PREVIEW: A Hawk And A Hacksaw: new world thrift-store traditions

Posted by on 13 August 2008

Sarah Kitteringham, Beatroute, July 2008

Although the descriptor “Balkan/Eastern European inspired Folk” does not generally send music fans into a tizzy (rather leading many to scratch their heads), the genre is enjoying acknowledgment for being partially responsible for some of the most original and exciting indie music of the last few years.

Beirut, DeVotchKa, Tapes 'n Tapes, Sunset Rubdown and Gogol Bordello all owe a debt to their multi-instrumental bastard relations, and, in a small part, to Jeremy Barnes. Not only did the renowned percussionist play drums for lush lo-fi heroes Neutral Milk Hotel, (who helped usher in the Elephant 6 collective, whose sensibility of sharing musicians and ideas with your brethren and next of kin alike led to such bands as Of Montreal and the Apples in Stereo), but he is responsible for work with Bright Eyes and Bablicon, and now is at the centerpiece of A Hawk And A Hacksaw with Heather Trost.

“They are two different worlds,” Barnes says of his prior experiences. “I have been doing this now for eight years, and so it’s hard to compare them. It’s always good to play with other people and learn from men, and in that way I love playing with different musicians whether they are well known or not. The important thing is doing Hawk and A Hacksaw. It’s what I love, and it’s great to just do this.”

This focus has been conceived into the band’s enigmatic and danceable musings, which feature traditional instrumentation overtop of sparse down toned vocals which permanently feature Barnes and Trost, along with an array of musicians from the past and present. After the release of three full lengths and an EP, the (for now) four-piece is heading to Calgary to bring their mainly instrumental delights to this month’s Folk Fest.

The act will features Barnes on accordion, singing “a bit,” and playing drums with his feet (“its kinda like a bastardization of a drum kit it in a way”). Trost will be on violin and vocals, and friends from Hungary and England will be playing the trumpet and bouzouki (a Greek instrument that is part of the lute family, similar to a mandolin), respectively.

Due to the ever changing face of the band and nature of multi-instrumental folk, it had to be asked what differences existed between A Hawk albums versus their live show.

“We do play our songs,” says Barnes. “You can see some similarities, and we do traditional songs, but we definitely change the instrumentation and we like to experiment beyond different things that mimic the recording