Interview: Hushtones at Night and Day (MCR)

Anyone who follows Blue Light Beat on Instagram will know, that I’ve banged on about Hushtones since the first day I came across their music; I can never thank my ‘Spotify recommends for you’ enough, for throwing their dreamy harmonies in my direction. If anyone asks me who they should be listening to at the moment, this is always a band at the top of my list, and so far, I’ve not found anyone who disagrees after hearing their music. With a wistful, 60s/70s feel, bursting with all the goose bump inducing harmonies, Hushtones somehow manage to make me feel nostalgic about times that I’m not even sure I’ve lived through – I don’t know how they do it, so let’s call it magic and leave it at that.

Today, I was lucky enough to catch them before their show at Night and Day in the Northern Quarter, to talk about Liverpool life, equality in the music industry and the B word (Beatles, what else?). Without doubt, these guys make up one of the loveliest, most down to earth, bands I’ve ever spoken to.

I should also put out a disclaimer and say, that for full effect, you probably need to read all replies in a Scouse accent. 

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Hushtones (L to R): Joe (guitar/vocals), Martha (keyboard/vocals), Abe (Drums), Mick (guitar/vocals), Caitlin (bass/vocals) Photo: Manc Wanderer/Nathan Whittaker

Hals: First things first – welcome to the dark side, or Manchester as we call it. Let’s start broadly – give us a little introduction to Hushtones. How and where did it all begin for you?

Mick: I started it all about a year before Martha joined the band – I did all the song writing and fronted it, but it got to a point when I decided it was time that I needed someone to be creative with and share the load. We were working together in a little café, when I found out she could sing – I suppose it all properly started from there really. I knew Caitlin from school, Joe from the pub…

Martha: Joe was the last to join, and I think that was the point where it started to click and feel like a proper band

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Photo: Halyna Kay

Hals: So Joe, you’re taking credit for that I’m guessing?

Joe: I’d have it no other way really

Hals: How did that feel, coming into an already established group?

Joe: To be honest, I already liked the band and it was a very easy move, as we were mates – it felt like quite a natural progression

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Photo: Manc Wanderer/Nathan Whittaker

Mick: I saw him play at an open mic night and didn’t even realise he could play!

Joe: Three songs and – bam! – I was in

Martha: He could sing too, which was useful as we’re all about the harmonies- having that extra voice was great

Hals: I absolutely love the dreamy harmonies that you work into your songs; give me a good harmony and a disco beat any day and that’s me happy

Abe: Let’s be honest – a disco beat has never ruined a song, full stop.

Hals: Hah! That’s my life motto summed up in one little quote right there! With regards to writing music, is it more of a collective process now there are more of you?

Mick: We definitely share the load a lot more; everyone writes their own parts

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Photo: Manc Wanderer/Nathan Whittaker

Martha: There are quite a lot of songs where it’s like, Mick will write one, I’ll add a bit, then he’ll add a bit more– we kind of bring the skeleton to the band and they’ll flesh it out

Mick: Yeah, they’ll add the salt and pepper as it were

Hals: (*naturally there was an embarrassing Salt Bae impression here – why am I like this?*) What kinds of things do you like writing about?

Mick: We tend to write about stuff that’s happening, or whatever we’re talking about at the time

Joe: Just moaning pretty much

Hals: So in two weeks, we’ll have a song about Corona virus?

Mick: Yeah exactly, and how Glasto is cancelled no doubt (oh if only we’d known…)

Martha: I don’t think we have any love songs, do we? We stay very firmly away from it I think – I don’t want to write cheesy music! For example, one of our songs is literally about the fact I couldn’t sleep – I was in bed after a pretty heavy sesh, and it just came naturally. I prefer that style of writing

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Photo: Halyna Kay 

Joe: And plus, love songs take a fucking long time and a lot of thought

Martha: Recently we’ve been writing a lot about how we hate having to work when all we want to do is this, and about jobs we’ve had to quit too to keep it going

Hals: We asked our followers to send us their questions for you, and funnily enough someone did ask, what are the biggest sacrifices you’ve had to make to do what you love?

Martha: Quitting jobs definitely – I was faced with the dilemma of either working a shift I couldn’t get out of or doing a live session for BBC Introducing, and we just felt it was something we needed to do. It was a really good job too in a spa

Hals: Hello free spa treatments

Martha: Exactly

Hals: I suppose an opportunity like BBC Introducing is one you can’t turn down, because it’s something that starts off the career of so many bands

Joe: Yeah, it’s difficult but you just have to reorder your priorities I guess in order to keep doing what you love

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Photo: Manc Wanderer/Nathan Whittaker

Hals: I just want to talk about the Liverpool music scene a little- I’m guessing it’s a similar size to the Manchester scene, with lots of bands trying to do their thing and get noticed- do you find that it’s almost a ‘saturated’ market and difficult to stand out or is having so many other bands around you helpful for support?

