Ian Nelson from the Daily Collegian at Umass and Friendship Bracelet wrote asked me some questions about some stuff. Thanks Ian!
On the local end, in a recent e-mail interview with The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, Hnatow talked about his recent tour, his philosophies regarding music-making, and the lack of true music venues in the area.
Massachusetts Daily Collegian: With regards to the recent tour, how necessary is it for an artist to walk out of their comfort zone – zone meaning either a geographical area or style?
Eric Hnatow: I have never done an official tour before. A few of the shows were a bit strange, but for the most part I had an awesome time playing most of the places I went to. At one show I played to about six people all sitting on bar stools in a huge room and all of them bought every piece of [merchandise] I had. At other shows I would play for 60 people and sell nothing at all. It really helps drive home the notion that you should do what you are doing as best as you can all the time, no matter who is watching.
MDC: You must be absorbing a whole lot of stimuli traveling around and getting lots of feedback. How are your shows abroad going to inform your upcoming shows in the area?
EH: How well I am received is always different. The show in Atlanta was particularly awesome due to the fact that my pal, Witt, who used to go to Hampshire [College], set it up. He started a killer community arts space down there called WonderRoot, so he put together a really great show for me. I guess that is a huge part of the success of any show – attention to detail from both the performers as well as the person curating the event. That said, I did roll up into an impromptu show in Asheville, N.C., and drop two songs, like a six-minute assault. That was great. I brought this light jacket on tour with me that I have been using in my set for a bit around here. That night I ended up jumping up on the bar with the light jacket going and people totally lost it. I didn’t pay for any drinks after that stunt.
MDC: There’s always people getting into your sets around here, though I’m always suspicious that it’s because you play so much it’s like people know you and humans love what they’re familiar and comfortable with. While this may be true, my fascination with your shows is how unfamiliar each set truly is, since it is forever changing and moving beyond what I saw and heard the last time. What’s the philosophy behind it all?
EH: Yeah, I am always suspicious of any success I have with my music. I don’t really have a specific musical idea of what I am doing. I don’t make music to fulfill any sort of musical goals I have. It is more to move people to think differently about stuff. When I make music to be performed in a live setting, the first thought I have is usually: ‘How will people react to this?’ I enjoy embracing the effect that other people have on the process of creation. This is why I say the music I make is for you, not me. Of course, I am getting some stupid ego trip from the whole thing, but I am not one of those folks who say things like ‘I do this for me, and don’t care what you think about it.’ I totally care what you think. Maybe that is why people are so reactive to what I have been doing lately. It is familiar to them because, in a way, they helped make it.
MDC: I’d like to know how you feel your evolution as an artist has gone, whether it’s encapsulated within your music strictly, or whether it stretched further back into, say, visual mediums.
EH: I don’t really separate it all that much. To me all the stuff that I do links back to sound. That is just the language I began speaking through. Whether it is fliers, album artwork, movement, food or whatever, I always start with sound ... even if the sound is silence. I took lots of art classes in high school and stuff, but still don’t really consider myself an ‘artist.’ I just work on stuff, that’s all. I think of it all as work, not art.
MDC: Surely you started playing house shows, or something similar to that, and now you’re playing named venues with more well-known artists. What’s that shift like?
EH: Playing with bigger names is always cool, mostly because I get to be in a show that I would otherwise probably be at anyway. As far as the venues go, I don’t really think there are any true music venues around this area, especially in Northampton. Aside from The Elevens and Sierra Grille, there are no other venues that care about the most important thing – music! Unfortunately, they all care about the other word that starts with ‘M.’ I actually much prefer to perform in alternative venues like houses, cafés, art spaces, warehouses and, of course, colleges. The college shows around here are my absolute favorite shows at the moment. Talk to me after Flywheel opens again and I might change my tune on that.
MDC: Who’s your favorite band or artist you’ve played with this tour?
EH: My favorite band that I have played with on tour would probably be this band called Maple Kitten, from Philly. They are an all-Casio-keyboard band who make video projections and play on the floor.
MDC: Who’s your favorite artist you’ve ever performed with? Anyone you’d be eying to play with in the future?
EH: Best yet ... Crush Cloud. Future ... Pink Floyd.