They go up, they come down. They usually have a lot, some, or no people in them. They are small spaces, to the point of being claustrophobic for some of us. They make our lives easier, and it’s something we’ve taken for granted when we want to go to the top of a building.
I’m talking about elevators. They take us from the earth to the sky in seconds – and it’s the place where we usually have the most introspective moments in our lives or the most simplistic conversations, about how the weather is outside that little box.
Straight from Lisbon, we set off in a bumpy lift to the UK. We excitedly arrive in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, and are greeted with open hands by irreverent local talent. We speak to Hamish Hawk and hear about his latest work.
This whole crossing began in 2017, with the single “China & Down“. The best compliment we can give? Nick Cave would be proud to hear this song. And it is with this motto that we move forward to the first album, From Zero to One (2018) and, in 2019, Laziest River.
With many words written and just as many stories unrevealed, Hamish Hawk returns now, in 2021, for a third tale that promises to change our lives. Taking the name of the first album, we’ve definitely moved on to From Zero to…Third. There are ten songs, separated by forty minutes.
“Vivian Comma paints the Madonna, visibly on the verge of fainting”. Hawk’s words, which widen our horizon in a thunderous tone that could perfectly well be associated with any song by renowned artists such as Jarvis Cocker, Morrissey or Nick Cave. The artist’s voice is so clear and direct that we feel any of the words he transmits to us as if they were our own.
We raise the stakes, and it is with “This, Whatever It Is, Needs Improvement”, that we effectively bring out improvements that are in everyone’s ears. It’s no longer just Hamish’s voice that wins us over, but the instruments that accompany him, be they drums, guitar, piano or bass: they’re all intertwined in an epic journey through Edinburgh’s most beautiful spots. An instant classic.
Standing facing St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the artist reveals, to Clash magazine, that he had never noticed how colossal the cathedral’s infrastructure was. It all became Christopher Wren’s legacy – which prompted him to think about what he could do to leave something unique in this world. And that moment came, in a song form: “The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973“. And it is in it that Hamish tackles an extremely retro game of badminton, which goes far beyond feathers and rackets. We talk about life, family, marriage – and the end, death. The pacing is so epic that it doesn’t leave our heads. You feel like you’re levitating, it’s so beautiful.
And if we want to pull for the sound, we have “Bakerloo, Unbecoming” and “Your Ceremony”: guitars, a pure British rhythm, and the will to pull us to our senses.
With no direction in sight, Hamish Hawk struggles against his own shadow, and this is very apparent in “Caterpillar”. The artist seems to parallel everything the pandemic has brought us, of exorbitant isolation where we seem to lose our way. The pace is very fast, but sombre – reminding us of classic 80s/90s bands from the British music scene.
With “Daggers” and “Heavy Elevator”, the song that gives name to the album, we feel, besides introspection, a deeper and more open side of Hawk. Where instruments blend with a pleasing voice, with a willingness to want to embrace.
One of the oldest songs on the album is “Calls of Tiree”. And that’s where we stay all day screaming the phrase “You know what it’s like”, in the tone Hamish produces. There’s guitar, bass, drums and a little bit of electronic in it. And all together it shakes our spines for three minutes and twelve, particularly in the final solo, where it all comes together in a magical cauldron and puff, magic has been made.
We close with change. And that transformation is made by “New Rhododendrons”. We talk about growth, closures and new beginnings, in a nostalgic point where we review the past to overcome the future, in a more grown-up and mature way. We can compare this song to a real photographic or a painting, because it is, without a doubt, art for our ears.
And it is after an incredible traverse that we chat with the extraordinary Hamish Hawk. With a fine Scotch in hand, we open the artist’s heart:
[WtMM] How are you? How have these atypical times been?
[Hamish Hawk] I’m well! The album came out on Friday so I’m still on cloud nine. It took us a while to get here so it certainly feels like an achievement. As much as lockdown forced us all to sit inside and stare at the walls for a while, the band and I managed to keep pretty busy, for which I’m thankful.
For those who don’t know you, who is Hamish Hawk?
I’m an Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter. My latest album Heavy Elevator came out on Friday (streaming now)!
What can we expect from this record?
Heavy Elevator is in essence an account of the last few years of my life, so fittingly the album has its highs and lows, its ebbs and flows. I would say the most noticeable feature of the album is its variety. Indie-pop anthems, ballads, post-punk frenetics, it all sits next to other on “Heavy Elevator”. There’s something for everyone – or just about!
After ‘From Zero to One’ and ‘Laziest River’, ‘Heavy Elevator’. What has changed from 2018 to 2021?
A good question. As far as my songwriting goes, I think I’ve become slightly less fearful, more honest, and generally less concerned about mistakes I might make, or risks I take backfiring. I’m a fierce perfectionist, so am more often than not my own worst enemy when writing a song, I stand in my own way a lot. Writing Heavy Elevator taught me to embrace the rougher edges, the imperfections, and as a result, the album is much more interesting, and much wider-ranging than its predecessors.
Has the creation and recording process been shaken by the contorted times we live in?
Fortunately, the album was written and recorded before the pandemic struck – thank heavens for small mercies! Of course, it goes without saying that touring has been impossible for the best part of a year and a half, but come November, we’re more than making up for it. 2022 is looking to be a very busy year in terms of gigs – I can’t wait to get going.
What were your biggest inspirations for the creation of this album?
It’s tough to say really. Each member of the band has an entirely distinct taste in music; we all bring our own influences to the table and see how they interact. It’s a difficult thing to trace; at no point were we trying to emulate any artist or band in particular. I’ve heard comparisons with The Smiths, Jarvis, The Divine Comedy, though there are certainly songs on the album that have little in common with them. I think the band and I were careful not to let our influences direct us too much; we wanted the record to be entirely our own.
If you could partner with any artist, who would it be?
A very difficult question – it’s damn near impossible to pick just one. Off the top of my head, I love so much of the music that is pouring out of Australia these days. Whether it’s Julia Jacklin, Courtney Barnett, Stella Donnelly, Angie McMahon, Alex Cameron, I would love to work with any of them. It’d be an honour!
What have you been listening to recently that you would recommend to everyone?
Over the past two weeks, my headphones have heard little other than Kate Bush. Until relatively recently I was only familiar with her albums Hounds of Love and The Dreaming, but I’ve been delving deep into The Kick Inside, The Sensual World, The Red Shoes, and I’m loving every second. She’s such a singular musician, so uncompromising, so inspiring at every turn. Kate Bush till the end.
How would you describe Hamish Hawk in one word?
We would like to thank Hamish Hawk, James Parrish and Prescription PR for making these beautiful words possible.
Like a true hawk, Hamish burst into our lives, and it was with beautiful themes and a voice laden with stories that we were left melting. A WtMM recommendation.