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Paul James Lacques (1954-2024)

I See Hawks In L.A. is brokenhearted to announce the passing of Paul Lacques, the driving force of the band.  Beyond his virtuoso guitar and lap steel playing, Paul was a vocalist, songwriter, arranger, and producer of prodigious talent and energy. A successful playwright, a committed political activist, a satirical cartoonist, a tender and loyal friend.

Never shy about sharing his opinions with anyone, he was averse to sharing his personal pain and problems.  Few knew of his battles over the last several years with the cancer that finally took his life.  That was the way he wanted it.  

He leaves behind an astonishing body of work, not just with ISHILA, but with Double Naught Spy Car, Earthworm Ensemble, the historic polka rebels, Rotondi, The Bonedaddys, The Underthings, numerous other bands, and the many, many artists for whom he contributed sometimes blazing, sometimes sensitive, always appropriate guitar, lap steel, jews harp, drums, production, songwriting, and more.

His ear for detail combined with a tireless mission for work provided the impetus for the Hawks’ 10 albums and steady touring and gigs.

Forever curious, often challenging, occasionally contentious, at his heart of hearts he was a gentle, sweet man, whose default was caring for others, not just his family and friends, but frequently complete strangers.

To say we will miss him is a monumental understatement.  But we hope and pray, and believe that his spirit will soar, like the hawks he loved to watch, free from pain, while his body rests in peace. He is survived by his beloved wife and Hawks drummer Victoria Jacobs, eight brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, and all who loved him and his music. 

MEET LOGGER PAUL

9/11 was a dark day for America, and a lighter shade of darkness for the self involved artiste known as me. Four hours after landing in Osaka, Japan, I watched the twin towers collapse on the TV in a performer’s dorm lounge, surrounded by bewildered Australians and Brits and numbed American musicians.

I was recently married, and cosmically coincidentally, my various music incomes abruptly dried up. We were broke. I abandoned my new and exciting project, an experimental country band called I See Hawks In L.A., for exile to Japan and performing a really horrible mishmash of American songs on really horrible instruments for Japanese tourists at the brand new Universal theme park in Osaka. An artistic nadir heralded by a national nadir we may never recover from.

Japan turned into a delightful two months respite from the military madness and ocean of red white and blue engulfing Los Angeles, and we didn’t want to come back. At LAX the change in atmosphere from enlightened and polite society to surly nihilism was palpable. Welcome home. What are these, sir?

I needed a job. My brother Anthony nepotized me into the lowly tape logging position at a History Channel production company, and I graduated to researcher, interviewing climate scientists, fusion scientists, anthropologists, candy makers, bomb makers, for the Modern Marvels series.

Seven years flew by and the company became a second family, full of stimulating conversations among the producers and writers, Quiznos and yogurt shops fulfilling your every Ventura Boulevard culinary need. I felt strange enjoying a day job as much as I did, even as my music projects also blossomed. Brother Anthony and I had been saving strange National Archives historical clips over the years just for fun, and envisioned a series of between-show non sequiturs showing up between History Channel shows. At a production meeting I finally proposed just that, and the execs said, yeah, let’s do it. And you’ll be the host. Logger Paul.

Putting coherent modulated sentences together was never my strong suit, and I begged off from the host job. But the powers that be insisted. I gathered raw footage of Mussolini’s son and Our Gang communing in Hollywood, dangerous early flying machines, twisted beauty pageants, bombs, Hitler puppetry, and a POW choir singing about their torture in elegant harmony at a White House dinner. This should do it. We shot 15 episodes, which were to appear once an hour between commercials around the clock on the History Channel. Yes. I was to be a nationally known talking head.

One episode aired, a long clip of the radically dense U.S. bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, with minimally moralizing commentary. But the long haired mush mouthed hippie and volatile content was too much for the East Coast exec. Logger Paul was pulled after one airing, to zero surprise from me. But the clips have survived, and in retrospect I think they fulfill our goal: to be immersed in a tiny facet of human activity that illuminates the bigger times from which it was plucked. There’s some crazy things going on out there. Always were, always will be.

