A great week of interviews for me this week. The first of which was with Benjamin Grubin, the singer from Portland, OR band Hockey. They are having massive success both here and in the US, with their stellar album Mind Chaos, as well as their relentless live tour. They played Dublin’s Academy in September and were riotously sucessful.
Here Ben talks about how making a studio album is a little hard work, how they came about their google-hating name, playing the live circuit, and how they’ve been so warmly embraced on this side of the Atlantic.
Hi Ben. Firstly, why the name Hockey? Love of the sport?
Hi. Well we just wanted a name that was like a mistake. Something you shouldn’t use, and so that seemed to work. To be honest it’s a little rough now though because it’s hard for people to find us on the internet.
What was it like going from making an EP by your own steam to then making one under the eyes of a major label?
Sixty percent of the album that was released on the major was exactly the same album so it wasn’t all that different or an atmosphere when we added some stuff on.
I heard it was difficult making the record, how so?
Yeah really hard because I had no idea how to make a reasonable sounding recording and had to figure it out with hardly any equipment. Looking back now I prefer the stuff we did in our basement over the stuff we did after in a real studio.
You seem to have enjoyed a lot of success in the UK and Ireland, why do you think this is?
I don’t know music comes in and out of style much faster around there than the US. I think so anyway. So we just happened to be played on the radio awhile ago and that started it all for us.
You’ve played on the festival circuit, as well as more intimate venues, which do you prefer? And do you find festivals tiring, like many acts do?
Yeah the best shows are the smaller ones where everyone is there to see you, and is sort of already on your side. For new bands festivals are when people stop by to check you out. But that is sort of fun too in it’s own way.
You supported Passion Pit at Vicar Street, but have now gone on to headline your own shows, do you ever think they’ll return the favour and support you?
I don’t know. We’re actually playing a few shows with them around the USA in December. But we’ll probably play before them. They’re HUGE. Really good too.
Speaking of which, who has been your favourite act to support? And favourite who has supported you?
Playing with the Friendly Fires was cool. It made sense, cuz they’re crowd could get into our sound. Also picked up a few dance moves… A band called Little Comets opened for us around the UK in September. They were really great. Really good band.
And is there anyone you’d never want to be seen on the same bill as again? Some nu-metal band that brings all the wrong kinds of fan?
Yeah. Cotton Mouth Kings. Opened for them a long time ago, and got in about 10 fights throughout the show.
Have you ever got any really bad reviews that made you want to write a strongly worded letter to the editor?
Not really. People say messed up stuff sometimes. I just don’t like it when people aren’t straight forward in their Journalism. Like a big publication said we were like Mika, and it’s like you don’t have to like us, but that’s still not true.
Is it hard being on the road all the time?
Yeah it has it’s trials. But I like it a lot more than the job I was working before.
The internet has certainly helped you via word of mouth and mp3 posting, are you one of these bands who detest illegal downloading?
No, it’s the way of the world now. It’s like hating the sky or something else that would be a waist of time.
A lot of artists have remixed your songs, is this something that just happened, or something you encouraged?
It’s all been done in England when we haven’t been there so I don’t even know how those remixes happened really. I should pay more attention.
The cover for the album is unusual, it’s made up of four covers, tell me about that.
Jerm the bass player makes that stuff. After he made two options for the cover I thought they were both good, but neither cold stand alone as the cover so I thought he should make two more and we’d use all 4. Works with the album because it’s Chaotic and has lot’s of different approaches going on in it, and so the 4 panels echo that madness.
Ben wasn’t giving too much away about the release of a new record, or what they plan to do next. They just “go with the flow”. But I do see massive things in their future. I urge you to go out and buy the album Mind Chaos, and as soon as they come back over here, go and see them. One of the best live bands around today.
Here’s the band playing ‘Too Fake’ on Later…With Jools Holland earlier this year: