Welch
The answer is yes. It’s easier and incredibly difficult at the same time. We are two sets of brothers that became friends when we were 9 years old. There is an enormous history behind every emotion we feel together, so each one is very full and very true. When we get angry at practice because someone says something stupid, it’s deep anger, but when we smile on stage or find the right direction for a song, it’s this incredible collective joy. We’re all doing this for the same reason, and we’re all working our asses off toward the same goal, so at the end of the day, no matter what happens, good or bad, we have to brush it off and move on to the next thing. Always forward.
Do you think that being from the Midwest has had any effect on the music that you make? Would The Hudson Branch exist as it does today on the West or East Coast? | Dan Fiorio
I think the geography of any band plays a part in their style. Although, I will say, the Midwest is a different animal. Because we’re from Chicago, we have access to several major cities within a few hour car ride so the genres can meld together pretty easily and inspiration is kind of coming at you from every angle. I have a theory that most cultural, stylistic shifts in American music happen in the Midwest and eventually spread outward toward the coasts. We’ve gleaned inspiration from a handful of midwest bands we love and look up to. From larger bands like Wilco, to smaller bands we met in college like Anathallo. As much as we love the city and the style its given us, I think we’re all ready to become a west coast band. Sit in the sun for while.
Kina Ze Swah will be your first release on vinyl. Was there a reason that you wanted to press this record to vinyl over a CD release? | Patrick David
We pressed CDs for our first album, Tightrope Walker, and still have a couple hundred, wrapped and in the original boxes. We don’t want to do that again. The CD format seems to be dying out anyway (albeit very slowly). Vinyl just seemed like a better choice for this album. We all grew up and really loved to get a new album with something tangible to go with it… liner notes, artwork, lyrics, etc. That is probably why each of our previous records are printed in different formats; a CD, a book, a 3-d graphic download print. For this next record it felt like the right time to get a vinyl pressed.
You can pre-order a digital copy of Kina Ze Swah on the group’s Bandcamp page and head out to Schuba’s Tavern on 5/31 for the official record release show to pick up a physical copy on vinyl. Details here.