Interview with MITCHELL FRIEND from Hostile Little Face
Perth band, Hostile Little Face have just finished recording their second studio and are about to head out on their first national tour. We spoke to lead singer Mitchell Freind about Guerilla Punk shows in Adelaide, Teaching and life in general.
You guys have just finished recording After Anger, your second studio album. How did the recording go and are you happy with how it turned out?
The recording went for ages. We started in October and we finished about two weeks before the launch date so it was right on the edge. We sent it away for pressing on the day that we finished it and even that was kind of jammed together. We could have used another week or two.
Really happy with it – John Prosser from Vision Rehersal Studios is in our band now. He started as our keys player but moved across to guitar. He did a really, really good job. We all busted our arse on it, like massively. So yeah, happy with how it turned out but, another week on it would have been nice.
You mentioned that this one put a strain on your relationships. Was that within the band, outside of the band? How did you guys overcome it?
I think it was all of the above. John and myself in particular were spending heaps of time in the studio. Straight from work every day to the studio. Obviously, that’s his job as well so he was working there and staying there so that put some pressure on him and his family and put pressure on me with my family.
My family is going through all this other stuff at the moment so really I should be there for them but we both got tunnel vision and need to smash through this thing and we had the launch date looming as well so that added to the stress for sure.
So it’s all sorted now?
Yeah, the pressure is all off now thankfully.
You have been around for 8 years now, how different is the Perth scene from when you first started out?
Sadly, I’ve gotta say, it’s dwindled in a pretty massive way. Getting the numbers that you used to be able to get to shows eight years ago; you have to put in a lot more campaigning for a lesser pay off, if you know what I mean.
For our first album launch, I think we got about 270 through the door and we weren’t organised for that one like we are for this one. This one, we got over 150 heads and that was considered a good night, like a really solid night.
So it’s changed, dance music has definitely taken the arse out of live bands that’s for sure.
HLF have gone through some line up changes throughout the years, how has that affected you as a band and how do you feel about the current line up?
I was just thinking about that on the way here actually. Our first EP and our last album were recorded with Chris Marchegiani as the guitarist and he’s now in L.A so when he moved away, we got Dave Lennon who was previously in a band called Wing It.
When we started writing new songs with him, you could kind of just get the sense that there was a different lead guitarist, it brought a different kind of character to the music and a lot of the songs were not recorded by Dave but the lead parts were written by Dave so there are kind of two specific halves to the album.
The first half is mostly what we did with Dave and now we’ve got John and the second half is pretty much more John and you’ll notice the keys on the album and that was all John writing that as well.
So yeah it’s interesting because generally, I will bring the idea to the band and then we work on it together but having that single, individual line up change has just added a different, flavour, to each segment of our band life.
You have played solo shows and of course, in a band, do you prefer either one more? Or do they both have their different advantages/challenges?
Yeah, for awhile, when the band had slowed down and we were doing our own thing, getting our careers up and running and that kind of thing that you do when you get old.
During that time, I guess I was a bit down on the band and I started leaning more heavily on the solo thing and that’s when I did the EP.
But then, I guess there was a time during that whole growing up period, I realised that now Chris had gone – Chris was our organised guy so now he’s gone, it’s gonna have to be me and that’s been a bit of an adjustment period for me but now I’ve taken the reins in organising things.
Now that I’m a bit more used to it, I’m really into the band right now, really passionate about it and when the band’s good, it’s better than the solo thing could ever be because you are sharing it with three other people but at the same time, the acoustic thing is easy. It’s just you – you don’t have to wait for all your band mates to reply or any of that stuff that holds up the pipeline but yeah, the band.
To be able to share that with three other people, you really just can’t go wrong.
The album has a melancholic, yet strangely upbeat feel about it. Where did the inspiration come for this album?
I’m glad you said that because that is exactly what we were going for. I think one of the big things was that we just wanted to be honest like, lyrically sort of thing, we wanted to be honest and really stripped back.
Instead of being overly poetic, I just wanted to say it as it is and spill it right out there straight up instead of dancing around it or burying it in metaphor or anything like that. We kind of had that idea and all of us in the band have had some pretty major things happen in the last couple of years – major, life affecting things and I think we wanted to get those down and we wanted the music to reflect the attitude or the story of each song.
A good example I guess is the song Panic Attack, the fourth song. It’s about a friend of mine who lost her partner like a year and a half back, two years back so it was all about her anxiety trying to deal with it, thinking that she was seeing him, that sort of thing and we wanted the sound to give that vibe off as well.
We wanted to thematically match what we were singing about in our music so we tried to do that with every song. I guess because we’ve matured a bit, grown up a bit, I guess we handle things in our life in a more even keel way or try to see the brighter side or just accept it because we know that’s the sort of thing that life throws at you. So the upbeat thing is the optimism underlying whatever is going on.
One of the reasons you guys took a break was to establish your careers. Are you loving being a teacher? And any advice for your students wanting to pursue a career in the music industry?
I do love being a teacher but it’s really hard work. I think being a teacher has forced me into that sort of, organisational role which has ultimately helped with the band stuff. I guess the disciplines that I’m picking up as a teacher are spilling over into my management of the band so in that way, they have complemented each other.
