Just when you start thinking to yourself, “they don’t make bands like that anymore”, you come across something like Hoboken Division. They’ve taken so many of the things that I hold truly sacred, like the literal building blocks of my musical interests, and they’ve shattered the mold, picked up the pieces, putting it back together into this completely original Frankenstein’s monster of musical creative-fancy. Yeah, things are definitely based around the raw, almost proto-garage, sound of the delta blues, hell the B-side to their 7-inch is a Skip James cover, but you’d be fooling yourself if you didn’t acknowledge the tasty psych and rock influences from the first blue-rock revolution of the 60s and 70s that lie deep in the belly of the beastly sound of Hoboken Division. The intimate stripped down sound of Hoboken Division instantly conjures images of Alison Mosshart, White Stripes era Jack White and The Kills, but they also quickly disperse compare and move into a territory all their own. The snarling slide guitar of Mathieu Cazanave slinks and melts over the top of Marie Rieffly’s bass and harmonica which is backed by a programmable drum machine. Like I said, there are some familiar elements to Hoboken Division, things that you’ve heard before in different times and places, but there’s something really interesting and unique going on as well. There’s something about Hoboken Division that could have only happened overseas, outside of the chocked underground and independent scenes or major label monsters of the US. There’s something pure and untouched about Hoboken Division that I find absolutely entrancing. Not to mention, Marie Rieffly really does have one hell of a voice! The pipes on this chick are killer, and when you only have two people making noise, there’s not a lot of space to hide, so you know there’s no smoke and mirrors going on either. There’s no deafening wall of noise here, just contemplative garage/blues/psych combine with a dose of shoegaze to round out the mixture, though I feel like that was really more prevalent on their first EP and if their 7-inch is any indication of where they’re going from here that they’ve minimized that influence in favor or a more raw, live approach which suits them much better. I could go on and on about Hoboken Division, ranting about how I didn’t even notice that they had a drum machine at first, how cool I thought it was that they did a Skip James cover on their single, I could gush all day, but that’s now why you’re here, so let’s get down to business shall we? I sat down with both founding members Marie Rieffly and Mathieu Cazanave to talk all things Hoboken Division and get a little glimpse inside the creative and thought processes of the band, they not only agreed but really went out of their way to talk about every facet of the band they could think of. So, read on and cop some enlightenment, then head over to Bandcamp and snag some tunes and I’ll see you on the other side!
- Listen while you read: http://hobokendivision.bandcamp.com/album/a-night-out
© Aurore Pfeiffer
Has Hoboken Division always just been the two of you, or has the band gone through some evolution in that respect? Who plays what in the band?
Marie: It’s always been just the two of us!
Mathieu: I play guitar, harmonica, and piano and Marie sings and plays bass and harmonica as well. We program our drum machine together and I choose which pattern I want on stage. There’re just two of us but it sounds like there’s four!
Are either of you in any other active bands or do you have any side projects going on at this point?
Marie: It’s the main project for me. I don’t think I could invest as much of myself in another band as I do in Hoboken Division. But from time to time, I sing a song or two for friend’s projects.
Mathieu: Same for me. I work hard to find riffs and melodies for Hoboken Division. I did just recently join the band Poincaré in June this year, though. It’s a ten piece shoegaze band with just guitars. All the members play in local bands from our area.
Have you released any music with anyone else in the past? If so, can you tell us a bit about who that was and what you put out?
Marie: I had a band, mainly a studio band as we never played live, in my teens. We made some easy-listening music, just bass, voice and drums. It didn’t go very far, as I had to leave for college, but it was a nice first exposure to studio work!
Mathieu: Yes, with my previous band, The Ventilator Blues Band which started in 2005. We recorded a few originals and some covers of The Velvet Underground. It was a learning period and the first real band for all the members where we went on stage. We played 60s psych rock heavily influenced by the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Chocolate Watch Band, and a bit of the blues… A lot of members came and went in that band.
How old are you and where are you originally from?
Marie: I’m twenty nine years old, and come from Alsace, a French region near the German border.
Mathieu: I’m thirty years old and I come from Metz, a town near the Luxembourg border.
What was the local music scene like where you grew up? Did you see a lot of shows or get very involved in that scene in your opinion? Do you feel like it’s played a large or important part in shaping your musical tastes or forming the way that you perform today?
Marie: I grew up in a tiny village in the mountains… So, there was no music scene! I’ve always listened to tons of music, but with no heavy preferences for any one style. Mostly what my parents listened to and what my friends at school heard on TV. I saw my first rock concert very late!
