Birds of California soar with fourth release.
BY MICHAEL SIMMONS
“This is Rob Waller of I See Hawks in L.A. on May 30, 2008. It’s approximately 73 degrees outside. Western breeze is blowing in off the ocean. We are all currently alive.”
“Barely,” I mutter, as I snatch the tape recorder from Waller’s bearlike paws and replace it with a beer. Lead singer Waller, lead guitarist Paul Lacques and bassist Paul Marshall — three-fourths of the Hawks (drummer Shawn Nourse couldn’t show) — are sitting in my Palms crib and yapping about Hallowed Ground, the band’s latest album. Like the others, it’s filled with songs of wit and vision about the absurdist horror show that is 21st-century America.
“One of the things that trips me out about this record is, Holy shit, we’ve really made a lot of music!” laughs Waller. “This being the fourth record, I hear the good times, the bad times. We are this funny brotherhood who’ve done this crazy shit together and then were able to come back and tell the story.”
I See Hawks in L.A. live at Amoeba Music, May 28
The nine-year survival of I See Hawks in L.A. stands as righteous testimony to a bunch of semieternal truths. 1) Country/roots molds should continue to get busted. 2) Singer Rob Waller and guitarist Paul Lacques have proved you can start something new when you’re not very young, and a goodly number of humans might pick up on it. 3) What would’ve been a major-label act 30 years ago can nevertheless breathe in an indie atmosphere. 4) Talent and persistence will tell.
True as all the Hawks’ four albums have rung (and “Hallowed Ground” ranks as their most complete and satisfying), the recorded form isn’t their biggest strength. On the blind home speakers, occasional peculiarities of subject matter — environmentalism, drug sport, cracked humor — can come off as distractions from country music’s reliable verities. When you see the Hawks live, though, you realize that Waller and the gang are just artists who feel no need to exclude the feelings that hit them deepest, traditional or no.
“A superb ensemble with a serious pedigree in California’s roots-rock scene – the band has links to Dave Alvin, Dwight Yoakam and Dillard & Clark – I See Hawks’ work is a timely update of Blasters/Beat Farmers heart-on-sleeve populism. On ‘Hallowed Ground’ singer-songwriter Rob Waller has a great feel for a kind of burned-out, post-apocalypse American landscape evidenced by the sparkling , world-weary ballad ‘Highway Down’, and the percolating ‘Ever Since The Grid Went Down’ (‘I killed a man for batteries’, he sings). ‘Yolo County Airport’, a scorching Chuck Berryesque tale, highlights a very strong effort!”
– Luke Torn, UNCUT Magazine / June 2008
I can’t believe we stopped at the Giant Artichoke but it looks like it’s going to be that kind of day. Artichoke Soup! We Hawks Must have Artichoke Soup! And so we did. Tasty, chunky (Yes Chunky!) artichoke soup. This writer (nay, blogger) was looking for and expecting creamy artichoke soup. When the bowl appeared he was just the slightest bit disappointed, at first. But then he got into it. Carrots, celery, the hearts. This was a hearty, road-side, peasant soup. Artichoke! ARTICHOKE!!
The Giant Artichoke is in Castroville, Artichoke Center Of The World, as the sign spanning its old school main street (aka Highway 183)points out. We are driving from Paul L’s mom’s house in Capitola, heading for the 101, thence 46, thence 5. Home.Yesterday was a bit of a grind, but a good day. We did indeed rise at 7:30 at the Tysons, and saintly Katherine did indeed make us breakfast on only four hours sleep, looking fresh as a daisy, we Hawks looking and feeling not so fresh.
The Tysons are mysterious. We’ve spent many hours with sisters Doran and Stadler. They produced our Motorcycle Mama video and Doran stars as the Beautiful Girl. We’ve stayed many times at the Tyson home in the fields of Yolo and written a song about it on our new CD. We’ve hung, drank, partied. But they remain a mystery. They have inexplicably broad influences and life experiences, from endangered poor white folks situations to deep intellectual explorations. Their bookshelves and hanging art are sophisticated and bold. We will learn more, in time, at the Tysons’ magisterial pace.And at 8:30 on the morning Sunday 15th of June with climbing sun and promises of heat for still sweet smelling summer grass fields, we climb in the Yukon, circle past the ponds and down the gravel road, another gravel road, two lane asphalt through sunflower and alfalfa, County Road 31, farewell fair Winters, to Highway 505, to the 80 west.
