Back to work. Chicago band The Hush Sound is back on tour again after an extended hiatus -- this time with new music and a new outlook on the music industry. The band's pop-rock sound has been able to withstand the break and kept their fans excited to see them active again.
On some time off from their current tour, Gimme Noise spoke with the two lead singers Greta Morgan and Bob Morris -- although the call cut out and only Bob was able to finish the interview which turned into a candid conversation about the current music industry -- prior to their show at the Triple Rock about what the band has been up to.
Gimme Noise: The band recently announced the tour. What was the status prior to the announcement?
Greta Morgan: We'd all been working on projects the last few years. Our drummer [Darren Wilson] has been in college, and Chris [Faller], Bob, and I have been doing music. We've been playing together once in a while, but we haven't been touring full time for the last three years.
Gimme Noise: How did the other projects take over?
Greta Morgan: When the band first got signed, we were touring non-stop and we might have been a little too young to be able to handle the pressure of that. Being away that much doing these long tours, we were just kind of burned out. After the end of 2008, we'd been on tour nine or ten months that year, and everyone was like, "Alright, let's have a change of pace for a while and explore that," and then the exploration lasted for a few years. We still continued to play Chicago once or twice a year, depending on our schedules, and just now, we decided to play some other cities. We have so much fun whenever we play Chicago.
Gimme Noise: You say you felt you all were too young to be touring. Would there ever have been a right time or, do you feel it would have been the same situation if you were older?
Greta Morgan: It's not that we were too young, I think it's that we were too young in general to be experiencing the amount of progressive exhaustion with the way our career arc was going at that time. None of us were thinking; we were so exhausted. A lot of times, we were the only van on a bus tour. We would be driving ourselves ten hours a night, sleeping very little months at a time. It was no life. If you're playing music, you want it to be fun. If you're going to try and turn your hobby into a job, you don't want it to suck the life out of it, and the fun was being sucked out of it. If you're gonna play music, you shouldn't do it in a way that's exhausting. It should be enjoyable. It's like a dream career, but you don't want it to turn into a nightmare.
Gimme Noise: Do you feel some people were made for the road?
Greta Morgan: Yeah, definitely. Some people thrive being in new places all of the times, and some people thrive in their homes. I really like the cycle of it. I feel like when I'm on tour for too long, I'm excited to work on an album, and when I've been home for too long, I'm excited to go on the road. I really like the next part of the cycle of when you're ready to start.
Gimme Noise: How did the mini tour come about?
Bob Morris: Greta and I started hanging out a bunch more, and some of our other projects were winding down for a bit. We decided we could get and do some shows and maybe work on some new music and reinvigorate things ourselves with playing great shows. It was kind of us talking about it, and that's how it happened.
Gimme Noise: Are you playing new material at shows?
Bob Morris: We're playing a little new stuff. We're gonna try some stuff out and see what happens in this and get a feel for what we're doing now. We've got so many different ideas that we're working on, so it's more for us to see how this plays and see how this feels to do with all of our other songs.
Gimme Noise: Do the other projects flavor the new music?
Greta Morgan: In a way, everything you're working on or everything you're reading you're discovering is going to influence the sound of a band. I feel like the Hush Sound's sound -- it feels weird to say that -- that the sound of our band is when the four of us get in a room together, regardless of whether there's other influences. Everybody brings something to the and no one person overtakes it so you come up with this original thing by mixing a lot of other influences.
Gimme Noise: Do you felt that the time was taken off to grow up a little?
Greta Morgan: We grew up, and we grew out. We're all 500 pounds now. (laughs)
Gimme Noise: Do you still connect with the music you made from years ago?
Greta Morgan: It's hard to connect with songs that we wrote when we were fifteen or seventeen. You have to approach it as something new. If you like painting, and everyday you sit down with the same colors, you can still find ways to work with them or a new way to draw or a new way to blend them. The idea is if we have the skeleton of the songs, we can find something we like about it, find something lyrically or melodically, and approach it in a new way and make it feel fresh.
Gimme Noise: Will there be a new album in 2013?
Greta Morgan: We're hoping to record in 2013 in the winter. We would just do an EP -- a few songs for the next tour.
Gimme Noise: What do you think of the trend where more musicians are putting out EPs rather than whole albums?
Bob Morris: I think it makes a lot of sense. For one: funding a whole album is difficult. Two: it's continually releasing new music, which is exciting, and three: people's attention spans are shorter. They probably won't hear the eighth song on the album unless they're a big fan of the band. A lot of people are casual listeners, and will probably hear one song from your band and decide whether they like you or not. They're not gonna give it a chance like when I would listen to music at a Border's listening station when I was in high school and discovered an album that blew my mind. If they hear a song, they're going to check out the band, but I think people are going to be a fan of a song here a song there from a lot of different bands.
Gimme Noise: How do you listen to music? Do you listen to albums or singles?
Bob Morris: I think we go through phases for sure. When we were making the other albums, we were definitely listening to albums on Spotify and Rdio didn't exist. I'm really grateful that these music streaming companies do exist, even though they pay less money to the rights holders, but it's for someone who wants to try an excyclopedia on their phone -- all different types of music that you could possibly wonder about. If everybody is asking me about Skrillex, I can go check out what he's doing. It's cool to have that on the same device where you don't have to buy every single album to know a lot about music. However, it's good to get into an album and just listen to the songs that aren't meant to be singles.
Gimme Noise: Can you elaborate on the band's tastes in music and how you use these streaming sites to integrate that?