Mathieu: On my side, the local scene was very metal and there was French pop, some punk and even reggae music, but there wasn’t much in the psych, shoegaze, delta-blues, garage, soul department. I saw a lot of shows, though, from metal, to math-rock, to noise, to hip hop! There were a lot of venues, and a lot of shows. There were some headliners, but it was essentially a lot of indie and underground bands. That was great! It was a good way to see a lot of bands and to learn what I wanted to know for when my turn came to perform.
What about your home growing up? Was there a lot of music around or anything? Were either of your parents of any of your close relatives musicians or extremely interested or involved in music?
Marie: My mother loves classical music and singing in choirs, and I soon followed her there. I spent a bunch of Sunday mornings in the church’s choir with the old ladies of the village, just so I could sing on a basis weekly. Kind of weird, as an atheist, but it was pretty good classical training!
Mathieu: I grew up in the countryside and the first cool town was ten miles away, the first record shop fifteen miles! I’m the only one in my family who plays, but my stepfather was a music radio journalist and has always been addicted to rock music and beyond. He always received CDs from labels and majors, so I listened to a lot of music even before Napster went online and helped people discover all this new music! I just looked through boxes and picked out stuff based on the name, the LP cover, what I heard, and what I read on old rock magazine.
What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?
Mathieu: My stepfather started taking me to concerts at a pretty young age, maybe seven or eight years old, and my first crush on music was at a ZZ top concert; great sound, great playing, great energy, great show and the chicken skin for the loudness of the sound!
Marie: Aside from the many cover shows I attended as a very little girl, a friend of mine’s father was singing in them, so I spent a lot of time backstage watching them perform, my first real concert was at Ben Harper’s. And I remember that aside from enjoying the music and the ambiance, I was also really envious of the musicians on stage.
If you were to pick a moment where everything seemed to change, a moment where you saw the infinite possibilities that music presents and your eyes were opened, what would it be?
Mathieu: I’d say the first rehearsal with some friends in high school. We were jamming at a very poor level with our instruments but at one point, one or two minutes of magic happened, and it was a great feeling to be consumed by the music you’re playing, it’s electrifying! Everyday when I play music for myself or to perform on stage, I do it to feel like that again and again! It makes you feel alive, for real.
Marie: It was when I went from lyrical singing to jazz singing at the conservatory. Choirs were fun and enriching, pop music was fun too, but not really what I wanted. Lyrical singing was tough, mainly because I hated the fact that you needed to achieve a “perfect voice”, a voice I obviously didn’t have. Just after this failure, I discovered jazz music, and even though it took me years to deconstruct everything that lyrical institutions had put in my mind about singing. It was a revelation. Singing isn’t just about having a pretty voice, an impressive voice, or even a perfect voice. It’s about doing whatever you want with it, and the very best you can, and that changed my life!
When did you decide to start writing and performing your own music? What brought that decision about for you, or was it simply a logical extension of being given a means to express yourself and create something?
Marie: It took time for me. I’ve always participated in the writing process, but mainly just by giving my opinion about what was already done by someone else. It took me time to realize I could have ideas too, that those ideas might be interesting in a way, and that I could propose things without feeling ashamed of them. I’m quite an introvert! But I’d say that working with Mathieu in Hoboken Division forced me to embrace my ideas and it gave me that desire to express myself.
Mathieu: I had a band with some friends in high school and everyone at the time wanted to play this Blink182 and Alien Ant Farm stuff… It was so boring… I listened to Stone Roses at the time and wanted to do something groovier, more soulful. So, I started jamming with two other friends doing some original stuff, but there was always a touch of Red Hot Chili Peppers, so I quit and began looking for some people who had the same taste as me. But the main thing that pushed me to perform my own music was when I discovered the Brian Jonestown Massacre. After them, I discovered another side of music, the underground, and found a lot of great records. At this time, I was amazed that just a few guys (The BJM) had the ability to sum up forty years of music in one LP! It motivated me to write and compose more and more.
What was your first instrument? When and how did you get that?
Mathieu: It was the saxophone. I was fourteen, I think, and I wanted to play “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty! Then I discovered Stax, Steve Cropper, Otis Redding, Ike & Tina, and started acting like a Blues Brothers.
Marie: It was the singing! I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, I cannot even begin to explain why and how.
How and when did you two originally meet?
Marie: We met just before starting the band. Mathieu and I had a friend in common, she made him listen to a song I’d made recently, and he wanted to meet me so I could sing a song for his previous project. We ended up drinking beers and talking about the music we love, and how we both imagined our life with music, and realized we had a lot in common. So, we started by playing some covers we loved, and ended up starting a band.
