Editor’s note: Live from the Archives is a video performance of local band, playing a set in the basement archives of The Daily Gazette. This week, it’s Hammer Hawk. See the performances at dailygazette.com/fromthearchives.
Jesse Horton, Seth Tillinghast and Richard Nolan Jr. enjoy an occasional beer now and then, usually in front of a hockey game. But what really turns them on is music, especially their own.
The three members of the band Hammer Hawk have been playing together for almost three years now and have become a popular attraction in the Capital Region at such places as Low Beat, Pauley’s Hotel and the Parish Public House.
Nolan, a Ballston Spa native who currently lives in Troy, is the spokesman for the band and handles most of the vocals while playing the guitar. Horton, from Guilderland and currently an Albany resident, plays bass, and Tillinghast, who grew up in Monroe and now lives in Chatham, plays the drums.
Q: When did the band form?
A: The band started having practices in my attic on Desson Avenue in Troy in the Spring of 2013. We were quickly dismantled by the neighbor’s noise complaints and continued song writing in bedrooms until we found a proper practice space solution. We ended up moving our gear out to Bill’s house, that’s Jesse’s father, in Ravena.
The inspiring landscapes during our weekly hour-long commute into Ravena resulted in lots of conversations having to do nothing with a band name. Usually, we would talk about other bands we like, hold a weekly recap of fantasy hockey, play along to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” or talk about where to get the cheapest prices on the best beer.
On the way to Bill’s house we would always stop at the nearest beverage center called “Friendship Beverage” to pick up practice spirits. When fall of 2013 hit, we had a small catalog of original material ready to be recorded, so, we headed south to Jeff Rendano’s studio, Boomstick Recordings, in Monroe.
Q: How did you come up with the name?
A: We were in agreement that our first recording was going to be called “Friendship Beverage,” paying homage to the beer store gods, but we still had no idea what our band name was going to be. On the ride down to the studio we started playing with alliterations of the word “hockey,” but couldn’t find anything that was sticking for us. Prior to the trip, we had read online that the diner Broadway Lights in Kingston had an eating challenge of a three-pound hamburger, and you could earn a free T-shirt if you finished it all in a sitting. The three of us made a pact to try to take on the challenge after the recording session.
After tracking “Friendship Beverage” we were determined to come up with a name on the ride from Monroe to Kingston. Maybe it was all the failed “hockey” alliteration attempts, or maybe it was our psyche getting ready for a three-pound hamburger, but, we all landed on “Hammer Hawk” during the ride. At Broadway Lights, we googled the term to make sure there wouldn’t be any conflicts. Two main results came up, an ’80s metal band from Holland that spelled it as one word (Hammerhawk) and some Urban Dictionary definition that, well, you can find out for yourself.
Q: How would you describe the style of music you play?
A: When asked this we usually reply with “post-hamburger”, which is partially a defense mechanism. Honestly, I have no idea. I’m sure it’s some subcategory of some niche rock term. We play music we enjoy playing and when we listen to it back we make sure we still enjoy it. I hesitate to throw any labels on it because it feels limiting.
When being described, any of the catch-alls — rock, indie rock, alternative rock — are fine by me. We play three-piece rock and pull a lot of influence from ’90s alternative and early aughts college radio. We keep a beat on modern guitar rock revival but mainly we look within ourselves to try and make something new. CROM called us “slacker-core” and I found that endearing. There are emotional highs and lows, loud guitars, loads of fuzz, gritty distortion, thumping bass and pounding drums. Let’s just call it “post-hamburger.”
Q: Who were some of your earliest musical favorites?
A: There was always music growing up. In the beginning, it was a steady rotation of early Santana, Tommy James and the Shondells, Beach Boys, Otis Redding, Queen and Meat Loaf. In high school my favorite bands were Weezer, the Deftones, Blink 182, Kiss, Incubus, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Ozzy.
I was all over the place in terms of rock. Weezer’s Blue Album and Pinkerton had a large musical influence on me when I was playing guitar in high school. When I started college I began getting into all of the Saddle Creek bands and started taking musical composition and touring more seriously. Desaparecidos and Cursive influenced my guitar playing and continue to do so today.
Q: Who do you listen to now?
A: I’ve been listening to everything on the “Exploding in Sound” record label. They have very good taste and it’s rare that they put out something that’s a miss for me. I recently purchased the new Porches album “Pool” and Ferbus’ self-titled; both have been on repeat. I’m really digging Rozwell Kid and Attic Abasement and can’t wait for their next releases. Locally, the latest releases from the Black Ships, Pony in the Pancake and Party Boat have been in rotation.
Learn more about Hammer Hawk at hammerhawk.bandcamp.com.