Check out this great interview I got to conduct a little while back with James and Andy, the vocalist and guitarist of Belfast's very own Hornets!
How did the band initially come together?
James: We currently are a four-piece, and have been so for about six to eight months now. We were a three piece for about three years. We actually all live together, and we were all kind of in bands that came to a head and had their time. We kind of knew that we wanted to do something that was just a bit more rocking and aggressive than what we do. The guys Ricky (on drums) and Andy (on guitar, here) approached me. We started jamming out for about a year, before we told anybody that we were gonna be a band. That’s how the birth of it started.
In the local scene, you just want to come out and play.
Andy: I think that first impression is so important. You get one shot at that, so to come out and create hype and buzz around that is really important. People who don’t know it might go “Oh man, these guys, Hornets…” We set aside time before we said anything.
James: Andy’s a really big fan of Russian Circles. We understood that they had done that also. Locked themselves away and really honed it in. We’re not the same musically, but the principle is there.
I’ve actually seen them before. They were good! They opened for Coheed & Cambria a couple years ago. So tell me a little bit about the writing and recording process for No Faith.
Andy: I think in terms of writing for No Faith was a lot more progressive that what we had written for our first EP. This time around, we focused more on spending time in a practice room with pre-conceived ideas, like turning up to practice with a riff or an idea. I think it’s helped the songs flow a lot more.
James: I think whenever we were writing stuff as well, we went in and banged it out quick because the songs were tight and we knew what we were doing.
Andy: We literally turned up at the studio with gate tracks and tempos for all the songs.
James: It also worked better with our studio time as well. It worked better and we knew what we wanted. Maybe if we had two more guitars, sort of like a Russian Circles sound, it’d be different, but because we were mainly focused on the riffs, we just got into the studio and banged it out.
Where did the album title come from?
James: I think at the time with me writing lyrics, as you know, cliché or generic as this sounds, I was in a relationship that all of my friends told me I shouldn’t have been in. I knew I shouldn’t have been in it. It was a really messy time, and to be honest with you, I was not in a good place and I was kind of lashing out about it. Not in any kind of an aggressive way, but just with attitude and stuff like that. It was just a real dark kind of time, you know? I just had that kind of general outlook of no faith.
Well I mean, the best stuff can come from personal experiences though.
James: Yeah, I think that it was almost cathartic. I think it was the first time where I was writing songs where the people would definitely know it was about them. It was kind of scary, in a way. With the local music scene, everyone’s friends and knows who’s who, so it’s kind of scary, but I just put it all out there.
How did the song “Stay Free” come into play?
Andy: I think that was one of the first songs. From that guitar riff, we knew it was a more aggressive, dynamic song than what we’d been working on before. That song is actually fuckin’ the longest it’s ever taken us to put a song together because we refused just to snap into a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge structure, you know? Generally, I think that we just decided to think outside the box, and that was the first thing we got.
Can you tell me a little bit about the concept behind the music video for it?
James: Yeah, for me the lyrics were about the characters of society that we oppressed, more vulnerable people, be it through lack of confidence, or or shy characters being dominated by larger characters. For the video and how we portrayed that, I just wanted to do something that was kind of more like, hard to take on. I wanted to do something that was really strange, and wanted to challenge people a bit.
Those can honestly be the best videos though, because those are the ones that people can remember the most.
James: When I came to the guys with the idea, I said “okay, I’m gonna be a girl in this video. You guys are going to be my ‘pimps’ or whatever you’d call it.” They definitely were kind of like “are you sure this is going to work?” (laughs). I think we tried to remain with somewhat of a sense of humor though, and got our friends involved.
Andy: It was really interesting and exciting to see how people reacted to it.
These next two questions I ask to every artist that I interview. What kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
James: One life, one chance. Simple as that. You can maybe see that as, you’ve got all the straight-edge bands who look at it as “one life, one chance”, but with us, I feel that it’s more, like, just live with energy and conviction. Live.
The next question, and this is kind of a big one: what does music mean to you?
Andy: What doesn’t it, man? (laughs)
James: That’s a good one!
Andy: When you’re at school, you study a range of subjects. When I got out of school, I went straight into studying music at a university. The theory of music, the performance of music, recording technologies. Once I finished, I went into recording. I recorded James’ past band, and other friends’ bands. I don’t know who I would be without music. It’s my sole fuckin’ identity. It’s the one thing that, without it, I would have nothing to do. If I didn’t have music in my life… it’s all I do.
James: It’s kind of like community, I suppose, if there’s one word to sum it up. I just associate with community. We have friends that always want to go to clubs and want to go to bars and stuff. If I’m going out with a group of friends, I want it to be involved around going out to a show and getting a beer with a group of friends rather than just going out to a club. It’s just a way of life, and proactivity. When we tour, it’s a means of travel.
Last question, what are the future plans for Hornets right now?
James: We’re definitely going to write a full length. I think there’s something to be said for just a full length. 10 tracks or so.
Andy: I think if we had done a full-length album as our first release, it wouldn’t have worked as well. With two EPs, it introduces people to who we are and how we like to write. I think we’re ready for [a full length]. I think that’s the focus; to write as much new material as possible, get back into the studio, and record a full length. Once that drops, we’re going to do our best to get back to the UK.
James: Full length and Europe [tour] is definitely the plan.
Be sure to check out their music at www.facebook.com/hornetsband
This has been another shameless promotion.