Hangman’s Alphabet – Mon 2/9 -Obrien’s

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Combining the raw energy and visceral release of post-punk with the intricacies of progressive rock, Hangman’s Alphabet is creating music that, at once, ignites and challenges the listener. Imagine early-Genesis filtered through the force of nature that was The Minutemen and you can start to get an idea of how these songs will hit you. The compositions come at you from all angles and while the pop influence is evident it is far from overt. Instead, the patterns within the forms fractal outwards propelling the songs beyond the realm of what is expected and into a sphere all their own.

Q&A w/ Andrew (guitar/keys/vocals), Patrick (drums), and Tim (bass)

Q: How did Hangman’s Alphabet form? What other musical projects were you guys involved in before getting together?

A: Andrew: About a month after my old band Shark & Bear went on indefinite hiatus, I got really antsy to get something else going. I had known Tim through Jesse of S&B, and he had recently moved from the Cape to Somerville; I had also known Pat from talking to him at shows, and we had reconnected when we both sat on a music panel in Boston. In June of 2007, I started practicing with them individually, and by the end of that month we were putting it together as a trio, playing our first show in September of that year.   

In Boston, I’ve previously played in Shark & Bear and Score One For the Fat Kid; I’m involved in a long-distance collective with some college friends called [bert]; and I’ve toured and recorded as a solo artist. Pat has played in Fight the Ocean, the Kata Atlas, and the Reliance Band; Tim played in a number of bands in central MA and on the Cape.

Q: Your debut album “Unbend the Shape” has certain prog elements along with indie/post-punk leanings. What prog bands are you fans of? And do you think that this era of music is unfairly invalidated by the majority of music fans born after it’s heyday?

A: Tim: I’m a pretty unapologetic prog dork myself. I’m always trying to do my best John Wetton or Chris Squire impression on bass. I think a lot of that music gets a bad rap because of how excessive it all got. Once they started doing crap like “King Arthur on Ice”, it stopped being about making inventive music and started becoming a pissing contest over who could put out the most ridiculous concept album and still sell records. But the earlier prog stuff still sounds fresh and exciting to me, so I’m always trying to inject some of that influence into what we’re doing.

Andrew: Heh, I do wonder if we’d be any more successful if we’d been kicking around 30 years ago. It’s funny; we share a love for ’70s prog — Rush, King Crimson, Genesis, etc., and we also share a love for ’90s post-punk — Fugazi, Jawbox, Shudder to Think. And then we have this straight-up pop side that bares its head in our songwriting from time to time. But when people ask what the band sounds like, it’s often easiest to mention the prog side of things for a simple comparison.   

I do wish the interest in more technically complex music that flared up during the ’90s hadn’t died out in recent years; I understand why people think “math-rock” is a dirty word, but I don’t think we ever thought that way. I think you can make something challenging and accessible at the same time.

Q: What is the most flattering/sickening musician/band comparisons you have received from fans, friends, family, press etc??   

A: Andrew: Someone once referred to us as a cross between Aloha and Tortoise. I don’t necessarily see it, but it was flattering. People have compared my guitar playing to Robert Fripp or John Fahey, which is nice to hear. Then again, my girlfriend’s mom thinks we sound like System of a Down. Make of that what you will.

Q: What are the plans for the band in 2009? Do you see yourselves taking your music on the road or recording another album?

A: Andrew: We did some touring over the summer throughout the Northeast after “Unbend the Shape” came out. I think we’ll do a bit more traveling this year, though I think we’d like to put most of our show efforts into becoming a bigger band in Boston. We have a lot of music written for a second album at this point, and I’d love for us to at least get another record in the can before the year is out, but we’ll have to see.

Patrick: We’ve also been talking about doing a smaller release before we put out a second album as sort of a bridge between the two. So we’ve thrown around the idea of doing something like a 7 inch, split 7 inch, or EP. Everything is in the idea phase right now but will start to take shape when we’ve finished writing our newest batch of songs.

Q: If you could play a show in Boston with 3 other local bands, who would they be and at what Boston venue would you play? (not upcoming show)

A: Andrew: I would say either at Great Scott or PA’s. Great Scott has been the site of some of my favorite shows I’ve ever played, and it’s the best-sounding club of its size in the city. And PA’s has always been ready for any bill I can throw at them; they let me take over the club for my 30th birthday (and our first show, incidentally.) As for the other bands, our practice space-mates Tristan da Cunha are incredible and always a blast to play with; Shore Leave are a very like-minded band (and whom we joke about swinging band members with); and call it a pipe dream, but I’d love to open for Mission of Burma.

Patrick: I would second Great Scott and PA’s. As for other bands, I’d love to play a show with Horsehands again. I think it’s been over a year since we played with those guys. Another band that comes to mind is Daniel Striped
Tige
r. They’re always great live. And of course Tristan da Cunha.

Listen to Hangman’s Alphabet

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