By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Hawk, a band led by Central Ill. native David Hawkins, is set to release their new album ‘Fly,” which comes out on May 15, 2020 and serves as the follow-up to 2018’s ‘Bomb Pop.’
What started as Hawkins’ personal solo project rapidly evolved into a “power pop supergroup” that features the likes of Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, R.E.M., Big Star), drummer Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, Elliot Smith), keyboardist Morgan Fisher (Mott The Hoople, Queen, Yoko Ono), guitarist Aaron Bakker (Be) and Gary Louris (The Jayhawks), although the latter couldn’t contribute to ‘Fly’ because of gig commitments.
It was recorded internationally in places like the late David Bianco’s Los Angeles studio, Hawkin’s secluded off-grid Calif. desert retreat “Wonder Valley Sky” near Joshua Tree, Hawk Studios in Venice, Calif., Stringfellow’s studio in Tours, France and Fisher’s Morgan Salon in Tokyo and Mars Studio in Seattle. ‘Fly’ was co-mixed by Hawkins and Mike Hagler (Wilco, My Morning Jacket), who also mastered it at Kingsize Sound Labs in Chicago.
The Music Bugle recently had the chance to talk with Hawkins about the upcoming release and more.
Music Bugle – What inspired the band name and what significance does it have for you?
David Hawkins – Hawk has been a nickname of mine since I was a kid, so it seemed a natural choice when it came time to choose a band name. It has a lot of personal significance for me and it has roots in Native American spirituality too, which is important in my life – and I feel it holds some of the answers to our society’s current problems. I have a friend who is a Lakota Sioux and I got to go to his tribes’ PowWow on the reservation in South Dakota a few years back. His grandmother, one of the tribe elders, gave me an Indian name: Cetan Olowan; ‘The Hawk that sings.’ I was really honored by that and ‘Hawk’ kind of stuck.
Music Bugle – How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected you guys as a band?
David Hawkins – It grounded everything to a halt the first couple weeks as we adjusted to life under quarantine, but then we got to work recording – remotely – on new Hawk and Be material and it’s actually been really productive since then. It’s nice to have all this time, despite the situation and I’ve been working hard to make the most of it.
Music Bugle – How would you describe the creative process of putting together your new album ‘Fly’?
David Hawkins – The process always starts with me writing the songs, which is kind of a mysterious process and happens on its own. They arise over a period of time and as Bob Dylan says, “I catch ‘em as they come.” While some come fully formed, most need to be fleshed-out and developed, which takes time. Once I’ve done that, I record the songs myself – guitars, some keys, vocals – as a foundation and then we recorded Pete’s drums at the late David Bianco’s ‘Dave’s Room’ studio in LA with David Spreng engineering. Then, I make rough mixes of all the songs and I write detailed notes on what I think each song needs in terms of instruments and the vibe/style I’m going for and share them with the band. With those in mind, we start overdubbing; we add more guitars and percussion, Ken adds bass and keys and other instruments and Morgan adds his keys and we just build the songs up until they’re the way I hear them in my head. Then, I re-sing everything until I’m happy with the final vocals, which is usually the last step before mixing. On ‘Fly,’ like on ‘Bomb Pop’ and the Be albums, as well as most of the other Hawk albums, I co-mixed it with my longtime collaborator Mike Hagler at Kingsize Sound Labs in Chicago. The whole process took about a year and a half. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun and I’m really happy with the way it turned out.
Music Bugle – Did you guys have any material that didn’t make the cut?
David Hawkins – Yes. Pete and I recorded 15 songs and 10 ended up on the record. The other five songs will probably make it on another record.
Music Bugle – You guys obviously have a lot of experience in the music business. Do you feel that that contributes to your chemistry as a band or perhaps gives you any sort of advantage?
David Hawkins – Definitely. Playing with these guys is like a dream. I’d put this band up against anyone playing today. Everyone’s experience contributes to the quality of the work, but it’s really the skills – the actual playing and instincts – that makes the difference. Some of that comes from experience, but some of that you can’t learn. It’s just who they/we are. I’m really grateful to be able to play with such great players.
Music Bugle – Which do you feel is the group’s most meaningful song or set of lyrics?
David Hawkins – They all have a lot of meaning to me, but on ‘Fly’ I guess “Truth To Power” would be the most meaningful, which is basically a call to revolution. These are dangerous times and we the People need to rise up and stand up for ourselves and our lives. That song speaks to that need.
Music Bugle – Did you listen to any particular artists while putting together the new album?
David Hawkins – Nothing really stands out. I think the influences seep into my writing over years and happen unconsciously. I’ll pick up on the vibe of a song once it’s written and it’ll influence the arrangement, but the influences are pretty varied on ‘Fly.’
Music Bugle – What are your future plans as far as the rest of 2020?
David Hawkins – To keep recording like crazy while we have all this time! (Laughs) That’s been one silver lining of the pandemic. It’s great to have more time to focus on writing and recording. I’m usually really prolific – Ken has played on over 100 of my songs – for both Hawk and Be – in the past few years, but have been even more so lately.
Music Bugle – What’s something you feel people should know about you as a person?
David Hawkins – Hmm, good question. I guess it would be that I have this secret belief that music is really important and super powerful and can be truly transcendent. I take music and the joy, insight and healing it can bring really seriously. I feel like I’m in service: to my soul, to the muses, to the songs, and through those things, to the listener. It’s like a sacred duty to me. I don’t take it lightly.
Music Bugle – What has been your proudest moment while onstage?
David Hawkins – I guess it would be at a sold-out show in Chicago at the Double Door. We were sharing the bill with a prominent local Americana/Country act and while the crowd – largely their audience – was expecting more of a country show, we flat-out rocked. I remember seeing them being blown-back and kind of startled at first, but by the end, we had them screaming for more. The other artist was really good too, but we kind of stole the show. When we get rolling, we’re a tough act to follow.