Hello and welcome to the tenth installment of Eric Morgan’s How To Kill Your Band. This column offers advice to up and coming artists from the perspective of a professional musician who has thrived with and without label support over the last decade. If you have any questions regarding the content of this blog, or if you would like to learn more information about the services offered by Haulix, please email email@example.com and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
I’ve been in the music industry as an artist for nearly 10 years now. In that decade I’ve achieved nearly all of my childhood music dreams, but I’ve also made just as many mistakes that run over my mind before I fall asleep each night. A wonderment of how a few different decisions, rerunning in hindsight, would work out in some alternate universe. This ever creeping determinism is a fallacy I’m quite aware of but one that I will never completely shake, though it’s these experiences I’ve learned the most valuable lessons. These are the things I’d like to share in a series of mini-blogs I call How To Kill Your Band.
Part 9 – A Conversation With Hopesfall’s Adam Morgan (Part 2)
This week on the HTKYB, I will be sharing the second half of my interview with Hopesfall founding drummer Adam Morgan. Part 1 can be found here. Hopesfall was founded in 1998 and quickly developed from a regional favorite to a national force that blurred the lines between metal and hardcore with unconventional song structures and spacey melodic soundscapes. The group dealt with the entire spectrum of band troubles ranging from a multitude of member changes to publicized confrontations with their label all while their music continued to grow and become a pillar of the hardcore scene. Adam was kind enough to take part a series of back and forth emails over the past weeks where we discussed his experiences in the band and shed light on the lessons he had learned during his time in the industry.
E: So I was very curious and went back and listened to track 6 of The Satellite Years “A Man Exits” to see if I could spot any differences in the mix compared to the rest of the album. All I could pull out was a little bit of tone variation in the guitars compared to the other tracks but obviously nothing I would of picked up without a hint.
A: Yeah…I guess it’s not too big of a deal. Something about the guitar mix, right at the 0:47 mark, just irks me.
E: The grass is always greener. I think your experience resonates with many other touring musicians when it comes to deciding how to move forward in life. Like you mentioned earlier, there’s that initial period of being proud of the work and adventure you get to experience everyday on the road, especially when you know people who are trudging to the same boring cubicle day after day. But the other side of it is that when you come home you realize that these people have the financial security, relationships, and other comforts you miss out on while traveling.
It’s interesting to see the advice you’d give your younger self to enjoy the moment and to keep working on what you’ve put so much effort into building. When you’re in a position where comfort and security take a backseat to everything else, the propensity to feel that your time is running out only gets stronger. It’s what bands succumb to most often. Do you think it’s possible to find a balance between being a touring artist and living a “normal” life or is it mutually exclusive in your eyes?
A: Thats a great point and question. I actually do think it’s possible to be a touring musician while still retaining all those securities you mentioned. I’d say it’s extremely rare, but I’ve seen and met members in bands who have great, secure jobs, and understanding, encouraging spouses that help allow them to enjoy both aspects of normal life and road life.
However…I think in most cases, there will always come a time when you just have to weigh out what matters most to you. Looking down the road, into your financial and post-band future, can be extremely hard, especially while you are in the middle of living your dream, but it’s definitely something you have to consider because let’s face it, the chances of your band becoming your full-time job, for the rest of your life, is slim to nil.
E: You said you left the band prior to tracking A Types for several reasons including not being entirely happy with the writing process. That record ended up being Hopesfall’s most commercially successful release, but also pivoted the sound in a way that separated it from what the band had been known for. You mentioned that you had agreed to push in a more traditional song based direction with a bigger emphasis on choruses and hooks. Now that a decade has passed, how do you view that record and the shift in sound? At the time, the band had already released two albums and an EP in that “original” style. Was going in such a drastic new direction viewed as a necessity for sustaining creativity among the group?
A: I think A Types is good for what it is; that being: a transitional album. We were trying something brand new to us, and just like anybody trying something new for the first time, it’s usually not going to be perfect. I wouldn’t consider it a “necessity” for sustaining creativity. I think if we wanted to put out another hardcore record at that point, we still could have produced something creative and interesting. It just felt like a good time to move forward, especially since Jay was our singer now, and had proven he could take on more of a melodic singing role.
After all, our music was always heavily influenced by bands like Hum and Smashing Pumpkins. That’s the sound we were always striving for. I believe the departure from screaming and breakdowns was actually more of a step toward remaining true to ourselves and playing the kind of music we wanted to hear.
E: In late 2005 you rejoined the band after Adam Baker left. Why did you decide to come back? You ultimately left again in 2006. Did you view it as a temporary situation from the onset?
Hopesfall toured Brazil in October of 2005. You guys had toured internationally before but Brazil is more of a rare musical opportunity. Describe what it was like to tour in that country? Was that part of the reason for rejoining for a bit?
A: The decision to come back after Baker had left the band was just a temporary thing. At that time, Josh had come to me and asked if I’d be willing to help them out with a few tours that they had already committed to; one of those tours being a Brazil tour. It was really a perfect situation for me because I was really starting to miss touring and performing, but at the same time, I still didn’t want to be in a full-time touring band. Oh…and it was a chance to go to BRAZIL!
