Sam Martin of Youngblood Hawke

HV: Please introduce yourselves to our readers. 
Sam: I’ll give you a little history… 

Simon Katz and I were in another band for 5 years prior to this project [Iglu & Hartly]. We were signed by a major label, toured all over the UK, Europe and Japan and had a #5 single in the UK. On the exterior everything seemed to be going very well for us. Internally, the relationships within the band began to dissolve. Musically we weren’t evolving and we were soon dropped by our label. We were back to square one. In 2008 we had a top ten single and the next year our band was on an indefinite hiatus. Everything we had worked for the last 5 years of our lives was gone and we were sitting in our living rooms asking “what the fuck happened.” We were terrified. 

During the summer of 2010, Simon and I decided to get together and write a few songs. We transformed his tiny, sweltering spare bedroom into a studio and started recording with no intention of starting another band, just writing for the simple enjoyment of creating, to get things off our chest. Our voices weren’t often heard in the other group and this was our chance to make the music we wanted to make, without having to adhere to a certain “style” or “sound.” We had so many bottled up emotions from the roller coaster ride we just got off of, so we spent the whole summer writing together, pouring out all these emotions. Simon and I had never written songs together, but we instantly clicked. 

I remember the day I called Simon up. “I have our band name!!!” “What band?” “OUR band! YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE!” It happened to be the title of my late uncle Mike’s favorite novel which I had just devoured, by Herman Wouk. It’s an immensely inspiring story about the adventures of a struggling writer who moves from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky to New York in search of artistic success. The book really spoke to me and lit a new musical fire, gave us the courage to create again. The titled blazed like a marquee in my mind! 

The thought of forming a new band, with all that we’d had been through in the last few years, seemed daunting. But, we had to give it another shot. We couldn’t picture ourselves doing anything else. We sent the demos to our friends and they instantly reacted to the music. Simon’s best friend Tasso, who was living in Texas at the time, flew out to play guitar for the band. Alice, Simon’s wife, who sang on the original recordings in the house, also joined. Our close friends Nik Hughes and Benji Vander Broek joined shorty after and we had ourselves a full band. The group has a real family vibe since we’re all such close friends. It’s an amazing experience to create music with the people you’re closest with. 

HV: I believe it! I’m a big fan of following your heart and so I love that the band formed out of something that just felt right to do. And it feels like things have developed quickly for Youngblood Hawke as a result, what’s next on the horizon? 
Sam: The next few months we’re just recording non-stop, finishing up our record. We’d like to have it done by March. We’re also throwing around some music video ideas. We’re playing a few shows in New York at the end of February, which is exciting because I’ve never even been to New York (hillbilly) and we’re playing some shows at SXSW in March. Once the records done we’d like to hit the road, play some summer festivals. 

HV: Have you been to SXSW before? If so, favorite memory? 
Sam: Youngblood Hawke hasn’t yet but our other band played in it a couple times. SXSW is probably my favorite festival. I love how you can walk into totally random bars all along 6th street and see everything from singer-songwriter groups to Japanese screamo bands. They know how to drink down in Texas too, we always end up having pretty wild nights. SXSW was the first time I saw Cage the Elephant, I stumbled into this tiny bar and they were playing in front of a handful of people and they completely blew my mind! I knew the minute I saw them that they would be huge. This was a few years ago before the had any songs on the radio. The lead singer was crawling up walls, jumping off of the roof, it was insane. And it was incredible to see them in such an intimate setting! 

HV: SXSW is my favorite festival as well and especially because of moments like that one you just described. And while we’re on the subject of new bands, what are you listening to these days? Any new music discoveries? 
Sam: I’m listening to all types of stuff lately, tons of local LA acts such as Vanaprasta, Rocco Deluca, Imagine Dragons, Voxhaul Broadcast, a folk band from Portland called Celilo and also, I’m completely obsessed with the newest Brett Dennen album. . . Can’t stop listening to the Stones or Dylan, ever. 

HV: High Voltage LOVES Imagine Dragons! So good! Alright, so if you could be any other member of your own band who would you be? And why? 
Sam: If I could be anyone else in the band I guess it would have to be our guitarist, Tasso? I don’t know if it’s the silky hair or the southern drawl – but Tasso’s an all around solid character. 

HV: What’s the first record you can recall listening to that encouraged / motivated you to become a musician? 
Sam: It’s hard for me to pin point a single record that motivated me to be a musician. Early on my mom was always playing different records around the house. I have vivid memories of jumping on a mattress and dancing to early Rolling Stones records as a little kid. I think it was the energy of music itself that motivated me. I was always very passionate about music from an early age and just fell in love with the process of recording and performing. It was all those early records my mom would play, Stones, Beatles, Bee Gees, Simon and Garfunkel, etc that helped push me down this path… 

HV: Well then, do you have a favorite cover song to play live? 
Sam: Lately we’ve been covering “Juicy” by Notorious BIG and a crazy tribal rendition of “Love Lockdown” by Kanye West. We wanted to perform covers that no one would expect. We start playing them and people are completely surprised! We like the fact that the songs are very dissimilar from the songs we write and perform. Its a fun challenge to manipulate the songs and make them our own. It makes the set more versatile. Also “Juicy” is just a classic, one of our favorite tunes. 

HV: Very cool. One last question, what’s the one question you always wish you’d get asked in an interview? Then answer it. 
Sam: WHY do you play music? 

Music is such a healthy release for us. When we started recording this album we were in a pretty shaky place in our lives. We were confused, scared, angry – but beneath all that, hopeful. Sitting down and writing these songs lifted so much weight off our shoulders. We felt that we had shed this negative skin and energy we had been living in for the past couple of years through these songs. Music can be such a powerful force and for me it’s the best way to find balance and clarity, to tell your story. It’s something we enjoy more than anything and to create something from absolutely nothing into this tangible, beautiful thing – well, there’s no better feeling. 

HV: That’s beautiful. Thanks so much for your time, Sam!

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