The Michigan power trio The Hard Lessons have been rocking the world with their great bluesy rock 'n' roll for the last decade. An amazing feat for any band, they continue to fight the good fight with the recent release of their latest album Start What You Finished.
The band took sometime to talk to BLS about, amongst other things, the new album and what it takes to survive as a band for ten.
BLS: You’ve just released Start What You Finished, your latest full-length album. What do you enjoy the most about the new album? Sonically and technically, how dose this album compare to your past material?
HL: It was the easiest record we've ever made. After ten years of playing in this band, we just feel a lot more comfortable writing and recording. I love the fact that we captured a lot of what people love about our live sound on this record. All of the things people know and love about our band are there (big riffs, boy/girl harmonies, Ko's soulful vocals, some poppier hooks) but it is definitely the closest we've ever come to capturing the live sound and that distinguishes it from our past records.
BLS: Start What You Finished sees the new addition of Steve Warstler on drums. What made you choose him to join the band? What dose he bring to the band and the sound of the new album?
HL: Steve started off as a fan of our band, later we had his band Mind Fish (featuring Dean from Silent Lions) open for us at some shows in Michigan and Ohio. When Mind Fish broke up and Steve stopped doing stuff with Silent Lions we found ourselves in need of a drummer and just asked him to fill in. The first thing he did with us was film the video for "Sit & Argue" before he had even played a show with us!
BLS: As a married couple do you find that there are unique benefits and disadvantages of being in a band together? Dose your relationships effect the dynamics with the other members of the band?
HL: Before we had our son, I would say that it was mostly all benefits. Most of my friends who toured would get into it with their significant others because they're off traveling the world while their boyfriend or girlfriend sits at home. Visiting 7 countries with my girlfriend (and then wife) was awesome. However, now that we have a son it provides some unique challenges. Rehearsal? Gotta get a sitter. Show? Gotta get a sitter. Recording? Gotta get a sitter. Luckily our families are more than happy to help.
BLS: As a band you’ve always believed in presenting a distinctly unique image, from pressing your music to vinyl to screen printed gig posters. Is this a conscious effort, or is it the result of the skills of those around you? What makes vinyl records so appealing to you?
HL: We do all of those things because we are FANS of music first and foremost. I'm not calling out someone who doesn't press their music on vinyl, or saying that if you don't have silk-screened posters that you're not a music fan. But there is just a different mentality with some folks - and they know who they are. We grew up in record stores, obsessing over every detail of records, collecting posters, mentally cataloging record labels and limited releases. We wanted our band to be a part of that culture. I get that people want access to music in the palm of their hand, but I want something I can stick on my shelf and admire both sonically and physically.
BLS: You recently reached an amazing mile stone of 10 years as a band. How has the band and you as artists evolved in this past decade? What steps have you taken to be able to survive the tests of time?
HL: It is not easy to reach 10 years. But we love doing what we do, and there are still people that love our band. If either of those were to go away, I might not see a reason to continue. I will always play music in some way, but the band The Hard Lessons (especially live) is about interacting with a CROWD. If no one was coming to our shows, we couldn't do this. Our fans complete us. They are part of us.
BLS: What would you like for the next ten years to hold in store for you and your band?
HL: I feel like we just now have figured this whole thing out. I wish I knew as much as I know now - songwriting, traveling, recording, performing, etc. - when we were starting out and had such a strong spotlight on us. It's embarrassing to see how green we were, but I think that youthful, naive enthusiasm is what really endeared us to people.
BLS: In the early 2000’s you received a lot of attention on a national level that has unfortunately receded in the last few years. Do you feel this is the result of the industry or did the focus of the band change? Are you concerned with trying to regaining that past momentum?
HL: I think the answer is twofold. First, at 10 years no band receives the attention they get when they're new. I watched that Pearl Jam documentary and they went from selling 10,000,000 copies of their debut, to selling 500,000 at 10 years. But they still have this rabid fan base who supports them. I think that is a natural trajectory for bands, even on our small level. The other thing is this is not the only thing in our lives anymore. We have a family, we work at other jobs, we have a home. Before our life was this band. It is still extremely important to us, but we don't live or die by it anymore.
BLS: You guys are huge proponents of the local scene both in supporting your own and encouraging others to support theirs. With the ups and downs of your own musical journey how has your hometown scene made a difference? Do you think that the salvation of music lies in the bands and artists in your own back yard?
HL: I'm proud to have made such an impact in Detroit, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Flint, Grand Rapids... We love Michigan, and to have inspired bands from our home state is very meaningful. I'm not sure if a Michigan band will change the world tomorrow, but as the White Stripes proved, sometimes the underdogs from the forgotten parts of the country can end up on top.
BLS: So with a new record in you back pocket, what dose 2014 have in store for you?
HL: More shows, but no tours. I think the two-months-on-the-road version of this band is no more. But we're trying hard to make it to places that have been really instrumental to our success in the midwest. Grand Rapids, Flint, and Lansing are next.
BLS: Name 5 bands you love but who few people have heard of?
HL: I already mentioned Silent Lions, who are from Toledo. goLab from Toledo is also amazing. Korin and I used to work at the School of Rock with this little girl named Blaire Alise who has grown into a kick-ass artist in her own right. But I'm always amazed by what "few people have heard." Who could be included in that? T. Rex? Hum? The Pixies? Link Wray? In my opinion most people only have room for a few artists and it is like Eminem, Miley Cyrus, etc. After that it all comes down to more specific tastes. All I know is that my son loves some Iggy Pop!