Hawks of Alba
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Hawks of Alba

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia | SELF

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia | SELF
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NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR / HAWKS OF ALBA

As much as I'm aware, this band never headlined a show in 2010. Not even once; or at least none I can recall (like if a tree falls in the woods and Spoz isn't there it blog it, did it REALLY happen?). They never launched a demo, single, EP, album or seven inch vinyl. They were never ones for wild theatrics, whizzbang explosions, smoke machines, confetti cannons, belly dancers or outrageous horn sections. They weren't really known for their mad moshpits, stage invaders or crowd surfers. Shit they barely even promoted themselves at ALL outside of facebook or twitter, they had fuck-all merchandising, "image", ego or gargantuan 10ft stage persona to project.. in fact short of winning a teeny tiny spot on this year's Adelaide Big Day Out courtesy of Triple J Unearthed (and high rotation airplay to boot) and a spot on the Coopers Alive lineup? it could be argued that they didn't draw ANY attention to themselves at all: short of that one time singer Sarah Masters rocked up in a goofy "Darth Vader" outfit (with a cape!) or that time guitarist Hannah Fairlamb's "space invader" t-shirt malfunctioned (HA HA HA duuude it made beeping noises and everything!) but to their infinite credit? it's not like they ever needed it! Humble almost to a fault, Hawks Of Alba are simply put the closest thing 2010 ever had to a slam dunk, a bona-fide, no brainer kickass live performer! They're a guarenteed crowd pleaser. Not once did they ever have a dud show. NOT ONCE!! Not once did they fail to reel us in hook line and sinker with their infectious sound! In fact on more than one occassion I could've sworn they were actually robots sent from the future to kill us all.. only at the last minute they formed a goofy 90's guitar pop band instead (and yet they're simultaneously the nicest people you'd ever damn near meet? weeeird!). Yup originally formed as a geekrock "power duo" between husband and wife Aidan Moyse on drums and Sarah Masters on guitar back in 2006 (Running With Horses anyone!?) they all but disappeared when they went to live in Glasgow for a few years running (go figure?), only to return in late 2009, bringing Hannah Fairlamb in on guitar (with Sarah swapping over to bass), changing their name to "Hawks Of Alba" at which point pure awesomeness was born! And yes I can appreciate in saying all that: that this might disqualify them from winning "new artist of the year" for having such "history", as much as I could just as easily argue that leaving the Adelaide scene for well over three years only to change your name and add an extra guitarist REQUALIFIES you.. but all this is merely moot when you consider just what they brought to a live stage this year. Yup Hawks Of Alba played EVERYWHERE in 2010, to pretty much everyone, every week, almost to the point of being a "Mona Lisa Overdrive" in raging scenester omnipresence; and yet no matter how many times you saw them live you NEVER got sick of them. For one they had that damn near impossible not to love "90's nostalgic" sound: equal parts The Breeders, Veruca Salt, Magic Dirt and PJ Harvey. Secondly they cooked up such instantly infectious songs from it: that metronomic bouncing beat, bass, buzzing guitar and glockenspiel overlaid with Sarah's teeny tiny "twee" vocals. Thirdly it's how its both ever so stupidly light and colourful, yet full of menacing fuzz and charcoal grit when Hannah tears into the solos. Or how all three combine with such eerie precision (aided no doubt by Aidan's drill sergeant precision in percussion) and yet seemingly ever so effortless like it's a walk in a park for them in delivery, like they do this simply out of the sheer shit grinning fun of it; and it's that last point that carries over the most anytime they perform live. Every gig feels like it's being hosted in their living room for a kid's birthday party and there's chips and drinks and fairy bread in the corner and any minute now Aidan's gonna bust out with the balloon animals. Every gig defuses that ticking bomb in your head building all week, your urge to kill, to explode, to destroy, and replaces it with a dumbarse grin and the inescapable urge to bop about like a dickhead. And I know! I gotta stop praising bands for pulling this shit, for giving out awards to all these "feel good" indie pop bands when I should be congratulating artists who push us to the very brink of insanity, to the visceral extremes, who challenge us, who spit in the face of accepted wisdom and instigate nothing less than all out anarchy! I mean it all just seems SO EASY to settle for THIS doesn't it!? but that's why Hawks Of Alba are so awesome! It might be all too easy to like them but it's almost impossible to hate them! No really I dare you! no matter how pissed off you are? you'll still leave smiling.. and hey what's not to love about THAT!? - Spoz's Rant


