In listening to The Hugs talk about this insane business they’re in, you’d think they’d been making records for at least 10 years. These guys were signed by giant Columbia Records – a big friggin’ deal (especially at 17 and 18 years old) – but also a big friggin’ pressure cooker for instant commercial success. The band was quickly transported to London for recording… where the unfortunate happened. They sum it up simply: “We left Columbia Records because they tried to change us, and we weren't having that…We want to make music we love and songs that people can relate to and to play to big crowds!”
That takes balls – a lot of confidence in what you’re doing and where you’re going. And The Hugs have every reason to be confident – their sound is catchy, charming and in line with some of the best music ever made. And these guys are still just at the beginning of their careers – they’re still “kids!” They pull so much influence from the period of music that has affected them the most, the amazing time that went on between1965-69: “We dig the tape analog sound. We all like just good music by great bands. The Stones, Strokes, Tommy James and the Shondells, Beatles, Velvet Underground, Oasis, Libertines, Elliott Smith, The Vines, Pink Floyd.”
The guys are now working on their second record, as their first one prepares to drop later this month on June 23rd. They talk about the self-titled collection; “lots of hooks and catchy verses with bright lyrics and lots of reverb. It's all-around good vibe.” Its music that’s very much like the classics made in the late 60’s – it’s made to perform live – perfect for singing along and having a kick-ass time. The boys will release both the self-titled album and another LP later this year before heading back over to London to hang out with a few new labels. We wish them the best of luck – but chances are they won’t need it. Keep reading along for the answers to the XXQ’s.
XXQ’s: The Hugs
PensEyeView.com (PEV): So give us the story – how did The Hugs come together?
Danny: The drummer Kelly and Me (Danny) met in 7th grade in middle school. We had many bands, and then we got older and went to high school and started the Hugs. Nicholas joined and so did Brendan, and practically overnight we formed. We have been together for 2 years now. But 6 if you count when me and the drummer met.
PEV: You’re from Oregon, right? But lived in the UK? Tell us how that was.
Danny: We lived in The UK for six months last year, and recorded and toured up north and such. We are now back in Portland, playing shows and about to release two records.
PEV: What kind of music where each of the members listening to growing up? What was the first concert you attended?
Danny: We all like just good music by great bands. The Stones, Strokes, Tommy James and the Shondells, Beatles, Velvet Underground, Oasis, Libertines, Elliott Smith, The Vines, Pink Floyd. First concert was Vines and Jet in 2003.
PEV: Tell us about your creative process… What kind of environment do you have to be in to make music?
Danny: I record demo's/songs on a four track and or my Macbook with a special USB microphone. I record in the bathroom and or a closet for good acoustics. I then play it for the band and sort of direct the band in my idea for the song once all the instruments are around me.
PEV: It’s clear you’re all a little crazy about 60’s music – while there are obvious reasons for this, what are some of the not so obvious?
Danny: Our parents rocked out to all of it when we were toddlers. We love the style of culture of London in 1965-69. We dig the tape analog sound. PEV: Tell us about the records you've been working on.
Danny: We are actually recording our second album right now. Our first will be released on June 23rd, 2009. It's self titled and has 17 songs. It's got lots of hooks and catchy verses. With bright lyrics and lots of reverb. It's all around good vibe. The second LP is sounding much more mature and more catchier and full of surprises.
PEV: How would you describe the sound of The Hugs? What makes you guys stand out?
Danny: We have deep in-rooted melodies all over our songs. We are all musical trained since we were 14 years of age at our instruments. I sang in choir for three years in high school. We work a lot on detail and pay attention to the way we play with each other. We smile a lot to. And shake our head side to side.
PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?
Danny: When I opened up for Brighton's the kooks at the wonder ballroom in Portland last year. Before that we weren't so sure. PEV: How pumped were you guys when you got signed as such a young band?
Danny: It was exciting but was a really big mind fuck. We all had a lot of pressure from the label to make hits and singles. We had our sound changed by a producer named Liam Watson, but beyond that it was fun playing with the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre and meeting all of our fans in Europe and living in London, England for half a year on the labels tab. It's a business so it's good to be signed if you want to make it but it's also got it's negative sides. I think we know what we want now more then when we were 17-18 and just been signed to Columbia Records. We want to make music we love and songs that people can relate to and to play to big crowds!
PEV: Tell us about your first live performance as a band. How have you changed since that first show to where you are now?
Danny: Well, we did not sing very well at first, and I had a hard time throwing my guitar around and keeping my parts together. We have just gotten much tighter as whole. The bass is more locked in. Harmonies sound spot on.
PEV: Got any good stories from playing on the road? Have you been able to spend much time on the road?
Danny: We toured Europe and west coast of America a few times, not too many stories but one time we got pulled over in Southern California near Joshua Tree and they let us go. We then met up with Carl Barat of the libertines and drank some beers in Graham Parsons old hotel room.
PEV: Do you have a dream city that you’d like to play in?
Danny: Canary Islands, Melbourne, Sydney, New York. Anywhere in Spain!
PEV: What can we find the each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
Danny: I write a lot of stories and about personal experiences and Kelly our drummer does kung fu. And Nicholas goes golfing. I also play baseball
PEV: Is there one artist or group out there that would be your dream collaboration? Why?
Danny: Alison Goldfrapp. She is very attractive and can sing very swell for a girl. She is really pretty and can write and perform great dance music.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for? Other than The Hugs, of course.
Danny: Derby from Portland, Oregon. Those guys are really unique. And Starfucker.
PEV: Is the fact you’re huggable the only reason for the band name?
Danny: We named the band after our vision. Spreading love and giving hugs. We want to bring people closer together with our songs and image. It's not so cutesy as it sounds. It's actually worked. We have a lot of fans hugging each other at our shows. And it's just a fine name. We are THE HUGS! PEV: What's one thing we'd be surprised to hear about The Hugs?
Danny: We left Columbia Records because they tried to change us, and we weren't having that.
PEV: What one word best describes The Hugs?
PEV: So, what is next for The Hugs?
Danny: We are releasing two albums this year and moving back to London to showcase for new record labels. We hope to sign to a proper record label this time and go for it. We won't ever stop making albums and songs. We are just too damn cool to let the Jonas Brothers take all the glory in the world. One day we think we will be on letterman and hopefully playing arenas and selling millions of records. Practice makes perfect, how’s that for a dream?