Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview + Album Giveaway :: Noel Kelly of The Hush Now

The Hush Now, live at Mad Oak Studios, Allston, Mass.
Since the release of their self titled debut in 2009, Boston's Dream Pop outfit The Hush Now have had us hooked on their marriage of intelligent lyricism, hazy melodies and classic pop hooks. With each release, starting with the a fore mentioned debut (or the drum album as we often refer to it), to Constellations (2.0) ,to Shiver Me Starships EP, and on the soon to be released Memos (out 9/27), the band has managed do something most bands can only shoot for, push forward, perfect their craft, and simply get better. Over the past few weeks I've had the pleasure of conducting an interview with THN fronter Noel Kelly. In this candid exchange, he shares quite a bit, including details on the recording of his bands new album, the national tour they will embark on, and the evolution of The Hush Now.

I'd like to thank Noel for taking the time to answer our questions and for putting up with our late night emails.

Bryan Hamill: Can you tell us what led to the decision to remix/re-release Constellation 2.0?

Noel Kelly: Recording 2.0 got off to a slow start. Dave Newton of The Mighty Lemon Drops flew out to Boston from LA. On the first day of recording in Charlestown, there was a deluge of rain and the studio was flooded just as we hit record for the first take. We spent the rest of the afternoon rescuing gear from the rising water. It was a true crisis management moment. We retired to a pub and finished the evening there. The next day, the waters were gone. We got about 3 hours in and then there was a power blackout that hit all of Charlestown. Needless to say, recording was far behind schedule. We got most of it done, but had to finish up recording without Dave in the following months when time, studio and funds were available. Because the recording took so long, we ran into a conflict with Dave’s schedule. Needing to press, I took a stab at mixing the record with Kurt Schneider. Kurt did his best, but I should not have been in there mixing. So, when additional drama occurred when mixing our next effort, the Shiver Me Starships EP (including another flood and deleted vocal tracks), Jeff Lipton recommended Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios to resurrect the sessions. And he did, that kid is a magician. Fast forward to the Memos writing sessions this past winter when I thought, it would be nice to really hear what the songs on Constellations could have sounded like in the right hands. So, I asked Benny to remix the album. No changes were made to the recordings with the exception that we added The Atheist, which made the cutting room floor the first time around to the track list and removed Carousel. The idea was to prep for the new release of Memos, keep the name of the band out there, and finally get to hear the tunes as they were meant to be heard.

Bryan: What can you tell us about your forthcoming 3rd full length, Memos?

Noel: I think Memos is were you truly see The Hush Now becoming a band. This time, Benny Grotto was at the dials from the start and he killed it. I couldn't’t be happier with the production, performances and sincerity of this record. I’m proud of the guys in this band. Its been a really long couple of years for most of us including a lot of personal trials for each individually and collectively. But everyone really focused and rose to the occasion. We started with about 20 songs that we narrowed down to 12. 10 tunes on the new LP, a Halloween song and a New Years Eve song that we plan to release on those holidays. There’s another dance remix as well. Also, on this album you see the band start to evolve and grow into its own. Barry takes lead vocals on a song as does Adam. It brings yet another dimension to what where doing. Everybody in the band is a songwriter in their own right, so material is never an issue. It’s just finding enough time between working day jobs and the logistical challenges of keeping a band moving forward that prevents us from doing even more.

Bryan: I recently read that you recorded 13 tracks in just eight days, can you give us some insight to that fruitful recording session ?

Noel: We rehearsed as much as possible going into the sessions. We like to be prepared. Studio time can be expensive, so we like to make the most of our time there. There’s a point where you can only go so fast, but we like to push to that point as much as possible. Plus, we’re in a great space at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, that's comfortable and working with a producer who’s work ethic is second to none. It was fun,I always enjoy recording and watching a project come together.

Bryan: You will self release Memos on September 27th, is that a model that works for the band over signing with a local or independent label?

Noel: Well, self-released is the only option we have to be honest. If there are labels out there that are interested, they’re not letting us know about it. At the end of the day, we want to keep making music. If that means we have to do it ourselves for the meantime, such is life. We’re here, we’re putting out records, they know where to find us, hopefully.

Bryan: Can you to tell us how The Hush Now has evolved since the 2008 formation, 3 LP's and countless live performances?

Noel: We've definitely grown as a band. To be perfectly honest, I've become a bit better. I didn't start singing until I was 34-35 and the first album was my first real try. I knew there’d be some wood-shedding required. I still have work to do, but I’m getting there, and playing with great musicians like Barry, Adam and Pat inspires me to keep working. With Shiver Me Starships and Memos you’re starting to see a band more than a project. A true collaboration. Which is a good thing. I love the early stuff, but there’s something about working material as a group and having everybody involved playing their own parts. Also, The Hush Now has gone through quite a few line-up changes. But, the band itself has taken on a life of it’s own which stems from the individual members taking personal ownership in its success. It’s a lot of work and not for everybody, understandably so. A lot of thankless hours to be frank. My father was a musician and I used to gig with him when I was growing up. Other kids would be going off to camp or something, I’d be lugging equipment in NYC at 3:30 in the morning and watching my father get shafted when it came to pay at the end of the night. Not much has changed. I guess I've been watching the trials and reality of what it means to be a musician for a while and it can seem at times not worth the time and energy. But, when you get five musicians with a common vision working together really beautiful things can happen. And that’s well worth the effort.

Bryan: What can you tell us about your touring plans to support Memos?

Noel: We have 17 dates in 17 days planned that take us through the Midwest and south before heading back to NYC for CMJ 2011. We also have a homecoming show set up for October 22nd. It really should be a great opportunity for the band to get its stage feet back. We haven’t toured since last fall.There’s nothing like playing live day after day to hone a bands sound and vibe. You always come back a lot stronger than you left. So the Boston show should be pretty epic.

Bryan: Are there any plans to release the tracks that didn't make it on to the new album?

Noel: There were 2 songs that were never planned for the album. The Legend of Dudley Town is a new Halloween song that we’ll release in late October. There is also going to be a video contest we plan to launch soon for that song. We did a video contest in the past and the response was terrific. So we’re going to try that again. Then there’s a new holiday tune, actually, a New Year’s tune that we’ll be rolling out around Thanksgiving that we’re really excited about. There was one song that didn't make the cut (just didn't come together) and may be tried again for a future album, but we’ll see.

Bryan: What's the secret to working your respective day jobs, managing personal lives, and still finding the time to pool your collective energies into the The Hush Now?

Noel: Well, I can’t speak for the other guys, but honestly, the secret for me is, I don’t have a personal life. Work and the band, that’s it for me. It's a pretty ascetic existence to be honest. I save my vacation so I can go on tour or record an album. I’ll work 10 hour days and then put in 3-5 hours a night on the band. It’s a pretty one dimensional existence. I imagine this is the reality for many musicians who are passionate about their work. Maybe I’ll regret it some day, but I don’t really have a choice to be honest. It’s what’s important to me right now. I think my family and friends understand, if they don’t, we’ll discuss it in the afterlife, I guess.

The Hush Now will be heading out of town next month to play an impressive 17 shows in 17 days, but before they go they will be playing an album release show at Foundry 24 on September 23rd as part of Ryan's Smashing Life 5th Anniversary. In addition, upon their return The Ash Gray Proclamation in conjunction with our pals at Clicky Clicky Music Blog will present The Hush Now Homecoming show at Precinct on October 22nd. Speaking of Clicky Clicky, be sure check out their review of Memos here.

[Giveaway] We have two autographed copies of Memos for a couple of our readers. To be entered to win one, just send us an electronic message with THN in the subject line to ashgrayproclamation at yahoo [dot] com.

Band photo credit: Jay Breitling

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