Hey Vagabonds, I know you’ve all have been loving our 10 for 2010 countdown that started last Tuesday. We had tons of fun picking and writing about the bands as you may remember the first band we featured was a Brooklyn based duo Hank & Cupcakes. We chose them because of the incredible sound that amazingly only the two of them produce and their crazy stage presence. After their show at Cameo a few weeks ago they granted us an interview. Learn how New York City has influenced their music, the differences between life in Israel and America and why they absolutely love it here. Not only are they fantastic musicians, but also two of the coolest people you’ll ever meet.
MusicVagabond (MV): We noticed that you never use your real names even on your site its Hank and Cupcakes. Are those your performance personas?
Hank & Cupcakes (H&C): No one ever pronounces our real names correctly, so we thought we would make it easier for everyone. Sometimes it’s a stage persona, but mainly because it’s easier for everyone to remember.
MV: We read in your interview with Indie Sound you met while in the Israeli Military and played in a band together. Is it common for bands to form in the military?
C: A good way to break into the industry would be to get into the military bands. In Israel musicians try really really hard to to get in to these bands. They’re very very hard to get in to. It’s like a lot of auditions, really serious, really scary, hard auditions.
MV: I also read that you played in a three piece acoustic for eight years. What’s the common denominator between that and the sound we hear now?
C: The common denominator is that we’re still creating minimalist music even though it’s totally different to our acoustic band. We came back from studying music in Cuba and decided that we were coming to New York and starting a new project. We did the acoustic thing for a very long time. It was very revealing and it was very personal and really hard for me to get on stage and be so open in front of the crowd. I was showing my gut and I just wanted to do something fun and groovy and less serious and deep where people are just sitting and staring at you.
MV: When you decided to move to New York did you think a lot about what your NYC audience would be like? Did you tailor your new style to that audience?
C: We didn’t know what kind of audience we were coming to because I’d never even been to New York other than on connecting flights when I was ten years old! But, what I did do was start writing songs in English and in a natural way they become a little lighter because Hebrew is a very heavy language and made me write heavier words. Writing in English is a little less personal for me; it’s easier for me to write more poppy stuff. The actual language has more of a flow.
With Hank & Cupcakes, there was no actual plan. We were just experimenting. It didn’t come out of any intention other than the fact that we knew we were coming to New York and were working on new material in English.
H: For me this is like… It’s my big chance, you know, to create something that has an impact on people.
MV: If you’re in Israel you feel like you chances are through?
H: There are a lot of interesting things about Israel and I don’t think that the music scene is one of those things. Even though there are a lot of very very good and interesting Israeli musicians in Israel and New York. This place is where everything is really happening, on a very global scale.
You come here and just by walking in the street and walking into venues you can listen to bands that actually make what is going to be heard on the radio in the next few years. I feel that. It’s amazing and I think even though the US is capitalist and I say this because we talked about capitalism when we spoke about Cuba, even though this place is capitalist, I can see people here who really live an idealist life and who don’t give a fuck about money they just do their art regardless of anything that stands in their way. That’s one of the things we’re looking for.
C: We’re very inspired. It’s filling us up with energy. The music community is great, we make really nice friendly connections with other bands.
MV: What’s your favorite song off the EP? What was your writing process behind it?
C: I don’t really have a favorite song. I mean “Ain’t No Love”, “Pleasure Town” and “She’s Lost Control” I guess are our favorites. It changes depending on the day and our mood! Usually my favorite song is the newest song we’re working on because I’m all psyched up, it’s new and fresh and we haven’t played it a million times.
MV: What’s it like to play songs over and over again. We can’t imagine.
C: It’s very interesting and challenging to play it over and over again to rediscover it every time. They become like old friends or lovers, you keep finding more depth.
MV: Do you feel like the songs change every time you play them?
C: If it changes it’s a good sign. We never change the structure of the songs but if the energy changes it’s a good thing. It means that it has life.
MV: What is your inspiration behind your lyrics?
C: I can tell you what “Ain’t No Love” is about. It’s about my first experience riding the subway when we got to New York. It was very weird for me that nobody makes eye contact. I’m used to people making eye contact even if they are strangers. I had a hard time getting used to riding the subway, I didn’t know what to do with myself so I tried wearing dark glasses but I found that drew attention to me because you can’t see my eyes so people feel more free to look at me so then I felt even weirder. Then I tried listening to music and I would take out my ear phones and put my head down. It was really really really weird for me, that’s where I wrote that song.
H: When you’re in Tel Aviv and you walk into the bar, it doesn’t matter who you are. You open the door and all the people in the bar turn around and look at you. The feeling is, who just came in? Who the fuck do they think they are coming to this bar!
MV: When do you plan on releasing a full album?
C: Ummm, once Sony gets us our record deal! (We all laugh - MV) or any of those big guys. We’re very much hoping to get a deal and have the opportunity to record seriously with a big budget and time to do it and make it sound amazing.
MV: Are you working on new material?
C: We’re adding songs all the time. It usually takes us a very long time to get a new song together because it’s just bass and drums and it’s trickier to get it interesting and sound really full, you know because it’s not a regular four piece band it’s very challenging. It can take us three months to finish a new song. We’re really slow but we rehearse everyday to make up for it!
H: Not only that, we have a million things to do. It’s not like we can rehearse all day. We play every day and we are a very serious band, but we have a shitload of things to do and there’s life too.
C: I just bought a piano, so song writing is gonna go up.
MV: Where is the piano?
C: We placed it in our apartment. We have a roommate and he didn’t know about it until he came home and found it in a very very narrow space that we call the living room, but it’s just an extension of the kitchen.
H: He looked very concerned about it.
MV: Do you think he was upset?
C: He was nice about it. He’s a musician too.
H: Don’t you wanna ask any personal questions about our sex lives or anything like that?
MV: Nah, but we can only imagine that it might be really wild (We all laugh)
Make sure to catch Hank & Cupcakes who will be playing a show this upcoming Friday, February 5th at Pianos in the Lower East Side. Click here for show details