HURT is currently on their first-ever acoustic tour. We had a chance to catch-up with the band during their tour stop in Cambridge, MA to discuss their new upcoming album, touring, and the road to becoming a band of brothers.
Type 3 Media: What have been some of the highlights of this tour so far?
J. Loren: Personally for me, it was coming home to the D.C. region, which has always been kind of puzzling where there weren’t a lot of people that showed up even though it’s where we originated. And, doing the smallest tour that we’ve ever intentionally done, we had the highest number in D.C. So, that to me was encouraging.
Victor Ribas: For me it’s definitely been — being without in ear monitors on this acoustic tour I’ve been able to hear fans sing along to the songs, which normally I can’t even hear. I didn’t know that usually everywhere we go ninety percent of the crowd knows the songs, every single word from beginning to end. To be able to feel the crowd in that fashion, in a way that I never had before, it’s just amazing, I love it.
Rek Mohr: Same as Victor really. It’s the response. We didn’t know what to expect from this tour. We just knew that we were going to go out and play the songs acoustically. But it’s been so intimate that it feels like the crowd is almost like a family sitting in our living room. We’re playing the songs and being able to tell stories and just hear the response. Some nights, like in Knoxville TN, they were so loud they were drowning us out. And that’s a pretty cool problem to have. It’s been amazing the response we’ve gotten.
Type 3 Media: A lot of fans wanted you to do a tour like this, is this a response to the request for acoustic performances?
J.: It’s both in response to the fans and also to bypass some of the, let’s just say, archaic legacy systems that keep bands from going to certain places and only have them touring in certain routes. Because if we’re going to play wherever we want, we’re literally going to play wherever we want. How long’s it been since we came here?
Type 3 Media: More than three years.
J.: Too long. We were trying to figure out a way, and trying to figure out a way. Well, we found out a way and we don’t care if it makes money. We get to come and play for you guys, so that’s basically what this is about. We’re playing with each other, and getting tighter with each other. It’s all in all just basically playing music together, and that’s what we want to do, so it’s a win, win, win, win, win.
Type 3 Media: Is it easier just packing gear for the acoustic tour or do you find that you’re still packing a lot of stuff?
Rek: Ironically it’s more.
Victor: We have more. The trailer that we bring for the acoustic tour is just as full as it was for the electric tour. We have just as much stuff, which surprises us every night. We crack jokes about it — “oh look at this acoustic tour” as we push out all of our cases.
Rek: It’s mostly the cases, because the stuff is a little more fragile, so we have to be a little more careful with the gear and not let it get banged up. Every road case we own is in the trailer.
J.: On top of that, because of the situations I really can’t talk too much about — we’re kind of bypassing those — so the money’s a lot lower and we’re hauling our own gear, and we don’t really mind. But, we brought a lot of gear [laughs]. I’m playing four instruments on stage, and we have back-ups for everything. There’s no way around it, you want to make sure you have a good show.
Type 3 Media: How does it feel being back on a label?
Rek: It’s nice to have the support. We’ve done Capitol, we’ve done our own imprint, and now we’ve done this independent. I’ve got to say Capitol wasn’t really supportive, and being on our own was really difficult because every decision and every bit of pressure is on you. It’s nice to have a label to help bear some of that burden.
Victor: And Carved Records has been amazing. From day one they’ve been awesome. It’s been a situation where, for the most part, we give them one of our ideas and they’re like “OK, what do you need to make it happen?” As opposed to a bigger label that might have their own ideas and want to take control of everything. They’re letting us take what we want to do, and do that.
J.: Here’s an example, to some extent, we believe in Carved and they believe in us. What’s happening is — last night they’re asking us what songs we’re playing every night — like, the President of the label wants to know. Whereas opposed to when we were on Capital, the guy who was in charge of Artists and repertoire didn’t know a God damned song we did. So that should show you the difference right there. We’re both hugely invested in each other and I think we’re going to have a good outcome. None of us are fortune-tellers but we’ll do our best together.
Type 3 Media: How do you feel about the new album, The Crux, that’s coming out next March?
Victor: Really proud.
Type 3 Media: You’ve had a couple years to work on it.
Rek: Which usually can be a good thing or bad thing, but I think in our case it was good because a lot of the frustrations that we had, a lot of the anger comes out very vividly on this record. I would liken it to the Volumes but a whole lot angrier.
