Interview with hvsk 

Having only officially started out around January 2019, the Perth-based pioneers of alternative pop/rock, hvsk, still have plenty they want to get cracking with. I caught up with Stu to talk about the band, their local music scene and the return of pubs…

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Image credit: hvsk

RECORD WEEKLY’S INTERVIEW WITH HVSK

Hey Stu, thanks for joining me. Let’s kick off by talking about the tumultuous past year — how have you guys found it? Aside from the obvious restrictions, what other limitations have impacted you the most?

It’s been really weird, to be honest. Nobody has any frame of reference or can compare it to anything; it’s just a completely new, alien experience for us all. I’ve personally been quite lucky though, in that my family has a convenience store, so I’ve still be working there. We’ve been open the whole time, so that’s felt quite normal. But the difficulty’s been in getting home and having nothing else to then do. It’s just sitting in the flat, watching another series on Netflix. What else is there!?

Haha yeah, SO MUCH NETFLIX.

To begin with, there was a novelty to catching up with things or seeing films. Having a couple of weeks to chill out was great, but then people have obviously realised it’s pretty horrific to just be sitting at home. There’s a reason people have friends and go out and socialise haha! 

For us as a band, it’s been a wee bit strange. I live in Perth and so does our bassist, but our drummer is based down nearer the borders. Where we’d normally have been able to hang out most weekends, we’ve had very little interaction between us compared to usual. We tried to see it as a positive thing to sit and write and relax — especially as we’d been busy for the six months prior, recording our EP. After a little while though, it was like, Christ, I miss being in a room with people!

Haha for sure! Those logistical limitations must’ve been a nightmare. 

To try and remain gelled and bounce off each other has been really hard. We haven’t had the chance to get together in that same way at all. 

Oh definitely. So where’s Scotland with the restrictions now? I know that you guys have a few things scheduled for different dates to us in England. 

Yeah, so Monday [26th April] saw pubs and restaurants reopening, which was long overdue. 

Ha, I bet everyone was really excited!

*Claps hands* Yes, we were all very giddy haha. Most shops are also open in some capacity now, if not completely. Hairdressers reopened a few weeks ago. It’s still tentative but things are lifting. The fun, sociable stuff is slowly coming back. 

Yep, the pub…

Haha well, yeah! I never knew how much I’d miss it. It’s not like I was out all the time — I’m not wild — but even just the sound of conversations in the pub with your mates on a Tuesday afternoon is something that’s been weird not to have. 

I totally know what you mean. And the lack of being able to spontaneously just go for drinks with friends has really got me. 

Yeah, you can’t just go and catch up with people now! It’s really tricky. We’re shit at organising things in the band anyway, so this has made it even worse haha. 

Where and how did it all begin for hvsk (pronounced ‘husk’)

So it was probably in January 2019 that we properly got going. And we threw a ‘v’ in the name to stand out a bit — I mean, why not? We were happy with the name but we just wanted something else that’s memorable in there. It was just handy to create this niche until we’re a bit more well-known, with all the competition out there. 

We all got to know each other through the music college. We didn’t study in the same classes but we had mutual pals. Jonny introduced me to Brandon and we all just started hanging out and it reached a natural point where we began jamming. Jonny and I had been in a band before, so we knew we got on, but we wanted to change things up a bit…

*Stu’s cat then walked in. Couldn’t resist saying hello.*

…We did a couple of gigs at first, then wanted to record our EP with a friend of ours, who had this bedroom studio setup. That didn’t work out though, so we just went back to gigging really. A few months later, we got recording but then, another few months down the track, COVID hit. We just had to hit pause at that moment. So disappointing. 

Which bands and artists have influenced your sound the most?

We do like a lot of the same bands. We began doing Peace covers, and we’re all into the modern indie stuff, such as The 1975, Wolf Alice and so on. But I’ve got Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses [posters] on the wall behind me, as they’ve been bands that have influenced me the most, personally. I’m more rock oriented that way. 

Brandon, our bass player, is really into Jeff Buckley. His vocal style is very reminiscent, too. In all, it’s an amalgamation of our mutual influences and our personal ones that have forged us,

What have been your biggest achievements and accolades so far? 

We were able to support Australian band, The Rubens, at King Tut’s in Glasgow. To be part of the history of that wee pub was so cool. Really hope we can play there again!

A couple of our tracks have been played on the radio in Luxembourg though. Kind of a hidden market there haha. My girlfriend’s originally from Belgium and her Mum works on the border between there and Luxembourg, so she put us in touch with a radio presenter who’s from Scotland. So, that was great. 

After having to put things on hold with the pandemic, I’d say our main accolade is actually that we’re still pals and able to be in a band haha!