What led to the formation of Hoboken Division and when was that?
Mathieu: At first, we just met a few times a week to have fun and work on cover songs by The Fuzztones, The White Stripes, Cat Power, Credence Clearwater Revival, etcetera… We were looking for gigs to perform and one of Marie’s friends suggested a venue for us, but only if we had original material. So, a month before the date of this gig, we composed and wrote ten songs! The funny thing about it is, that show got cancelled before we had the chance to play, but we had ten songs and a lot of ideas for further material so, we decided to form Hoboken Division.
I love your name. It was just instantly lodged in my head when I read it for whatever reason. What does Hoboken Division mean or refer to? Who came up with it and how did you all go about choosing it? Were there any close seconds you almost went with you can recall at this point?
Marie: When we decided to get serious with this band affair we wrote dozens of random cool words and names on a piece of paper. It was covered with words that we liked for their sound, or with places that could refer to something… In the middle there was “Hoboken Railroad Division”, which we both loved. ‘Railroad’ only lasted a few weeks before we realized nobody here in France, ourselves included, was able to pronounce it correctly! The name is a reference to the Hoboken terminal in New Jersey, where through out history thousands of people have met and mixed, people from the south running away from the Dustball in the early century were put in there when they arrived, people coming from Europe… It was also was a port of departure for he GI’s during both World Wars. They had this maxim: “Heaven, Hell or Hoboken for Christmas”. We like to think that they brought the blues to Europe! We really like the history of the place and it’s a powerful symbolic place for the music we love.
Is there any sort of creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?
Mathieu: Wow, there’s a lot! Musically, it would be dust, rust and burst. It means that we want people to feel something when listening to us. Like those one or two minutes of magic that I told you about earlier. For us, music is an exchange, a sharing of feelings, and it has to be real. Regarding the way we book gigs and promote our music, I’d also say D.I.Y. It’s awesome to play music on stage to earn money to produce our own records. We get choose the studio, the artwork; we get to do it our way. And when it’s done, we go on the road again to earn money to put out recordings, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera! The last code would be to only deal with real music lovers and not people who are commercial.
Marie: We also try our best to be very honest with each other all the time. We have to share a lot, to know each other very well, and when something bothers one of us and may impact the ambiance in the band, or the music, we talk about it! It’s the best way to work without ending up having a huge elephant in the room.
Where is Hoboken Division located at these days? How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at?
Marie: We’re still located in our hometown, Nancy, in the east of France. It’s a little town, where the culture is currently re-birthing itself from the ashes. For the music scene, there was basically nothing for a long time and now it’s coming back, so it’s very exciting to be part of! We have a good bunch of rock, garage, stoner, and noise music, with bands such as Blondstone, Dirty Work Of Soul Brothers, Dead Stereo Boots, Filiamotsa, and Dirty Red Shirt. We’re trying to make a real good scene out here, but we’re still missing some nice venues to play at.
Are you very involved in the local scene at this point in your opinion? Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything?
Marie: We try our best to be involved. We try not to play too often in our hometown. It’s a small city and we don’t want people to get tired of us, but I think it’s important to be an active part of the cultural life of your city. To be a part of its cultural development in one way or another, by playing, attending, and or organizing shows in the few venues we have.
Mathieu: We attend a lot of shows, mainly in the underground scene. Our town is small and we all know each other. Since last year, we’ve been booking shows for bands we played with on previous tours and some bands that share our influences, from blues to psych. As a small town, Nancy isn’t seen as a music city by the press. So every time we get the opportunity, we talk about bands from Nancy and how great they are, because, they are great! It would be nice if our city was recognized as the musical center it is.
Has the local scene played an integral role in the sound, history or evolution of Hoboken Division as a band or do you feel like you could be doing what you are regardless of where you were at or what you were surrounded by and stuff?
Marie: I knew nothing about the local scene before Hoboken Division. I was attending a lot of shows, but only bigger bands, at festivals and bigger venues. I discovered this entire microcosm when I became part of it. So, on my side, there was no connection whatsoever. I just needed to make some music that was at once loud, raw, and sincere and the delta blues roots we’re using as a basis in the band was the exact way to express all that for me. We keep it that way, no matter what other bands are doing.
Mathieu: To be honest, not really. We’re friend with a lot of others musicians and we play with them, but regarding Hoboken Division, it would probably be the same music wherever we were at.
