Serial Hawk is a band that straight up destroys! I haven’t even seen them live, but apparently they are insanely loud and powerful in concert. I’ve been casually following the doom/sludge/whatever trio from Seattle for a couple of years now. However, with the upcoming release of Searching For Light I think it might be time to change my status as causal fan to obsessive stalker. The album consists of four, pummeling and pounding tracks that show the trio growing into one of the most killer bands out right now. I’ve had a copy of Searching For Light for a couple weeks now and I think I might ask it to marry me. Seriously. The raw power and energy, coupled with the transitions and the way the compositions flow make this release something special and worth listening to for years to come.
Since I had big plans to wed Serial Hawk’s new album I figured I should at least ask the permission of its three dads Will Basin (Guitar / Vocals), Adam Holbrook (Bass), and Sean Bulkley (Drums) for Searching For Light‘s hand in marriage. And while I had their attention I decided I’d also ask them about 8-tracks, bikinis, tour depression, and what life is like living in Seattle. Annnnd then I forgot to ask about the marriage part, guess we will have to elope.
Will: I was introduced to our first drummer Paul Valle (Chiefs) in 2010, we started playing together in our friends basement, just guitar and drums at the time. Eventually we wrote a few songs and decided to play a couple shows. At our second show we met Adam and later that week he began playing bass with us.
Adam: I came across Serial Hawk as a two-piece at their second show. I went to see some other friends in Ancient Warlocks and they were opening, I was immediately impressed with all the gear Will was using for his guitar rig, and Paul Valle who is now the front man in CHIEFS was intense on the drums, all heart you know. Then when they played I realized the sound was centered around various heavy riffs. It was pretty much the band I’d been looking for.
Can you remember the defining moment in your life when you decided that you wanted to be in band or play an instrument?
Adam: I had always been into listening to music since I was a kid, Nirvana tapes, CCR and old country in my Dads truck, etc. When I was a kid I had a cheap bass my parents got me, I was kind of intimidated by it at first. Learning to play back then seemed frustrating, so I lost interest until I was in high school, I asked a friend who was interested in drums to start playing with me. We learned our instruments together and started the first band I was in, we got a guitar player and just kinda went for it.
Sean: My dad brought me up listening to 60s pop music. One day, when I was very young, I came up to him and said “I want to be John Lennon when I grow up.” My dad said that wasn’t possible, so I said “Okay, then I’ll be Ringo.” I’ve been playing drums in bands since I was 9.
Will: I was probably 4-5 years old and I would pretend this little junky tennis racket we had at the house was a guitar. I would shred on it for hours. All of my hero’s growing up were rock Gods. Music has always been a constant in my life.
What is the biggest difference sonically in your opinion on Searching for Light and your previous 7” or EP?
Will: There’s more overall substance in these songs, both sonically and structurally.
Adam: I would say we focused more on layers and dynamics with this record. We took more time to write as we were recording it. I think will really opened up on the guitar tracks and we all encouraged each other to play from the heart and to share ideas. When I listen to Searching for Light I can hear all the extra work we put into this record.
Sean: One thing that sticks out to me is the way the two records were mastered. Buried in the Gray has a more compressed sound, while Searching for Light and the Lying in Wait single breathe more and are much more dynamic. (Shoutout to Blake Bickel for the excellent mastering work and advice on Searching for Light). Both records sound great, and the level of compression on each is fitting to the material.
I feel it really shows a songwriter’s ability to have such diversity in song lengths on an album. When writing a song do you have length set in your mind? Or do you just feel it out?
Will: The song length isn’t really my top priority when writing. The song will be what it will be, and when it’s done you know it, whatever the time turns out to be, is what it is.
Adam: I think long songs stem from wanting to have more space and breathing room in our music. More space and slower tempos help me focus on the experience I’m or we’re having as a band on stage rather than focusing on the mechanics of what we’re doing. Having 10-20 minute songs isn’t specifically intentional, it’s more of a natural occurrence in my eyes.
Sean: When we’re writing, we tend to start with a single riff or idea and then build on it. If someone hears a next part or thinks of a cool direction to take the tune, we try it out and keep building. Similarly, if someone hears the song ending after a certain point, we try finishing the song. Song length doesn’t begin as a consideration when you write songs this way.