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Recording at MacArts, Galashiels with MixedbySAW. Image credit: hvsk

Name something your fans wouldn’t necessarily know about you guys.

There’s no question about it, Jonny is the angriest FIFA player on the planet. You just cannot play him, but you kind of have to and then just let him win. He’s like a little brother in that regard. I don’t know if people want to know that — or maybe should know — haha! 

Hahaha, that’s brilliant. I’ll openly share that I’ve been known to score some own-goals on FIFA, so there’s no judgement here. 

Haha well, one of my formative drinking experiences involved coming up with a drinking game around FIFA. Take a shot if you score an own-goal, your opponent takes a shot if you score a goal, etc. After all these games, I’d been beaten so many times, which meant I also got progressively worse. I try and avoid FIFA at all costs now haha. 

Jonny, Brandon and I are all interested in American football, so we’ve been through to Edinburgh a few times to watch the Super Bowl. Pub setup, massive screen, 4am — that kinda thing. We did get stuck one time, though. The car battery died, so we were stranded until 8am, when a pair of wonderful gentlemen pulled over in their work van and jump-started the car haha. 

Haha fantastic. I feel like this year was a big one for the Super Bowl — everyone seemed to be involved from what I could see on Instagram. I know barely anything about the rules myself, but I watched it — well, most of it… Just a good laugh. 

Ah definitely. It turns out Jonny and I both support the same team, Seattle Seahawks. I picked them because of Nirvana haha, but Jonny actually has family there, which is cool. You can just pick whoever’s good and hope for the best haha. 

What’s your local music scene like?

It’s very much a community of people really. Most people have come through the music college, so you get a lot of artists and there’s no one genre. People come from Aberdeen, Dundee and so on, while others go off to Glasgow, so it’s a strange mix but there are lots of influences here. There’s a lot of punk stuff going on in Glasgow, but Perth isn’t as genre-led. 

It’s a small scene, too, and almost in two halves. There’s the younger, college students and the older people who’ve lived here for 20 odd years and like folk, country, etc. Everyone plays the same pubs, as there aren’t that many venues, so that’s nice as well. It’s very supportive. 

You’ll also find that Edinburgh has its own thing going on and so does Glasgow, but then there’s the rest of us. Just one ‘Scottish’ banner, really. There’s also a sort of unspoken rule that, if you’re a Scottish band, you get a following in your local town, then you break into Glasgow and, if that goes well, you’re seen as established. Then it’s on to Newcastle and places further south in England. 

That’s so great. I’ve been thinking about working more with Scottish bands about booking Leeds gigs, but I guess you have to time it right. What if people don’t know them well enough? It wouldn’t be ideal and I’d feel very guilty for bringing bands down for a potential lack of crowd haha. 

Oh yeah, it’s very tricky when you’re starting out, haha. 

Everyone’s so supportive up in Scotland. There’s like an initial competition, but once you’ve made it locally, you’re very much supported by other artists. 

Talk us through your upcoming plans for 2021.

So, nothing’s really booked right now. Our priority is recording again. Back in October last year, when there weren’t really any restrictions in place, we went down to our studio in the borders with three or four tracks to record. So they’re sitting there and we’re waiting on the masters, but we plan to release all those. 

We have some live streams penned in, prior to gigs becoming more officially allowed. We’re just going to take things step by step and go from there though. We’ve spent plenty of time writing, so we just want to get back together, hang out and head into a rehearsal room. 

The last year’s shown us that our spending time together informs our music. It influences how we write. So, spending time as a band and picking up where we left off is important. Then we’ll get the ball rolling and hopefully play some shows!

Totally, that sounds best. And it can be so disappointing if you have to cancel shows. 

Definitely. I would rather hold off and get a gig confirmed for real, than book and then potentially postpone or cancel things. 

For sure. It remains to be seen how socially distanced gigs will be, too. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to compromise on the full gig experience!

Yeah, you want all the energy at a gig. It isn’t just a room full of people, it’s a crowd that operates as one. It’s important to get gigs back, but I’d rather we all did it right and not rush it. 

If you’ve got a wee venue, there’s that close atmosphere, but trying to distance in that just won’t work or feel the same. It’ll take some time to get used to being in a crowd again as well. But it all feels hopeful. 

Exactly. And, until then, there’s the pub!

Haha yeah. So many things have changed but we’ll get there. I still find it bizarre that hand shakes aren’t a thing really anymore. It’s all people touching elbows. We’ll look back on this in ten years and wonder where hand shakes went and why everyone’s elbow-bumping! Madness.

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Image credit: hvsk

So, it’s safe to say, it’s been a bonkers old year, but I’m buzzing about what the future holds for hvsk. They’re on the upwards trajectory and have plenty of new material up their sleeve. You won’t want to miss out on any of it, so follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spotify for all the latest.

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