Hookworms are a five piece based in Leeds who are poised to release ‘Pearl Mystics’ in just over a weeks time. This debut full length follows two singles on Gringo Records where the clan offer up nine tracks of foggy psychedelia that give a nod to Sun Araw and Spacemen 3. I got to catch up with them about ‘Pearl Mystics’ and a few other things too…
(Also watch out for Hookworm’s track ‘The Correspondent’ on forthcoming psych compilation ‘Psych For Sore Eyes’ on Sonic Cathedral)
Let’s start with your upcoming debut album on Gringo, how did you come to work with the label?
MB: Matt who runs the label released our last 2 records which both turned out great and sold out, so when it came to who should put the LP out it was a pretty easy decision. Matt has released some of our favourite UK records of the last 15 years (Bilge Pump, Wolves of Greece, Ox Scapula, That Fucking Tank etc), and is continuing to release amazing records by our friends like Cold Pumas
, Sauna Youth
, Broken Arm, Grey Hairs and Vision Fortune.You guys recorded and produced it in MJ’s Suburban Home studio, what was the setup?
MB: We practice at Suburban Home as well, so it was a case of recording demos of tracks as we wrote them, then listening back and changing bits here and there until we were happy with the basic structures of the songs. There are some pretty mammoth demo versions of some of the tracks. I think we clocked a 20 minute version of Away/Towards in its earliest incarnation. We spent a weekend laying down the bass and drums for the whole record at the end of 2011, and then the rest of the overdubs were done sporadically over a 6 month period in the first half of 2012, whenever there was free time at the studio. A lot of the mixing was done in the middle of the night when no one was around, and we’d often wait for the cake factory workers adjacent to the studio to finish work so we could re-amp tracks down the huge corridor outside, which we used as a make-shift reverb chamber. MJ can probably go into more technical depth, if that’s what you meant.
I wanted to run through the tracks and see if you could tell us a little about each one:
“Away / Towards”
MB: In my head this track is split into 3 different sections. There’s the atmospheric build up at the start, the organ-driven motorik in the middle, and our attempt at a VU/Modern Lovers pop song at the end.
MJ: Lyrically this song is split in two (signified by the duel names). It’s a reflection on loss and the way we can chase something that doesn’t exist anymore or how we can push ourselves away in denial.
“Form And Function”
MB: This is the oldest song on the album; we had previously recorded a different version of it for a split 7” with Kogumaza. I much prefer this take on it though, it’s a bit more up-tempo, and we actually wrote an intro for this one. The old recording just kind of faded in because we didn’t really know how to start it. I’m a big fan of SS’s guitar playing at the end of this track.
MJ: Big fan of the kick sound on this track.
MJ: I can’t remember how I did this, sorry. Probably with loads of pedals at three in the morning.
“In Our Time”
MB: I came up with the main bass line that repeats throughout the song, and MJ wrote the organ chord progression that makes up the “verses”, and we glued the two sections together. There is a definite Pure X influence on this song, we’re collectively big fans of their LP “Pleasure”. JW recorded layers and layers of guitar feedback in different keys, and MJ stacked them all up to create this wonderful wall of noise, almost like a guitar symphony, which drones throughout the entire song. Our friend Jack from the band Mazes dubbed this song and What We Talk About “drone-soul”, which I thought was great. The call and response backing vocals at the end of the song are one of my favourite parts of the album.
MJ: Yeah, I recorded JW feed backing in different notes and then pieces them together into chords. I actually wrote the ‘song’ for this for my Family Scraps solo project, but it worked so well with the bass line MB brought that we used it for this instead.
“Since We Had Changed”
MB: Possibly the song I’m proudest of on the album. It started off as quick acoustic jam we knocked together for a live BBC session, but we thought we’d try it out for the album and see how it went. At one point I think we were heavily leaning towards scrapping it completely, but then we re-amped sections of it down the corridor outside the studio that I mentioned before, and the reverb completely brought it to life. That was a total “woah” moment for everyone in the studio, it really changed the song. We’ll probably never be able to play it live, there’s a load of stuff on there like acoustic 12-string through tape delay, sitar, backwards plucked piano etc.
