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HEDLEY: They Can Do Anything!

HEDLEY: They Can Do Anything!

There’s a funky R&B dance song, a stompin’ electro-Celtic song and a middle eastern-sparked electric dirgy blues-rock song on Hedley’s fifth studio album, Wild Life, the follow-up to 2011’s Storms. The Vancouver-based band, which has sold close to a million album since its 2005 self-titled debut and will be headlining arenas on its 35-date national tour in February and March, is as unpredictable as frontman Jacob Hoggard’s onstage and meet ‘n’ greet antics.

Fresh from the success of the band’s hot new single , ‘I Can Do Anything’ and their high-profile performance at this year’s Grey Cup final half-time show in Regina, Music Express talked to Hoggard about what he was thinking.

“Very relieved our album is doing well as opposed to not.”

Did you think that it would not? Come on!

“Every time, man. Yeah, it’s really scary. Everybody notices how anxious and stressed out I get before a release because who the fuck knows what’s gonna happen? You just never know and, for me, that fear can be overwhelming. I never let it dictate the creative process because you don’t want to be driven by that — especially when you’re recording, you’re so into it that you don’t give a fuck what people will think — but once you’re done and there’s that middle period between finished and released, you’re like, ‘Oh my God,’ and you start getting stir crazy. “

Do you feel like that when tickets go on sale for your shows?

“At that point I don’t really care. At that point, I’m just excited to be playing shows. At that point, I have way more to think about like preparing for the shows. I think our reputation kind of precedes us with our shows, so for me I really focus on stepping up my game and making sure that it’s not just the same because I don’t ever want to do the same thing for somebody. I think that would be a let down in general. It’s like getting somebody the same Christmas gift.”

Unless it’s a lot of money and a new car.

Laughs

The album is so varied. My favourites are “Crazy For You,” [the aforementioned funky R&B dance song] and “Mexico” [the middle eastern-sparked electric dirgy blues-rock song] which are so different. How are you able to put two songs like that on the same album?

“Remember when we were in White Rock and remember the two songs we were talking about? We were talking about two specific songs, “For The Nights I Can’t Remember” and “Never Too Late.” And if you think abut those two songs in that context, they’re very similar in that they were both like nothing we had ever done and both completely different from each other. And in the past, those have been big red lights for our record label; they’re like ‘Ohhhh, we don’t know! It doesn’t fit; it’s different; it’s weird.’ I think it scares people, but the band has realized that it was the fans that loved those songs and that affirmed in us not just the fact that we could do those types of songs and that we could push ourselves, but we have a fan base that really believes in us and supports us. That gives us the confidence to push ourselves in those directions. And musically we don’t ever want to stagnate. That goes without saying, but to push ourselves means to try something different. And to be almost risky about it. Risks are really scary, but again we were really confident because we have the support of a fan base and we are capable of pushing ourselves and in those moments it’s the most genuine. I think that’s why songs like that really connect with people.”

When you had ‘Sweater Song’ on [2009’s] The Show Must Go, you had said you wants to do a whole acoustic folky album. But that has not happened yet. You are definitely not going in that direction.

“No. One day I can, but this is representative of where we are as a band and how we’ve been pushing ourselves musically in our approach has to be different. So for this album, we really pushed ourselves into new areas of not just musical styles but musical instruments too — a lot of analogue synths and vocoders and just more varied styles of music like funk and almost dance. It’s so important for us to put ourselves in situations where we’re not that comfortable because at heart we’re musicians and at heart we can do anything we fuckin’ want, really. I think we’ve been able to not just prove that, but get away with it. For us, it’s so important for us to not pigeonhole ourselves or call us one kind of genre because it’s so inhibiting when you say, ‘Oh we’re this kind of band.’ Well, as soon as you say you’re that kind of band, then you date yourselves as that kind of band from that era and, for us, we don’t ever want to put any kind of label on ourselves. We’ve always avoided doing so, so we’re always going to be free to do any kind of music, to play anything we’d like to play because we’re a rock band. And as much as we say our roots are in rock with guitars, I play the piano and I play keyboards and we can experiment and it leaves just really a wide open pathway for us.”

The album is very contemporary. “Crazy For You” Robin Thicke could sing and there’s EDM [electronic dance music] elements. Last time I interviewed you, I think we called it electro.

“Electro, I think, is what people used to call it. Techno.”

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What do you think of the EDM scene and the fact that there are festivals and shows drawing more people than live bands in some cases?

“It’s music. So there almost shouldn’t be any criticism to the idea that music can bring people together or we’re all just fooling ourselves [laughs]. Because that’s the fundamental principle of why we love music is the ability to not just appreciate it but celebrate it, so there’s should never be any criticism along with the observation that music brings people together. I never buy into any particular craze, but I’m so open to music ; I love EDM; I love hip hop; I love metal; I love country; I love rock; I love rap. I love all kinds of genres of music because it’s indefinable and I don’t feel like I ever want to limit myself. I think I’m as open-minded in life as I am with my views of music and I think it’s important to stay like that. At the same time, as a band, when we’re writing music there is a bit of a method to our madness; we’re aware of what’s going on around us. We don’t want to alienate our fans. We don’t want to sound like it’s fuckin’ 1998 because nobody lives in 1998 anymore, so it’s important for us to not just be current but to evolve and grow. Because even on a human level, it’s so important for us as individuals to be aware of our surroundings and adapt and grow.”

– Karen Bliss

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