Monday, September 30, 2013

Haymaker - "Now Now Now"

It’s been three years since Haymaker’s last album Beyond the Break was released. Death, divorce, and the complexities of life took the band away from making music.  But with their aptly named upcoming release NOW NOW NOW, we find the band coming into their time and moment.      

Working with producer Ed Tree, the 12-song disc is the best realization of the Haymaker sound—taught, high-energy, country-influenced rock.  While their 1st release, Music from Ed’s House, and then Beyond the Break had more outside players and instrumentation, NOW NOW NOW is a bit more stripped down musically with its four members forming the core group.   Always at the helm are the band’s two lead vocalists and writers, J.W. Surge (vocals/guitar) and Mike Jacoby (vocals/lead guitar/mandolin), while David Serby plays bass and provides backing vocals and former Hacienda Brother, Dale Daniel, supplies drums and percussion. Ed Tree (guitarist for the Spencer Davis Group and Rita Coolidge, as well as being a producer) adds to the record, playing Hammond B3, Wurlitzer and Farfisa.  

The album kicks off with the song, “Different Girl,” a duet with harmonies and lyrics lamenting about a girl who is much happier when she’s not with her boyfriend.  “It’s a universal theme.” cracks J.W.  Throughout the record is the theme of transition, searching for life’s meaning as you get older and for finding the grace in the gift of new beginnings.  “Stomp the Gas” is a rock-roadhouse number with the lesson of moving ahead in life vs. staying stagnant:   “You better fast figure out something better to do, cuz hanging around ain’t working for you.”  “Note to Self” is a track that has the sound of a heartland-rock song ala Tom Petty, with an emphasis on guitar and the authentic notes of the chorus singing:  “Bet that weighs you down, boy, bet that weighs you down”.  “You’re Really Good” has a jangly pop feel as Surge laments a relationship that has lost its meaning, but is still hard to leave:  “I asked for a kiss and you ask ‘why?’—You’re really good at making me feel bad”.   

Operating outside of the music industry, Haymaker see themselves as a workingman’s band. “It’s like that old Del Fuego’s beer commercial,” quotes Mike. “Rock and roll is folk music; that’s because it’s for folks.”  PopMatters declared the band as the antithesis to the “Hollywood Nashville tastes,” while the Orange County Register added, “Blending alt-country and power pop well isn’t easy, but listeners need not worry about how Haymaker mastered that seemingly impossible feat.”

Claiming they are not authentic country guys because of their rock influences (The Stones, The Replacements and Wilco, among others), their philosophy bears comparisons to the Outlaw music of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.   “Honestly, we don’t think about it that much, “ explains J.W. “We do what we do.  We write songs and record them and play them for people in bars.  We see it as the highest calling – entertaining people in a bar when they’re blowing off steam from a hard week at work.  We take that responsibility seriously and do our best to give them full-frontal Haymaker.”

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