Hawk Eyes have been attracting crowd surfers and making ears bleed for nearly ten years now, it’s pretty safe to say they have become somewhat of a Leeds institution. Having dragged their riffs all over the world and have filled music pledges in the blink of an eye. These events according to guitarist, Rob Stephens are just more things that he can add to the list of ‘strange’,’bizarre’ and ‘surreal’ things happening to the band.
Rob is undeniably modest about the band and when discussing playing local shows he says that they are still surprised that anyone turns up, ‘we’re just four people who made a band in a basement, we don’t have loads of money behind us or anything like that’, he continues ‘when people show an interest it must be for a genuine reason, as oppose to it being mass marketed in any way.’ He believes this is due to the availability of music, ‘I think the reality of the music scene is that people care a little bit less now. You can reach music easily with the internet and there are so many bands playing, touring and vying for your interest. To just presume people are going to come to your gig is ridiculous, we aren’t Metallica or Iron Maiden, so it’s brilliant when people turn up.’ As well as being humble about how far they’ve come he is also realistic about the route a band can go down as he states, ‘over the past few years there have been a lot of surreal moments. At any point the band could split up or something could happen that puts an end to it and it’s over.’
Hawk Eyes played one of their biggest shows to more than 15,000 people over the summer alongside political giants System of a Down. Rob describes the band as some of the ‘nicest people you could ever meet’, and recalls ‘at one point I looked over at the side of the stage and saw half of System of a Down watching us play. It was just strange, frightening and brilliant all at the same time’.
With regards to Hawk Eyes recent EP ‘That is What This is’ released back in August, Rob was pleasantly surprised with the reception it’s received as he tells me ‘it’s been all over Radio 1 and we never expected it to be like that, especially the song cheap. It’s the weirdest one of the EP and seems to be the lead single which is weird. As a pretty heavy band we never expected anything like that would happen.’
The EP is drummer Steve Wilson’s first record with the band, to which Rob attributes the sound change. The band, as a whole, were conscious that they didn’t want to create another Ideas or Modern Bodies (their previous albums). Rob explains that ‘Matt was much more of an up tempo aggressive drummer, Steve is much more groove based, it was something we wanted to explore more.’
Having seen Hawk Eyes live, it’s noticeable that the band go full throttle and attract a lot of attention when it comes to their high energy shows. Their energetic style was almost compromised when lead singer Paul Astick was warned that he could be doing permanent damage to his vocal chords, luckily hasn’t been as much of a set back as some people may have thought. Rob tells me, ‘there’s still plenty of shout in him in there. It probably really gave him a bit more confidence to to actually start singing. Even before he was in this band, he was in others when he was younger and he never used to scream he was a singer.’ It may have been the progression the band needed. Rob continues ‘naturally, because what we were playing was really heavy stuff it made sense for him to approach it more aggressively. I think he was always looking for that sort of kick up the bum, to maybe explore more. I think it worked out really well for us.’
Hawk Eyes spent their summer playing in countries all over Europe but managed to get to back to home soil to play Leeds and Reading festival ‘another crazy weekend’, where the band got back back from Holland at 3am on the day they were due to play, ‘it’s been constantly do this and then do this and do this. I think it’s going to take us a few months for us to realise what we’ve actually been doing’ continues Rob.
There was no question for Rob which was better when it comes to Reading v Leeds.
‘Leeds, has to be Leeds. Leeds was actually better with us being from Leeds and more people know us here and it was very close for us to go home and go to bed early.’
So far this year Hawk Eyes haven’t had a minute to breath, this month it’s once again back on the road as they head out on tour with Black Spiders, a band who Rob says he is honoured to play with. As well as Black Spiders Hawk Eyes will also supporting Coheed and Cambria on their UK tour in November, staying true to form with previous comments, Rob finishes with it’s ‘a bit bizarre’.