HAWKS OF ALBA (****) :
Which then by a curious contrast, brings us to our second act. Who in all the times I've ever seen them live (and this would be the seventh time on record) have remained largely consistent. And by "largely consistent" I clearly mean that as a ridiculous understatement. And I'm not even kidding you! short of a few throwaway jokes their drummer Aidan Moyse cracked about potentially covering Bon Jovi tonight (aaaah if only they had the time!) a slightly chunkier sound from singer Sarah Masters' bass guitar, a missing second guitarist in the form of Nat Stone from Diplomat for their cover of Magic Dirt's "Ice" (what.. shouldn't he always just magically appear everytime he's needed for that song!?) and some hilarious jackass in the crowd (who I assume was a friend of the band) heckling them after almost every song? (and he came up with some real zingers too!) yeaaah it's pretty much the exact same schtick they've always played right down to the setlist. And as much as that would seem like a bad thing when you've seen them six times already this year? especially when you're trying to write a "wildly entertaining" review (ie: grossly infantile stringing together of non sequiturs) for their SEVENTH without simply reverting to copy/pasting what you already wrote on them before? (oh believe me I've been tempted!) it's actually one of the best things about them. Seriously! it doesn't matter where they play, what they play, or who they play for, they're largely consistent because they're largely stupidly freaking awesome. They're nothing short of a surefire bet. In fact I half suspect they're pulling the same routine over and over just so that everyone else in the Adelaide scene will finally sit up, take notice and realise (just like I do) how fiendishingly fuck off a-grade they are. Or in other words: they're totally pulling a "bachelor of attendance", only unlike the pissy example I gave in the introduction? they actually have the legitimate talent to back it up. Yup Hawks Of Alba so totally WIN at life it's embarassing! From their punchy indie pop guitar sound (inspired very much by 90's grunge at its most "summer slacker" sublime) where every song is an instant classic in gang vocals and bouncy castle rhythms. To Sarah all chipper as a chipmunk on bass and lead vocal urging the audience in closer at the end of every song: "awwww c'mon, Spoz doesn't need all that room out front!" (seriously I don't! I kinda feel stupid when I'm the only one out there!). To Hannah Fairlamb fumbling about with her guitar in the solos like she's trying to dress an unruly toddler and yet continually coming up with endless ear candy in fuzzing feedback and riffs. To Aidan the "drill instructor", counting in every song, grinning like a cheshire cat and playing the glockenspiel and drums simultaneously like he could do it all in his sleep. To the very fact that all THIS combined with their chirpy upbeat demeanor makes it feel like they're playing a live show in your living room, or perhaps it's their living room, or perhaps it's suddenly all OUR living rooms combined in the "hippie communal sense" and we're all passing joints around laughing it up like this is the only place to be.. because THAT'S how blissfully at ease they put you everytime they play. Yup that's Hawks Of Alba. There was truly NOTHING unique or memorable with what they played tonight: they could've been at Coopers Alive, a kindergarten, the Big Day Out or in a broom closet thrown off a cliff for all they cared.. and yet even so? you couldn't help but beam ear to ear like a kid on Christmas Day happy as fuck that they came along.. encore! ENCORE!! - Spoz's Rant


