Despite rumors of its untimely demise, L.A. country is, in fact, still alive and well. It’s just gone underground – or rather, taken to the skies. I See Hawks in L.A. is that rare local bird, an Americana act in a city where rock rules the roost. “[We’re] sort of mavericks,” states lead singer Rob Waller (at right, with Shawn Nourse, left, Paul Lacques and Paul Marshall). “Sometimes people will say, ‘Oh, I see hawks’ and you tell your hawk stories.”
With a sound as harmonic as it is twangy, the band is a throwback to the early days of the Golden State. “Bands like the Byrds, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens are people who we definitely feel kinship with,” says Waller. And not just kinship: The Byrds’ own Chris Hillman played mandolin on I See Hawks’ aptly titled third album, “California Country,” in 2006. Their fourth and latest, the just-released “Hallowed Ground,” adds fiddles and pedal steel, the kind of orchestration all but absent from the current Nashville sound.
“Modern country music … is really formulated,” says Waller. “Let’s have a song where the girls are geting wild and going out tonight. It’s all been vetted in a focus group. That’s the opposite of what we do.” Despite the band’s thick local roots – they’re regulars at the Echo’s weekly “Grand Ole Echo” concerts – they’ve managed to escape SoCal long enough to play two national tours, where they’ve found a small but welcoming audience.
“People in these towns, they take us to [their] barbecues, we go on hikes together,” he says. “It’s really part of their lives.”
-– David Greenwald