“Space Wizard” is the new video from Low Flying Hawks. Directed by Victoria Franco, the short film perfectly encapsulates the stark but impactful nature of the group’s music. Meditative without being married to lengthy drones, tuneful without landing anywhere near the realm of commerciality, its fierce inventiveness and independent spirit stand in sharp relief to a wave of musical acts more dedicated to staying true to a genre than an individual musical vision.
The song is culled from the group’s second LP, Genkaku. Japanese for “hallucination”, the word takes on deeper meaning across the album’s tightly-woven seven tracks, two of which (including “Space Wizard”) feature guest vocals from Buzz Osborne (Melvins). Low Flying Hawks is not a Melvins side project, though Melvins’ drummer Dale Crover and sometime Melvins’ bassist Trevor Dunn (also of Mr. Bungle fame) round out a group led by guitarists/vocalists EHA and AAL. With engineering and production from Toshi Kasai, the album is unlikely to be mistaken for anything in King Buzzo’s extended discography and yet will easily appeal to his loyal fans.
Low Flying Hawks remains an anomaly in the contemporary music scene, a group largely shrouded in mystery without constructing a façade of self-importance and cool remove. You can find information on the group, but what’s there doesn’t reveal much. There’s a minor social media presence, enough to let listeners know the band exists but not enough to be overwhelming.
And there’s the matter of where, exactly, Low Flying Hawks is located. Earth, Texas is frequently listed as the home base, though the founding members live in the vastness of Mexico City. The Texas locale wasn’t intended to throw people off the trail: It started as a quip about being of this planet, though Twitter added the state because that’s what Twitter will do. Founding members Eddie and Alex are better known by the initials EHA and AAL (which may or may not accurately represent their full names) because they insist, names are only a distraction.
“We think names are the least important things in a band,” Eddie offers with Alex adding, “It’s not like the ‘70s, and we’re trying to be superstars.”
Add to all of this an obsession with Japanese culture and Krautrock plus an out-and-out defiance of the heavy anything category, and the layers of the picture become, momentarily at least, more difficult to discern. Perhaps Earth is the best place to imagine Low Flying Hawks being from or perhaps it’s best to believe that EHA and AAL may be on a planet very much like it instead.
Speaking via Skype from their home base in Mexico City, the two were eager to discuss their music. It became apparent that it is their art that matters most. Genkaku by Low Flying Hawks is out August 25 on Magnetic Eye Records and may be ordered here.
You have a new video for the track “Space Wizard”, one of two tracks that Buzz Osborne sings on the new record.
EHA: We are really inspired by spacey, psychedelic music. We added the emotional, shoe-gazey part and it came together very, very easily. We asked Buzz to sing on it and he said, “Of course.” It was a really easy song for us to write.
AAL: It changed a little bit from when we started writing it.
EHA: When we started thinking about Buzz singing on it, it took on more of a groovy feel. We wrote the lyrics we sing; he wrote the lyrics he sings. [Engineer/producer] Toshi Kasai plays guitar in the second half of the song. The video is directed by Victoria Franco, who is the sister of Michel Franco (April’s Daughter, Chronic), they’ve both good friends of ours, we’ve been friends for over 30 years. Victoria had some footage leftover from our previous video, “Ruins” (2016). We talked with her about a concept, and this is a continuation of the first one. We’ll do a third one, a trilogy. It’s about the human condition and how the mind can take you to terrible places if you wish to go there. It’s up to you. That’s the basis of the record too. The mind can make you feel really good, or it can make you feel really bad. It depends on you.
It’s funny that you bring up hallucinations because there’s this strong psychedelic element to your music. It’s heavy there’s that mind-expanding quality to it. It’s not a copy of Sunn O))) but it has a similar spirit.
EHA: Psychedelic music to us was everything. We’re influenced by a lot of different genres, but psychedelic music is one that’s very, very important. All the way back to the psychedelic bands of the 1960s to the stuff that’s going on right now, like with the San Francisco scene. We’ve never thought of ourselves as a heavy metal band. Heavy metal bands are only heavy metal. We tried to do something more like Sunn O))): We have heavy guitars but don’t have the same focus on image. We love Judas Priest and Black Sabbath and grew up listening to a lot of metal bands from the UK, but we just don’t feel that attached to it.
Both your albums have titles taken from the Japanese language.
AAL: I think the Japanese language is way more profound than any other language. One word can mean many, many things. You can say in that one word what would take you four sentences to say in another. Low Flying Hawks is like our equivalent of the Japanese language: It’s not just a single meaning, a single genre. People can make up their own minds about what it is and what it means.
EHA: Today, we sound very heavy, but we’re working on an EP right now that sounds different than this. It’s almost folk at times. We don’t want to do the same thing over and over. It’s like Robert Fripp with King Crimson; it’s like he knows that the band can’t survive more than three albums in a certain direction. It’s like he knows the fourth one will sound exactly like the first three. He knows it’s not the right thing to do.
How has your music been received by the Japanese market?
EHA: We haven’t been able to get there but hopefully this time more people will hear the record, and we’ll get there. We hope.
You’ve been playing guitar for something like 25 years. Do you feel like that made it easier for your styles to match up?
EHA: Totally. If you don’t listen to the other player and let them use their ideas, you’re never going to develop a sense of trust. I’ve been listening to a lot of Grateful Dead and that’s what they did: Everyone had their own personality and they to put their egos aside and once you do that, anything is accomplishable.
I think you can also hear that in Krautrock, which is something you seem to have taken up.
EHA: There was so much mystique. When you read the story of Can and how they met in a castle in the middle of Germany? The whole idea of it was so mysterious. You can hear all these bands from over there that were trying to emulate Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic sound and they just added their nature, it became something new. It was natural. It was like it was meant to happen. They listened to wild psychedelic bands but then said, “We’re not going to copy them. We’re going to integrate them into our culture.” There’s a whole bunch of bands that nobody’s really heard, too, like German Oak. I think Amon Düül was like the Grateful Dead of Germany. The music happened because it had to happen.
It seems like you’re also interested in maintaining a similar sense of mystique around Low Flying Hawks.
EHA: We think that the problem with music today is that some time ago labels started building music up to this bubble that burst a few years ago. People don’t even want to listen to full songs anymore. If the labels would have treated music more like art and less like a commodity, maybe people today would consider music now more like they consider literature. You don’t just read two pages of a book and move on. You can’t just listen to one song from a band and then forget them. You have to consider the whole thing. Sunn O))) thinks that way. They think about the album packaging and the amps, and it’s all about the collective art. Krautrock was really trying to transmit something in a truly European, artistic way. That’s the part I like most about it.
Genkaku by Low Flying Hawks is out August 25th on Magnetic Eye Records.
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