FACT: There’s usually something a bit more cohesive, innately more honest about music that’s made among friends. Feelings run deeper yet come to the surface with greater ease through a lyric here, a guitar chord there. See Sam Martin and Simon Katz (formerly of Iglu & Hartley) along with Tasso Smith, Alice Katz and Nik Hughes: a quintet of modern, bombastic indie pop/rock music-makers who have orbited around one another’s lives in one way or another before finally rising as Youngblood Hawke. Musically, it sounds like kicking down the door of a brave new world with youthful optimism, unity, sunshine, choral uplift to die for and the urge to dance as accomplices.
The seeds of Youngblood Hawke were planted in 2010 when Simon and Sam began writing together (post-Iglu & Hartley), needing to find and express their own musical voices. Demos sent to Tasso (Simon’s best friend) resulted in him picking up the guitar for the project. There’s Alice (Simon’s wife) who was in on the early recording sessions, then Nik (a close friend) and…well, you get the picture. This is a band with- not only a professional stake in the expression- but one of their hearts, as well.
The past two years have seen Youngblood Hawke honing what they do at home in Los Angeles and on the road from rowdy showcases at South By Southwest in Austin, TX to a wildly successful monthlong residency at one of LA’s most popular venues, the Satellite. Their friends, fans and followers have grown show after show (as has the respect for their newfound musical voice) and word of mouth boasted a band whose festive live show simply had to be seen to be believed. The aesthetic is a joyous one and this band is nothing if not serious about joy.
From Universal Republic comes Youngblood Hawke’s first release: a 4-song EP that seems to healthily reflect their collective spirit, as well as the path that they find themselves on- as musicians and as friends. Every band has a story to tell and the songs are often snapshots of the narrative. Because we’re nosy, we enlisted (threatened, bribed, whatever) Sam to dig into the songs of their self-titled EP for us…track-by-track:
Sam: “Simon and I wrote all the songs on our self-titled EP. We do our writing in Simon’s air condition-less, homemade studio at his house. It’s a tiny room that only holds 4-5 people at once. Nice and snug! It has a really comfortable vibe and we always feel free to make anything we want there. We usually work through the nights and into the morning, never hearing complaints from the neighbors. It’s a really powerful spot for us.
Hope is a theme that resonates throughout the EP. We didn’t go out of our way to write positive, uplifting songs, but they just came out of us. The last couple years have been really difficult for us, and I think writing these songs was our way of subconsciously trying to get to a better place in our lives.”
1. We Come Running
“We Come Running” started as an internal message to the band. It was written during the early stages when nobody was sure where it was going. We were working odd, unsatisfying jobs to pay the rent, and we were putting all we had into our music. It was somewhat of a low point for everyone, and the song served as a reminder to stay positive and keep fighting for what we love to do. We knew that if we worked hard enough and really believed in this project, that eventually people would hear the “the sound when we come running.” We would at least get a chance to be heard, which is all you can really ask for. And all we ever wanted.
This song is about staying strong when the whole world seems to be dropping on your head. We wrote this song with a young kid named Aaron Michael Cox. Aaron was a super talented musician, writer, and producer: More importantly, Aaron was an incredible human being. He had this spark about him. He’d light up the room when he stepped in. His passion for music and life was extremely contagious. Sadly, shortly after we finished this song, Aaron passed away from complications with cancer. It was a terrible and shocking loss. He was truly a unique soul.
After Aaron’s passing, “Stars” took on a whole new meaning for us and everyone who knew Aaron. We performed it at the memorial service in front of his parents. The whole place sang along. It was very emotional. This song is a reminder that things may be bad, but they’ll always get better. Life can hand you a lot, but you just have to be strong and ride through the bad times.
“Forever” is about many different things. It was the first song that Simon and I wrote together. It started out feeling like a love song, a song dealing with the journey of a relationship. But it’s also about growing up and accepting people for who they truly are, rather than for what they have or what they do, and it’s about sticking by the people whom you truly care about. It’s also about divorce, drinking, singing drunk sailor songs in your room, and hiding from the troubles that sometimes hunt you down.
“Rootless” embodies the feeling of change, growth, and the adventurous journey that is life. It’s a song about enjoying the journey, even if you’re lost. This song probably came about from the 2 years that Simon and I were on the road with our previous band. We were always far away from our family and friends, and, at times, we felt like we were just floating around with no home or place to call our own. It was a wild ride that took us all over the world, where we met wonderful people, and experienced crazy things. After a while though, we started to feel unconnected to certain things, “rootless” and always on the move. But it was also very inspiring, very eye-opening.