Are you involved in recording or releasing any music besides your own? If so, can you tell us a bit about that here briefly?
Mathieu: I played piano, organ and slide guitar on the Rumble album, a rockabilly band with members of my last band. And when I have time and a band from Nancy has no possibilities of recording a demo to find gigs, and if I like the music, I’ll record them or give them some help.
Marie: I did a few backing vocals for the band Les Wayfarers, who play swing/rockabilly music with French lyrics!
Who are some of your major musical influences?
Mathieu: They’re numerous, but we can directly say Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, Peter Kember, Syd Barett, Skip James, RL Burnside, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, Anton Newcombe, Rowland S. Howard, John Mayall, David Bowie, John Lee Hooker, A Place To Bury Strangers, The Beta Band, The Beatles, The Fuzztones, The Detroit Cobras and Iggy Pop and The Stooges! Raw Power is best album ever for me!
Marie: We’re gonna have a few of them in common: The White Stripes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Dead Weather, Left Lane Cruisers, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Cat Power, The Detroit Cobras, Howling Wolf, RL Burnside, Seasick Steve. There are so many!
What about influences on the band as a whole? A few years ago it was pretty rare to see two-pieces but I feel like they’re gaining a bit more prominence and being taken more seriously these days. Did you draw any influence from early duos or anything like that?
Marie: Being just the two of us was an artistic decision at first. We started together and wanted to keep this energy just between the two of us, without any other opinions. Now that we’ve toured, we realize that being a two-piece’s also a great advantage when it comes to touring! It’s easier for money too. We can afford to do a few shows that don’t pay that well from time to time. There was no influence from other bands, not consciously at least. But seeing those well-known two-pieces manage to achieve what they achieved showed us that it’s possible and that you can have a full and dense sound even though you’re a duo. The White Stripes were very inspiring for me, and The Kills too, but I try to avoid being influenced by them musically. As a duo working with drum machines, people are always comparing us to The Kills, but even though we share the same influences, raw delta blues, I don’t want to be an ersatz of them, or have any of our songs sounding like their work.
You all obviously draw from a lot of different influences and just combine and take what you want from where you want, though you’re tastes are obviously rooted in the blues. Whenever I do these interviews I always have to describe how a band sounds to a bunch of people who’ve never heard them before. It’s a daunting task to say the least. How would you describe Hoboken Division to our readers who might not have heard you before?
Mathieu: As Marie explained with our name, Hoboken Division has to be seen as a crossroad of many genres. The influences span goes from delta-blues to garage and psych music, but heavily fuzzed out and combined with the blues. I would say it’s 21st century garage-blues-psych music!
Marie: It also seems important to mention that we don’t want to make “tribute music”, or try to bring back to life old-time blues. The blues have always been the basis of rock music anyway. We’re using those references to create something anchored in our time, to pass what we’re feeling on to the audience.
What’s the songwriting process like for Hoboken Division? Do you two just get together and kick ideas back and forth and come up with stuff as a unit, or is there one of you that usually comes in with an idea for a song to work out with the other?
Marie: Mathieu has a huge stock of riffs he’s working on regularly, so for the most part we start from there. We sit and listen to it, and try to structure it. See what mood it brings, what lyrics it inspires. Sometimes, we’ll start with one or two sentences that were written just because they sound nice, or even complete lyrics, and then we’ll try to find a match with the guitar riffs we already have. There’s clearly no recipe, some songs come out in one hour, and others stay in drawers for ages, waiting for the just right moment.
What about recording? Recording has been the death of many a great band and while I think that most musicians can obviously appreciate the end result of all the time and effort that goes into making an album when they’re finally holding that finished product in their hands, getting to that point, and getting stuff to sound like you want it to as a band can be extremely difficult to say the least. What’s it like recording for Hoboken Division?
Marie: It can clearly be way more stressful than stepping on stage, because you may have to compromise on important stuff, and because someone else is getting their hands on your project. Plus, you’re give your music one shape, the one that was the best for you at the moment and it’ll stay like that forever once it’s released! That can be scary too, you can be afraid that you won’t like the recordings anymore in a few years. But up until this point it’s always ended well for us, and we’ve always had a lot of fun recording our music! Not to mention as a two-pieces band, it’s good to have someone else give their opinion on what we’re doing, or at least provide an external look at it.
Mathieu: It’s always a pleasure and a lot of fun to go into the studio! We can try out a lot of gear that we can’t afford, and it develops a lot of new ideas for the intro of this song, or the sound of the bass on that song, etcetera. It’s a playground for me!
