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Hawk and Dove Swoop Into Philly
Photos by Caroline Edgeton
Over the weekend, Brooklyn-based band Hawk and Dove made a welcomed appearance at Underground Arts. Performing with local acts SunShowers, Ben O’Neil and Friends, and Shark Tape, it was an awesome night of regional talent. The bands that performed were all pretty new to the scene, it seemed. Not that the musicians themselves were new to making music, they’re just involved with projects that are still in the process of starting up and getting recognized, sharpened, settled, etc. In fact, Hawk and Dove, led by singer Elijah Miller and guitarist John Kleber, started getting the ball rolling back in 2009 via releasing an EP. Their current, soon-to-be-released album, This Yesterday Will Never End, actually was fully recorded back in 2011. It won’t officially be out until April 30th.
“We released an EP in 2009 and then recorded our current album that we’re promoting in 2011. The delay in releasing has really had a lot to do with getting all the bureaucratic matters taken care of,” Miller said.
“We’ve really been fine tuning this project. We’ve had a lot of professional musicians play with us who have had other conflicts with other projects and have had to leave,” Kleber said. “We also like to take our time with some songs, but some just come together instantaneously. I think we’re getting closer and closer to where we want to be.”
Their music has been described as “the psychedelic country music that David Bowie never wrote” or “the loudest quiet band you’ve ever heard.” It’s definitely a mix of psychedelic/stoner rock, country, folk, and pop (chamber pop at times). But, honestly, it’s hard to put a label on it. They’re just good. Great, really. One could argue they sound more like an alternative country/psychedelic version of the Decemberists.
Hawk and Dove does a fantastic job of creating complex arrangements that come across in a simple fashion. I say that only because they perform it so effortlessly; what they do is natural to them and it’s mighty pleasant to listen to. There are these great build ups that are played with such intensity and such power you can’t help but feel an electrical charge spark through you. They provide these layers of beautifully driven riffs that are aided through the use of harmonizing vocals (both male and female), tenor guitar, violin, fantastic keyboard playing, and, my favorite part, the Elliot Smith/Colin Meloy sounding vocals of Miller. Well, sounding and lyrically speaking. The lyrics are very much emphasized in the music played. I highly recommend taking a peek at them on their website.
Both guys are fans of more complex musical arrangements and I definitely think that shows. They are music nerds at heart but truly just want to make something beautiful and poignant.
“My top music influences are definitely Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits, especially in terms of feel and energy and lyrically speaking. I also really love Nick Cave and Wilco, some noisier stuff, too,” Miller said.
“I’ll have these kicks where I get really into bands that are doing just this one tiny, little thing that I’m really interested in. I always like to incorporate that into what we’re doing in some way. Karen Dalton is someone who has really impressed both Elijah and I over the past year. We’ve been listening to a lot of Harry Nilsson, too, who is someone I’ve loved for a long time,” Kleber said.
“I really love complex arrangements that are super subtle. Like the way Brian Wilson would arrange things during the Smile record. A lot of Tom Waits arrangements I like, especially with the way Mark Ribot plays guitar. That really influenced me. That sound that the Fleet Foxes has really shaped some of the orchestral leanings that we have on this current record,” he said.
While they’re currently promoting their album and waiting for its official release, they have plenty of other music in the works. They both agree there will be some change in sound and to expect something a little different.
“Some of the stuff we’re working on now is a lot more influenced by some prog rock/droney stuff like Can or Earth, even some surf rock here and there,” Kleber said.
Miller and Kleber began playing music together after a random reunion at a bar in Brooklyn back in 2006. They had known each other from a summer camp they attended in the Berkshires of Massachusetts a handful of years before.
“Elijah told me he was playing music and convinced me to come see him play a few times. I had been playing music for years professionally and non-professionally — whatever that means — but, at that point, wasn’t really playing with anyone. Whenever I’d go see Elijah play he’d play in these really loud, big rooms that were packed with people. When he’d start playing everyone would just shut up for his whole set. I knew there was something there, something that drew me to actually want to play with someone who could alter the way a room would feel,” Kleber said.
The guys plan to be back in the studio after the official release and tour of This Yesterday Will Never End. They hope to bang a record out pretty quickly while also continuing to further explore different sounds and influences.
“We’re just trying to get out there and do something that is really honest to what we think is good music. While that’s a pretty low concept, we don’t have strong opinions about what we sound like. We just need to feel really strong about liking the music we play,” Kleber said.