HAWKS OF ALBA (****) :
Still all (or some) of these thoughts are soon swept aside (including that niggling suspicion that they simply removed all the furniture to permanently increase their liquor license capacity.. you heartless bastards!) by the welcome appearance of our opening act. Oh maaan and am I SO glad to see these guys too.. well ok maybe not "see" necessarily but at least I can sense a few blurring shapes out there that match their vague description: as it appears impenetrable gloom scaling up to "red embers flickering in a blackout" is still the norm when it comes to Rocket Bar's laughable approximation of "stage lighting" (cue profuse swearing from the band photographer here trying to get ANYTHING in focus) one that if at all possible actually looks WORSE if you shoot it with a flash (cue even MORE profuse swearing) and wait where was I again? oh yeaaah in my very own personal idea of HELL! Still being the irrepressibly cheerful band that they are, it appears Hawks Of Alba have dressed for the "occassion". Their lead singer and bass player Sarah Masters has gone the Darth Vader outfit (not a t-shirt, it actually comes with its own cape!) that she apparently bought at an op shop for a mere $1.50.. SCORE!! Hannah Fairlamb on guitar has gone for an 80's fingerless glove, halloween skeleton, Karate Kid villain motif. While Aidan Moyse on drums has clearly "dropped the ball" by simply rocking as one of The Blues Brothers in suit and tie (HA!). And in their ridiculously upbeat way, they damn near upstage the 20th Century Graduates in being the happiest damn band on the planet to EVER to play the darkest, dingiest stage straight out of my worst nightmares (and yes Larissa that IS meant as a challenge!). I mean no shit, I could be hanging from my ankles in Abu Ghraib right now, having all sorts of unmentionable torture visited upon me and I'd still be beaming a thousand watt grin to this band.. they're THAT ridiculously vitamin C potent! Some of it is obviously thanks to Sarah Masters "chipmunk" charm: between songs she's the one giggling in her teeny tiny voice ushering everyone in closer to the stage "or I'll use the force on you!". But first and foremost its in their infectious sound. Think early 90's indie pop at its best, think The Breeders mixed with I Heart Hiroshima and The Grates. It's also perfectly tweaked in both live mix and composition: with Aidan's apocalyptic drumming (quite possibly the best sounding kit in Adelaide in the way he tunes it to an inch) counterbalanced by Sarah's childlike cadence, snappy bass rhythms and bridged by Hannah's fuzz guitar (like a party in your ears and everyone's invited!). Most of the songs are familiar from previous sets and from regular Triple J airplay, from "Over Before It Ended", "Look What You've Become", "Nothing Inside" (watching Aidan pull that tandem drumming / glockenspiel schtick STILL kills me!) to "Invisible" (an old live favourite from their days as Running With Horses) as well as a new song they've cooked up for this show: "Cut You Out" that sounds altogether like something straight out of a Happy Days episode (and yes I mean that in a good way). I mean short of the fact they're playing in a shitdive like Rocket Bar: where all our hopes and dreams go to die, how could you possibly go wrong!? Hawks Of Alba. They're easily one of the shiniest new discoveries I've made this year, word is they're working on an EP, and if they don't go far? duuude there's just no hope left for the human race! - Spoz's Rant


HAWKS OF ALBA (****):
On the flipside however, our second support some of you MAY have actually heard of before THANKS to Triple J. Yes that's right, I'm actually giving Triple J credit for once.. WHOAAA SHIT!! I mean suuure they may be a fuck off monolithic, mouth breathing, dribbling, diabolical beast of a "youth radio network" with a massive east coast (Sydney) bias. They may be responsible for unleashing such shrieking abominations as Operator Please, Architecture In Helsinki, Muscles and Art Vs Science (and how can we forget Dizzee Rascal's "Dirtee Cash" high rotated to the point of an exploding aneurysm last year.. damn you Scott Dooley!). And suuure they might flood the airwaves with so many standup comedians thinly guised as "radio announcers" thrashing Aussie hiphop it's practically a human rights violation (all except Sam Simmons of course.. pfft, that dude's a freaking genius!). But they DO occassionally get things right. Like say Craig Schuftan's "Culture Club", or the odd Richard Kingsmill documentary series (providing proof that YES he's actually good for something besides moon tans!), and especially for Triple J Unearthed for giving airplay to awesome acts like Fire! Santa Rosa Fire!, The Battery Kids, The Honey Pies (just this week!) and THIS band so they DON'T invariably gig for only eighteen months, release two pissy EPs and then break up (aka: "The Adelaide Special"). Yup, this is the Hawks Of Alba. Formerly known as "Running With Horses", they used to be a twee "librarian pop" duo between bassist Sarah Masters and drummer Aidan Moyse (both on vocals) back in 2006, I even caught a gig of theirs once (yeaaah I dunno.. it was aiiight). Then they buggered off to Scotland for a few years. Then they came back. Then they were joined by guitarist Hannah Fairlamb late last year. Then they changed their name to "Hawks Of Alba", got picked up by Triple J to play The Adelaide Big Day Out.. and here they are tonight. SHIT YEAAAH!! Yup the fact is, Triple J were right on the money for once because thanks to unearthing THIS trio, they've sheds light on a sublime sound that's all too rare in the local scene of late (ie: ever since 200 Motels broke up) and especially since Courtney Love ruined it for everyone when she stormed off the stage at The Adelaide Big Day Out back in 1999 because "a fucking bug bit her" (although let's be fair, Sarah McLeod's solo career is probably to blame too!). Yup we're talking "grrl grunge". It's a shit term I know, and I apologise.. but we all know the bands that made it awesome back in the 90's: The Breeders, Veruca Salt, PJ Harvey, Magic Dirt, The Clouds (to name but a few). Such sweet sweet vocals (sometimes harmonised, frequently pissed off) teamed up with distorted guitar fuzz. It was like the perfect "quiet / loud" dynamic. And if you doubt me still, simply listen to "Cannonball" by The Breeders, THAT'S what we're talking about here! And Hawks Of Alba are bringing it ALL back tonight! From the teeny tiny "twee" vocals of Sarah Masters on bass perfectly counterbalanced with the apocalpytic pounding beats of Aidan Moyes on drums, to the dappled tunefulness of Hannah Fairlamb's guitar giving it colour and shape, to all the screaming gang vocals between them, it's all so perfectly balanced and polished into three minutes of ear candy, delivered one song at a time that you can't help but nod your head along with a goofy grin. No shit! And what makes it even better, is in how light their arrangements are too. Nothing's too crowded, it's all so spaceous and minimal, everything's given sharp definition in its room to move. And if all else fails? you can't go wrong with a drummer who plays the drums and the glockenspiel AT THE SAME TIME. Yup that's the Hawks Of Alba. And as much as half of this live review may amount to little more than hysterical gibberish (no shit!), when you see them live? you'll understand just what I'm getting at. Start to finish? nothing but bliss! - Spoz's Rant


