INTERVIEW: Hookworms | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s always a pleasure to see a band grow into their own skin and realise the potential you always felt they had. And so it is with Hookworms, whose new album The Hum takes the ideas they set out on their debut Pearl Mystic and nails them: it’s more focussed, more intense, more melodic. Just MORE.

“I’m proud of it, I think it’s the best thing we could have done right now,” enthuses MJ. “We don’t work the way other bands do where you go to the studio for two weeks and come out with a record, because I own a recording studio, so for my job I record bands. We’ve worked on it for such a long time, it’s really hard to step back and see if it’s any good or not. What I’m really happy about is that it’s the record we would have made if nobody had liked Pearl Mystic anyway, if we’d just carried on doing what we wanted to do. There are a few bands who have a little bit of popularity and might try and make the same record again, or make a poppier record. We’ve accidentally made a more melodic record, which we only realised when we pulled it all together.”

MJ is the first to admit that Hookworms took some time to become more than a sum of their influences (primarily Comets On Fire and Pissed Jeans). “When we made our first EP it was a bunch of sporadic influences that we tried to pull together. I can really hear what we were trying to rip off. Whereas on our first album we got closer to finding a sound between all of those things, being more ourselves. But it’s just us playing now, and we’ve all developed a certain way of playing and we all feel quite comfortable in how we do that.”

I wondered how MJ’s other life as an increasingly successful producer affected the way The Hum came out. “Actually, the new record is less of a ‘studio as an instrument’ kind of record than Pearl Mystic was. With Pearl Mystic, we could only play three of the songs live because we wrote a lot of it in the studio and had to learn the songs how we recorded them. But for this we purposely set up in the live room and played them and demoed…I mean, there are some overdubs, but generally it’s a good representation of how we play. We can play the album from start to finish and make it sound pretty much like the record, which we definitely couldn’t do with Pearl Mystic.”

It’s clear from reading old Hookworms interviews and from chatting to MJ that the band are very careful in their dealings with the music industry and relinquish control of any part of the process unwillingly, some of which is surely a result of them all being a little older and a little more experienced than younger bands. “I’m lucky that people want me to record them because I’m in Hookworms, and that’s been really great, so I have to accept it to an extent – it’s helped me out and I’m really grateful and really humbled by the whole thing, but we are still really careful what we do, who we deal with. Everyone at Domino is really nice, we wouldn’t have signed the deal with them if we were unsure about it. And we’re old enough that it doesn’t matter. You know it could all end tomorrow so you just enjoy it while it lasts – in the end I’d rather hang out with my friends and make music with them than try and break into the music industry and have a big pop record. I want to make great records but I’m not going to do it at the expense of my friendships.” As for the band members’ use of initials, it turns out there’s a very pragmatic reason. “It was mainly because two of the band work in education and didn’t want anyone knowing their name, and one of us works in a charity offering advice to people and obviously doesn’t want anyone to read some bullshit I said about us on the internet somewhere. I mean, it’s not hard to find out what my name is because it’s on about fifty records!“

I want to make great records but I’m not going to do it at the expense of my friendships

While he doesn’t see Hookworms as part of any scene, MJ sees a variety of bands who fit loosely into the vague ‘psych’ scene as kindred spirits. “We have friends who play music who I guess could broadly be bracketed into that, like Vision Fortune and Sauna Youth from London, Kogumaza from Nottingham. People fit Krautrock into it at the moment as well, I guess it’s all just about escapism. But I think bands like The Velvets and the Modern Lovers are actually stronger influences on us than anything.”

That said, it’s clear that Kogumaza, who are joining Hookworms on their tour, mean a great deal to MJ. “They’re a band we looked up to for a long time and still do. They were the reason our band got a wah pedal and they were all in bands like Bob Tilton, Wolves of Greece and Lords. I think all of us used to be into mid-90s emo. And I grew up in Nottingham so Bob Tilton were a big deal to me, so I was always humbled that we got to play with them.”

Hookworms play a rescheduled date at The Cluny, Newcastle on Saturday 6th December with support from Kogumaza (all original tickets still valid). Their new album, The Hum, is available now.

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