J.: The sad part is people don’t know how busy we’ve been throughout the past couple years. We’ve actually gone through, vetted out this album to make sure it’s just what we need to do. We did a side project there in between. There’s a lot of stuff that’s been going on, and the world’s going to hear about it post, which is the way it works. In the meantime, we actually took one thing, that I think was our smartest move. When there were irreconcilable differences between the band members, it all worked itself out. And then we took the time, instead of just rushing out there on the road, to just play and gel together and be a band. This is the first time in probably, oh I don’t know, six years that I’ve had a band of brothers that I can literally change on the fly and just point to somebody and they take over. And it’s vice versa with everybody. This is a real band. This isn’t one of those manufactured bands that you get on stage where you follow the steps and do the choreography.
Victor: I think the album’s going to show that.
Type 3 Media: Rek, when you came onboard there seemed to be some chemistry present.
Rek: There was, and I think now it’s more tangible. The thing about HURT is that we want people to latch on because the music is honest. That’s why I think people have always liked us, because it’s honest music. Now we have the ability to go wherever the moment takes us on stage, and that’s something we never really did before. It’s the most liberating thing as a musician and an artist to be able to follow your instincts. It really has been translating during these shows because the crowd has been taken on a journey almost every night.
J.: To be perfectly honest, just a couple years ago Rek and I couldn’t even talk to each other. We couldn’t stand to be in the same room, because all of this dysfunctional pressure is on you — you have to deliver this, you have to deliver this, now you have to do what I say, no you have to do what… — It’s not the way it needs to be. The problem wasn’t that Rek and I don’t like each other, the problem was that it was just a bad dynamic. We weren’t playing music honestly, and we were letting things get in the way. It became almost a job even though we both — just in our case, I’m talking about the two of us — we both independently loved what we did, just the getting together part of it was really difficult. We took the time to sort through that, get it done, any frustration actually put down on paper, then put down on the recording. It all out now, it’s all out in the air. Now, Rek is a good friend of mine.
Type 3 Media: After a couple members left the band did you have to re-record anything for the album?
J.: Yes. A lot. Michael and Rek took a huge, huge hit. I mean, obviously the whole band took a hit financially to make sure everybody was currently invested. But their workload went up tremendously.
Rek: Particularly Michael’s, because he engineered the whole record. So for him he had to basically go back and do everything over.
Michael Roberts: We had to redo everything.
J.: Not only that, he had trained himself to basically take over my old parts. And then with the departure of Paul [Spatola] with no notice, he relearned all the parts that he learned but with Paul’s while doing a semi-part of mine. I didn’t even have instruments available to be able to help him out. He was doing all that while doing very difficult vocal harmonies. I know they were difficult because they were my vocal harmonies that I made for myself, and he’s pulling it all off. The amount of work that he had to do was astonishing.
Type 3 Media: A lot of people are asking if “Incomplete” will be on the new album.
Victor: No, it won’t be on The Crux.
J.: That was demo’d the first time at a place I can’t say, because it was an after-hours recording-thing. We messed around with it a little bit, but basically the other iterations of the band weren’t really into it. Even though we tried it, you really can’t shove down shit with a shovel. Maybe we’ll come back and try that again at some other point. It depends, if the guys are feeling it and we’re gelling with it, yes, we can do that.
Type 3 Media: Is the album going to be all new material, or will it include songs you’ve had kicking around for a while.
J.: All new material.
Victor: Well, there is “Numbers” that was released as a single, but that was released before I came into the band, and has been redone for this album with me on drums and things have been revamped. But aside from that, everything is brand new.
J.: We just basically wanted “Numbers” on there. It fits into the context of the album.
Rek: The only reason it was released early for people to hear was to give them a preview of the direction we were going and to kind of let them know “hey, we’re still working on music, don’t get impatient.” We’re getting there.
J.: I thought it was really funny when people who heard “Numbers” and then said “Well you guys have sold-out.” That song mimics “The New Disease” from our first album, so I thought that was really cute. I was like “oh, we sold out?”… back to the very first thing we ever did ever?!?
Type 3 Media: How does it feel playing some of those old songs?
J.: Since we’re playing them well, it feels great. In previous iterations where people were just too-self centered it felt horrible because I didn’t want to share that part of myself with people I didn’t trust. That’s over now, and we’ve whipped out songs from the self-title album on this tour.
Victor: I can definitely say that — normally I wouldn’t speak for the band but I know can in this — because we’ve all turned to each other at some point in time on this tour, either Rek’s turned and looked at me, or J.’s turned and looked at me, or Michael’s turned and looked at me and said “dude, I think I just had a moment.” Tears were about to come out of our eyes because the music is very powerful. We’re not doing very many new songs, so most of the songs are written before I even heard the band. To hear the songs in a new light, different from the record, to be able to experience them in that way and to experiment with them — the writer of the songs, J., let us experiment in that way. The songs have been just like powerful, very powerful.
Type 3 Media: It must feel good being able to connect with people and make an impact when you perform.
