Our band of the week HAWK are an indie alt-rock foursome, based in London and headed up by lead singer Julie Hawk.
Their upcoming single ‘Once Told’ addresses Ireland’s outdated abortion laws, and previous single ‘Glass’ aimed to start a conversation regarding the Irish Marriage referendum, which took place earlier this year. It’s safe to say that HAWK are a band with politics and meaning at the core of their song writing, and they’re not afraid of making a point.
Here, guitarist Matt Harris took the time to tell us about the band’s experiences of sending an important message, via the medium of music.
Politics is a huge and delicate topic to talk about in any format, let alone music, but we’ve had an interesting experience over our last two tracks – which were both considered political in nature.
For those that don’t know, we released a track called ‘Glass’ earlier this year with a goal of trying to get our musical and social circle talking about the Same-Sex Marriage Referendum in Ireland that took place on May the 22nd. Our most recent track, ‘Once Told’, is trying to raise questions around abortion laws in Ireland.
While the response to both singles has been overwhelmingly positive, there have been plenty of doubts and moments of frustration along the way.
They fall into three major categories:
Scorn and cynicism
The first is the scorn and cynicism that most people have when a band puts themselves behind a cause or important issue. With ‘Glass’ that was our chief concern. It was a topic that all four of us cared a lot about, and we were worried that people would just think it was an attempt at cheap publicity.
When we were in Ireland on tour in March we met groups of students and canvassers who were campaigning for the ‘yes’ vote in the same-sex marriage referendum. The amount of effort and passion was infectious. The general perspective was that a ‘yes’ vote was the likely outcome, but complacency could become a factor and people might not show up to vote.
That was what convinced us to go ahead in the end. We were of the opinion that pulling our punches and not being clear about the political motivation would be a bit like us not turning up. So we went ahead.
The second element is the coverage we have had. Underpinning everything that we stand for as a band is the fact that we aren’t trying to force our beliefs on to anyone. If people disagree with us, that is absolutely their choice.
We all feel that there’s a massive amount of subtlety and complexity to equality, rights and the various subjects that we’ve tried to tackle and plan on tackling in the future. Sometimes this gets lost due to the fact that people have to write a short, snappy headline and some of the subtlety and complexity of the points we have tried to make gets lost or misinterpreted.
If people read past the headline or listen to the song they will hopefully see that we aren’t trying to be crass, but the worry is that people will skim and draw the wrong conclusions.
The third and perhaps most frustrating element to the picture has been trying to have the debate in social media. For example, we’ve had posts on our Facebook page in reference to some of the comments we’ve made around abortion laws in Ireland. But responding to a Facebook comment or tweet is so unlikely to create a constructive debate.
Most of the comments make separate points that don’t deal with the issues we’ve raised around rape, incest or equivalents in other parts of society. Rather they talk about something like the ‘importance of human spirit’. None of us disagree that human life is important and, as I say, responding to that kind of comment just doesn’t feel like it will get us anywhere other than a group of separate points being made over and over. It’s frustrating.
Despite all this, the vast majority of the experience for us has been hugely positive. The musical elements have been well received. The messages have also seemed to resonate in the musical and social circles that we were hoping they would with a largely positive response. I think that is because we are genuinely, as a band, behind the points we are making and have been able to back them up when pushed with well thought out arguments.
That is probably the lesson we’ve learned. If you are genuine, the experience will be positive – and while not every song we write will be political in nature, the last six months won’t put us off.
Words by Matt Harris.
‘Once Told’ is due for release on February 19. Watch this space for tour dates.
Main image: HAWK press