Driving down bumpy, country rock-washed back roads, forward leaning but willing to wind up on a Whiskeytown detour to fill up their tank, is Victoria’s Hawk and Steel. The outfit’s roots rock sound, particularly on laid back tracks like “Carol” or “No Country Blues,” is full of heartache. Between their folk-flavoured four-song EP, Drawing, a recent split seven-inch with the Wicks, and fresh from a spate of shows, including a high-profile gig at Rifflandia, it’s a wonder lead vocalist/guitarist Peter Gardner has any shakes to spare. But when speakling to Discorder, he’s personable and impassioned to dish out about his urgent and autumnal alt-country outfit.
Discorder: Let’s get the obligatory question regarding your band’s name out of the way. “Hawk and Steel” — what’s that all about?
Peter Gardner: I wish there was a cool story to tell about that, but there isn’t. I thought the words sound nice together. I like that it has a cool double meaning; the idea of stealing something to hock it. Everyone liked it so it stuck.
D: You’ve been in a number of different bands over the years (Vegan Holocaust, Forestry). What keeps you going?
PG: That feeling when a stranger comes up to you and tells you how much they like your music is something special. I mean, it’s great when your mom likes your band, but when someone who doesn’t give a shit about you likes your band, you’re doing something right.
D: Things are moving excitedly fast for you guys, it seems. You’ve been playing a lot of shows and I’m curious, when you’re on tour—on the road—how do you pass the time? Do you do much reading?
PG: Unfortunately when I’m on the road I can’t read. Two words in a moving car and I’m puking like a kid full of hot dogs on a tilt-a-whirl. So usually I just watch outside the windows hoping to spot an animal.
D: [laughing] What’s your favourite animal?
PG: Bison. They’re big and ugly, and yet lovable. I relate to that.
D: Who are some of the musicians that have had an influence on your sound or your musical approach?
PG: Well, anyone that knows me knows I’d take a bullet for Ryan Adams, and similar acts like Wilco or Gillian Welch take up a lot of space in my music collection. But there’s a lot of other stuff I love to listen to that isn’t exactly in the vein of music I play. One of my all-time favourite records is Laughing Stock by Talk Talk. It’s rather strange, kind of experimental pop-jazz. How do I even explain it? It’s just a beautiful record. The drums were recorded with one mic, down a hall 30 feet away, and they sound incredible! That’s one album I still listen to when I’m in a bind for inspiration.
D: Noted. With so much on the go, let’s look ahead. What does the future hold for you?
PG: Well, for a while I was doing the two band thing [the other band, now defunct, was Forestry], but I’m really just trying to focus on Hawk and Steel. I feel the songs we’re working on are the best I’ve ever written. I guess that’s what everyone always says about their new material, but I’ve never felt as proud of my work as I do right now.
D: Not to detract from your work or the pleasing pastoral sounds off the EP, but I’m curious, what’s the beard/no beard ratio in the band? Do you guys spend a lot of time sculpting your facial hair?
PG: [laughing] Four out of five with facial hair! Matt Schmitz (bass guitar) has, like, an Abe Lincoln thing going on, so he may spend some time on sculpting, but I’m of the old Beatles adage, “Let It Be” when it comes to facial hair.
D: Do you consider your journey thus far a successful one?
PG: So far so good. We’ve only been playing a little while and already we’ve played Rifflandia to an over full venue and am really proud of the music we’ve recorded and released. Things are looking up.