Much touted Portland four-piece Hockey look set to repeat the trajectory of MGMT last year, by going from unknown indie band to sold-out shows to (maybe) a definitive slot at Oxegen (Hockey are already booked to play). The band played a sold-out double headline show with the lauded Passion Pit in Whelan’s on the first of this month. Despite being barely known on this side of the Atlantic, they arguably stole the show on the night. State caught up with Jerm (bassist) and Ben (singer) from the band whiles they were downing waffles and coffee on Camden St, Dublin to get the story so far.
So back to the start for Hockey, the band started as a two piece right?
Ben: Jeremy and I just started playing together when we were in college, outside of LA in Redlands, California. We started in 2002. We played together until 2006, just the two of us. Then we just got the idea that this is not… any good, this is not going to work, we need a band.
Was the music much different to what it is now?
Jerm: Yeah it was pretty really different. It was much more basic – bare boned and stripped down. There was just drum machine and bass basically. It wasn’t good.
You had a record deal at the time..
Ben: Yeah, we had a brief, what they call, a development deal with Sony. But that ehh…was fine but I think as a band we weren’t ready to have any exposure. So luckily we didn’t get any exposure, we just sort of did some recording, and it didn’t really end up working out. It was kind of a strange circumstance too, like the people we had signed with ended up leaving and we got passed on to different people and we got passed on to different labels within the company. So yeah, you know those things happen but I think it was all for the best with us.
So at what point did that finish?
Ben: Early 2007. Then we moved out of LA and we moved up north. And met these two guys [points to Anthony and Brian] and then we put a real proper band. And that was a beginning, probably much much better for us all round. For live, for songwriting, everything. You can do so much more with a band. We felt like we were always tricking people as a two piece so…it started making sense.
Can you put your finger on what is was that made it better this time around?
Jerm: It’s just a full sound. You know, we can do like a proper pop song. Ben writes most of it but we all have a hand in it.
When you started writing stuff as a four piece, what kind of music were you referencing?
Jerm: Definitely like, a lot of the production of the DFA label, and a lot of that kind of dance music, would sound like our production, like our live stuff, like the drum samples and stuff. But like the songwriting…well I guess like the songwriting as far as the words and the structure and stuff is like, I guess it’s got that pop ring to it….
Tell me about the first version of your album Mind Chaos and how the forthcoming remixed new version of the album came about?
Jerm: We had a 9 song record that we released ourselves – back in the States we just printed up a 1000 copies and distributed it ourselves. After we got signed we went into a proper studio and recorded 5 or 6 more songs until we had 5 of the original songs and 5 more. So it’s kind of a mash-up. We’ll still have the same name.
So how does Portland compare with LA, does it have a good music scene?
Jerm: We’ve only been there for like a year…it seems like the kind of city that you really have to pay your dues. You have to play a long time, meet a lot of people, get a few tattoos… It’s got a really good scene right now, there’s a lot of young people moving there. There’s a lot of music, a lot of art. People riding their bikes, there seems like there’s a lot of good energy to be around. There are a lot of good bands. Starfucker are a cool band. Explode into Colors are my favourite. They’re a girl band. Awesome.
Ben: Yacht’s from Portland. And The Gossip, who we know are really popular over here. The Dirty Mittens, Builders and Butchers….a band called Strength – a pretty good dance band over there. Lots of bands, lots of really good stuff. And it’s a pretty small place, it’s not a very big city so…word travels fast.
So none of you are from Portland. Why did you pick Portland then?
Ben: It’s got a really good balancing point of becoming a great hot spot for people who want to be creative but at the same time it hasn’t become so gentrified that it’s too expensive for people who want to be creative…if that makes sense. Three of us all live together in a big house with a couple other people and Brian lives in the next neighbourhood over, close by.
In terms of the difference between when you were a two piece and becoming a four-piece and then bringing that music to a label were you wary of getting involved in a major label (EMI) again?
Jerm: Yeah, I would say, this deal was based on the record we had already made. So we were able to say ‘Look we went away and made this record ourselves. This is absolutely who we are and who we want to be so…if you like it and want to move forward, great, if you don’t, no problem. But there’s no ambiguity there, it’s not confusing. We were able to figure out who we wanted to be and put a record together that basically represented us. And then going to labels was like ‘If you like this, then you like our band and if you don’t, then you don’t, and that’s fine.’
You’ve written some really catchy songs…
Ben: Sure, they’re very chorus orientated, very pop orientated…sometimes they’re really strange, I think they have strange tempos. I dunno, we have this weird way of getting people to like us, they’re watching us, they’re totally fixated but they’re not dancing necessarily…but I can tell that they have the potential.
So inevitable question, have you been to Ireland before?
B: I was in Dublin one time. I was studying in Berlin and I had a friend studying over here. When I was in college I spent four days here and I had a blast. It was amazing. I’ve been waiting five years for a pint of Guinness in Dublin. I had one last night amidst the drunken medieval crowd near Croke Park. It was real good. I had a couple of them to make sure…
Hockey Too Fake video on Youtube.