Chosen One: A Hawk And A Hacksaw
(Part 1) Interview with Jeremy Barnes, A Hawk And A Hacksaw.
“I’ve loved A Hawk And A Hacksaw ever since I first encountered them with the release of their first album. Over the years they’ve surprised and thrilled me repeatedly – both on record and at their incendiary live shows. I find their music so thrilling, I think, because their music offers many qualities I rarely hear in music either new or old.”
—Dan Snaith, Caribou
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
‘You Have Already Gone To The Other World’ is the highly anticipated new release from A Hawk And A Hacksaw. Over the past couple of years, A Hawk And A Hacksaw sporadically toured a live soundtrack to Sergei Parajanov’s 1964 film ‘Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors’, and earlier this month saw the highly anticipated release of this new music. The New Mexico based duo of Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost have made yet another captivating and compelling body of work, using the Turkish and Balkan folk template. The duo explain the new music composed for Parajanov’s film “accompanies, comments on, and sometimes overtakes the original soundtrack and dialogue.” The title-track of ‘You Have Already Gone To The Other World’ is a breathtaking piece of music. Trost’s violin conjures up a world of forgotten dreams. The pulsating rhythm and percussion evokes life and death. The flow of majestic keyboards offers the perfect counterpoint. This represents A Hawk And A Hacksaw’s latest chapter in their long-established vivid songbook. ‘You Have Already Gone To The Other World’ is a work of pure beauty and pure emotion.
My first introduction to A Hawk And A Hacksaw was back in 2006, with the release of ‘The Way the Wind Blows’ on the Leaf label. This, their third album, includes contributions from Beirut’s Zach Condon and Balkan brass heroes Fanfare Ciocarlia. The album encompasses a world of achingly beautiful sound, a common thread in each and every of the duo’s releases over the years. Heather Trost’s violin and viola is in constant dialogue with Barnes’s accordions, piano, percussion and vocals. A deep telepathic understanding is forever inherent between the pair. This is immediately obvious when witnessing one of the band’s incendiary live shows. During the same year, I was incredibly fortunate to see them in concert in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. The band was part of a magnificent triple-bill, alongside Beirut and Tuscon, Arizona’s Calexico. The kindred spirits inhabited a magical realm, casting endless inspiration on all those present. Trost and Barnes live onstage, is one of those rare moments in music where time and space stands still. I remember seeing glimpses of the entire roadcrew and members of Calexico and Beirut at the side of the stage, standing as silent witness in awe of their heart-wrenching songs. I think it offers a beautiful snapshot of just how A Hawk And A Hacksaw are a pure joy to savour who will forever be revered by their peers.
In a recent interview with guitarist and composer Ryan Francesconi, he described his love for Balkan music: “It has the technical skill that the brain enjoys, but a depth of heart that isn’t matched by much else out there.” I feel this epitomises the music of Barnes and Trost, whose newest masterwork ‘You Have Already Gone To The Other World’ embodies a fulfilling and enriching journey.
Jeremy Barnes Interview (Part One)
Please tell me first of all the origin of this (beautiful) album title?
The title is a quote from the film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.
We are talking about the Other World, as in the Afterlife, the BEYOND.
The new double-album is a soundtrack to Sergei Parajanov’s 1964 film ‘Shadow Of Forgotten Ancestors’. I would love to gain an insight into the process in which you both composed and performed the music to accompany this film?
We watched it over and over and over. We watched alot of Hutzul weddings on youtube (the Hutzul are a Ukrainian minority who live in the High Carpathian Mountains of Southern Ukraine/Northern Romania). We also worked on the recordings for a year.
Discuss please your love for film director Sergei Parajanov and the stimilus that led you to soundtrack this particular film?
He is a great storyteller, but very unique in the way he tells stories, in that he often uses images or abstract suggestion. As a mostly instrumental band, it is inspiring to see the way he treats cinema.
We also love the way that reality, magic, institutional religion, and the religion of the woods, of nature, are all intersecting in his films. Dreams and the beyond are never far away.
What film scores hold significant resonance for you?
Have you seen Dead Man? The Jarmusch film? Off the top of my head, that one is so good- Neil Young’s best guitar sound. But also, Nino Rota’s films, Raymond Scott… Crossing the Bridge…Romanistanbul.
Please rewind to (circa) 2004 when you both started working together. Can you please recount the first time you both met and where and how this took place and what was the first conversation you shared?
I went to hear Heather play at a bar in Albuquerque. I asked her if she knew the composer Béla Bartok, and she said she loved his music, so from that point I knew that we could play together.
Discuss please the strong musical connection that is so powerfully evident between you both? How has this developed over the years?
That is hard to discuss… we play music, we do the dishes, we work on the garden together, we travel together… there is a love between us, we are happy together…
Across several compelling releases, you have mastered the Balkan and Turkish folk tradition. Trace for me please the moments in your life that proved to be the gateway into Eastern European music?
It would take generations to master. That is one of the beautiful things about folk music.
One of the first live shows I ever saw was a klezmer band at my friend’s Bar Mitzvah. I was completely entranced in the music and the art of making music, the unspoken connection between players, the secret language, the secret skills that you have to learn…
I love ‘The Way The Wind Blows’. A work of divine art. Even, the artwork that adorns the sleeve, before any music is heard. My favourite pieces are the title-track with that sublime accordion and brass arrangement. Also, ‘Oporto’ with Heather’s lead violin takes my breath away. Can you discuss this album in terms of recording and the space and time in which ‘The Way The Wind Blows’ was conceived?
It took about six months, some of it was done in my one room house in Albuquerque, where I would sleep on the couch. Some of it was done in Romania with Fanfare Ciocarlia, who were so nice, and just loved to sit and record and add solos and harmonies and drink coffee. And their kids would come over and watch me record on my lap top and laugh at me, and we would draw pictures together while watching Mexican soap operas on the satellite dish.
Can you please discuss the experience of working with the Hungarian folk group The Hun Hangar Ensemble?
It was school for us. We all worked super hard together, and Heather and I learned quite a bit, not just about our instruments, but about arranging for wind instruments and living and working and practice!
‘You Have Already Gone To The Other World’ is out now on L.M. Dupli-cation.
A Hawk And A Hacksaw play the Workman’s Club, Dublin on April 23rd and Half Moon Theatre, Cork on April 24th.