There’s something unique, and beautiful about A Hawk and a Hacksaw. In these days of X-Factor and formulaic unit-obsessed drivel, the Albuquerque, New Mexico duo have furrowed if not a lonely path, then a reasonably empty one. After playing drums in the much missed Natural Milk Hotel, Jeremy Barnes passed through several bands, before travelling Europe and emersing himself in the culture and music of the continent. In 2001 he formed A Hawk and a Hacksaw, playing the accordion, and recruited his now-wife Heather Trost, on Violin.
Developing ideas taken from (predominantly Eastern) European folk music, the have made a handful of albums of stunning quality, breadth and beauty. Out now is their latest album ‘You have already gone to the other world’, so we spoke to Jeremy Barnes about the band, the album and their influences.
Tell us a bit about the new album – It’s a soundtrack? How did that come about – were you a fan of the film, or did you deliberately set out to find a film to write a soundtrack for?
The record is not a soundtrack, strictly speaking. It is not linear, it does not follow the film. But it was inspired by the film, and there are songs that are dedicated to characters and moments in the film’s story. It is our first double record, was produced by John Dieterich from Deerhoof, recorded in our house… we play all the instruments with John guesting on two tracks. It was super fun to make.
Its not the first time you’ve done a soundtrack (I’m thinking of Zizek!) is it a form of working you enjoy?
If we can be in control, yes.
How do you go about scoring/composing for a film – was it a similar process to just writing an
album? What was different?
We played along with various scenes from the film, but the record came about as we were touring with the live soundtrack and the movie kind of sunk into our heads more… So we started looking at writing songs specifically for the characters and moments…
And you’re still very much influenced by European folk music?
And there’s such a wealth of it to see and hear – I can’t imagine a great deal of it is on the web, or at least accessible to someone who doesn’t speak the language?
We travel over there quite a bit, we collect records, and yes, there is a lot on youtube and other places on the web if you know where to look… We also lived in Hungary for two years, working with musicians from Budapest.
I always think that film composers must get totally sick of watching the same film over and over again? Did you get to that stage?
No. Every time I watch this film I get something more out of it.
And you’re taking it out to do some shows? Are they majority going to be live with the film?
We are doing concerts of the songs that were written for the film, and some traditional music.
You’re in the middle of a pretty big tour in support of the album – is travelling something you enjoy?
Yes but I miss my home, my dog.
You lived and travelled through Europe for a time – is that where your love of the music came from?
No, that came later. I first fell in love with this music while living the Ukrainian village, a neighborhood in Chicago, in 1999.
And your album is out on your own label L.M Dupli-cation – have you any future plans for the label?
We are putting out a great record of traditional Turkish Roma music in June- Cüneyt Sepeteçi and Orchestra Dolapdere.
And the rest of the year for a hawk and a hacksaw?
We are touring until July. We have two records in our heads that we would like to complete this year, and then there are a few more that we will potentially release.
The best record I’ve heard this year is….
Chris Cohen’s new record The Overgrown Path
A Hawk and a Hacksaw – You have already gone to the other world