HAWKS OF ALBA (****1/2):
Unlike our opening act this ISN'T the first time I've seen Hawks Of Alba, it's actually the third time I've seen them in little over a month; most recently of which being little over two weeks ago in support of Jay Walker & The Pedestrians (whoaaa no kidding? that was ONLY TWO WEEKS AGO!? DUUUDE, IT FEELS LIKE IT'S BEEN TWO MONTHS!!). Yup and as much as I can gather, short of an exceptionally appreciative crowd here tonight who are loving every moment of their set (and understandably so), trading in-jokes with the band, laughing it up and making song requests: absolutely nothing here has changed, and I mean NOTHING, it's just the "same 'ol shit" we've heard three times before with maybe a few songs rearranged. Hmmm. And as much as you'd THINK this would make it difficult for me to write about them (and maybe a sign I'm getting sick of them already!? FUCK NOOOO!!), in actual fact it begins to explain a lot of their lasting appeal. For as much as I can gather, in all the places I've seen them live from The Grace Emily to The Ed Castle to Format Festival tonight they have EXACTLY THE SAME SOUND: the same crystal clear clarity, that same relaxed feel for "negative space", that same infectious skipping attack that propells everything forward. And I think I've pinpointed WHY too! Aiden Moyse their drummer is an absolute psychopath for drum tuning. I shit you not, he's practically retarded for it! He's like one of those fuck off oriental swordsmiths who fold the steel on their blades a thousand times over in precision density.. just so they could pull off all that crazy Crouching Tiger/Jet Li/splitting raindrops aeronautical bullshit. I mean seriously everywhere you hear it.. fuck it, it might not even be his drumkit here tonight and he STILL pulls it off! It's like the perfect potato chip coming at you again and again. And don't get me started in how he can play a glockenspiel and drum at the same time, or how he counts in EVERY song like an orchestra conductor.. because it's not just him who's insane for this shit either. With both Sarah Masters on bass and Hannah Fairlamb on guitar: all three of them are practically coin operated in how effortlessly yet precisely they nail each song. In fact there's a good chance they might actually be robots sent from the future to kill us all "three minutes at a time"; one mad buzzing 90's "girl grunge" hit after another (think The Breeders? and yeaaah you've pretty much got it!). From Sarah's teeny tiny "schoolgirl" vocals conterbalancing Aiden's brutally sharp percussion, to Sarah's minimal bassline strumming complimenting Hannah's cascading guitar fuzz.. there's almost never a bung note here, it's nothing but end to end ear candy! And with the crowd loving every minute of it, how can you possibly go wrong!? Hawks Of Alba: the more you hear it the less you can fault it.. duuude they make this shit look EASY!! - Spoz's Rant


The Hawks Of Alba are playing a part of the Coopers Alive Showcase which givens locals artists the opportunity to showcase their wares at some of the more higher profile music haunts. Sarah Masters talks more about the experience.

What’s the latest goings for the band? “We started this year with a Big Day Out spot (it was Hannah’s third gig), and have continued playing around town with the likes of The Sundance Kids, Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire!, and No Through Road. Recently we’ve donated our time to a couple of fundraising events that we felt were important – supporting the Flinders Medical Centre Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Beyond Blue: the national depression initiative.”