© Aurore Pfeiffer
Do you all prefer to head into the studio and let someone else handle the technical aspects of things so you can simply concentrate on the music and getting the best sound and performances as possible? Or, do you all like to take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle those things on your own so that you don’t have to work with or compromise with anyone else on the sound?
Mathieu: I’d say both. Before recording, when we’re in the studio, we spend a lot of time explaining what we expect and discussing what sound we imagine with the sound engineer, what’s possible, how it will sound with this kind of mic or this process… So, we know where we’re going. But even before heading into the studio, we work a lot to compose, arrange and search for the sound for this or that. We do part of this studio work at home, in order to know exactly what we want, and be prepared to face whatever could happen in the studio.
© Hadrien Wissler
Marie: I appreciate only worrying about the music when I’m in the studio, so the choice of the sound engineer is crucial to avoid bad surprises. As Mathieu said, we know where we’re going and have usually worked a lot on it before getting into the studio.
Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into working out ever little aspect of a song before you record it with the arrangement and composition all airtight and meticulously planned out ahead of time, or do you get a good skeletal idea of a song and then allow for some change and evolution during the recording process where necessary?
Marie: I would love to experience allowing some evolution in the studio. Unfortunately, until now we never had enough time to do so. We have to be very well prepared, as we can clearly not afford a long time in there! But we do make some pretty evolved pre-productions at home before heading the studio, where we try all the different possibilities, different arrangements and different sounds, until we’re sure what works best.
Do psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large role in the songwriting, performance or recording processes for Hoboken Division? I don’t mean this in a negative respect at all. People have been tapping into the altered mind states that drugs produce for the purposes of creating art for thousands of years and I’m always curious about their usage and application when it comes to the music that I personally enjoy and consume.
Marie: I don’t use them, especially not when making music. I know from experience that even the lightest of them makes me lose all my focus. I enjoy playing music very much, and I’m afraid that taking something, even though it could make me enjoy it even more, would also disconnect me from the moment. I guess we all have a very different relation to drugs, and that’s what makes it hard to explain, but I’ve always felt that I couldn’t trust myself with those kinds of things!
Mathieu: I don’t use them when on stage, just some beer. But when I play or look for some melodies or rhythm, I do use them sometimes. It can make you hear something that you weren’t aware of before, but you’d better record it and play it later sober to see if it’s good or not!
In 2012 you released your first material that I know of, the self-titled Hoboken Division EP in a limited edition of 250 CDs. Can you share some of your memories of recording that first material? Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you all or more of a completely nerve-wracking proposition for you at that point? When and where was that material recorded? Who recorded it and what kind of equipment was used?
Marie: I remember enjoying the recording, but I also remember how hard it was for me when it came to the mix. It was the first time I had seen it, I didn’t know all the steps in a numeric mix, and all during the process I was screaming “What are you doing? That’s not how we’re going to sound in the end, is it!?!” inside my head. It was stressful, but it ended well, so now, I know how to deal with it. And we really ended up having something we liked even better than we could have imagined. The sound engineer was really good with the drumboxes, he had a lot of insight and information about them, and really helped us to find the sound that fit our music.
Mathieu: I enjoyed it a lot, because I knew we were working on the music that we like! Laurent Lepagneau, the sound engineer, has a great underground rock and garage culture and lead us from the sound we had on our demos to far beyond! What I remember about this experience is the good results you get when you’re extreme in your sound choice. It’s great. The studio was equipped with great pedal effects and we tested a lot of them, playground time!
A year later in 2013 you all followed up the Hoboken Division CD with your self-released 7-inch A Night Out. I know the CD was limited to 250 copies, is the single limited as well or an open ended pressing? Where and when was the material for A Night Out recorded? Who recorded that material and what kind of equipment was used?
Mathieu: The single is limited as well, we still have some now, but it’ll sell out next year. For the mix, we did it with our live sound engineer, Geoffrey Duthilleul and the mastering was done by JF Hustin from Liege, Belgium.
Marie: We recorded this one in Liege, Belgium in the winter of 2013. It was a very good experience too, very different from the first time. The sound engineer’s approach was more “live”, much more based on our intentions and energy. We recorded it almost entirely live. We didn’t have a lot of time, only two days, so I’m still a little bit frustrated with all the things we could have tried!
When I was talking to you not too long ago you mentioned that you all were prepping for the release of your debut album this spring. Have you all already recorded that material or are you still working on that? If you all have recorded it, where and when was that done? Who recorded it and what kind of equipment was used this time around? Is there any title in mind or projected release date at this point? Did you try anything radically new or different when it came to the songwriting or recording of the material for the upcoming album?
