The slowcore duo discuss the recording of their new album Heavy Lifter and the greater sense of clarity achieved in the process.
Texas two-piece Hovvdy deal more in a specific feeling than they do a genre: like waking up early and feeling inexplicably fresh; like a blank slate; like road tripping through rural scenery and sensing a new identity settle in you. 2017’s Taster and 2018’s Cranberry bubbled with soft expressions of poetic emotion, muffled and twinkly. On Heavy Lifter, the band’s upcoming junior effort, Hovvdy take their country-flecked slowcore to the next level with a great sonic clarity and more defined songstructures.
We spoke to Charlie Martin and Will Taylor about their experiences recording the album in impromptu studios in Austin, reckoning with the current social climate, and experimenting with a storytelling form of songwriting.
Heavy Lifter is out today, October 18, via Double Double Whammy.
How do you view Heavy Lifter in relation to your last two albums?
Charlie Martin: We wrote and recorded and mixed and did everything ourselves for the first couple of records, so this was our first time working with a producer—a good friend of ours, Ben Littlejohn. That was the main difference in terms of the project. We still recorded it at home spaces, and there were a lot of similarities. Just a little less DIY.
In the press release, I saw you were working on it in “makeshift home studios” in Texas, and I was wondering what those were like and if it was an inspiring environment for you to create in.
Charlie: Yeah, for sure. We recorded in a lot of the same spaces that we did the first two records. We’d do a lot of it at Will’s grandpa’s little old farm house, northwest of Austin. It’s so nice up there. Ben would come down from Nashville, and we’d go out there to record it.
Will Taylor: Very inspiring.
Charlie: Austin doesn’t feel much like a big city, but it’s still very nice to be away from everything.
Does being from Texas inform your music in any way?
Will: I think it does in a lot of ways. I think it’s wise to explore beyond that, obviously, but you could take in a lot of the feelings of Texas and the goal of the instrumentation—whether it’s a little twang, or just an acoustic guitar. I guess [the way people think] about Texas music is just the guitars. We lean in on that a little bit.
What does “Heavy Lifter” mean in the context of the album?
Charlie: It came from a lyric, and that lyric is from a song off the record called “Watergun.” It was an early title for the record, and it stuck because it has a lot of different connotations, like physical heaviness and emotional heaviness. Really, I think we both loved how the words sounded together, so it just stuck from the beginning.
What are some themes on the album?
Charlie: The way the band works is that I write my half of the songs, and Will writes his half. So that’s how we share, and then we merge them very closely on the record, and that’s the process of making it. For me, personally, a lot of it was in response to the social climate of the last few years and seeing a lot of people around me super down and doomy about the future and trying to figure out how to stick together and be as positive as possible and find some firmer footing moving forward. That’s kind of the heavier aspect, but I felt inspired to make uplifting songs.
Will: Yeah, and I think a recurring theme on this album was clarity, whether it be sonically or with ideas or with songwriting. I think we did have a more intentional approach in that way: to create more space for things to be heard—lyrics to be heard—which I think was a good exercise for us to own our ideas and thoughts and words.
The press release mentions that you have some more pop and hip-hop influences on this album. What inspired that, and do you think it’s evident in places of your music?
Charlie: We’ve always been big fans of pop and hip-hop music, and I think we both felt it creeping in slowly from the very beginning. But this new record is a lot less guitar-y, and there’s more electronic sounds going on. I think a lot of it has to do with songwriting, writing more songs on piano—things like that. Some songs, definitely, you can hear those new influences more clearly. I’m very excited about the ground covered on this one. I think that’s one of the more exciting elements for me.
I wanted to ask if there’s any moment on the record that you can’t wait for people to hear, whether it’s a lyric, riff, or even a whole song.
Will: I think this will happen naturally, but I hope that every time people will listen to the whole song “Watergun.” That’s my first one. My second one would be “Pixie.” I think it’s a little treat, but it’s tiny and kind of hard to get to.
Charlie: I agree with Will for sure. “Mr. Lee” is probably the most exciting song for me, in terms of my experience writing the song. It was just super fun and it has a story, which is new—a new mode of songwriting that I tried out on this record. It was really fulfilling and I’m stoked for people to hear it.