What does it mean for your band to be playing the Coopers Alive SA Live Music Showcase? “Being selected to play at the Coopers Alive SA Live Music Showcase is a big kick up the pants to keep moving, think big, set goals and achieve them – and being given the opportunity to be part of it makes me feel like our hard work is gaining momentum. It means that we can be more open to trying new things and put our plans into action – and assess what worked and what didn’t work afterwards. It’s also about learning, networking, and taking the next step.

Do you approach this special event any differently to a normal gig? “This gig has a slightly different approach but only due to the budget we get to play with. This opportunity means we can take our knowledge and use it on a bigger scale. This event is “special” because we have the luxury to spend money on advertising, printing, and stage props – something we couldn’t usually afford to do. But it’s not just as easy as spending money on promotion; to make our show what we want it to be, all the bands involved have had to contribute and work as a team. In that sense it’s very different to a usual gig.”

Is there any extra pressure knowing that industry types might be sussing you out? “I wouldn’t say there is extra pressure. I play every gig with the main aim of having fun and putting on a good show. If you’re having fun, the audience will most likely be having fun – I don’t spend my time thinking I have to impress people. I think some bands get too focussed on being perfect…being perfect is what happens on recordings, and if people wanted to hear that, they’d stay at home and listen to a CD.”

What can punters expect from your set on the night? “Punters can expect to leave smiling. We pack our songs full of dirty guitar, glockenspiel, heavy drums and nursery rhyme harmonies. Essentially we “Glock and Roll”.

Any surprises? “If I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise now would it? We may be wearing costumes. I find wearing a costume is so much easier than choosing an outfit. Now I just have to organise a costume…”

What are the plans for the band for the remainder of the year? “Our main focus at the moment is to start touring interstate in the new year, so we need to finish a recording to take with us. We have some songs ready to go, but we’ll be going back into the studio to record some new songs to complete the release.”

The Hawks Of Alba play the Ed Castle on 15 October with Steering By Stars and Box Elder. - FasterLouder


The guys from grungy rock band Hawks of Alba have not been getting much sleep lately.

Since winning Triple J’s Unearthed competition the trio of Sarah Masters, Aidan Moyse and Hannah Fairlamb have been psyching themselves up to play in front of thousands of fans at tomorrow’s Big Day Out at the Adelaide Showground (January 29).

“I’m trying not to think about it but on the day I’ll be nervous,” Masters says.

“It’s all been such a whirlwind, we never expected to win and be playing at the Big Day Out.”

The band was officially formed only last August after Fairlamb signed up to play guitar.

Masters, the lead singer, and Moyse, Hawks’ drummer, started jamming in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2006 under the name Running With Horses.

In 2008 the twosome had their songs played on BBC Radio One and BBC Radio Scotland, appeared at the three-day music festival T in the Park, and were included in various podcasts all over the world.

They returned to Adelaide last January to build on their successes overseas, and live in the city.

Plucked from more than 1000 contenders, the Unearthed winners will take to the Hot Produce Stage at 11am.

“The good thing about playing so early in the day is that you can see the bigger bands in the afternoon and just relax.” - City Messenger - Adelaide


Discography

EP - "Dear Punk Rock, Sorry I said all those nasty things about you"
Release date: Sept. 2011

Radio Airplay
"Cut You Out" 2011
"Over Before it Ended" 2010
"Look What You've Become" 2009/2010

Photos

Bio

Hawks of Alba were thrust into the music world by Triple J before they had played a gig together. “Look What You’ve Become” received airplay on Triple J and the band went on to win a spot on the Adelaide 2010 Big Day Out (Hannah’s third ever gig.)

Hawks of Alba have released their debut EP "Dear Punk Rock, Sorry I said all those nasty things about you" in September 2011.

Songs from the EP have already been well received with "Cut You Out", the leading single, receiving airplay on Triple J and community radio stations around Australia; and "Over Before it Ended" featuring on the ABC2 series "twentysomething" (airing September 6th 2011).

Hawks have been described as "Heart Break High narrated by the Breeders", with every song a love/hate letter of relationship breakdowns. "Dear Punk Rock,.." was nearly a year in the making with the band recording the songs themselves and sending it away to be finished by their heroes - mixed by Larry Crane (Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney) and mastered by Bob Weston (of Shellac).