Hello all in Hinterland. Please introduce yourselves to our readers. Who plays what and when and how did you all form Hinterland?
Michaela Galloway: I sing, play the flute, oboe, and keys. I started playing with the band in 2000. Someone I know who was playing with John, Gregg, and Kyle at the time suggested that I come out and play with them. I liked them and they liked me, so we decided to play together, and a month or so later we decided to call ourselves “Hinterland”.
Gregg Steffensen: Drums.
John Lucas: Guitar, bass, occasional synth noodlings.
Kyle Fogden: Guitar, keyboards, bass.
Cameron McLellan: bass, guitar
In your blog, it appears that you are recording a new album. Can you give us any hints as to the sound on this new disc? Do you a see a progression in your sound between Waterline and your new songs?
M: We are recording a new album. We will be finished recording it at the end of January, and will start mixing in March. The sound of the new album (no title yet!) is definitely a progression from the first album. The songs are a bit more aggressive, and there are some shorter songs (even one that is three minutes!). This is a big difference from our first album which had a song that clocked out at nine minutes, another at seven, and most of them around six. I think the longest one is six minutes this time around. We didn’t plan it this way, it is just what ended up happening. I think it is good, though, because, although we charted nationally on Canadian college radio, I think that it was harder for us to get play because our songs were so long.
G: In the sense of “progression”, it clearly would be the increased production value of this album vs. Under the Waterline. We would regard this material as being on par with the old material as far as songwriting goes, it just has new influences and flavours being presented.
J: Many reviews of Under the Waterline noted that it creates a consistent overall mood—sort of a sleepy, moody haze. The new one will be much more diverse, touching on ambient soundscapes, guitar-heavy rock, and all points in between. Somehow, though, it all still sounds like Hinterland.
K: Everything fits together better—the songs were all written in less than a year, unlike UTW, which had three years’ worth of songs. Our songwriting’s more mature now… there’s a bit more rock, and a fuller “band” sound.
Do you have a release date for the new disc?
M: Not yet. We are hoping this summer or fall. It could even be next year, though. It depends on a lot of variables that haven’t really begun to resolve themselves yet.
J: We haven’t found a home for it. We are hoping to connect with an established Canadian indie label this time around. We have a few dream labels in mind.
What is a typical day at the studio like for Hinterland? How do you go about preparing yourselves for a recording session?
M: We always have a pretty good idea what we want to get accomplished. By the time we get to recording, the songs are written, and it is just a matter of tracking them, for the most part. We can’t waste time because studio time is expensive (we were paying $550 a day when we were recording the drums. If you want huge drums and bottom end in general you have to pay for it!).
G: Tim Hortons Double Double coffee with Timbits.
C: Crosswords, feedback, and rehearsals.
J: I must have tea, preferably orange pekoe. Not too hot, though! I burned the skin off of my lips at Greenhouse Studios because the kettle was so damn hot.
How do the members of Hinterland approach writing songs? Are there any principle writers in the group or is it a collaborative effort?
K: A lot of the time John starts things out with a riff or two—sometimes a whole basic structure—then the rest of us flesh the thing out with instrumentation, arrangement, and vocals. Once in a while a casual jam will develop into a proper song.
J: No one ever comes in with a fully written song. We all write our own parts, with Michaela taking care of all the lyrics and vocal melodies.
For the gear heads out there, could you give us an indication of what types of equipment you use?
M: I use a Shure 58 Beta microphone and a Boss SX700 space-effects studio possessor with a MIDI foot controller live.
G: I use a four-piece ’70s maple Yamaha kit with a big-ass 26-inch kick. All my cymbals are Sabian. I use wood-tip Ayotte New Yorker sticks. My main snare is a brass Pearl Sensitone. I also use a 10-inch Tama hip-hop hammered-steel snare. In the studio I also used a Grestch maple shell and a Pearl maple free-floater. I was using Evans heads but returned to Remo.
C: Rickenbacker bass, Gibson SG guitar; various pedals including delay, Electro-Harmonix Clone Theory, beehive Danelectro distortion (Fab Tone).
J: I prefer Fender guitars. I have two Stratocasters and a Telecaster. I bought the Tele right before we started recording the new album and it ended up getting used a whole lot (especially by Kyle), so it was a good investment. I also have a Danelectro baritone guitar that is all over Under the Waterline, but I hardly ever play it these days. I play through a Carvin amp, and I have a ton of effects pedals. My most recent purchase in that department was an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi, which certainly helped to up the “rawk” quotient of our new material. I also picked up a Ludwig glockenspiel dirt-cheap at a garage sale two summers ago, so that will probably end up on the new album.
K: Fake Telecaster, Fender Jazzmaster, Garnet amplifier, Yamaha W7 and Ensoniq ESQ-1 synths, old Boss multi-effects.
