“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” has earned its hoary immortality in Memeville.
That’s how it was from February 2020 onward. That’s how it hit I See Hawks in L.A., who played their final live show at Ben Vaughn’s Wonder Valley Festival. The evening was charged, Ben and the Hawks (as ISHILA is otherwise known) pushing against the unknown at the edge of the desert night.
I See Hawks in L.A. — who will release their first post-pandemic album, On Our Way, on August 27, 2021 — tell the rest of story in their own words:
And then, well you know. Le lockdown. For I See Hawks in L.A., it was disruptive, but we’re drawn to disruption, we create disruption, it’s a creative source, and here it was handed to us writ large by global fate. How do little old us ride this floodwave?
Well, we dove in, digitally. Without ever playing music together. As was near universal for musicians, reality was the all-embracing screen, vivid cyber images that sang and played drums and guitar.
Rob Waller and Paul Lacques went on an uncharacteristically locked-in songwriting schedule, , every Friday Facetiming it at the crack of 4 p.m., quite a challenge (you can't play guitars at the same time) — but also an oasis from chaos. Pure strange joy. We cranked out an album’s worth of songs, with big contributions from drummer Victoria Jacobs.
Social and eco commentary have always marked our lyrics. This period of genuine global and American crises have made pontificating particularly perilous and delicate. How do you state your views without exploiting genuine suffering? We went historic and oblique, with songs about Geronimo, Muhammad Ali, the Faulknerian dilemma, in language sometimes more abstract and mirroring than narration. (We take some rambles, but there are also classic Hawks two-beats and country rockers about Marin wiccans, London markets, and the [un]certainties of love and broken hearts.)
Then began the studio game, ProTools trial by error, error in abundance. Why don’t these tracks line up? Can we use an iPhone recording? (Yes.) Rob sends a vocal and guitar. Paul and Victoria cut drums, Paul Marshall cuts bass and vocs. We recut. Okay, sounds like music. We got beautiful guest performances from our compadres Danny McGough, Brantley Kearns, Dave Zirbel, Richie Lawrence, Rich Dembowski and Woody Aplanalp (Old Californio), Joe Berardi, Marcus Watkins and Marc Doten (Double Naught Spy Car), and James Combs and Ed Barguiarena (Great Willow).
There are always silver linings. A big one for us was the realization that we need music far more than it needs us. Singing and playing, even locked into computer recording, was a life raft. It seems to have gotten us to shore: some hopefully classic vibe Hawks and some new sonic directions born of the limitations and possibilities of the studio only universe. A lurch into modernity.
I See Hawks in L.A. are Southern California’s leading alt country/Americana/folk rock band. Noted for their lyrical celebrations of earth and ecosphere, odes to the endless highway, and wry social commentary, they’ve gathered a loyal and global tribe from many U.S. and Europe/UK tours, consistently rave reviews from critics, and a serious presence in the Top 10 of the Freeform American Roots chart, the Americana Chart, and the Euro Americana chart.
The Hawks were formally spoken into existence in 1999 by Rob Waller and brothers Paul and Anthony Lacques during a philosophical discussion and rock-throwing session on an East Mojave desert trek.
The miles and songs have launched a never-ending musical dialogue with planet Earth and its strange inhabitants, and brought the Hawks into concert or recording collaborations with Chris Hillman, Lucinda Williams, Dave Alvin, Old 97s, The Mavericks, Peter Case, Gabe Witcher, Bernie Leadon, Meat Puppets, Rick Shea, Lucinda Williams, Dave Alvin, Old 97s, The Mavericks, Peter Case, Gabe Witcher, Bernie Leadon, Meat Puppets, and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
ISHILA have headlined at McCabe's, Old Town School of Folk Music Chicago, Slims (RIP), Joe’s Pub, and Grand Performances (L.A.), where in 2019 they were honored to be house band for a night of global protest songs, and other top national venues.
Festival appearances: Stagecoach, Strawberry Festival, Down On The Farm (Halden, Norway), Maverick Fest (UK), Solas Fest (UK), Belladrum Tartan Heart (UK), Hempfest (Seattle), French Broad River Fest (NC), Earagail Arts Festival (Northern Ireland), Westport Bluegrass Festival (Ireland), Celtic Fusion Fest & Earagail Arts Festival (Ireland), Carter Ranch Fest (CA), Frogtown Artwalk (CA), Humboldt Summer Music And Arts Festival (CA), Cadenberge Festival (Germany), Albino Skunkfest (SC), Silverlake Street Scene (CA), Santa Monica Music Festival (CA), Los Feliz Street Scene (CA)