“I have an unabridged obsession with Norse bearded men.”
Oxford’s latest ‘other/other/other’ outfit make a name for themselves whilst instilling exciting pastures with prize-winning presentations of cinematic musical gestures with a pinch of spotless shoegaze wonder to keep your ears warm. With guiding contours of narrative structure, HREÐA construct nourishing musical highs and lows like mini-rockist motion pictures. Their shy stage antics expose twee ‘tudes, quaintly rippin’ it up with their backs turned as if tryin’ hard to keep a juicy secret. Stylishly allowing their songs to speak for themselves, HREÐA’s dapper storytelling executions make them a fine prospect.
GuitaristsJamie Cooper and Alex Robinson, and drummer Russ Wainwright, give us a peek into their source of inspiration – a world of owl pellets, Nutella, and beards.
How did it all happen?
Russ: Pre-December 2006, Jamie and I had been practicing for about two months and were looking to add another guitarist – it was just a case of finding someone with similar interests and who worked well together with what we were already doing. We were lucky because it didn’t take very long at all.
Jamie: I asked Alex to come along to practice and after 48 hours of chewing Skittles in quick succession, HREÐA came about.
Were you always set on the double-guitars and drums model or are you currently looking for a bassist? When did you decide to add a cellist?
Russ: As for a bass player, it was never in my mind when thinking of the sound of the band.
Alex: I was happy to be involved, being a big fan of guitar/drum duos.
Russ: We were going to record the first couple of tracks we’d come up with and I wanted a cello part in song ‘KHTC’ but I didn’t know exactly what. Tom’s interpretation of what we were after completely transformed the track without it being just another layer to fill the space. So simply from that, we had to keep him on.
What's with the Anglo-Saxon goddess reference?
Jamie: I have an unabridged obsession with Channel 4’s Time Team and Norse bearded men, not that HREÐA is male, but she had male friends, I’m sure. Anyway, the ‘Ð’ is a nice character and it took us about six months to find out the correct pronunciation: “hre--th--a”.
You’re currently sited on Wikipedia, as part of the official Wikipedian
‘HREÐA’ definition, isn't that exciting? You know you've made it when you're on Wikipedia... Okay, which one of you added yourselves to Wikipedia?
Russ: I had no idea.
Alex: That’s interesting, I wonder who did that! Let us know.
Jamie: It was probably Fletch.
Alex: Yeah, Fletch would do something like that.
Tell me a little about your song writing process.
Russ: New songs come about when there are two, or less, of us at rehearsal.
Alex: Don’t I write everything?
Jamie: We usually play for a while and settle on the bits we like the most. Alex always wants me to say “ether” in press releases… “ether”.
Have you made a collective decision to not include lyrics? It’s safe to assume that some mainstream listeners tend to be turned off by the lack of lyrics simply because meaning (which can often be found in the words) isn't shoved down their throats. Are you specifically avoiding lyrics to avoid this type of listener? Or is the instrumental-focused format of your work simply a reflection of the type of music that's inspired you the most?
Russ: It was a very early decision not to include a vocalist. I’m a big fan of melodies, but if the words aren’t up to it, then that can make or break a song for me.
Jamie: Singers usually complicate my life.
Alex: I’ve always wanted to take people places with music and I don’t feel lyrics are needed to achieve that.
Russ: People associate with words, but we like to create something that doesn’t force you into a scenario. With just the music, people can draw their own interpretations and with no single focal point, [the song] doesn’t become stifled by meaning.
Alex: Fuck yeah catter!
Jamie: It’s more of a group effort and we all contribute equally to the overall honesty.
I agree – lyrics tend to be restricting, and it seems that their absence tends to lead to more creative possibilities. In a recent interview, Angus Andrew (of Liars) reflected, "We're all very visual people. One of the best things about music is it's not just one medium... [it's] not just one street, it's many avenues". Do you relate to this statement?
Alex: I like to think we all draw influence from every aspect of our lives, so I agree that there is no end to where things can lead.
Jamie: I think that life throws so much around that you have to regurgitate it in some way; it’s how it works, like an owl pellet.
With so many pop-rock acts recently popularized by their regional twangs (The Enemy, The Twang, etc), do you feel the pressure to make a musical extension of your geographical identity?
Jamie: Our music will reflect where we spend our time; it’s who we are, what we do, how we act, it is kind of imbued in us.
Alex: I’m a product of my environment.
Russ: Well, I wouldn’t say our sound is a particularly ‘British’ sound, I think it is about experiences, as we said before, rather than region. I like where I live, but as for our sound being a representation of our geographical identity, I wouldn’t agree. There are other things that drive me more than those dreamy spires… like… ummm… Nutella and Star Wars.
Alex: There’s no such thing as being instrumentally Welsh…or is there?
Is there an Oxford ‘scene’? Do you feel the pressure to fit into it? What are your thoughts on the music that is coming out of Oxford at the moment?
Alex: The ‘scene’ in Oxford is uninteresting other than the ace noise bands Elapse-O, Traktors, Egyptian Death, and Euhedral.
Jamie: I miss Wait for Coniston and since Titus and Theo went back to Worcester, it’s like there’s a void that needs filling.
Alex: As far as I’m concerned, The Edmund Fitzgerald was the best band to come out of Oxford.
Russ: The ‘scene’ is there for people if they want it. There are several diverse promoters that always have excellent bills and will book bands purely because they believe in the acts. There wouldn’t be a scene without Vacuous Pop, Permanent Vacation, and Poor Girl Noise, to name a few. Support for these people is critical to keep it going. As for fitting into the ‘scene’, there’s no pressure in that sense. We make our music because that’s what we like, and we want to get out and play to people and hope that they like it too. The only pressure I feel is in maintaining the standards in what we’ve started.
What's next for Team HREÐA you ask? A two-track CD is available, FOC, through the band’s MySpace (link). As for gigs: “We’re fairly busy for the rest of the year and are looking to put together a tour with Theo sometime next year. Also a few new songs would be good along with a 7” or 12” release, maybe.”
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