- Brooke Lynn Tindall
- We Are Hex
Here's what I think: If you want to make challenging records that don’t fit into whatever musical trend is consuming the attention of record labels, do it yourself. The music industry has changed a lot and very few labels are taking chances. But as lovers of music first, and musicians second, we still owe it to ourselves to put out a record when we recognize that it’s really good, even though we won’t get any money or attention… and as the singer, that last one’s hard to live without.
When we finished Bleach Brigade, our third full-length, last February in the midst of a Detroit snowstorm, we knew we had something special. And we had every intention of shopping it to labels. We had several meetings with “suits," including one label head — who flew in from New York and who I won’t name because I’m classy, but if you see me at White Rabbit and buy me a shot of tequila, I will totally tell you – that told us we were one of the best bands he had ever seen, but didn’t know how to market us. Yeah. A few other small labels wanted to do the release, but couldn’t offer us much more than we could do for ourselves because they’re struggling almost as much as the bands are.
When I was thinking about writing up a little something to call attention to why, five years after our first album, we decided to self-release our new record, I knew the guy to talk to was our drummer Brandon Beaver, who does all of our booking and promotion and has been running a band since he was about fourteen. You know, how drummers are all… a little, I dunno…off? Yeah, we put that guy in charge. Like a Volkswagen Beetle, We Are Hex has its engine in the back (and is prone to breakdowns). Here’s a little part of our conversation about the changing music industry, the D.I.Y ethic, and the new record. And see We Are Hex Friday, November 28 at the White Rabbit and you can pick up Bleach Brigade. If you’re underage, get it afterwards at Luna Music. Now, dig in.
Jilly: Let’s pretend like we’re not in the same band, okay? Describe the new record.
Brandon: Bleach Brigade is a collection of songs we started writing in 2011. The record is the most diverse in our repertoire, and the sound is more finely tuned compared to any previous release. Some of the songs were written three years ago and some a few weeks before we recorded it — there's even an improvisational piece on there. We've grown as a band and it's obvious once you give it a listen.
Jilly: How is Bleach Brigade different than past We Are Hex records?
Brandon: Most of our releases (our previous two full-lengths included) were recorded and written at our own studio/rehearsal space, at our own pace, and mixed with the same engineer. Bleach Brigade was recorded quickly and more conceptually; We spent only five days recording and mixing. Anyone familiar with our past records should be able to tell it's a We Are Hex record, but will also notice we're not tracing our past material. We're tapping in to a new dynamic.
Jilly: We've released records and 7”s on both small and large record labels. Why D.I.Y. this time?
Brandon: We have a strict no-slow-down-rule within the band. Any label that has released our music has reached out to us. We get together one to three times a week and practice. We write a large amount of music until we all agree it's time to record. We never record music with a label in mind; we only focus on the music and sound. We send out stuff to our label friends and a small handful of suits, but if we don't hear back, we release it ourselves. We've been a band for almost eight years and we've played over 300 shows together. This route has worked well for us. If it ain't broke don't fix it.
Jilly: What was the label interest? As in, was self-releasing a conscious choice?
Brandon: A few labels were interested, but at the end of the day, no one delivered. For a band our size, 95 percent of our records are sold by us on the road or through our mail order store. Labels can help with distribution – sometimes, don't hold your breath – and front the cost of pressing, but when it comes down to it, we're selling our own records anyways.
Jilly: Lo-fi garage and surfy pop rock is really “in” for independent bands right now; how has this affected the release of a record that’s more challenging for the listener?
Brandon: There will always be the "in" bands no matter what flavor it is. I'm not really in that business. I don't make music with hopes of it being commercial and I've never lost sleep over it. Who would have guessed 500 bands would regurgitate the "Be My Baby" drum beat? But it's upon us and has been for a few years. With improved technology, music is more oversaturated than it ever has been. Anybody with audio software on their computer can start a band. They can learn the software, make some songs in their kitchen, and maybe even get on the radio. None of that sounds fun to me. I play music with other people who I enjoy playing and making music with. It's a collaborative effort and that's what produces the best music.
Jilly: If a large label and mass appeal is not a goal for We Are Hex, why is it important to you to keep at it?
Brandon: I am always seeking out timeless music and art. It's one of the biggest perks of life. Top 40 bands, the radio, the music industry are all mass delusion. I found movements like Dischord Records, Rough Trade, SST, when I was really young and loved the whole idea of D.I.Y. I came out of the gate with a punk rock aesthetic and not much has changed.
Jilly: Is this D.I.Y route the direction you see our band headed in for future releases?
Brandon: We're always down to work with other people and labels but we don't sit around waitin' for the record man to call. We already have plans to record again and we're excited about another brand new batch of songs. I'm sure a new record will be in the works before too long. It's a day by day career I suppose and I dig the flexibility and freedom.