'Sisters Are Still Doin' It For Themselves!'
Sometimes it takes time to get back to the basics, get back to one’s roots, and build up the important things. For Sister Hazel, it’s always been about the music, but over the course of their decade-plus music making career, it has expanded beyond that to incorporate so much more. They’ve maintained their unerring focus and desire to help, to share, to include, and to grow -- be it through their music or through other means -- all the while stretching their musical umbrella to cover what has become a true community.
At the basis of that umbrella is the music, and their latest, and perhaps best-realized Sister Hazel record start to finish, is aptly named Absolutely. The affirmative overtones of the title only serve to underscore the pride the band justly feels with the end result. “In the most non-egotistical way possible, I feel this is the best record we’ve ever made,” says rhythm guitarist/vocalist Drew Copeland. Concurs bassist Jett Beres: “We’re journeymen and we’ve focused on creating a cathartic experience for our fans. We want our fans to feel what we’re feeling, so the lyrics are really important.”
Equally important is capturing that elusive live show magic, and Beres feels that they’ve succeeded in coming closer to doing that. “This record captures our live show vibe well.”
The band came together in the vibrant college town of Gainesville, Florida, and while most local bands never got out of the small city, Sister Hazel's popularity grew until the band was recognized all over the country. Sister Hazel released their first, self-titled debut album independently through their own label, Croakin Poets before '...Somewhere More Familiar,' sold approximately 30,000 copies through its initial pressing, prompting Universal Records to sign the band.
After an amicable split with Universal, they released their fourth studio album on the Sixthman label, 'Chasing Daylight,' before closing the year with the simultaneous double release of Live 'LIVE,' a two-disc concert album, and 'A Life in the Day,' a live DVD.
A pair of new studio releases followed: 2004's 'Lift,' a full-length studio CD, and 2005's 'Lift: Acoustic Renditions,' an EP of studio acoustic takes on five of the Lift songs, offered exclusively online through Apple's iTunes music service.
Taking it from the top with bassist Jett Beres, and commenting that it is widely known that their debut self-titled album is known by fans as the 'White Album,' I first wondered just why that was? "It's an eponymously entitled album that we cut very early in our career to get gigs with. The quality is very demo like, but in retrospect I think shows the promise of the work we would eventually do. The fans seem to feel a connection to it as our begining, where we came from. They dubbed it "the white album" early on, and it just stuck."
Being that you had quite a successful period of time with Universal, why the so-noted "amicable split" from them in 2003? "So many bands have horror stories about their label experinces. When it was time for us to part ways with Universal, we wanted everyone to know that wasn't the case with us. Universal was a huge part of taking our career, and national presence to the next level, and we felt appreciative of that. Leaving Universal was the best decision for our band at the time, but was in no way reflective of them not doing their job. We felt we at owed them that recognition."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying the new CD, how would you yourself describe your sound? "I would describe it as roots inspired rock and roll. Like sushi at
cracker barrel...sophisticated comfort food!"
Your new album title 'Absolutely' is an interesting choice, but is it born of a more personal nature for you, perhaps? "ABSOLUTELY!.....great word ain't it?!"
OK, moving on then ... and if there was one track on this new album that truly encapsulated Sister Hazel at their current musical and lyrical finest, which one would it be? "The problem with that question is that our strength lies in our ability to adress many different facets of music, all of which we are fans of, and tie them in to the sound that has come to define us."
"I'll give you three tracks: 'Shame' approaches capturing our live
sound as good as anything we've ever recorded; 'Mandolin Moon' shows
the fun side of the band that our fans have grown to love over the
years, and shows elements like our four part harmonies, and signature
grooves; 'Tear by Tear' might be one of the most emotional and songs
we've ever crafted, presenting at the same time the real struggles we
face in life, with the hope of overcomming them. I coud go on like
that with each song."
OK, I guess it's now time for me to tell you that I think this album is my album of the year thus far! Each and every track is a well-crafted song of pure brilliance. So, now that is off my chest, do you also feel much the same way, perhaps?! "ABSOLUTELY!...see it works for everything. This is proving to be my favorite record to date. I think it has so many levels, and will unviel itself over time in different layers to the listener. A lot of depth here."
So just where did the bands name originate ... and what else could it so easily have been?! "There is a real Sister Hazel. She was an inspiration to every one around her. We hoped to do the same. Plus, it's a better name than "Uncle Farty"!"
It's been stated that the first song the band ever wrote together was 'Feel It' from your first self-titled album. So, this being the case, how has the song writing changed since those days? "Back then Ken wrote most all of the songs for Sister Hazel. Today, Ken has honed his craft to in my opinion , at times, pure brilliance. Over the last several records, the rest of the band has stepped up their game in the song writing arena also. Everyone is writing all the time now, and our collaberations within the band have gotten better and better. Collectively we're a song writing machine. There's never a lack of material to work on."
If you could cover any '80s (possibly cheesy!) pop song, which one would it be ... and why?! "'Your Love' by The Outfield. It's one of those songs that defines a moment in your life. Those are the best kind of songs to me."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "Penguins ride the line between cute and creepy. The way they waddle makes you wanna just hug em, but a lot of 'em coming at you in a dark room is the stuff nightmares are made of!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Sister Hazel's new CD, just answer this easy question: Which National League baseball team uses "All For You," "Change Your Mind", and "Happy" frequently as stadium music between innings at their home field?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before December 1st with your answer and the subject title 'CONTEST: SISTER HAZEL SIGNED CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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