By Ian Bremner
To use his own words, the “dirty fuck-app” isn’t the only reason Seattle’s Mike Giacolino sought out a change for his band, Ole Tinder. Yes, he may have been tired of one too many Tinder related jokes, but the music he was working on felt different too. It needed its own place to start.
Starting a new band, even one with the same members is difficult. All of the momentum you have built up with venue bookers and fans disappears. You have to earn it all back under the new moniker.
HYWAYS, the new name, the new band, the new tunes is a total change of pace for Giacolino and crew. All of the initial promo for the new record was weird, outworldly and impossible to decipher what the music would actually sound like. From the first track of the self-titled album, you can tell HYWAYS shares some similarities to Ole Tinder, but that the new name change was needed to properly encapsulate the vibes. HYWAYS the record, takes a few cues from the classic California country records from the 70s, but just as much from psychedelia and prog-rock.
Giacolino seems refreshed by this new endeavor. He took charge on all of the artwork, including the cover, the music video for single, GO and his wife Chelsea even created the incredible window display outside the Tractor Tavern. Mike is a Ballard lifer. He’s seen the changes the neighborhood has made over the years, but he has endured, much like the places true Ballard folks haunt. We met at The Smoke Shop, one of the only dive bars left in town to chat about the making of the new record, the thought process, but mostly bullshitted about classic records and the state of the music industry and where Mike and HYWAYS all fit in. Read our Interview below:
Ian Bremner: All I knew about “HYWAYS” was hearing you were working on “some weird shit.” Differing from Ole Tinder, is this new spacey sound a product of the band or is it an idea that you had that you brought to the guys?
Mike Giacolino: When we decided we wanted to make a record, I really wanted to make it with Randall Dunn. Our whole goal was not necessarily to make a record that sounded like the Byrds or anthing, but we wanted to do what they did, which was simply, do what we want. We didn’t set out to make it sound “spacey” but at the same time, we weren’t fighting that. We definitely wanted to make it sort of psychedelic. Randall was instrumental in creating this whole vibe though. He’s done EARTH and Sunn O))) and Chealsea Wolfe. Instead of hiring a “country” producer and make it weird, we hired a psych rock producer. We went to him and I had used Gram (Parsons) and all these others as a starting point, but I wanted to make something entirely our own.
IB: Was the band on board from the get go?
MG: Oh yeah. Ole Tinder started off as just my music, my solo stuff. Then we added Nils (Petersen) and started playing as a duo. Then we added Pat (Schowe) and it started to feel more like a band. Then we added Jay Kardong. Up until a couple years ago, I was very adamant about what was going on with everybody and everybody’s parts, because it was sort of my thing. Then Rose Windows split up and we had stopped playing. When we got back together I wanted it to be more collaborative and everybody could add their own parts.
IB: Was that the genesis for the name change?
MG: Well, the Tinder jokes became a bit tiring. We had the band before the dirty fuck-app. It got to the point where people thought we were a joke band. At the same time, when we finished this record, we wanted people to hear it differently. It’s not really an alt-country, Ole Tinder record. We probably could have released it under the same name and it would have been easier, but we wanted people to hear it with fresh ears. Plus, the spelling with the “Y” is sort of a nod to The Byrds and Lynyrd Skynryd in a way.
IB: How did Tim and Phil Hanseroth (Brandi Carlile) get involved? I see them listed as backing vocals.
MG: Man, they are two of my best friends. This summer Ole Tinder did a couple shows with Brandi Carlile at the Portland Zoo. Actually, it was a couple of my favorite nights ever. Sold out at the zoo, your friends are there and I got to sing a couple songs with Brandi. I mean that’s like a major musical highlight for me.
In 2007, I was having sorta a shitty time and they were just getting to the point where they needed to hire a crew. Instead of hiring a guitar tech, they hired me to come along on tour and we went all over the states a couple times, went to London and Australia. It was their first time touring in a bus too, which was dope. I tuned guitars and played piano on a couple songs every night and just did everything I could. I came back from that incredibly inspired. If my friends could sell out Paramount Theater, I could play at Comet on a Tuesday. Making music was not intimidating anymore. I started writing songs that I could just play with a guitar and a harmonica and they are a big reason for that inspiration.