Mick: It’s a bit of both really – sometimes you feel like you’re almost stuck in a bubble that’s really difficult to get out of

Martha: I definitely feel like we’ve played everywhere in Liverpool twice over and more, but it can also be really helpful for networking. You always know someone who can help you out in one way or another. I think we just want to get gradually further and further away from home with our touring

Joe: We’ve got some more regional shows coming up, like in Blackburn for example – I think that’s good because it means more to the locals, as fewer people play there, especially bigger bands who just don’t even consider it. It’s good to bring music to the smaller places, where you can reach people who just really want to see a bit of live music but are too far away from the bigger towns

Mick: We’d love to take our music further south and to London, but it’s just a case of getting a foot in the door

Hals: Highly recommend a great little venue in Camden called The Dublin Castle- a great place to start!

You guys have got a sound that I absolutely love – very dreamy, wistful, 60s/70s. Do you ever get compared to anyone?

Joe: No one that I’ve ever agreed with – I think you liked the Fleetwood Mac thing didn’t you?

Martha: Yeah someone once said the Scouse Fleetwod Mac! I think it’s just the male/female harmony thing though

Joe: I know it sounds proper pretentious, but I honestly can’t pin point a certain band that we sound like- I know that makes me sound like a right knob head though!

Mick: I think that because different people influence us all, it’s just like one big stew of tastes. I suppose we’ve not gone in and said, ‘right, we want to sound like these guys.’ It’s just the variation in the music you grow up listening to isn’t it?

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Photo: Halyna Kay

Hals: Like in Manchester at the moment everyone is living in the 70s with their cord flares – sometimes it looks like a scene from Life on Mars

Joe: It’s the same in Liverpool – we used to have everyone wanting to be the Arctic Monkeys or The Strokes

Hals: …and on a night out you’d bump into the 5 phases of Alex Turner all in one bar? I know exactly what you mean. Do you guys have any particular influences?

Joe: Obviously we love the Beatles…

Hals: I wasn’t going to mention the B word – I thought being a Liverpool band you’d be sick of hearing it

Joe: Nah you gotta love the Beatles!

Hals: I was going to say, the chorus of ‘Heart on your Sleeve’ always reminds me of ‘She’s so Heavy’ (my favourite Beatles song!). Obviously people look to the past when you talk of the Liverpool scene, but are there any up and coming bands you’d recommend?

Joe: There are some incredible bands out there at the mo – SPQR are amazing and also some of my best mates

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Photo: Halyna Kay 

Mick: Yeah they are amazing live, probably one of the best Liverpool bands around at the moment

Hals: I feel like the last few bands I’ve seen have all been from Liverpool – last week it was Mysterines and the weekend Gen and the Degenerates

Martha: Oh yeah Mysterines are great! I’ve never seen Gen and the Degenerates but heard great things

Mick: Yeah I’ve heard they are proper crazy live like jumping all over the place

Hals: The lead singer definitely shows the crowd who’s boss! A lot of these bands are fronted by women – how do you feel about the push for equality in the music scene and do you feel that being a band of mixed genders has helped you at all?

Mick: I don’t think it’s done us any harm to be honest

Martha: As we’re a band that’s mixed girls and boys, it’s not even something I’ve ever thought about really – we are who we are, and we just let the music speak for itself. Our friends run a thing called Bitch Palace – I don’t know if you’ve heard of them?

Hals: I think I actually follow them on Instagram…

Martha: They put on big nights where every band is either a girl band or has a female member – Nikki runs it from Nikki and the Waves – they actually supported The Mysterines recently. It’s such a nice, supportive thing to be a part of! That’s who we’re doing our headline show with

Hals: Liverpool seem to be doing really well in the push for equality – I follow ‘Where are the Girlbands?’ which is based in Liverpool, and some of the stats about females in the music scene are so shocking and it’s great that they are being highlighted

Martha: We’re on there somewhere! I think we were featured a while back

Joe: You know, I’ve noticed there are a lot of amazing punk kinda girl bands coming out these days – art school style, off the wall craziness – my mates just started in one called Tits Up and they’re really good. Lot’s of rebellion around at the moment you can feel it.

Hals: So a final big question – what’s next for Hushtones?

Matha: We’ve been in the studio with Steve Levine recently and have a Double A Side on  it’s way in the springtime – we’re just climbing the ladder one rung at a time. We’ve got a few things lined up for summer, but nothing is official yet so keep your eyes open for what’s to come

Joe: We’re really excited for what’s ahead, but it’s just important to keep your feet on the ground I think

Mick: It’s just nice to do it all, whatever your doing like, with your best mates – at the end of the day that’s what we are

Joe: Awwww all me mates in one room – aren’t I the lucky one?!

Mick: Shut up Joe

It’s worth noting that this interview was done before the Coronavirus shit storm (to put it politely) – so to keep fully up to date with any future new releases, tour dates and INCREDIBLE harmonies, follow @hushtones_liverpool on Instagram and Facebook here. 

(Interview by Halyna)

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