In late 2013, Canadian indie-rock quartet Hawking were out on a Western Canadian tour when they were involved in a horrific car crash. With each member of the band getting injured in the accident, it wouldn’t have come as a shock to see them knock touring on the head. But in spite of their injuries, some of which were critical (former bassist Paul Engels having to bow out of the band altogether), the band got right back on track and into touring again. The summer of 2014 saw them touring western U.S. and Canada, taking in 50 dates over four months. This year they’re back on the road again, currently working their way around a 40+ date North American tour which sees them play across 6 provinces and 13 states!
As well as their beast of a tour, Hawking are also set to release a new EP this summer. This five-track self-titled EP sees the four-piece dabbling into the funkier side of math-pop, with big catchy hooks and intricate guitar parts canoodling with heartfelt vocals. The impending release has already spawned two singles in the form of ‘Cold Hands’ and ‘Safe and Sound’, both of which you can find on their bandcamp (where you can also pre-order the EP!)
With the mammoth tour currently under way and the EP in their sights (set for release mid-July), vocalist and guitarist Tom Vanderkam was kind enough to answer some questions on the aforementioned wreck, as well as the upcoming EP and shooting Charlie off the breasts of women of the night (that last part might not be true…)
BCFB: You’ve been described as like Vampire Weekend meets TTNG at a Minus The Bear concert – For an introduction to the band, that’s not half bad right?
Tom: Yeah that’s pretty damn close! Bitcandy also called us “Like a Canadian version of Vampire Weekend but with better vocals” which is both hilarious and pretty flattering. Actually, I’ve personally never really understood where the whole Vampire Weekend comparison comes from, but we get it too damn often for it not to have some validity, so I’ll take everyone’s word for it haha. I think we’re a lot less chill than Vampire Weekend though. Same goes for TTNG and Minus the Bear. Three quarters of us come from punk backgrounds, so that intensity definitely gets translated into our current music.
Formerly Tommy Alto, you’re now going by the name of Hawking – What’s the story behind the name change?
Tommy Alto was a dumb name and we grew out of it. The whole thing started as an inside joke, and then things took off and the name just stuck for like 2 years. It went over surprisingly well though; no one really questioned it because we were a pretty weird band. It kinda fit for that reason, actually. But now that we’ve got a sound and image that are more “refined” I guess you’d call it, we needed a name that fit better and didn’t take 3 repetitions for someone to accept as not a joke. Hawking clicked for us. Boom.
You’ve got a new EP out in a few months – what can you tell us about it?
We think it kicks the ass of everything we’ve ever put out before. Lyrically, we moved away from the nature themes of our previous releases. Every song on this new record takes place indoors (or in a dimensionless abstraction, but shut up). Musically, it’s tight as hell, we think. Like, I know it’s not cool and hip etc. to be proud of anything you do or to put effort into life at all, and if you admit that you like your own art then you’re lame or whatever, but we’re honestly just stoked on how this EP turned out. The lead single “Safe and Sound” just premiered on PureVolume and we couldn’t be happier!
How have people been responding to your new stuff?
It’s been overwhelmingly positive! Except for the few folks who only liked us for our occasional obnoxious noodley guitar work, which is a tad absent on this EP. Sorry, Math-Rockers. Tracks 4 and 5 are actually a pretty killer throwback to the TTNG-esque guitar tapping and uncountable time signatures of our past work though, so attention nerds: look out for those when the EP comes out July 14th!
Have you got a particular track from the new EP that stands out as a favourite?
‘Safe and Sound’ for sure. We just think it’s a really, really good song to be honest. It’s the perfect balancing act between the straightforward Indie Rock sound we all dig but try to avoid out of fear of normalcy, and the perhaps overly gregarious interlocking guitar melodies and weird drum beats of our past work. The complexities in ‘Safe and Sound’ are a lot more subtle and don’t interfere with the momentum as much as before.
You were involved in a pretty horrific car crash toward the end of 2013 – How much of an impact (bad choice of words!) did it have on the upcoming EP?
Not nearly as much as it did on our last record – but we sort of have a running theme between this record and the last, which has to do with blood (‘Diastole’ and ‘Systole’ are tracks 4 and 5 respectively on the new EP, and those titles are hidden in the disc tray of our last record.) It’s pretty straightforward; that car wreck was a gruesome scene. I’m the only member of the band with any clear recollection of it, so that visual stuck with me pretty hard. I won’t give too much away, but those 2 songs are about a couple that ends up trapped together in a fire. I think that’s all I’ll say. Once you have that titbit of info, the rest comes together as you listen.
It’s not kept you away from the road though, and at the end of May you’re off on tour around North America – You chaps seem pretty keen on touring, would you say that’s about right?
Yes! We’re kind of becoming known around here as “that band with the obnoxiously long tour every summer”, which we dig. We love touring; we’re very much a live band. Making a record is really rad and all, but the live experience is something that’s really special to us.
What sort of stuff do you get up to on tour when you’re not playing?
Depending on where we are, either typical touristy BS/urban exploring/sight-seeing, or hanging out in our mini-bus telling jokes or playing cards or reading or snacking. And lots of re-stringing guitars. And taking baby wipe showers. And doing coke off hooker’s boobs etc. etc. rock ‘n’ roll etc. (Not actually. Sorry, Steel Panthers).