Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hectorina Interview

Hectorina: What A Concept
interview by Daniel Coston
from the May 2016 issue of Tangents Magazine

Many bands run screaming from the ideas of concept albums, or larger statements that merge art and rock & roll into one huge statement. Is it art-rock? Is it prog-rock? Is it going to involve gnomes and fairies? And will I still be able to dance to it? Others, however, fully embrace the idea that all such things can exist together, and put it out there on stage and record for all to see and hear. Hectorina is one of those bands.

Hectorina first came to be in 2010, when it was originally christened as Dylan Gilbert & The Over Easy Breakfast Machine. After Gilbert, bassist Zachary Jordan and drummer John Harrell III renamed the band as Hectorina in 2012, the band began working towards a larger presentation of their emerging sound. Their subsequent release, Collywobble, a two-LP concept album released in 2013, has since been turned into a stage play and exposed the band to a wider audience. The band has since released two more EPs and two albums, including their self-titled LP in 2015. Gilbert, Jordan and Harrell have continued to push the barriers of what listeners expect from Hectorina, and what a Hectorina album will sound like. On stage or on record, you never know what to expect from Hectorina, but that is part of the fun.

Singer, guitarist and main songwriter Dylan Gilbert discussed all of these things are more with us in a recent interview via email.

Tangents: How did this band come together?
Dylan Gilbert: I was heading out on tour, this would have been Summer 2010, and I asked my friends Zach and John to come along for fun. We ended up having such a good time traveling and making music together during that tour that we decided to keep going.
Tangents: How would you describe the sound of this band?

Gilbert: That’s become an increasingly difficult thing (at least for us in the band) to pin down. I think that’s mainly because we all have a lot of varied creative influences. We’ve been labeled Prog and Math Rock in the past, which is flattering, but I don’t think we’re so technically efficient. I’d say we’re somewhere between post-punk and soul music.
Tangents: Do labels, or genre questions, get in the way of people discovering, or even enjoying music?

Gilbert: I love this question. The answer is ‘absolutely’. A lot of people in our culture are too quick to label something or categorize it, often before they even experience it. I’ve found that most music (and art in general) takes some level of focus and openness to really connect with. It becomes less about questions of “like or dislike” or “this genre or that genre” and more about mood and timing for you as the listener or experiencer of the art.
Tangents: Talk about the new album. How it came together, and how it is different (or similiar) to your other albums.

Gilbert: This time around we wanted to do something more akin to traditional pop or soul albums like the ones we listened to growing up. We wanted to record a collection of songs that sounded cohesive together. That wasn’t necessarily a goal early on. In some ways it does feel like a direct development from our album A Thousand Jackals. It’s difficult to talk about because we, as writers and musicians, are already on to the next project(s). I think the most noticeable change in our music thus far is our ability to relax and hold back as players and arrangers. With Collywobble we had this kitchen sink approach and our newer music is becoming increasingly patient.

Tangents: You’ve worked with Daniel Hodges on your last two albums. Talk about working with him.
Gilbert: The man is a genius. Unfortunately, he’s also one of my best friends, so there are plenty of times when we butt heads, but he always helps me clear away the bullshit and pushes us to go further with our music. Sometimes it’s difficult to see a song or projects’ true potential, so having a trustworthy opinion is important and rare.
Tangents: Three albums, and two EPs in three years. Would you describe yourself as prolific?Gilbert: I could, but then I think of my many musical heroes and their unbelievable output. John Zorn, Charles Minugs, Prince, The Beatles. 
Tangents: A rock opera. Dang. How did that come together?
Gilbert: The rock opera was more of a way to shake up the writing process. I wanted to take on something big and not overly serious where I could explore more aspects of songwriting as a challenge for the band and myself.
Tangents: The idea of Concept albums can make some music fans go a bit sniffy. What made you want to tackle it?
Gilbert: Agreed. Like I mentioned above. It wasn’t like we were all huge concept album fans and wanted to pay homage. I dig some of that stuff, but the inspiration was in the challenge of making something big that pulled from all of our creative skills. It was our first album together too. And I think giving ourselves the feeling that we were in over our heads, right off the bat, has given us the confidence to continue.
Tangents: Is it hard to keep a Charlotte base while still touring elsewhere?
Gilbert: Not really. Geographically speaking Charlotte is in a great spot. It’s so easy to plan an east coast tour from here.
Tangents: Which recording do you think captures your sound the best, to date? Has that recording been made yet?
Gilbert: If I had to choose I’d say the most recent record, but of course we’re still moving towards what we truly hear in our heads and I’d say that the music were making now renders past efforts, lovingly, obsolete. We always want to top ourselves and I think we have so far.
Tangents: Where do you draw inspirations for your songs? 
Gilbert: Geez anything. It just depends on how something makes you feel. A newspaper article, a life experience, a vague feeling, anything can be a song.

Tangents: Wildest Hectorina shows, so far. And go!
Gilbert: We’ve played a ton of gigs, so that’s tough. I’ll say that both of our residencies at Snug Harbor have been extremely fun and wild.
Tangents: What does being a hard-core music fan like yourself bring to creating one’s own music?
Gilbert: I think it’s a double-edged sword. I’ve often mentioned to John and Zach that I feel like we’re purists, in some ways, about music and that may be a difficult thing to overcome. We’re hard on ourselves, I think. We ask ourselves “Would we listen to this crap?” a lot.
Tangents: A lot of your songs have a strong literary sense, and wordplay. In an age where a lot of music has over-simplified lyrics, what do you look to achieve, or speak to with your lyrics?
Gilbert: That’s an extreme compliment. Words are something I put particular effort into because it comes less naturally to me than melody. And this is something I’ve thought about a lot as of late: Lyrics can easily feel generic and out of touch. I feel that way about a lot of pop songs. At this point I don’t want to write down anything that doesn’t have any meaning for me. Nonsensical lyrics can work sometimes, but the artists that I look up to had something to say about the times they lived in and I want that too.
Tangents: Finish this sentence. When it comes down to it, Hectorina is….
Gilbert: When it comes down to it, Hectorina is living the dream.

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