BENTLEY’S BANDSTAND reviews “On Our Way”

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I See Hawks in L.A., On Your Way. There were the Byrds, then the Flying Burritos and a few other notable music excursions emanating from Los Angeles in the 1960s into the ’70s that really paved the road for those who followed in that Southern California realm, but no other band has found the thread like I See Hawks in L.A. Their sound might be embedded in the Hollywood Freeway, but underneath it’s really torqued by the Mojave Desert. There is something just hallucinatory enough on new songs like “Might’ve Been Me,” “Know Just What to Do” and, really, everything on this ear-opening new album that it feels like a new day of music is rising. Band members Rob Waller and brothers Paul and Anthony Lacques formed the group going on 20 years ago, of course on a desert trek, and haven’t looked back. Now featuring Paul Marshall and Victoria Jacobs as the rhythm section, there is really no one like them, still, as they mix in visions and musical veracity into a style which opens a door full of surprises right below the surface. As each album has become more and more assured, I See Hawks in L.A. has now hit that point where they’ve cut the cord on influences and are spinning out in an orbit all their own. The quartet is all breathing as one, and the clear night sky full of stars is the limit. Listen and hear not only what has come before, but what is also right around the next bend. See the Hawks.

Bill Bentley

NORTHERN SKY REVIEWS “On Our Way”

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One of Southern California’s leading alt country bands, I See Hawks in LA return with their tenth album to date, On Our Way, which is also the band’s first post-pandemic album.  Detailing a band’s lockdown practices and procedures is becoming almost obligatory in light of recent events, yet each circumstance is slightly different.  In the case of this band, Rob Waller and Paul Lacques would keep to a strict weekly songwriting schedule, adopting to Facetime one another at 4pm prompt every Friday afternoon, which seems to have done the trick.  With further assistance from band mates Victoria Jacobs and Paul Marshall, On Our Way has been developed under extraordinary circumstances, yet the results are probably better than expected.  Rather than focusing on the current crisis, the band turned to history for inspiration, honing in on such figures as Geronimo and Muhammad Ali, not to mention the odd Kentucky Jesus, who ‘knocked the Devil to the floor’ at one point.  Stylistically the band keep pretty much to their alt country, Americana and folk rock roots, with some occasional driving rhythms, gutsy blues and renegade lyricism to keep their fans happy.  The album also contains a song with a setting a few thousand miles from home, with “Kensington Market” adopting a pop sensibility that wouldn’t be too far out of place on some vintage ‘Swinging Sixties’ radio show.  I See Hawks in LA can be diverse when the mood takes them evidently.  On the subject of the old wireless, “Radio Keeps Me on the Ground (Slight Return)”, is a fine homage to those who have managed to keep us entertained during an unprecedented lockdown period.  Radio shows and online podcasts have certainly kept a good few of us on the ground over the last eighteen months.  The sprawling eight minutes of “How You Gonna Know” completes the album, where the band engage in some funky Doors-like experimental rhythms to keep us on our toes. 

Kensington Market is included in this week’s Vaults radio show.

SLIMCHANCE Reviews “On Our Way”

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There is something special about I See Hawks In LA, and I don’t mean the fact that they’re a rather fine americana band. I wouldn’t be discussing their work here if I didn’t think they were. But the thing is, no matter what record you pick from their seven album discography – or is it eight? – time and again there’s this sense of warmth and conviviality just radiating from it all. Not that they’re a party outfit – on the contrary, their arrangements often require close attention – but even more than many of their colleagues from the folk and americana world, this band always makes you feel like they’ve just popped over to your place for an impromptu jam session. Their latest release On Our Way yet again captures that cosy atmosphere very well.

And that’s quite an accomplishment, because this record was created during the first phase of the corona pandemic, while the band was adhering to all the rules regarding social distancing and self-isolation. What sounds like a band playing live in the studio – almost a pre-requisite within the genre – is in reality a digital collage of parts recorded separately from each other. And that doesn’t just include the band itself, but also a whole platoon of guest musicians. The rather outstanding quality of the songs as such doesn’t hurt either, of course. But whether it’s the relaxed country of the title track, somewhat reminiscent of the late Glen Campbell, and tracks like Kentucky Jesus and If I Move, or slightly more experimental tracks like Mississippi Gas Station Blues and Kensington Market, the quartet has absolutely succeeded in matching the spontaneity of their earlier work, thanks to the miracle of modern technology.

