Thought Beneath Film are the next big thing out of Hamilton. They’re pop, they’re punk, and they’re kinda in your face. They borrow a lot from their pop-punk peers (Blink 182, Green Day, etc), but they have a very classy Knack-style sheen and (frankly) some really great vocals. Here’s their latest single Cartographers.
Now, if that wasn’t enough coolness for you, here’s some notes from my recent convo with Brent Wirth. And if that’s still not enough, go see them on Oct 18 at Avant Garde. You will dig it.
Hamilton has a long punk rock history….anything from Teenage Head to Forgotten Rebels to Tristan Psionic…how do you guys fit into that pedigree? Or do you?
I don’t think we really fit into that lineage and we’re certainly not trying to perpetuate it by any means. A lot of people have labelled us as a punk band, but I don’t think it’s an accurate label and I think our full-length album will demonstrate that. Of course, there’s an obvious watermark in our music from bands like Green Day or Blink, but it’s being amalgamated with a million other influences. And, at the end of the day, we’re not trying to be a nostalgia act. We have an agenda and we want to push things forward. I wouldn’t say that our upcoming full-length album reflects that necessarily, but it’s our first record, a starting point, and, hopefully, listeners see enough quality and consistency in the writing to invest faith in the notion that we’re capable of being the band to push the envelope further.
Your name comes from a Dickenson poem. Are you big fans? Are you English majors? It’s an interesting inspiration for a name, what does it mean to you?
I can’t speak on behalf of the rest of my band, but I’m a huge Emily Dickinson fan. Although I majored in music in university, I did take a lot of English courses. Through these courses, I studied Dickinson thoroughly and really fell in love with her writing. The poem in which our band name is derived from particularly stood out to me. Ultimately, it’s about hidden layers beneath the surface. To me, it epitomized what the band is trying to do musically. On the surface, our songs are straight forward pop-rock tunes, but there’s substance and sophistication for those who want to dig beneath the surface. I’ve always envied Dickinson’s succinctness. Clearly, it didn’t rub off on me!
You say that the “industry” thinks that “OK is good enough”. Is that really true, in your view. What are you doing to combat that attitude? And how do you think fans tell the difference between “ok” and “amazing”?
I think it’s an unfortunate truth. I would like to think that most bands and artists aren’t willingly accepting that notion, but I think it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to avoid falling into a narrative where integrity and quality are sacrificed on some level due to various factors. How can rock bands be expected to put out albums like Mellon Collie or Sgt. Pepper’s when they don’t have a million dollar budget and the luxury of two years to dedicate exclusively to writing and recording. There isn’t enough money within the industry to justify such massive album budgets and up and coming bands can’t take a two year hiatus from touring to write a masterpiece because they won’t be relevant anymore by time it’s finished. With that said, how are we attempting to combat it all? By not letting the current paradigm of the industry be an excuse to cut corners. Instead, we have to up our game to ensure that quality is upheld under these restrictions. In other words, we have to do what bands like the Pumpkins or the Beatles were doing on a fraction of the budget and in a quarter of the time. I think the way to do that is for artists to become even more self-sufficient and versatile. For instance, having our own home studio and investing the time and money into becoming skilled engineers allows us to work in a studio setting day in and day out without the $1500 a day cost. That gives us the time to get it right and not cut corners due to budgets. How do fans tell the difference between “okay” and “amazing”? I think it’s all very intangible. Amazing music is a powerful thing. It just hits you and connects with you in a way that you can’t really understand. It has the power to stimulate change both socially and politically. We haven’t seen that in the rock tradition in almost two decades and I think that’s the ultimate indication of the quality of records and bands diminishing. But I have faith in the power of rock music and I think we’re on the upswing now.
Tom and Bob are both amazing people. Not only are they the best at what they do respectively, but they’re true professionals and give every project the same attention and care regardless of how lucrative it might be for them. Working with them was an amazing experience. They both have the ability to elevate a song to a whole other level. Getting the opportunity to work with them and hearing them praise our music gave us a lot of confidence and confidence is massively important when writing, especially when you’re trying to break down borders and do something innovative. It’s hard to have the confidence to do something that no one has ever done before because it seems a lot riskier. It’s a lot less stressful when you’re applying a formula that you’ve seen work time and time again. But fuck that. That’s not what’s art is about and that attitude won’t stimulate change and progression. You have to take risks and that’s something that we’re going to do a lot more of when writing our next record.
Two of you are brothers, but how did you connect with the rest of the band?
Brian and I have been recording and producing bands in Hamilton for almost a decade. Foster, Joey and David were all in bands that we worked with at some point. They all impressed us as musicians and people. The chemistry is just really natural because we’re all on the same page. We all have the same lofty ambitions and blue-collar work ethic that I think is necessary to be a great band.
This is possibly a stupid question: why do you play music? What do you get out of it?
I have a theory that every musician initially starts playing music for the same reason: to pick up chicks. I’m kidding of course! There is a shred of truth to that I’m sure, but I wouldn’t still be doing what I do after 14 years of little to no success if there wasn’t something more in it. Music has often served as a compass for my life. It has the ability to influence, inspire and change and that’s an incredible thing. Being able to influence people in a positive way is probably the greatest feeling in the world and to have the potential to do that on a large scale is amazing. Life is often very pragmatic. Music and art reminds us that it’s alright to dream and to be ambitious and it’s that mode of thinking that stimulates progression.
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