Gannet News Service
Three members of cosmic country rock band I See Hawks In L.A. (Big Book Records www.iseehawks.com) were arrested for public urination at the California Aqueduct channel crisscrossing Highway 46 between Highway 101 and Interstate 5.They face possible additional charges of contamination of public water supply and even terrorism. Igor Putin, who replaced the late Tim Russert on Hard Ball, claims that Washington insiders believe an achievement starved Bush Administration may want to make a public example of the roots rockers and their symbolically charged display (see “12 Must Download mp3s” in June’s Spin Magazine for a loopy I See Hawks apocalyptic take on a Slash Impersonator livin large at decadent Hollywood Hills uber-parties).
Also arrested on unspecified charges was their keyboardist or guitarist, for documenting the urination proceedings on his digital camera. When confronted by a Highway Patrol officer and three Crown Victoria’s full of Kern County sheriffs, the band member tossed his footage laden camera into the middle of the wide Aqueduct waters. He then lay prone, face buried in the gravel, and was escorted quietly to a squad car. The camera has not been recovered.
Q: “Hey Mom, do you think we’re a political band?”
A: “No, I think politics is responsible for a lot of the things that you sing about in your songs.
(with contributions from Paul Marshall and Paul Lacques)
Keep it Mediterranean! Explore olives, tomatoes, fresh herbs, sharp chilled white wines. Here’s one idea: Grilled lamb. A brusque Retsina. Berries for dessert. Summer is all about nature’s bounty. Take these months to savor and meditate upon Sun-Ripened Fruits And Vegetables.
Let your tongue linger on the sharp flavors. Save Winter for creamy sauces, stews, and cooked-through vegetables.Get romantic! Marry sheep’s milk cheeses with your leafy greens. Toss in balsamic vinaigrette, toasted nuts and ready to burst cherry tomatoes. From Neptune’s spice cabinet: sprinkle where you will with Mediterranean sea salt, the seasoning of Zeus and his Gods.
But don’t toss your trident unless you’re willing to keep the catch. .
We have a live radio performance today, at sunny 1 p.m. This is our only link to career mindset, for we have severed all other adult responsibilities and are deep in rock and roll on the road. It didn’t take long. Wheels are still our means of transformation. Only a short mantra of highway whine and we are on the other side. Whiskey seals the deal. The other side is the place to be, if you can get away with it. Multiplatinum sales, fearlessness, or innocence will keep you there.
At chez Waller on the hill over the harbor Rob makes eggs from no apparent ingredients, the first confirmable Miracle of the tour. We pack, descend in Yukon from Tiburon, south across the Golden Gate into The City. Rob becomes a San Franciscan, guiding us solidly through the labyrinth. We’re greeted at the building on 2nd just south of Market by Tim Lynch, KPIG AM host, and his lovely assistant. .
There’s no business like show business. Indeed. Day three of the Hawks tourette brought the Hawks into the gentle yellowing hillsides of western Marin and the hallowed hall of Rancho Nicasio, nestled in a flat valley near a poignant old wood church with archetypical steeple and cross, little valley surrounded by rolling hills with cattle, burros, and rusting barb wire fences. The Rancho started as a stagecoach stop in the 1880s but it still retains the 1950s supper club style it has carried along now for half a century. White linen table clothes and little crystal candle holders.
And the promise of backline. A gig that was originally booked as a Lacques doubleheader, with Matthew’s band, Nearly Beloved, opening for I See Hawks In L.A. in the psychic center of Not L.A. Would the brotherhood embodied onstage flow out into the assembled throng and break down the interstate love barrier? Not this time. Tony Joe White became available to play that night, so he became the headliner, and Hawks the opener. Bye, brother. But, no problem. We like playing with legends.
We are coming down fast yet gently from our Area Of The Bay day’s adventures. Shawn visited his drummer good bud Rob in Glen Albyn. Is that Welsh? Scottish? Rob was off on a secret mission, no doubt attempting to retrieve the scattered pieces of his soul, seeking Horcruxes long forgotten in his old San Francisco haunts. Paul L went on a hike in the very dry Marin hills with his brother Peter and Pete’s girlfriend Patti. It was a reconnection with the joys of heat. It was hot on the dusty trail. It felt good. Poppies were scattered among the dry grass, yellow cheery survivors among the tall dead.
Fairfax is a wonderful little town. Its unofficial self description, on bumper stickers in the tourist shop, is “Mayberry On Acid.” And it’s undeniably Mayberry on this hot Thursday afternoon. Peter and Patti know everyone on the streets, from the deeply tanned and serenely deranged 1965 original bacchanalian to the Euro botanist who knows every plant species from here to the ocean, to golden youth lying on grass in the redwood shaded little park, a perfect little park, like we all should have idylled in in youths spent instead on anxious concrete, with background noise. Yes, parents love their children everywhere, but here the children seem to get what they need.