IB: Speaking of harmonies and the Byrds, their lineup was ever-changing and sometimes you can tell who’s singing but most of the time, they all sound so fucking good. Gram or Chris Hillman or Gene Clark.
MG: Gene Clark’s No Other is…. I mean, I don’t think it sounds anything like ours but that approach is what we were shooting for. Let’s do what Gene tried to do. That record is genuinely so cool and weird.
IB: I heard he just holed up in LA with a piano and a bunch of cocaine and just did it.
MG: For a really long time, that was the most expensive record ever made, which is weird. He would have been famous but he had all these anxieties. He left the Byrds because he was afraid of flying. Also, the dude who was putting out all those records was David Geffen, on his first label Asylum Records. He did all the CSN, Jackson Browne all the Laurel Canyon shit. I guess Gene Clark didn’t like how Geffen was treating his friends and he walked up and punched him in the face. Like, the dude who was supporting all of these people and their records and Gene punched him.
IB: Sort of like No Other, a couple tunes on the record, Break For The Winter and Counting Arrows, have really cool instrumental parts towards the end of the songs. How do those type of parts transpire?
MG: Break For The Winter is my favorite song on the record. I wrote that years ago and never played it. I wrote that with the idea that one day, Randall Dunn would record it. When we went there to meet Randall, I gave him all my demos. We showed up with 12 songs, we recorded 10 of them. I’d say 5 of them are “new” and the other 5 we had played with Ole Tinder. 2 of them are completely different, like wayyyy way different. Then the other 3 were made just a little bit cooler in this whole process. Counting Arrows is one of them that changed dramatically.
IB: Was there a specific moment that occurred that made you want to go in this direction?
MG: Randall helped a lot. Nils, Pat and I went down to Portland and spent a week there as a trio. Studio Flora, it’s owned by Tucker Martine but he lets Randall work out of it. It’s like walking into 1970’s Nashville. I sung into a microphone that had belonged to Boz Scaggs! Just a ton of old vintage gear. It was pretty gnarly because I just had to give over total trust to Randall and I’ve never done that before. I was basically a player on my own record. He flipped it on Pat and Nils a lot and would tell them to do some totally crazy things. Nils just stepped up and did everything Randall asked, like a total pro. It was intense and it was awesome. We were fucking fried. We go to leave a couple weeks later and Pat and I were listening back to what we did and we looked at each other like, “we either just made something super dope, or we just ruined a bunch of rad country songs.”
IB: Pretty cool to just give over blind trust to people like that.
MG: I had like 27 anxiety attacks a day. I can honestly say, it didn’t turn out how I pictured it, and it turned out exactly how I wanted it.
IB: It’s out on Union Zero Records. What’s Union Zero Records?
MG: They’re local. They’re pretty new. We shared the record around when it was done and met some really cool people. The (Hanseroth) twins shared it around with their people. They loved it. Some labels were like, “this is great. If you want to sell like 5 thousand copies.” To me, I was like, “that would be a dream. I’m not trying to be on the cover of Rolling Stone or some shit.” Ultimately, people were sort of freaked out that we were a totally new band. We had no followers. The cool part of Union Zero, was they didn’t give a shit. They’re so cool. Recording the album, we had tapped most of our resources. We had the record done, so Union Zero is helping to put it out. Just shake hands and see what happens.
We went for the heavy side B. That’s like a no-go in the big pop world. The whole things is sort of that crushing Side B. We just made a record that we thought was cool.
IB: You made it for people who like music. To enjoy the Side B, you gotta have the patience to get to it, and a lot of people don’t have that anymore.
MG: Again, we’re not going to be on the cover of Rolling Stone, but we got to make cool art.
Listen to HYWAYS. Buy the record now and the vinyl when it comes out on Union Zero HERE