Sister Hazel – Interview

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Sister Hazel

one on one with jeff beres!

How has the road been treating you?

Its the best. That is where were at our best. Everything we do is so we can get on stage and play in front of as many people as possible, so it feels really good to get on the road and tour. We took some time off between records, like a year and a half, so to get out in June was great for this band. We do miss our families.

How has the road been treating you?

Its the best. That is where were at our best. Everything we do is so we can get on stage and play in front of as many people as possible, so it feels really good to get on the road and tour. We took some time off between records, like a year and a half, so to get out in June was great for this band. We do miss our families.

Why the long layoff?

We toured so hard for that last record. Between 97 and 98 we were on the road almost three hundred days a year. We were road-dogging it and earning our fans basically. We had to win them over through our live performance. It was tough. It took its toll on us. We took six months off to regroup and catch our breath. We also had to prepare for the next step. When we made Somewhere More Familiar, we were just a band and we werent signed. We were just making a record for college towns in the southeast. You go from that to having a platinum record and its overseas and now you are making a record that people all the way to Australia are going to hear, not just your buddies. Also we are a different band because of the touring. We got a lot tighter and were writing in a different perspective because a lot happened. It was just a different playing field going into the studio this time. We had to find our balance. We had to remember what got us there, where we came from, and explore new territories. We had to define the growth for the band because we plan on making a lot of records. For a lot of people this was the second record from us, so we had to show them where its going to continue to go. There was a lot on our plate. At the end of the day we just wanted to be high-fiving in the control room, just going, Wow, that is a great song.

How much pressure was there for the new album since the first had none at all?

There was a lot of pressure. Then there is the whole sophomore curse. We experienced it. There is a reason why there is a curse, and that is because if you dont sell another million records youre considered a failure. The bands that go out and sell fifteen million records their first time out, you cant even imagine the pressure to come back out and do something. Its difficult to keep up those expectations.

Do you think the whole idea of the sophomore curse is almost a weird, If you believe it enough, itll really happen?

Yeah. There is that.

And then of course the pressure from the label.

Also pressure from fans and ourselves, but when we are in the studio, we really have to put it all aside. You really have to put all the other stuff aside and concentrate on the music. You cant go in with a chip on your shoulder or else it wont be pure. We experienced all that stuff in the studio, but at the end of the day we are really happy with how Fortress turned out. A big thing for us from the last record was that fans said they liked to listen to it from front to back. And we listened because I think people hate to buy records because of one song and maybe there is only one other good song on the record and the rest are horrible. We wanted to make sure that the album flowed and front to back it was a solid record song after song. We know that people that listen to Sister Hazel want to listen to our record front to back.

Did you write on the road?

We had some writing on the road and some songs left over from the last session. And songs that didnt make it on the first record that we knew would be on Fortress, “Change Your Mind” for example was born in the studio, they came in as skeletons and we were able to bring them to life in a studio setting. That was something new for Sister Hazel. We are used to playing the songs live and working them out that way. It was an interesting thing for us. That is the way most bands do it, by writing and recording and then tour. That is not how we did it. Bringing songs together in the studio was cool because we could experiment a little more, and so far its working.

Hey, I just saw a screening of Bedazzled. Isnt “Change Your Mind” in the movie?

Yes! How was it? (read my review because we talked forever about the movie) Also the song is being used on Mtv for kids with mental health problems. The thing is “Change Your Mind”, so they are using our song as their slogan. Movie people do like our songs. Our song was in Ten Things I Hate About You, we had a song in Clay Pigeons, and they used “All For You” in like three movies. They are talking about using our next single, “Champagne High”, for a movie around Christmas time.

That has to be cool because to me often that means the song provokes emotions. So it has to feel good.

It does. That is what is good about videos because you can put an image with a song.

I wanted to ask you about “Back Porch”.

We were jamming on the back porch of the studio in Atlanta. Our producer stuck a mic out there and stuck it on the beginning of “Thank You”. You have to number it for some reason.

I enjoyed it.

It shows a real rootsy side of us.

I like “Save Me” and “Surreal”.

I actually wrote “Surreal”. That was my baby. With this record we were able to spread our wings a bit more. Somewhere More Familiar didnt really capture us as a live band. We got tired of hearing, You guys blow away your disc live or My friend made me come to your show and now Im a huge fan, so we really tried to bring in more of what we are like as a live band on this record. We are a rocking band on stage a lot more than people think. We are not just some acoustic harmony band.

That is why Im always curious why bands give up on touring so early in their careers. You guys really did something a lot of bands arent, and that is to tour town to town.

Yeah. That is kind of the grassroots touring mentality we have. A lot of bands in the southeast road-dog it and tour their butts off. You build it up town by town. If you are a good band, youll win people over. If radio and the label isnt going to be there, you need to tour, but we were lucky to have both and still tour. We wanted to just play in front of as many damn people as we could. We wanted to show what we are. Our goal isnt to have hit songs; its to be playing in front of as many people as possible in this country and overseas.

Is the schedule looking like it did for the first album?

Yeah. We did a major market run through the whole country and now we are going to do secondary markets, tour Canada and then tour Europe.

Are you excited about going overseas?

Well, we toured Japan. Now that weve merged with Polygram, there will be our first major release in Europe. What is great about this being on the web and our website (www.sisterhazel.com) is that we can communicate with fans from Australia and all over the world. Its great to know that we have fans even where the record was never released, and we would have never knew about that without our website.

I love to scour the message boards to get questions from readers.

You know, that really kept us going on the road. Wed read all the great messages from our fans. It really helps. The Hazel Nuts, that is what they call themselves.

(we both laugh) Thats a pretty good name.

We didnt come up with that. (laughs)
+ charlie craine

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