Lonestar Time (Italy) Reviews “On Our Way”

Google-translated from Italian
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More than twenty years together, twenty years of sharing, of love for the roots, for those sounds warmed by the Californian sun that represented a breath of fresh air and good vibrations. I See Hawks In L.A. they return with a new album to reiterate how close they still are and how their captivating and fresh mix of country music, folk and American is always as simple as it is effective. The guitars of Rob Waller and Paul Lacques, the bass of Paul Marshall and the percussion of Victoria Jacobs, their songs, their musical visions are a true ode to their land and in many songs they do not disdain deep reflections on the times we are living. , on environmental emergencies and social issues, celebrating again the many miles traveled together and the multiple influences dictated by sharing the stages with people like Chris Hillman, Dave Alvin, Peter Case, Lucinda Williams and Ray Wylie Hubbard, all, in a one way or another, inspiring what their current sound is. An inevitable pinch of psychedelia pervades some of the songs of "On Our Way", as well as solid are the reminiscences related to a rough and dirty roots-rock a la Dave Alvin in the abrasive "Mississippi Gas Station Blues". Often there are 'sixties' inflections as in "Kensington Market" in which vocal space is given to Victoria Jacobs while to embellish the arrangements there are here and there the fiddle of Brantley Kearns, veteran of a thousand sessions, the accordion of Richie Lawrence and the pedal steel by Dave Zirbel, protagonist of the splendid “Geronimo”, immersed in its fascinating western atmosphere. However, there are many moments to be mentioned such as the initial "Might've Been Me" and its acoustic plots, "Kentucky Jesus", intense and poetic, "Stealing" whose melody lazily rests on the Californian sea, "If I Move ”Which refers to the past Westcoastian seasons between country and rock as well as the title track“ On Our Way ”which retraces the paths taken by the Byrds most closely tied to their roots. A record that confirms the goodness of the proposal of a band that undaunted continues a genuine and sincere musical and human journey, a journey between the ocean and the desert that continues to bewitch those who loved the mix of roots and the most contemporary sounds and continue to do so despite everything.
Remo Ricaldone

Real Roots Cafe (NL) Reviews “On Our Way”

Google-translated from Dutch
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Americana, folk rock, alto. country. They are wonderful labels for a group's music. Moreover, they are recognizable labels for the curious listener. Every release of the foursome in I See Hawks In L.A. is recognizable for that reason and is received with cheers by the enthusiast.

Paul and Anthony Lacques, Victoria Jacobs and Rob Waller are much more than musicians. In 1999, I See Hawks In L.A. was founded. After a meeting in the Eastern Mojave desert and after many discussions about philosophy, environment and politics, the foursome decided to make music together. These are the themes that come up in the lyrics of the band.

The self-titled debut appeared in 1999. On Our Way will be the tenth album in 2021. In February 2020, I See Hawks In L.A. played a set at Wonder Valley Festival. The group members traveled home and were told to stay there. The pandemic! After the initial shock, the four musicians decided to get to work. Social media sometimes slows down ideas and fragments of songs, but with enough patience, eleven tracks were created for a new long player. Composers Rob Waller and Paul Lacques sat in front of the computer screen every Friday. Drummer Victoria Jacobs regularly joined in and provided input. We cranked out an albums worth of songs, said Waller.

I See Hawks In L.A. have been making music for much longer than twenty years, and with On Our Way too, the listener is given enough to think about. Mississippi Gas Station Blues is not only a blues track that starts with drummer Jacobs, but it is also a song in which the grotesque, consumptive gas consumption in America is sung and condemned. In Kentucky Jesus, the choice between religion and the military is denounced. I See Hawks In L.A. gently stirs America's meddling in problems beyond its borders.

On Our way has eleven songs for forty-eight minutes and twenty-one seconds of music. This tenth long player from a group that has scored well with critics and enthusiasts for years is a highlight in a growing oeuvre. For lovers of folk, rock and alto. country, looking for bands with the same labels, every release of I See Hawks In L.A. is a good entry point to a pleasant acquaintance. On Our Way is the next, provisional highlight in the series. (Western Seed Records)