BY Jean Detjen
According to Native American animal spirit legend, the hawk carries the symbolism that comes with the ability to fly, and reach the skies. Rarity aside, gregarious red-tails are unique and striking creatures with an important story to tell.
Fox Cities psych-folk band RedHawks’ soaring optimism and approachable energy channel similar mojo. In a recent interview with “chief song scribe,” Freddie Haas, I gained some inside scoop on the local tribe magic of a very talented group of musicians.
Self described as “sounding like they astral projected from an alternate reality,” while unabashedly “prone to Crazy Horse-esque jams and psychedelic freakouts,” RedHawks draw you in with their charm and good-time vibe that often feels downright spiritual. Circle ‘round…
JD: What’s the coolest thing about your band?
FH: The thing about RedHawks is that we don’t sound like anyone else. While we certainly have influences, the songs we write aren’t tied to fulfilling anything other than themselves. They exist as unique entities. Once the nature of a song is revealed, we do our best to get out of the way, and let it go where it needs to. As a band we really value music that has ‘a lot of air in it,’ that is uncluttered space. We consciously try to play less notes. Mood and message are created by tones, and how they decay. We look to create texture through the way a voice or guitar sounds tonally, rather than by trying to string together riffs.
JD: What motivates you to create music?
FH: That’s a complicated question but I think it can be best stated that ‘Hawks write music to connect with, and react to, the world in a way that words or images alone cannot. It’s a way for us to share our hearts and minds on a level that hopefully touches listeners in a different way. I think all professional musicians have a varying mix of performer and artist. ‘Hawks are really high on the artist scale, not so much on the performer. If we weren’t writing songs we’d be painters, sculptors, or graphic artists. In fact, some of us do dabble in these other expressions but writing music can’t be denied.
JD: How has your artistry evolved over the years?
FH: In some ways we aren’t that different than when we started eight years ago. We’ve gained a level of confidence from our success that helps us to not second guess what our ‘Hawk Hearts,’ are telling us. We also play together more freely as we’ve developed a collective ‘Hawk-Mind.’ I think there’s little to no striving involved. We show up and share our art and thankfully people connect with that.
JD: How would you describe your writing methodology and practice patterns?
FH: We’re pretty disciplined about practicing, so that live performance is as second nature as it can be. We enjoy the work, playing loud guitars and drums is pretty fun. Writing comes in waves, the songs exist somewhere between our consciousness and the ether. They kind of present themselves when we’re ready for them.
JD: What do you see as your greatest musical achievement to date?
FH: Our last record “RedHawks,” was a great signifier of how much we’ve grown and contained our best work to that point. It’s really a great little record. However, I think our greatest achievement is that we continue to write great songs and perform them at great venues throughout the midwest without any label or management support. We do everything ourselves with a good amount of help from our friends in the greater Wisconsin music community.
JD: What are your perceptions of the local music scene and how it’s changed over the years you’ve been playing here?
FH: When I first started playing shows in Northeastern Wisconsin 25 years ago, it was a great time for original music. There were so many people doing their own thing without any thought to get signed or whatever. People just wanted to express themselves. It didn’t matter who or what style was being played, everybody went to shows. Unfortunately, that changed and only the underground punk and metal scenes continued to significantly operate that way. In recent years we’re starting to see a bit of that coming back, but there is a lot of segregation. ‘Hawks and a handful of other local musicians have been trying to build community, one kind comment, one show invitation, and one show attendance, at a time. I have a lot of hope the best is yet to come for local original music.
JD: What are some of your favorite Wisconsin venues?
FH: Cranky Pat’s, Fox River House, Linneman’s River West, High Noon Saloon, really anywhere the crowd and band can connect with one another in a meaningful way.
JD: Tell me something your fans may not already know about your band.
FH: Tate Sampson (lead guitar) and Adam Bohnsack (bass) are amazing impersonators. We probably spend too much time laughing.
JD: Upcoming projects and shows we should know about?
FH: We’ll be going into the studio this winter to record our second full length album. We have a couple of sweet shows coming up. November 14th we’ll be at Linneman’s River West for the 11th annual Kneel to Neil, a tribute to Neil Young and a benefit for WMSE Radio and the Bridge School. On December 12th Freddie will be at Cranky Pat’s for the fifth annual Dirty Rotten Toy Drive Tribute to Townes Van Zandt.
JD: Any muses, collaborations or forces of inspiration of note?
FH: We’ve been working with our close friend Christopher Gold on the songs for our upcoming release. Andrew Johnson of Haunted Heads has said he’s got some ideas percolating with a song or two as well. It’d be great to have both involved with recording.
JD: Anything else you’d like to share about what’s going on with you artistically and beyond?
FH: People need to go to more shows. Go see bands you have never heard of. Venture outside your comfort zone. There is so much great original music and artistry out there. You will be better for it!
RedHawks Band Members:
Freddie Haas – Guitar
Tate Sampson – Guitar
Jessica Voruda – Keyboards
Adam Bohnsack – Bass
Thomas Bishop – Drums
Band website: redhawksband.com