Bob Morris: I think a band like us where all four people listen to different music, a lot of it overlaps, but we all have different interests. There's Chris, who's really into -- well, his mom put headphones on her stomach when she was pregnant with him and played Emerson Lake and Palmer and all of these progressive rock bands. You have Darren, who is into what he describes as cheesy pop, and Greta is into really indie-retro kind of thing. I'm into Brit-pop, so we have all of these different things that's pulled to make a playlist, and we'll say, "Hey, Greta, check this out. Check out some pulp." It's cool to be able to share easily over the internet and to be able to access anything you wanted. It's like a good writer needs to read good things to know how to writers write, and the same thing goes for musicians. I think before it would be whatever your mom and dad had on record would be what we grew up with, and I think we're entering a new generation where kids today can go out and find what they like, and they can do that whether it's crappy or not.
Gimme Noise: You were talking about Spotify and how much -- or how little -- musicians make off of sites like that. My friend and I had a heated discussion last night about being an indie artist and putting your music on streaming sites. My thoughts were the more places you have your music, the easier it is for people to access it. Can you tell me a little more your thoughts on that? Would you put your music on Spotify as a new artist knowing it will make you little money?
Bob Morris: If your friend is a small artist, he should be happy someone will click on his song to listen to it. I'm confused with people who are willing to give up things from the past. I watch these people, and I'm like, "Really?" How good do you think you are? You should just be happy that people want to listen to it.
You send out your song to a bunch of people, let's say thirty people, on your email list, and you say, "Hey, please listen to my new music." Probably ten of them will listen. You're just taking their time, because people in this world are bombarded with crap twenty four hours a day, so if they do listen to your music and end up liking it, it's great. Have him put his stuff up on only iTunes, and see how big he gets. It's gonna be a joke. You can't do that anymore. It's like being in a revolutionary war and standing in a line and everyone's shooting you from the trees. There you are saying, "That's not the way to fight a war." Well, too bad. This is the way the war's going down. You gotta get in.
Gimme Noise: Saying that, what advice can you give to the young artist? How do you cut through the clutter?
Bob Morris: There are gatekeepers. There are a lot of people who have a lot of sway. I have a lot of friends when they put up Facebook posts who will get more attention than other friends, it's as simple as that. It depends on how friendly they are and how "important" they are. It's also how much people respect what they have to say, and the reason people respect what they have to say is because they know what they're talking about. I think if you're making good music, and you make good friends like that, those are your first steps. People want to be a part of something that's good before everyone else. That's always been the case. That's what the whole punk-rock thing was about where people want Green Day or Blink 182 or any of those bands when I was growing up, they want them to be small and want them to be in a club. When they got huge, it was like they were selling out. Those bands don't care about anything. They just write songs about stuff, but they do want to get huge. It's just how it is, so I think the advice for young kids is trying to make music is be excellent, then you'll cut through the clutter.
If not, then why should you be heard? No one has time for anything that's mediocre anymore. If you look at Argo, where it's completely stereotypical, I had a great time watching it because it was peppered with the right amount of humor and right amount of action. Whatever, I enjoyed it, but when you look at something like The Master, where with Paul Thomas Anderson, everybody's so ready for it. Everybody loves Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love, and There Will Be Blood, that there was so much anticipation for this great thing, and when you don't overdeliver, then it's a disappointment.
I'll give you another analogy on top of this analogy: when you're at Disney, and there's a sign that says, "20 minute wait from this point," but they try and underpromise and overdeliver. They try to make that twenty minutes better than the line. When you get there, in twenty minutes, it's like, "Oh, that was only twenty minutes?" That's great. If have such high expectations like Radiohead or Wilco or Neil Young -- well, he's had so many duds, it's funny -- but if you have great music, I think that it will work itself out. Then, just don't overexpose yourself before you're ready.
Gimme Noise: Does the band underpromise and overdeliver on this tour?
Bob Morris: We didn't really know what to expect, because Greta and I live in Los Angeles, and Darren and Chris live in Chicago, so it was get here five days before and see what could happen. We definitely didn't overpromise. As soon as we could, we started playing. It was already nice considering we haven't gone on tour in four years. We were like, "Oh, it sounds pretty good. How much can we accomplish this before these first three shows? We have a whole week or two where we could do more work, and then we have more shows." I think we are adequately promising and adequately delivering. It's going to be fun.
Gimme Noise: Was there a fear that after building all of that buzz, that people would forget about the band if you guys took a break?
Bob Morris: I wouldn't say there was fear. You look at other bands who try and get back together where the music scene has changed and the sounds of the world has changed. We come from a place where people aren't obsessed -- I live in Los Angeles now and it's a little different -- but in Chicago, people are less concerned with being right in style, and I don't think our music is our of style, but I think it has something to it that makes it honest, and honesty is always going to be in style. It's not a big fear of mine that the new music is not going to be a copycat of anything. It's going to be original. People will like that and other people will say, "Well, that band is a band I used to like," and that's fine. More important is that we'll gain a lot of new fans who didn't know us in the first place.
Gimme Noise: Well, Bob, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the music industry.
Bob Morris: Keep in mind that I have no idea what I'm talking about.
Gimme Noise: I think the music industry is a bit like wild country right now, so none of us know what we're talking about. We're all trying to figure things out as we go.
Bob Morris: I feel the same way. Obviously, the general consensus from all the Lefsetz letters and genreal influence is that most people are going with the pack, but the people who love music are really helping musicians to get their word out. Our manager seems to be very new school oriented. She is really on the cutting edge of everything, so it's exciting to have that kind of alliance where you're like, "Ok, well this person is not obsessed with nickling and diming and trying to keep us off Spotify. It's, "Let's do what we need to do to get people to hear our music, and let the music speak for itself." You live and die by how good your music is.
The Hush Sound will perform at the Triple Rock Social Club with John Mark Nelson on Sunday, October 28, 2012.
AA, $14 adv, $15 door, 5 pm