Interview with Johannes Carlsson
Interview by Lisa Nash
Thank you for your time, this is your chance to give your fans an insight into the band. Let’s try a few questions and see what we can find out. The band has been together since 2013, how do you keep things fresh and exciting?
I think you need to constantly develop yourself; as a band, artistically and personally. And luckily, in this band, we love each other still. We fight a lot but I feel like we have such a strong connection that fighting is not just inevitable but a very good thing. It is a result of caring.
How much harder has it been releasing an album in 2020 with the impact of Covid-19?
The hardest part is (not surprisingly) not being able to do concerts. We have had to cancel a bunch of tours in Spain, Germany and Finland, which sucks immensely. But at least I have had the time to work on more upcoming music, both The Hawkins and other recordings. We’ve also had a lot of time to do other creative stuff such as music videos and live session videos.
You grew up in a small Swedish town, what influence did that place have on your music?
Although it is a small town, there were a lot of bands playing when we grew up. I think having many bands around let us create great social bonds, and learn from each other. Many of the strengths we have as a band we got from looking at other bands as both good and bad examples. “Band communities peer learning” might be a good term for it. It’s a very good thing to get going and growing.
Do you write the songs as a whole band, or does one of you take the lead and then teach it to the other band members?
Most of the time I write the songs. I create a full demo, show the band and we rehearse it. I often have a clear view after having written a song. Although when producing I am certainly open to arrangement changes through creative flow, which is very crucial. So often we play around a bit to make it fun and exciting when I record the band.
Which song would you tell someone who had never heard you before to listen to, so they get what the band is about?
I’d say listen to “Roomer” which is the first single off of our upcoming album “Silence is a Bomb”. It’s barely 2 minutes long but it contains many of the things that characterizes The Hawkins.
You brew your own beer, ”Fuck You All I’m Drinking Beer”, how did that come about? And how does it taste?
We were approached by Brasstacks Brewing a couple of years ago. They loved our music and wanted to brew a beer with us.
We love beer. Micke is a real beer connoisseur, while the rest of us are simple drinkers, haha. But anyhow, we said yes and brewed that IPA together.
We are actually about to release another brand new beer this year! It will be called “Olsson Lager” and I believe it can be shipped all over the world.
The band built its name touring, what ‘on the road’ rituals do you have to keep you all sane?
We separate the bus and hotel rooms so that me and Martin make up one pair and Mikael and Albin another pair. Because Martin and I make long discussion-chains of silly jokes that the other two want to punch us for.
Martin needs a whole lot of self isolation, so when he gets anxious or tired he puts on his headphones and binge watches the entire YouTube -database.
Albin enjoys silence in the car. Either that or the Somewhere in Time -album spinning for the 100th time.
Mikael needs to get his weekly dose of Premier League football. So the bus can be silent and suddenly he bursts out in a joyous but also terrifying primal scream, and everyone around is fully aware that Tottenham just scored.
I need to be naked in the hotel room.
What are you missing most not being able to tour at the moment?
Connecting with the audience and seeing new places. Playing every night and meeting new people, having a great time and connecting is valuable to me. Another thing that happens on tour is that we get time in the band to talk to each other about life. You can sit a whole day and just slowly go deeper and deeper inside yourself and your friends and learn a whole lot from it.
If you could work with any established band, who would it be and why?
Hard to say just one. I’d love to tour with Bon Iver because I’d love to see that band every night.
I’d love to have Chris Cresswell and David Ford do guest vocals. I’d love to jam with Theo Katzman.
I can’t pick one.
Which festivals do you dream of playing, and would you do a socially-distanced/drive-in style festival?
Roskilde would be a blast and a bucket list checkbox-checking. Also Coachella seems cool. There’s also these secret festivals out in the woods, all around the world. I would love to do that one day.
Yeah I think we would do a drive-in style festival. It would be weird I guess. But weird is fun and interesting. Fuck yes.
What about your instruments, do you have any endorsement deals and sponsorship that you are particularly proud of?
We have no endorsements at all. Although it would come in handy right now, cause I need a new good clean amp with a lot of headroom (Fender, please contact me haha) and I’m broke.
Where did you record this album, and who worked on it with you? How long did it take to create it?
I recorded, produced and mixed this album. I have my studio, Shiitake Sounds in Sweden. I like to have that control over as much of the process as I can. And I love it. Mastering was done by the great Hans Olsson at SGS Göteborg.
It didn’t feel like a very long process to record this album, although it has taken more than a year. So it is often a protracted process but sometimes it’s good to have that time to contemplate what to create.
You’ve recently changed records label, how important is being signed to the band, and what are the benefits of the new label for you?
Having a record label like The Sign Records is great for us. They are good people that love music and help us very much with everything when it comes to release plans, public exposure, marketing etc. We are very happy that they wanted to work with us.
What is your proudest moment as a band?
I remember we did a show in Gothenburg a couple of years ago that was PHENOMENAL. Crowd boiling, an overwhelming amount of butterflies in my stomach and a great party afterwards. When you do those kinds of shows you feel very proud about what you’ve created.
But right now I feel very proud about releasing “Silence is a Bomb”. This album is probably my most meaningful thing in life at the moment, so this thing is very, very important to me.
Is the band named after Justin & Dan Hawkins from The Darkness, because you sound very much like them?
No, actually it comes from when me and Martin got drunk in Zagreb a couple of years ago. We ended up in the outskirts of the city and met this crazy guy who claimed to be a shaman (although he probably just was high as a kite). He told us that we were to start a band called The Hawkins, which was funny because we just started the band and had not come up with a name yet. So we thought about it when we came home and went with it. So I guess we owe it to that dude, haha.
Finally, can you give any tips to new bands out there? Is there anything they should avoid, maybe something that you did and wished you hadn’t, for example?
Don’t be afraid to do whatever it is you want to. Creative freedom over all.
Don’t think anyone else will fix your shit.
Find your musical language, be it standard western musical notation or whatever; build an understanding that makes you grow as a musician and artist.
Never undermine your value when dealing with labels, booking etc. Stand up for yourself.
Grow and have fun.