MJ: I hated this until that day we re-amped everything. Now it’s my favourite part of the record. I was dreaming of Tower Recordings.
MB: This is the second oldest song on the record. We’d been playing this live for quite a while before we started the album, so it was pretty straightforward to record. We tried a few different things out like some Stooges-y claps to accentuate the weirdo “I Want Candy” drum beat, but we decided against it. We managed to squeeze in some John Cale-style piano being hammered in the background ala “I’m Waiting For the Man”/”I Wanna Be Your Dog” though.
MJ: The oscillating sound on this section is something (can’t remember what) being run into a spring reverb over and over and over until it was un-recognisable. I recorded rain in a puddle for this. Probably a low moment.
“What We Talk About”
MB: We were originally talking about trying to get some gospel singers on this for the backing vocal part, but we thought it might be a bit over the top. MJ layered up his own little one-man choir anyway, and it sounds great. Our friend Andy Moore played some trumpet at the end of the track to give it a Stones-y gospel/soul vibe.
MJ: Me and MB recorded most of this song as a demo one afternoon. Pretty sure we kept everything from that session except the vocals and bass take.
MJ: I wrote and recorded this one night with two amps pulsing in stereo in the live room. I sat between them and played most of this live with a couple of synths and a monotron.
The artwork looks awesome, where did the image come from?
MB: JW “found” and doctored it with a scanner, as well as changing the colour to the“pearl mystic” shade of turquoise that gave the album it’s name. I’m half expecting us to get sued by whoever took the photograph once the album is released.
What are some of your favourite album covers?
MB: I like a lot of 60’s record sleeves with the bands posing on the front, but only because I know we could never be cool enough to pull something like that off in a million years. Stuff like the first Stooges record, the first Creedence record, Back in the USA, and that Count Five album where they’re all stood round the edge of a grave.
MJ: hate to be a cliche, but pretty much anything by Raymond Pettibon is up my street.
Do you guys prefer playing or recording?
MB: Probably recording, I don’t think there’s a feeling in the world like when a record starts to come together. It’s a different kind of rush when you’re playing a fun show.
MJ: Recording. It’s my favourite thing in the world.
What’s been the most fun you’ve had playing a show so far?
MB: I always have loads of fun playing in Brighton; everyone is really friendly. We did a couple of shows for our friend Andy Auld who used to run Sex is Disgusting that stand out in my head. One supporting The Men at the Prince Albert, which was one of the first times we’d played some of the new songs off the new album live, and one at the Green Door Store which I think was the last ever Sex is Disgusting show. A strobe light was turned on halfway through the first song which we weren’t expecting. I don’t think I’ve ever played a set with a strobe light in my face for the entire thing, you start seeing things. I have no idea how bands like Vision Fortune do it for every show they play, I spent the whole time worrying it was going to trigger a fit, which probably gave the whole thing an edge.
MJ: I enjoyed Liverpool Psych Fest. We played the main stage at midnight straight after Dead Skeletons. I was genuinely surprised when people stayed for our set.
Most memorable show you’ve watched?
MB: Probably Pissed Jeans in the upstairs room of The Fenton in Leeds a few years back. I don’t think anyone’s feet were touching the floor.
MJ: Yep, Pissed Jeans at The Fenton, The Wrens at The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham or the first time I saw Mob Rules do that really long track off their LP.
How would you spend your perfect day off?
MB: Listening to records, reading a book, nice walk in the countryside and a couple of ales.
MJ: Even on my days off from my job as a recording engineer I go to my studio. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.
What else is coming up for Hookworms in 2013?
MB: We’re doing a few shows in February running up to the album launch in Leeds on February 23rd, and then there’s going to be a proper “album tour” in April. We have a few other releases in the pipeline already too. There should be a 7” for the Too Pure singles club out in May, and hopefully a vinyl re-release of the Live Vol.2 CD/DVD which came out last year. There weren’t many copies of that because the sleeves were all handmade, so it’d be nice for everyone to be able hear and see it. There’s some other stuff too, but I don’t want to jinx them just yet.
I tend to finish interviews by asking - “I’m full of dust and guitars” - Syd Barret, if you were sliced in half what would be inside? But for you guys maybe the clue is in the name?