Mathieu: We already did a session in mid-September and we’ve got another one planned for the end of November to record what’s left and start the mixing process. We don’t have a title yet and we’ll start planning the release when the vinyl’s done. As far as the composition, two or three songs are in unusual tunings. That was a real fun to play and mess around with, it was a totally different approach to the guitar playing!
Marie: For the album we used analog material, and we’re really proud of it! It’s a whole different way of working. We can appreciate it now that we’ve tried both digital and tape. It was recorded at a little studio in Toulouse called Swampland, and it was the best studio experience for me. We only used our instruments, voices, amps, and it’s thrilling to realize that what you’re hearing from the tape is exactly what you did behind the microphone! There was no cheating, no plugs on Logic, just you, what you’re capable of, the very good sound engineer Lo, a bunch of good microphones and pre-amps and the smooth hot sound of the tape. The sound engineer has a very ‘garage’ way of working, so we’re staying very instinctive and raw.
Does Hoboken Division have any music that we haven’t talked about, maybe a demo or song on a compilation that I don’t know about?
Mathieu: Several songs from the first EP were featured on compilations such as psychgazer and Psychedelic Underground Generation.
I know we talked about the upcoming full-length for you, other than that, do you have anything planned or on the horizon as far as releases go at this point?
Mathieu: After the release of the LP, we’re going to record material to realize a series of 7-inches. The idea is that each 7-inch will be associated to a different kind of guitar tuning, with an original and a cover song for each.
Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your stuff?
Marie: Radio Kaos Record, Steven Point, Wisconsin and Chicago too, at the Permanent Records shop.
Mathieu: We’ll try our best to send the LP to a bunch of record shops in other US cities and to reach some radios via the college radio network.
With the completely insane international shipping these days I try and provide our readers with as many options for picking up imports releases as I can! Where’s the best place for our overseas and international readers to pick up your stuff?
Mathieu: Bandcamp is the best place to pick up our stuff digitally, or on CD or vinyl. We ship them with some artwork on craft packaging, it’s pretty cool!
Are there any major plans or goals that Hoboken Division is looking to accomplish in the rest of 2014 or in 2015?
Marie: We want to give making our first album a really good shot, so 2015 is gonna be focused on that. Touring, promoting, touring again, playing bigger venues too, meeting more people, and developing the band.
Mathieu: And composing new material with the ideas we had in 2014 and recording it for the next release!
What, if anything, do you have planned as far as touring goes at this point?
Marie: We’ve done Belgium, Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg so far, and we really hope to go farther! We’ll see what kind of opportunities we can find, and follow them.
Mathieu: We’re going to try for the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy as well.
Do you spend a lot of time out on the road? Do you enjoy touring? What’s life like on the road for Hoboken Division?
Marie: Touring is probably one of the best parts. It’s easy for us, I mean, for now everything fits in one car! I really enjoy it, even though it can be very hard mentally. We’re still playing a lot of small venues and bars, and you have to go through a lot of different ambiances on very short notice. One day you’re with amazing, welcoming people who make you feel at home as soon as you walk in the door, and a day later you’re in a place where they don’t even know what kind of music you’re playing! We try to tour as much as we can and it’s even kind of harrowing to stop touring to do other things. I quickly get the sensation of treading water. I know it’s necessary, but I never hold up well when it happens.
Mathieu: Oh yeah, a lot of time! But it’s really enjoyable; we meet nice people, party with them and visit some cool places around EU. It’s great!
© Barouf Menzzoto
Do you remember what the first song that Hoboken Division ever played live was? When and where would that have been at?
Mathieu: The first song we ever played live was actually our first original song as well, “Out Of Business”. That was in June 2011 in Metz, France.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the years?
Mathieu: We opened for The Experimental Tropic Blues Band, a great garage-blues band from Belgium. Tinariwen too, and Grand Guru this one man punk-band from Rouen, France.
In your dreams, who are you on tour with?
Marie: I would go on tour without the slightest hesitation with the Detroit Cobras!
Mathieu: I’d say Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It would be fun to ride bikes before playing on stage!
Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?
Marie: Like probably every band that’s playing bars, we have a story including a dog. He was part of our ten person audience for the night, and barked to the rhythm of our drumboxes the entire show. That’s the good thing with the first few years of a band: you have a pretty good bunch of stories to tell your friends when you come back from touring!
