With their new album Stinger set to release on January 13th, 2017 is already shaping up to be a great year for Austin ten piece, Hard Proof. With such a large group of musicians, there’s no questioning the amount of influences and diversity that go into a new album, and Stinger promises to be a direct reflection of who Hard Proof is today. Alongside Chris “Frenchie” Smith, the band was able to capture the sound and energy of their live performances on this release, promising a strong start for the new year!
Interview by Shannon Shumaker
Can you tell us a little bit about Hard Proof for any readers who may not be familiar?
We’re a 10-piece band from Austin, Texas. We started in 2008. We play music from and inspired by the African continent. Hopefully you can dance to all of it, or just bug out to it.
You all have had quite a bit of experience with other projects prior to forming Hard Proof. How do you go about merging each of your influences and backgrounds when you’re writing and recording new music?
We try to balance a reverence for the music and cultures that inspired us to start this project with our own diverse backgrounds and energies. We have some kind of framework and police each other on certain elements so it’s not just a free for all, even though sometimes it may come out that way.
What are some lessons that you’ve learned from previous projects and brought with you to Hard Proof? How do you feel your past experience has helped to be better than ever this time around?
Maybe don’t take a song out of the practice room until it’s really ready. No half steps. No matter how much you want everything to be democratic, maybe it doesn’t work in every unit. Really think through every choice you make as far as your presentation and bookings and all of that. Being a band in Austin, where nearly everyone has a band, you have to have a really solid product to stand out. I think we all came together after learning a lot of things the hard way, so while we maybe could have assembled this unit in our early twenties, it probably would have crumbled quickly as we likely weren’t in the right head space yet.
You’re just getting ready to release your new album, Stinger in January. What can you tell us about the songs on this record?
There are 9 of them. We recorded most of them at an Austin studio called the Bubble with an Oklahoman named Chris “Frenchie” Smith. His resume leans in the direction of hard rock (the horns met him while playing on a Toadies record) so he did not discourage fuzzy guitars and skronky sax solos. Everyone writes differently; you have Joe Woullard songs like the title track or “Soul Thing” that are in a hard funk or soul vein, or Derek Phelps songs that might be from more of a jazz sensibility, and Jason Frey often has an Ethiopian influence in what he writes.
How do you feel that you’ve grown or evolved with the writing of Stinger?
I think between Stinger and the record we did with Jim Eno, we’ve learned that we really like live tracking the best. For the most part Stinger was tracked live with minimal overdubs. It may be a bit more stressful to track that way, and logistically tough in most studios, but we end up much happier with the result that way. There are actually 2 tracks from a separate live session on this LP that we used in place of more conventional studio versions because the energy felt better.
Did you have any major goals or plans in mind when you were working on the album?
Well, we got a lot of mileage out of our first full length, but it’s been six years since that came out. There were a few singles in the middle, and they still play it on the radio in Austin, but I think we needed a new statement perhaps? Also, tired as it may sound, we wanted to capture the sound of our live show on record. This is really, really close. Frenchie understood that and was great at pushing us toward that goal.
What would you like listeners to be able to take away from Stinger?
Hopefully it compels them to dance or make some external movement. And listen to it again. And tell their rich uncle to fly us in to play their prom.
You’ve already got quite a few plans for 2017, with the album release in January and and SXSW in March – what are you most excited for in the coming months?
Playing more shows, hopefully many outside of Texas. We’re really stoked this is coming out on Modern Outsider, an actual Mom and Pop local Austin business that has a global reach.
Could fans expect to see more tour dates after the album drops?
Absolutely. We’re trying to get on every spring and summer fest we can manage and do some dates around those.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Listen to James Brown (a lot) and give your allowance to the ACLU.