As far as influences go, are there any artists you all would personally name in respect to impacting your music?
Gregg: We all have a very diverse pool of influences but as far as Hinterland is concerned bands like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, Stereolab, Mogwai, Tortoise, Radiohead, Ride, Sonic Youth, and Blonde Redhead seem to come up.
C: Joy Division, MBV, Sonic Youth.
K: Pixies, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Interpol.
M: For me it is Elizabeth Fraser, and Morrissey. I don’t really sing like either of them, but I kind of learned to sing by singing along with both of them. Other vocalists I admire are Harriet Wheeler and Louise Rhodes. I am also influenced by some of the choral music I studied in high school. I got to sing in Latin quite a lot. I liked it. I also remember being blown away by seeing Miranda Sex Garden (Katherine Blake). I liked some of their songs, but mostly I just liked the idea of what they were doing, mixing a choral style of singing with rock music.
J: I tend to try to avoid writing parts that sound like someone else. My playing isn’t really influenced in any specific ways by other artists. I am more influenced by people who take a unique and creative approach to music-making and songwriting, such as Brian Eno, Kevin Shields, Jason Pierce, and Barrett-era Pink Floyd.
In your opinion, what makes a good song?
G: Goosebumps and emotional flare-ups.
J: In regards to songs by other artists: if I immediately want to hear it again after my first listen, that’s a good sign. When it comes to Hinterland songs: if I am not sick of playing it, it must be a good song.
C: There has to be a connection with the listener, whether it’s through melody, structure, a memorable lyric, or 15 minutes of feedback.
M: Usually, for us, I can tell a song is really good if we finish writing it. We throw a lot of songs out before they get finished. We just know they are not going to be great, so we let them die. My favourite songs are the ones that we wrote quickly and the lyrics came to me quickly too. As for listening to other music, I think it is really hard to say. I usually hate everything as a default position. I guess a good song is one that makes me like it even though I start out hating it.
Do you ever plan on coming down to the states for a tour? If so, when?
C: Hopefully soon.
G: When money, time, and that waiver converge in harmony.
M: It is definitely something that we want to do, and as soon as Homeland Security clears a certain member of the band to enter the U.S. we will start out by going down to Seattle, Portland, SanFrancisco and L.A. The soonest this would happen, though, is after the new album comes out, and we don’t even know when that will be yet.
J: We still haven’t played outside of British Columbia! That will change when we head to Toronto in March for Canadian Music Week. We are also planning to hit Calgary and Edmonton in a weekend this spring.
Can you give us any indication of what the Vancouver music scene is like? Is it difficult to survive as a band there or is there a thriving indie scene?
M: It’s okay. We get lots of people out at our shows but I wouldn’t say that Vancouver has a great scene. You sort of have to be cool somewhere else first before people in Vancouver will like you. The attitude here seems to be a bit like “Oh, you are local, so you must suck.” Although there are a lot of really cool bands in Vancouver, there are a lot of really awful, truly amateur, and boring bands here too. There are also bands that are trying so hard to become rockstars, trying so hard to make music with commercial appeal, come up with a gimmick, or sound like some other band of the moment, that I really feel sorry for them and think they are sad and pathetic.
C: The Vancouver scene is fertile and pretty diverse. We tend to hide away and percolate on the West Coast without a lot of interference. There are many excellent bands here and have been for some time.
J: I sometimes feel like we are ignored by the local scenesters, but I don’t want to be too negative about it; scenester elitism is a problem in every city, and we don’t really court that crowd anyway. There are some fantastic talents in Vancouver, including Kids These Days, Guitaro, Jonathan Inc., Radiogram, the Parlour Steps, Readymade… and plenty of others that are worthy of more exposure.
Are there any authors that inspire you as a musical artist?
Gregg: Bugs Potter by Gordon Korman. Any of the Beats.
M: I read a lot. I am working on a PhD in Philosophy, so I obviously read a lot of philosophy. I have recently become very interested in Thomas Reid, but I wouldn’t say that reading philosophy directly influences me musically. It more influences the way I think and understand the world, and then that influences me musically. There is a lyric that references Descartes on the new album, but it is nothing too deep. I also really like reading about recent work in biology and physics, but again I think this only influences me musically in a very indirect way.
J: Greil Marcus and Peter Guralnick write about music—and the impact it has on them personally and also on the culture as a whole—in a way that inspires me to try to create something that will affect people in such a way.
C: J.G. Ballard, Malcolm Lowry, Michael Ondaatje.
Any other comments?
M: We have been on national TV in Canada a couple of times. It was cool, but weird.
J: I would love it if more people visited our blog and posted comments, or just came by to say hi.