Mathieu: There’re a lot, good and bad! I like freaks. One day in the south of France a freaky hippie danced in front of us during the whole show and when we stopped, he just kept dancing. I asked him why and he just said, “Your melodies grabbed my brain and I’ll dance over it all the time”! Dunno what he took, but I should have asked him!
© Tridim photography
Marie: Those are the best! There’s often one person like that, acting as if they were alone in the world, dancing in a strange but passionate way. And when they’re at a show, the rest of the audience tends to let it go as well, it’s pretty cool!
Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs and album covers? Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re attempting to get across or convey with the visual aspects of the band?
Mathieu: There’s no particular meaning, but we think a lot about the design of our artwork and of our website as well. It’s always cool to be able to design a record from A to Z! But since we’re on the road, we met a lot of people who are amazing at graphic art. So maybe, one day, we’ll ask one of them to design something for us.
Marie: It’s important to have a level of coherence to everything, an identity. It’s part of the band, as it’s often the first thing people see from us and I like the idea of having a special sphere around each production, a sphere that is both recognizable as Hoboken Division’s, and especially done for a particular release.
With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the mediums that they do. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music? What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music? If you do have a preference can you tell us what that is and a little bit about why?
Mathieu: I think I use all the mediums available to listen music. My stepfather gave me CDs from his work and I compiled what I wanted on tapes. Then, the internet appeared with Napster, eMule and p2p. I remember my friends and I downloaded a lot of music, more than you could ever listen to in a lifetime! Everything was only playlists of the best tunes, never, or at least rarely, a whole album. Slowly, we realized that music wasn’t consumed as it should be and at that point we began to buy vinyl. Actually, the music that we like isn’t in the mainstream and won’t be available in huge distribution stores. So, I dig Discogs and every record shop that I visit to find new stuff or oldies. The fact you have to take the disc out of its sleeve and put it on the turntable, means you have to take the time to appreciate music and enjoy the artwork. It’s a completely different approach than playing it on a computer. But when you drive, it’s great to listen to music as well, so that’s why we release them digitally as well as on vinyl. Hopefully, we’ve done enough concerts to be able to release them physically.
When I was younger my dad would take me around to the local music shops and pick me up random stuff that I was interested in listening to, and as a result I developed this whole ritual. I would rush home, snag a set of headphones, feverishly read the liner notes, stare at the cover artwork and just let the music transport me off on this trip! Having something physically connected to the music, something concrete that I could hold in my hands always made for a much more complete listening experience for me. Do you have any such connection with physically released music?
Marie: I re-discovered it when I started buying vinyl. I had it when I was younger with the CD, but it somehow got lost… With the internet, the mp3s, and iPods and stuff, I didn’t feel that connection anymore. With vinyl, you’re almost obligated to a ritual; the object is big, you have to get up to put it on your turntable, and then get up again to turn it. Nobody does that without really listening to it in the meantime! Plus it’s beautiful. The bands get creative with the artwork and the music almost seems more concrete.
Mathieu: Completely agree with all of you! Physical music is something special!
Like it or not, digital music is here in a big way these days. There are upsides and downsides to everything in my opinion, it just depends on how you look at and handle things. Digital music is really just the tip of the iceberg though, when you combine digital music with the internet, that’s when you’ve really got something! Together, they’ve exposed people to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by and allowed bands and their fans to communicate like never before. On the other hand though, while people are being exposed to more music than ever, they’re not necessarily very interested in paying for it at this point and while I don’t think that anyone on the indie level was getting “rich” selling albums, illegal piracy has definitely taken a toll on the bottom line. Not to mention, it’s harder than ever to get noticed in the chocked digital jungle that is the internet these days. As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Marie: Digital distribution, even if it tends to “de-sanctify” the music, is probably something good. Big major companies have less power, the bands can control part of their production by themselves, and the public is more concerned in a way. Digital music along with the internet has connected the artists to the public. But on the other hand, public can have too much concern. I kind of miss the time when nobody knew how much it cost to make an album, and nobody was asked to give money to help a band release an album. I liked the “magic” that was implied to the music when you had to wait until a release, go buy the album in a store, and then rushed home to listen to it. I guess I’m trying to find a good middle ground between those two things: being more connected to the public, more reactive, but in the meantime not sharing everything. It’s hard to accept that your music can be easy to get, or even free, knowing that you spend so much time and energy creating it. But that’s how it works now, and I think bands will always find a way to compensate for it. For example, being super creative on the artwork, having beautiful and imaginative ways to communicate and sell your merchandise, etcetera. I don’t mind people downloading my music on the internet, as long as those who like it the most end up buying some vinyl or a CD, or even just support us on tour, or leave nice comments on our website. For sure, I won’t be able to ask them for money. I have a real issue with all those websites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and stuff when it comes to music. And that’s, I think, one major change that was brought on by the internet, that and easily being able to communicate with your fans. Of course it’s a great way to achieve your projects, but I’m staying old school with all this, if you want to release something but don’t have the money, then do your job and go on tour until you have the money! I like being close to the public, but I don’t like owing them anything. It’s an exchange of energy and music, if they like what I do they’ll come to my show and eventually buy CDs. Maybe that’s not how it works now, but as long as I can resist it, I will!
