2013 is a big year for Hockey. This May, the Portland natives released their sophomore record, Wyeth Is; their first release since their 2009 debut Mind Chaos. In between, the indie rockers experienced a change of pace- some new tunes, some departed members, and a whole lot of Netflix. I spoke with lead singer Benjamin Grubin about what currently makes Hockey, Hockey.
NUVO: Which genre would you consider yourself?
Benjamin Grubin: For the sake of communication and simplicity I'd just say we are electro indie.
NUVO: You took a break after releasing Mind Chaos in 2009 - what did you do in the meantime (besides working on the new album)?
Grubin: We were in an isolated situation for a lot of that time. Lots of Netflix happened: First 2 seasons of "Twin Peaks."" Parks and Recreation," French New Wave films and on and on... Celebrated my Grandma's 95th and 96th birthdays.
NUVO: Wyeth Is sounds more relaxed than Mind Chaos. What inspired your new sound?
Grubin: We were trying to make something that we thought we could listen to. And that turned out to be less in your face. And I also sang in a more relaxed way than on the last record.
NUVO: How did you produce the album? Where did you record the songs?
Grubin: We recorded all the songs upstate New York. We set up a small studio there and the album became a process where the production technics evolving at the same time as the song writing.
NUVO: Who writes the lyrics? What inspires you?
Grubin: I write the lyrics. There are all sorts of things that make me want to make a song. But ultimately the thing that makes me feel comfortable singing something is if it feels like it's totally from my perspective and situation in life. And then hopefully that resonates with other people. That's all you can do. With this album I think we were somehow in a more melancholy space, and that's why the upbeat stuff we were writing wasn't very real. But now I also feel like we've sort of cleared the air for ourselves and ready to move on.
NUVO: Does the band now only consist of you and Jeremy? Or do you have tour support?
Grubin: Jerm and I have always been the core of the band. And I've always written all the songs. We have started playing some really great musicians in New York City though that we are touring with, so there might be some more collaboration type writing in the future. I think that will help speed up our process too, which would be a plus for the next album.
NUVO: In the new video for your single "Calling Back," you guys are wearing 3D glasses and watching a movie of yourselves fighting. Whose idea was that? Who directed the video?
Grubin: Like the album, we did that video ourselves. At first it was just going to be us boxing by the river. But then it somehow wasn't enough, so I had the idea to project that failed project on us, like we were at our own movie or something. It needed that extra layer. We've got some other self directed videos coming out soon also.
NUVO: Who are your biggest influences?
Grubin: Man, this record is sort of broken down pretty simple somehow. Like early '80s hip-hop. Tropical hints, a la The Police or Jimmy Cliff, and then some straight American rock feelings. That just set the right backdrop for my voice somehow. But again at that time, anything too driving or straight forward made my voice somehow sound arrogant or unappealing I thought, so everything had to be a little bit under-stated.
NUVO: Do you rather perform at smaller clubs or do you prefer bigger stages?
Grubin: Every show is different. I've had great experiences in both settings. We're about to play the El Rey in Los Angeles tonight, which is on the big side. And last night we were at the Soda Bar in San Diego which was tiny.
NUVO: What are your future plans? Are you already working on a new album?
Grubin: When we get done with this tour I'll be ready to start recording new music. First we've got to to find a spot in New York City that we can start doing that. Yikes.
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