Stuart Confer can't pin down exactly where the inspiration for the tunes on his band's latest EP, Curse Us All, comes from. Confer, the lead guitarist, singer and songwriter for Hindershot (due at 3 Kings Tavern on Friday, January 27, Accordion Crimes, Skeleton Show and Samurai Buck), says the creative impetus for the four tracks came from his own mental "ether," the stream-of-consciousness that also birthed the material for the band's freshman release, 2011's It's Only Blood.
Despite the vagueness of the new release's roots, the Hindershot frontman insists there's a different dynamic to the group's new release. Songs like "Rain Fare," "Furlough" and the album's title track delve into much more personal subjects and imagery, while "Dinosaur" revisits the band's familiar territory of apocalyptic settings and unsettling landscapes.
We recently spoke with Confer about the different mood of the new record, as well as some of the challenges facing the band as they found a new drummer and the joys of recording for Denver's communal Hot Congress label.
Westword: For those who aren't familiar with the outfit, can you give me a quick background about the band?
Stuart Confer: I was writing and recording music in my bedroom [laughs]. I knew Patrick Kelly - he was one of the first friends I made when I moved out to Colorado. We worked at Barnes & Noble together, and we were always talking about starting up a music project. A couple years went by, and we got disconnected, then he needed a bassist for Old Radio. That's how I met other musicians that could fill in. I basically just started playing bass and started showing people the music and asking if they wanted to do it. We all got together, and basically, it was kind of like hand-picked friends.
So were you the go-to songwriter from the beginning of the band?
Yeah, I pretty much just bring a general structure to everybody and say, 'Here's the basis for this song.' Then everybody adds their own flavor.
The new EP, Curse Us All, has a much more personal, immediate feel than the band's debut album It's Only Blood. Was that intentional?
It's weird, because I'm pretty prolific. I write all the time ... It's basically like we have enough tracks where we can hand-pick songs that go together. That's what we're kind of proud about the EP, is that it has a common thread, like a concept through it. I'll write from different standpoints and different viewpoints on different subject matters. Some of it is metaphorical, but all of these songs are about something that's more personal, except for "Dinosaur." "Dinosaur" is about the apocalypse in some fashion.
"Rain Fare" is about my girlfriend, who is an environmentalist, and how it's really hard to be an environmentalist ... and dating her [laughs]. It's about the BP oil spill, and all this stuff, how you fight the good fight but you want to give up every once in a while. By saying, "Don't take your love away," I'm actually saying, 'People need people like you who fight the good fight. Don't give up on it."
"Curse Us All" is about a tattered relationship that's in this dreary, post-apocalyptic world; it's about picking up the shattered remains of a relationship and moving on. "Furlough," that was just I took some drugs and went to a rock show ... I went home and wrote that [laughs]. When you put all the songs side-by-side, they have a common thread.
Did you know immediately after Blood that you wanted to do a shorter release in the form of an EP?
It comes down to budget, which is unfortunate. We're not signed, you know, at it comes down to time and also hand-picking the songs. I think we're going to just keep doing EPs for a while. I know that a lot of bands are going for the single format, where they just release singles with a video. I think that everybody is trying to scramble around and figure out what's going on. We've been thinking about for our next release doing a full-length, just recording it at our house and doing a lot of live tracking. It will be a lot more raw and dirty. I think that's where we're going.
The new EP actually sounds more polished sonically. Where was it recorded?
We did the drums at the Denver Drum Room, which was amazing. They have a huge setup. John [Fate] was drumming with us at that time, and he just went in there, and we knocked it out. We took those drum tracks and did all of the rest of the recording at Lucas [Johannes'] house, which he calls "The Lion and the Lady Studios." We added all the vocal tracks later. We almost released it six months ago, and then we all took a step back and said, 'We need to work on this a little bit more.' I'm really glad that we did, because I'm really proud of what we ended up doing, just from where it was.
What dissatisfied you about the original recording?
It was performance and mixing. It didn't sound as good, and we had to re-do all the vocals. There were a few things we got to keep. The beginning of "Curse Us All" cuts right in, it's textural and weird and there are all these studio sounds. The drum performances were also great - John is a great drummer. Guitars and vocals we basically went in and redid all of it.
So was it difficult making the shift from John Fate to Duncan Dotterrer on drums in the midst of putting together the new EP?
Duncan was drumming in Action Packed Thrill Ride. John started drumming in Morning Clouds ... We just went our own way; he didn't have time for two bands. He's really close with Josh [Wambeke] who recorded our first album. He's a great guy. It was for the best. It was a directional change - it kind of stunted us for a little while, relearning how to play with a new drummer. But I think we're getting really good again.
Can you tell me a bit about how the track "Rain Fare" from the new release ended up on Delta Airlines' in-flight indie rock radio station?
That was a demo, which was really weird. My uncle, he's a doctor, he was flying to L.A. and he saw our name in the in-flight magazine and said, 'Oh, that's my nephew's band.' We won this little competition through Noise Pop in San Francisco. We had a little bit of national radio through jingo.com, and we kind of pushed that song to hope to catch somebody. I think a lot of people listened to it, but we didn't see the direct effect in album sales or anything right afterwards.
Do you have any formal touring plans in mind?
Yeah, we're going to try to tour this spring or early summer. We need to buy a van; we need to figure that out. That's Spencer [Alred's] strength; he's always going to police auctions or looking around on Craigslist. That's our next big project, which is exciting and sad. The last van we bought, we took it out, and it immediately started making this crazy noise. Spencer went back to the guy to try to get his money back, and the guy said that he had spent it - hours later. That's just one of the harder things for a band. You want to buy something affordable but it becomes a big money pit.
Going back to the issue of the evolution since the last release, how do you think you've evolved as a songwriter? Do you think it's a fair assessment to say this record has a much more immediate and firsthand feel?
If you listen to the stuff I was writing at the very beginning, I think I'm writing more for other peoples' styles. I've gotten less wordy. It's like going from Elvis Costello to Abbey Road; it's a little less cerebral and a little more visceral. I wrote a lot of the songs from It's Only Blood and Curse Us All at the same time. Some of the songs are overlapping; I might have written "Rain Fare" before, but I can't really remember.
I think this one is a little more personal. A lot of the songs on It's Only Blood kind of come from watching other people. It's a lot about mental illness and all of these things, kind of like observing other people. Curse Us All has a different thread. I don't really remember where I am when I write, so it's kind of floating out there in the ether. I'll take something from the stream of consciousness in my head and pull it down.
Being one of the bands on the Hot Congress label, it seems like you have a lot of access to the same pool of musicians and output. Has that steered your creative development at all?
I've made a lot of friends through Hot Congress, and the camaraderie is really cool. For a while, it was stagnant because we were running the model on this whole "Let's run a new band who might be on the label by everybody." We weren't getting responses. Now, we're just kind of doing major action and asking for forgiveness later [laughs]. We want to make it a community where everybody can work together. As a tiny example, I don't know if I'd ever know Nathan Brazil if I wasn't involved in Hot Congress. That's pretty cool.
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