Victor: That’s exactly what we’re trying to do. For the most part, HURT music is not really complex music that you need to go to school for eight years to figure out and get your PhD in music. But, what we’re trying to do is take an emotion and take an idea, sometimes a very simplistic idea, and convey it in a way that might not be obvious from the get go, but that you can connect with it.
J.: We’re going to continue to explore it, because otherwise we would be a formulaic kind of band. To tell you the truth there’s probably been two shows that I didn’t fucking break down and ball in tears on this tour. That very rarely happened before. With the previous iterations of the band it was typically when it was just me playing that things would start to get to me. But now, we’re doing things right, and I’m feeling… that.
Rek: It’s the most unified and the most focused — and we’re a very hard working band anyway — so put those elements together and it’s only a matter of time. We’re kind of like a train, we’re picking up momentum and we’re going to get to a point where it doesn’t matter what gets in the way we’re just going to keep going.
J.: This is not forecasting, this is just simply saying this is our belief. We’ve already beaten the odds, one to a million, every single one of us easily, to even be where we are. Thank God we’re at that top ninety-five percentile of bands that get to do this for a living. This is not the time to take it easy and that’s not what we’re going to do.
Type 3 Media: Any plans in the works for touring in 2012?
Victor: The whole year.
J.: Lots. No specifics because like we said, we’re in a partnership with Carved, they’re not telling us what to do and we’re not telling them what to do. We’re going to see what works and what’s the best idea at the time and kind of run and gun and see what happens. So no promises, but yes, we will definitely be touring. I’m not sure exactly where.
Victor: I’d like to tour 365 days a year…
J.: We’ve damn near done that before brother. [laughter]
Victor: But like J. said, it’s a partnership and we want to do what’s best for the band and best for the label. It’s a very symbiotic relationship with Carved. What we do affects them and what they do affects us, whether it’s positive or negative.
Type 3 Media: If each of you could pick one band you’d like to tour with, who would it be?
Rek: Porcupine Tree.
J.: Alison Krauss and Union Station.
Victor: I don’t think it’d be the best for the band because I’ve heard of comparisons in the past, but everybody in this band knows I’m a huge fan of Tool. I would love to tour with those guys. I’m going to do a dual — somebody huge and famous that have been around for decades like Rush or The Police or something like that. Because when you go on tour with a band you learn from them, even if they’re not that good, you learn mistakes, you learn positives, you learn all these things.
J.: If this was a local publication, which it’s not truly, if we were just talking to local people they’d understand what I’m saying. I’m so glad that we’re in this region because the things that we were compared to with Tool — I appreciate Tool, they’re a fantastic band — there’s literally a vocal styling called the Irish Tenor. It’s what I do, it’s what Maynard James Keenan does, and it’s what Josh Groban does. It’s a particular styling of vocals that you’re inclined to do. A woman came up to me last night and goes “please tell me you’re Irish” and I said “no, I’m half Scotch and half Italian.” She says “Well, what does that mean?” so I say “Well, it means I like wine and whiskey.” [laughter]
Michael: To tour? Jeff Buckley.
Victor: Jeff Buckley, nice.
Rek: That’s going to be tricky.
Type 3 Media: Well, that’s not possible.
Michael: I can choose anyone I want to, it’s a fantasy question.
Type 3 Media: Anyone alive?
Michael: How about… Tom Petty is my answer.
Type 3 Media: Any final thoughts?
Victor: We’re really excited about not just what’s happening now, or but what’s happening in the near future, but the entire future of this whole thing. I’ve been playing music since I was five years-old, and I’ve never been in a situation to which I actually feel like, “oh my gosh I can actually have a career with these other three guys for the rest of my life and be happy.” I’ve been in so many bands, as we all have, and I can’t tell you how many times it’s real easy to sat to hate each other because you’re around each other all the time. We rarely argue about anything, and if we do, we’re all very mindful to let each other say what we want to say, and the other person listens. It’s the most functional — as opposed to dysfunctional — it’s the most functional group of guys and musicians I’ve ever worked with.
J.: I can tell you this, if some one person unwaveringly believes something, it can be possible. If two people believe it, it is probable. If four people do it, it is very very likely. I believe that’s exactly where we are. I believe that that’s what’s going to happen. I think we’re doing exactly the right thing. This is not blowing smoke, I believe it’s just a matter of time. If we play for two years together the way we’re playing, we’ll be sounding like a band that’s been playing together for thirty years, and of that I’m very proud. I don’t think we’re the best in the world, but I think that we will not stop trying to try to be there. I think that’s a good mindset and a good work ethic.
Type 3 Media: Thank you so much.
HURT: Thank you.