Were there any thoughts initially of cutting up the 18 minute long title track into more than one jam?
Will: Never. It was written exactly like that and we recorded it live.
Adam: Nah, the whole idea of the song was to leave room for each instrument to wander off a little bit, we were feeling rather experimental at the time and were having fun getting baked and just playing for the sake of playing. I learned a lot about my own style and playing from that period of the band and we were able to bring back that song from those experiences in our old rehearsal space in Ballard. It always felt like a whole piece to me.
Sean: To my ears, while there’s three distinct “sections” to “Searching for Light,” they constantly reference each other rhythmically and melodically. It is one huge 18 minute journey. I don’t think cutting the track up would have made it any better.
What was the inspiration behind naming the album after the epic final track?
Will: We wrote and recorded that song as a way of completing the record, once we were done and it all came together, it was a no brainer that was a special song to us and undeniably the centerpiece of the record.
Adam: We played around with different ideas for the lyrics of that song and the record, but for me Searching for Light always stood out and was my first thought. Searching for Light just fit so well with what Will and I had been going thru for awhile personally and as a band prior to tracking the record. The lyrics to that song reflects a specific time in my life and using it as an album title fit right in with all the lyrics Will was writing too.
Sean: This is a full length record, but I sometimes think of it as a gigantic single, like: “the song won’t fit on a 7-inch, so let’s do a 12!”
Adam: I believe it was a piece that Sara (Winkle) and Samantha (Muljat) already had around, but ended up fitting perfectly with the theme of the record. I think Will was drawn to it right away, he did a good job of pitching it to us. And it didn’t take to long before I could see it as the album cover as well.
Will: All I can say is that I had been a big fan of Sam and Sara’s work previously, so when I initially saw the cover, it said everything to me. I could see, hear and feel everything that we put in that record.
Sean: I think she’s about to get eaten.
Serial Hawk is based in Seattle. If you guys had to pick another city to settle in, which would you pick and why?
Adam: We’ve tossed around the idea of Portland a few times, mostly because how rapidly Seattle seems to be changing right now also because I’m originally from Oregon and we have always dug the welcoming vibes there. Seattle has been good to us though. I think we want to do what’s best for the band as far where we hail from. Seattle is still a good home for Serial Hawk and us personally.
Sean: If I ever get sick of Seattle, it’d be because I’m sick of big cities in general. I’d probably move somewhere like Vashon Island or Port Townsend or some other tiny place on the peninsula here in WA. That’s not happening anytime soon though.
Will: Someone once told me that living in Seattle is like being married to a really beautiful woman… that’s sick all the time.
Which is you favorite media to listen to music on, vinyl, CD, digital, or cassette, or do you have a massive 8-track collection? Any thought about bringing the 8-track back and getting some copies of Searching for Light made?
Adam: I wish I had a huge 8-track collection! Vinyl is tried and true and always a good choice If you have time to listen to a whole record. I usually listen to mp3’s or flip through the radio stations at work. Anything to take my mind off work haha.
Sean: I don’t like cassettes, and I really don’t like 8-track. I’ve had some experience with audio engineering/recording, and I can tell you that those are two formats that need to die and stay dead. You’re not helping your sound if you put out a cassette. There’s literally not enough room on the media to store a high-fidelity recording. Economically, for some bands, it can make sense to put out cassettes as a physical release, but for not very much more cost-per-unit, you can get CDs made. Digital distro through Bandcamp is basically free as well. Vinyl is king. Long live vinyl.
Will: I mainly listen to vinyl, but digital seems to be my go-to for convenience. I appreciate all formats of music in their own way and I would love to have our music on all formats, whatever flips your switch, to each their own ya know?
What are your thoughts about making Serial Hawk bikinis or speedos?
Adam: Why not? I’m into it. I won’t be wearing them!
Sean: I have a design for a banana hammock called the “Serial Cawk.” It makes your junk look like a bird beak.
Will: I’m wearing one now.
Any Serial Hawk tattoos out there that you know of?
Will: Not that I know of, but I’d love to see that happen one day.
Adam: Not that I have seen. If someone actually got a Serial Hawk tattoo I would be blown away.
Sean: I’ve been giving out stick-and-pokes after shows for a while now. Only three or four cases of tetanus so far.