Mathieu: I like the idea that our music can be reached by people from the USA, Australia and the whole world in general! Thanks to the internet, we did an interview for the Rolling Stone South Africa website! The journalist liked our music and by talking with her, we discovered a lot of good bands from Cape Town and Johannesburg. That’s the beauty of the internet. About digital music and distribution, I don’t think the issue is the amount of music we’re reached by, but rather the coverage of it by the media. I mean, music lovers will always be digging around for new stuff, or oldies that they didn’t know about, that’s the underground level. But as for the masses, radios are still playing the major or big label game, waiting for the PR department to send them some press communications to talk about bands to try and run the industry well. It’s like their judgment for discovery is off… We actually have a funny story about that. When we released the first EP, we sent it to the independent rock station network in France; there are about twenty five to thirty radio stations all together. We got played on seven or eight of them and the rest wouldn’t play it. Three month later, we had a good review in a national music paper and the same radio that didn’t want our stuff at the time asked us to send them the EP for radio airplay. We sent it to them of course, but it was significant. If there’s no recommendation from “big” media outlets, you’re still unknown. I don’t think this situation is new, and it was the same in the 60s or 70s, so digital distribution isn’t the problem. That’s why music lovers are the best; they appreciate music for what it is! If they like a band, known or unknown by the big blogs or big music papers, they will share their feelings about that band with their music lover friends. They will buy records, go to little shows, and even organize them sometimes. It’s always an exchange. That’s why the underground is so rich and full of new music, and it’s available everywhere in the world, thanks to digital music and sites like Bandcamp! People today are too confused about good music and audience. Playing in a small venue in front of very few people doesn’t mean that the band is crappy. A great example is in DiG! when the Brian Jonestown Massacre played in front of ten people, and there many others! Curiosity and discovery are the best fuel to find good music.
I try to keep up with as much good music as I can but with all the amazing stuff out there right now it’s hard to even know where to start sometimes. Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?
Marie: You should give a listen to Blondstone, Dirty Work Of Soul Brothers, Dead Stereo Boots, Dirty Red Shirts for the rock/grunge/stoner part of our scene, and Filiamotsa for the creative and very cinematic noise music!
Mathieu: In Metz, there are good psych bands, like My Lovely Underground, Feeling of Love, The Wise Dude Revolver, and the Great Artiste. Then there’s Chicken Diamond, YvY, and King Automatic, the garage kings of east France!
© Hadrien Wissler
What about nationally and internationally?
Mathieu: Currently, I listen a lot to Liminanas, a French-based band, and The Jabberwocky Band, this drone-psych band from Rouen in France as well. From South Africa, there’s Medicine Boy and the Very Wicked. Plus, A Place to Bury Strangers, Birth Of Joy, Spindrift… There are a lot!
© Hadrien Wissler
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me about the band. It was awesome getting to learn so much about you two and getting some background on where the music comes from. I swear I don’t have anymore questions for you, but before we call it quits I’d like to open the floor up to you for a moment. Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you might just want to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about at this point?
Mathieu: I really enjoyed answering your questions. They were great and gave us the space to explain more about how we see the music and its environment! If I were to say something to the readers it would be, thank you for reading this far, have a great time digging music, especially little bands from all over the world; talk with them, make the exchange interesting. It’s amazing the feelings music can provide! It’s only psychedelic baby and we like it!
Marie: Thank you so much for your interest Uncle Jerk! And just like Mathieu: People, keep on supporting your local dreamers, and bands all over the world. Even though they may never make it to your favorite big radio station, you never know, music is full of surprises!
(2012) Hoboken Division – Hoboken Division EP – Digital, CD – Self-Released (limited to 250 copies)
(2013) Hoboken Division – A Night Out – Digital, 7” – Self-Released
(201?) Hoboken Division – TBA full-length – TBA – TBA
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014