Emotional Rescue

27 June 2012 | 5:30 am | Nic Toupee

Jimmy Hawk & The Endless Party prove that confession is good for the soul on new album Liberty Sunset Blue, writes Nic Toupee.

Five o'clock, Sunday afternoon. If you're not paid to do something productive – say cheffing or working behind the bar in a pub – then it's totally sacred relaxation time. A nice warming brandy, an open fire, a fine book or even replays of Euro 2012 if you're that way inclined: Sunday evenings are sacrosanct. Unless, of course, you're Jimmy Hawk. Hawk, singer/songwriter with Jimmy Hawk & The Endless Party, certainly isn't partying today.

“I've been working this afternoon; I'm a workaholic! Not that being a musician is really work but…“ he trails off in his husky drawl. Surprising, really: the music Jimmy Hawk & The Endless Party make – their first eponymous release and now the quick follow-up, Liberty Sunset Blue – sound undisputably mellow. 

“That's the trick wth rock'n'roll,” Hawk smirks knowingly, “you gotta make it sound like you're not trying.”

The crib notes which journalists receive before an interview, on this occasion, describe Liberty Sunset Blue as having more of a soul influence, compared to the band's previous work. Now one doesn't call oneself an expert on the finer points of the genre, but try as I might, I have failed miserably to find the 'soul' element within the album.

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“Well, it's obviously not literal,” Hawk advises, to my relief. “There are lots of different elements aside from soul on the album: folk rock and pop. Obviously in the past we've had a slightly Americana-influenced sound, whereas we do think this album is slightly more soul-influenced. Conceptually though it is more soulful; for me 'soul' is more of an emotional place,” he concludes, again sounding vague, although his explanation actually makes sense.

Hawk's conceptual shift makes its way into the album in subtle ways. And, like a Where's Wally? picture, once you know what to look for, it's impossible not to see it. “With the first record I made, Echo Park [which Hawk released under his own name, before hitching his wagon to the Endless Party], a lot of it was folk rock. And with folk rock music you tend to tell more stories. With this record, it was more confessional on a lyrical and communication level, talking from a first-person perspective. If you listen to Motown – Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke – their songs are like a one-to-one dialogue, rather than a song about a grand journey like folk-rock songs.”

While the style might be confessional, don't get too excited – this is not the moment when you see Hawk's emotional underthings exposed for your examination. “They're not about me, no,” he concedes of the songs. “[They] are about art, about… at the end of the day it depends what interpretation you want to put on it. I see making music, or any art form, as a two-way street: at some point it ends up in a performance or on record and that's when the magic happens, an alchemy that creates something else for somebody else. It doesn't really matter what I think about the songs,” he offers.

Hawk is fond of this idea of sonic 'alchemy', and the melding of personalities in a mysterious manner to concoct pure musical gold. He describes the songwriting process within his band as similarly alchemic. “With this band, we're lucky because there's a chemistry between us all, very organic,” he says. “A lot of the time songwriting will come from an impulse. The process is very… fluid.” 

A workaholic he may be, but a control freak Hawk is not. “I think you have to be relaxed about writing songs [with a band] or you go crazy. I know there are a lot of people who like to have more control. but I think you have to lose control to make things beautiful.”