Looks like you have some tour dates coming up at the beginning of October. Is there a certain city on this upcoming tour that you are really stoked to play?
Will: All of them are special to me. I love seeing old friends and making new ones. People on the road give you a certain kind of love that you can’t find just playing in your hometown. It’s always a really special experience and I try to always appreciate it and be grateful for it. I consider the three of us very lucky to be able to be doing this as often as we are.
Adam: I’m always into going to new places, you never really know what to expect and that’s the main thrill of being in a touring band. I’m curious about DC, Houston and Colorado Springs, all of those will be a first for the band. As far as places we know, trust and love: Santa Fe has always been good to us and San Diego and Sacramento as well, but I try to take something positive from every place we go.
Sean: For me: Santa Fe, San Diego, Brookyln (with Jucifer!!!) and Austin.
Is tour depression a real thing? If so how do you cope?
Adam: Yes, mostly post-tour depression. Coming off the road is hard on your soul. Going back to your day job after soaring across the country is like getting you wings clipped every time. Best way to cope is start planning another tour haha, seems like that’s how Will manages. It’s good to come back to loved ones and familiar things. Bitter sweet experiences.
Will: When any amazing experience ends, you’re going to miss it and you’re going to desperately want to relive it again. I just try and stay positive and always look forward to what the next thing could be. My friends in Seattle that are in bands go through it as well, and I feel like it draws us all closer, we’re war buddies and we’re cut from the same cloth, we’re all in it together like family. We go through it together, you bond and connect over it, share stories and experiences and that bond is priceless.
Sean: I don’t think I get depressed from touring, but when we get about 1/2 way through, and I’m really run down, I can get less than agreeable at times. Reading helps. Talking to people outside the band/tour machine helps. There’s hardly any space left in the van once we’ve gotten it loaded up, so fresh air and open areas are great.
Adam: I think we are inspired by other heavy bands, seeing YOB, Weedeater and Sleep have all had a strong impression on me. It makes the experience of seeing a band more visceral and kinetic. Hearing and feeling the music takes it to another level. I like to feel bass in my feet and back when I’m playing and watching bands. It’s always been worth lugging the gear around in my mind.
Sean: Part of the reason is we want to create a physical connection with the audience. We’re not trying to deafen anyone, we’re trying to move the room and people as we move. The sensation of having all the air sucked out of the room is pretty fucking heavy.
Will: I’m trying to play this music from my soul, and the only motivation I have behind the volume is to hopefully transfer that out into the mind and body of the listener.
What’s your secret to being so loud? Is it all the amps you put on stage? Have you ever strained a bicep or pulled a hammy lugging all that gear around?
Will: We’ve always been loud whether we’ve played through two amps or ten amps. We’re trying to create something that connects with you sonically and maybe even spiritually, but that’s ultimately up to the listener. We want to reach out and touch you. We want you to hear it and feel it deep down within your soul. Otherwise, what’s the point, ya know? The amount of gear isn’t what it’s entirely all about for me. My body will eventually whilt and die, and what’s the fuckin difference if we’re all gonna die, ya know? I’m 34 and often feel like I’m 64 while on tour, but the work is good for you. Good for the mind, body and soul. It makes you tour strong, You’re gonna have to sweat, bleed and really work for it and I love that.
Adam: Yea lots of watts and lots of speakers. Multiple amps and tones give the over all sound depth. Mostly sore backs.
Sean: I don’t always get mic’d up. Some places we play have a vocal mic and small PA and that’s it. I still have to be heard over all the amplification, because even in small basement venues, we don’t turn down. I make sure my drums are tuned up and I don’t muffle anything on my kit, so it’s all as efficient as possible. I pick cymbals that can be loud without my having to smack the shit out of them. I do play hard, but I don’t play as hard as I can; I play as loud as I can. After a certain point, you’re putting more energy into the drums than you’re getting out and you reach a point of diminishing returns. I only play things as hard as I have to to get the maximum volume out of the kit. As far as injury goes… I’ve fractured the knuckle on my index finger on my left hand a couple times from hitting it on the rim of my snare drum. Blood on my drumheads is not an uncommon sight. I do a lot of stretches before and after shows, but I still pull muscles all the time. If anyone has the massage hookup on the road, I take them up on it.
Searching for Light drops on Bleeding Light Records September 18th, get it!