That Brazil tour was incredible. Up until then, the only other foreign countries I had played were Canada and the UK. It was the first time I was in a country whose native language wasn’t English (well, besides Montreal, Quebec, and a couple parts of Central Avenue, here in Charlotte). Even though a lot of the fans over there didn’t know English, or I, Portuguese, it didn’t stop them from trying to communicate to us just how much it meant to them that we were there, playing for them. They were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and they went off at every show. It was definitely an experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
E: Wow, that show in São Paulo looks insane. It’s hard to argue with taking an opportunity to play packed out shows while traveling Brazil.
Since you went into the rejoining as a temporary position, were you part of the process in preparing what would be Hopesfall’s final album, 2007’s Magnetic North, or was another album never in your personal plans? That record is clearly an evolution of the sound found on A Types but also reintroduces some of the aggressive dynamics found on earlier works. Do you feel the record was an appropriate way to bookend the band that you had such a significant presence in?
A: I didn’t have any hands in the preparation, or recording of Magnetic North. After we finished up those tours, the band recruited an incredible drummer by the name of Jason Trabue. He came in and wrote/recorded Magnetic North with the guys. I think it’s a great album to bookend the Hopesfall discography. I can’t say enough good things about that album. I think it is a fantastic rock record.
E: In 2011, Hopesfall reunited the No Wings to Speak Of era lineup for two one-off reunion shows in Winston-Salem and Charlotte, NC. Can you talk about how the idea of the reunion came about and why this specific version of the band was chosen? I was lucky enough to attend the Charlotte date and was impressed with how the band was able to re-learn the entire Frailty of Words album after so many years and member changes between. What was it like personally for you to go back and learn those first songs and to perform them live for the first time in over a decade?
A: The reunion shows came about because we were approached by our good buddies, and old touring mates, Codeseven. They told us that they were playing a reunion show in Winston-Salem (their hometown) as part of a grand reopening of an old rock venue (ZIGGY’s) we all use to play at. They asked Josh to check with the rest of us about playing with them. It worked out with everyone’s schedule and it felt like a good idea.
I don’t really know why we decided on the No Wings To Speak Of line-up. I guess it just felt natural because we were playing in Winston, with Codeseven. It was almost like hopping in a time machine and going back to relive those early Hopesfall days for just one last time.
Relearning the songs from Frailty was a little strange for me, personally. Those songs are a reflection of where I was at as a young 16 year old drummer. I like to think that I’ve come a long way in the last 17 years. So, to get in a room and practice playing those songs that were written during the early years felt like such a digression. It was like I was practicing sucking. But overall, it brought back some great memories, and most importantly, it was a such a great opportunity to hang out and play music with some of my best friends. During the course of the band, and line-up changes, some of the guys never had the opportunity of knowing that they were playing their last show with the band. I think the chance to play those 2 reunion shows was a perfect way to bring closure to that era of the band.
E: Quickly, I have to ask. In percentage form, what are the chances of another reunion show in the next couple years? I mean you already did the hard work of learning those songs…
A: Haha! Well…since I can only speak for myself; I’d be willing to do it again if the conditions were right. So I guess since there are 5 of us, that would make it a 20% chance of another reunion show. Haha!
E: Being a dad must be a fairly full time deal, but are you working on anything music related in your free time? When the reunion shows were announced you mentioned a new project with Josh Brigham, is that a project that is still in development?
E: Finally, I don’t think I could complete this interview without mentioning your ridiculous vinyl collection. Have you always been a vinyl aficionado? You frequently showcase albums on your purgeb4ubinge Instagram account, what about vinyl encouraged you to take such an active role in collecting and discussing the median?
A: It’s definitely something I’ve really gotten into in the last few years. There are a lot of aspects to vinyl records that make collecting them very rewarding. It brings back a lot of that excitement that use to go along with buying music before MP3s became popular. Just think about all those experiences that are lost now when you click a “download” button on your computer. For me, the artwork for an album is just as important as the music itself. It’s always gone hand-in-hand. Having that first visual impression of the album in the record store, tearing the shrink wrap off the album, being able to hold a large format album cover, feeling the paper, the ink, pulling the insert out, looking over it, handling the record, putting it down on your turntable, and dropping the needle onto the record. To me there is something special about that ritual. Something that is totally lost now. On top of all that, I believe vinyl produces a warmer and overall more organic sound. The only thing vinyl lacks is convenience, which is why I still love my iPod and can acknowledge the importance of mp3 and other digital files.
E: It’s been great talking to you about your experiences as a founding member of Hopesfall. You’ve brought up and discussed many of the hard choices that today’s touring musicians are currently going though. Do you have any last words of advice for aspiring artist who are trying to make sense of the modern musical landscape?
A: I’m not sure I’m in any position to be giving advice, but since you asked: Write the songs and play the music that you want to hear. Use all the tools you have (social media, music streaming sites) to get your music out to the public. Play out as often as you can. Interact with your fan base in a positive way. Be creative. Work harder on your songs than you do your image. Have a music lawyer thoroughly explain any label contract. Never sign away your publishing. Never buy into your hype. Most importantly, have fun and cherish the time you have creating music with your friends.