The kids love the music. I don’t really play music for them but they love hearing about it and it’s something that we connect over.
I think as far as advice in pursuing it goes – whatever you choose to love, you should just go hard at it. Try not to get too distracted by the peripheral stuff which can happen, especially with creative people. You might want to do music, but, for example, I also love to draw and I also want to make short films at some point in my life so, instead of looking at one thing, I’m looking at three things and not doing any of them.
So, I think, just focus yourself, do something; have something to show; get it out of your system; move onto the next thing. If the next thing is another album, another song; awesome. If the next thing’s a drawing, comic, whatever – just make sure you get it finished and get it done. Work hard at it, like push at it. It’s too easy to wait and think that things are going to happen for you and it’s just not the way it works.
When you first started out, what was the best advice that you were given?
You guys should play covers (laughs). Would have been more money in it.
Do you know what, to be honest, when we first started, when we started up a band and a few of our friends had started up bands at the same time, we didn’t really know anyone established so we weren’t really getting much advice from anywhere and I think that’s half the reason we got off to such a slow start.
There are all these things that you have to like; I guess you do it as a kid – your parents give you advice and you never listen, like your parents tell you how fast time goes when you are older but even if you did listen, you just can’t wrap your head around it because you haven’t experienced it yet and I think it’s the same with music. Any advice that you do get, especially when you are starting a band because you are usually late teens/early 20s, you’re kind of stubborn and pigheaded and you dig your heels in.
You are just not able to receive that kind of information yet. So even if someone had been there to give advice, I’m not so sure that it would have been well received. I don’t know if it’s a late teens/early 20s thing or a boy thing or whatever but it was definitely a thing with me.
People try and give you advice and you just sort of fob it off and think you know better basically.
As we get older, our experiences and influences change. How have yours changed over the years?
Influence wise I think my music taste has, I don’t wanna say matured because I grew up listening to a lot of punk, like heaps of punk. When I first started a band, I started a punk band and that was awesome. I still love punk music but I guess my taste has expanded and more accepting of other music now.
It’s easy to just say I love Rock, I love Punk, I love Metal, whatever and just limit yourself to that but a good song is a good song in any genre. A good anything is a good anything and you don’t have to like the field to like the thing.
I think also how you interpret things sort of changes as you grow up – you can kinda handle things with, I don’t know, the more you go through, the more you can handle things coming at you I guess. And things come at you harder and harder so it’s training. Your whole life is training you, little steps along the way.
You guys are about to head out on tour. Where are you looking forward to the most?
Adelaide – when I was in my punk band that I mentioned before, we played a show in Adelaide. It was amazing! I don’t know how it is over there now but the music scene was really, really strong and from what I’ve heard it still is.
It will all be fun but Adelaide has a place in my heart. I remember when we were over there last time they had, because we were over there in the punk field, they had pop up shows where three or four bands would organise a location and they would just meet up on the street with their amplifiers and plug them into a power supply and just start playing until the cops showed up. They would then just pick up their shit and just run off.
I always thought that was really cool, like, guerrilla gigs! Only Adelaide, I’ve only heard that kind of thing happening here.
You guys have just released your first video – it’s pretty dark. So who’s idea was that?
That was my idea yeah. Me and a friend played around with the whole silhouette thing. You know how I mentioned that I wanted to make short films? Probably about four years ago, we hung a green screen up on my wall and ran in place and that kind of thing.
It looked pretty shitty compared to the one that we did for this but it always stuck with me and I thought it would be cool to do something like that and actually get it finished.
We bought this shitty treadmill off Gumtree for $20 and we hung up a green screen, put the treadmill in front of it so any time you see anyone running, they are just running on the treadmill.
We also bought this cheap, dodgy pulley system so we could suspend. It was Mikey, our drummer was the silhouette so we were all just lifting him up to the roof for him to fall and stuff like that.
My family has gone through some pretty bad shit in the last couple of the years and I guess it’s all about that really, in a way – just trying to reconnect with each other and having a hard time doing that and just slipping through each others fingers and that kind of thing. So that’s what it’s meant to mean.
That’s exactly what it felt to me watching it.
It’s good that what we are trying to get across to people is actually getting across, at least to one person anyway.
Anything else that you would like to add?
I guess, on behalf of the band, we are all just super proud of this album. We all worked really hard on it, it’s incredibly personal and everything feels, you know, albums are never where you picture them in your head to be, they never quite land there but I think this is the closest reach to what we hoped to achieve and there are going to be a lot of firsts coming out of this album.
Our first national tour as Hostile Little Face, we did our first music video which we are super proud of – we put an insane amount of hours into and I guess we are just excited to get back into the circuit as we’ve been keeping it on the down low for awhile – getting all our jobs in order and what not.
It’s just going to be good to play some shows again, and play some shows without that preoccupation of trying to make it. We’ve kind of gotten past that. We just want to do what we love. I guess that gives you a lot more freedom as well. It’s nice to kind of have that.
Like not trying to get onto Triple J and things like that?
We’ll still push but our expectations are more realistic. It’s like what you asked before about getting older, yeah we just have more realistic expectations now.