Interview with Jeff from Hiroe about the album “Wrought”
Words like violence. The american Post-Rock-Band HIROE managed his first album “Wrought” without any words and uses complexe and very emotional musical arragements instead. We talked with guitarist Jeff Dent about the communication in the band and what the quintett try to achieve with theire music.
Your band is named HIROE, what does this stand for?
HIROE is the name of Japanese woman that our producer Mario and Eric used to work for in the past. We feel the name is representative of both her and the music, in that we are a little bit wiser, a little more bit more mature, and a little more direct and to the point at times. Interestingly enough, depending on how you actually spell HIROE in Japanese, it can take many different meanings, so we like how it’s kind of ambiguous. It can mean different things to different people, kind of like the Post genre.
With vocals typically being absent from Post music, the music itself can become more personally and universally relatable, as their aren’t lyrics to anchor any sort of message or theme.
Like you said, you are an instrumental band, but I’m pretty sure that you have a story for every single song. Is this story defined, or how could you be sure that every one in the band is transferring ideas for the same story?
There is definitely a story for all of the songs, and generally a story for the overall record as a whole. Thematically, it is reflective of where we all were in the pandemic, and the feelings we were all dealing with. How we dealt with those feelings was through music. When the world shutdown, we all kind of went back to that old friend, music. It helped us all cope, and it gave us something to look forward to doing and completing.
Who is in the band, who is responsible for what, and from where do you know each other?
The band is TJ Schilling, Eric Kusanagi and me, Jeff Dent, on guitar, our drummer Jon Van Dine an Jill Paslier on the bass. How we know each other? The project started with Jill and Eric who met during the pandemic. They would connect online, and share ideas remotely. And from there, Eric pulled in TJ. They both actually played in another project together 10 years ago, and Eric saw it as an opportunity to reconnect with an old friend. So Eric then also pulled in me, who he played music with in another Post Rock project. TJ then roped in Jon, affectionately known as JVD, to drum, who TJ was old friends with, but never played in a project together.
The creative process typically starts with Eric, where he’ll lay down a foundation for a song, giving a song a general sense or direction. That said, but I actually wrote the first song on the record, “IRUSU”. I will follow through with complementary harmonies, soundscapes, and at times I might drive the main melody of a song. From there, TJ will help with arranging and shaping a song, through dynamics, such as accenting, lengthen or shortening parts, and highlighting or pulling certain instruments during key parts or songs. Jill will guide the song with the main chord progression of a song. Without that, the guitar lines by themselves might not make much sense, so the bass kind of showcases the song, and gives the guitars context to the listener.
In a lot of music, the bass typically plays more of a supporting role driving rhythm, but with this project, we try to showcase bass more as a core melodic instrument. Jill drives both the main chord progression, and locks in the rhythm of the drums. Our drummer Jon , he brings the heavy, he drives us, gives the songs that heartbeat, and is generally the comedic relief in the band for all of us, he keeps things light.
I would describe HIROE as a very intensive but not easy listening band, which requires a lot of attention. How would you describe your band to someone who doesn’t know your music?
We would describe HIROE as a heavy post band, that sometimes leans into metal, indie, and shoegaze influences. At times it can be pretty, with a three-part guitar harmony, at other times it can be weird and interesting with clashing notes, and other times it can be heavy and riff driven. We try to marry the pretty with the heavy.
We want to bring something a little different to the table by being a little bit more immediate, a little bit more engaging, and come at things with a little more weight and heaviness. We all enjoy Post music, but we also enjoy heavier and riff oriented music as well. Unofficially, the motto of the band is “Here to Crush You”, and that’s reflective of our use of baritone guitars. Some songs use a mix of standard guitars and baritones, and some songs we all down tune – bass included – and all use baritone guitars, for instance, “Black Mountain”.
How do you communicate as a band, when it comes to songwriting, do you have a sensitive nonverbal connection or are you a band that discusses a lot?
For songwriting, when communicating, we do a little of both. Sometimes an idea is introduced during a rehearsal, and sometimes that’s through a rough demo that’s shared out beforehand. That said, we share many similar musical influences, so a lot of times we can work without a lot of verbal communication. For example, Eric and TJ come from a place where they have played music together for a long time, and enjoy many of the same bands, so there are definitely times where they can just play off of each other through nonverbal cues, and that kind of musical relationship is just built over time.
All that you deliver visually is just black and white, would you like to give the listeners as much space for interpretation as possible?
Visually, we enjoy striking contrasts, so that is definitely reflected in our music videos. A listener might be able to interpret the theme or the story of a song based on the song title, but we try to keep it a little vague to let listeners interpret the songs in their own way, have them relate to it in their own way, and make it their own. In that way it becomes something more personal, something relatable.
Apart from the very complex songwriting, your band sounds organic and like a rock band. Which approach do you have for your sound when you are recording?
Many of us are still traditionalist when it comes to sound production and recording. We very much enjoy the studio process with putting real microphones to amps and drums, dialing in sounds, working with the room, and hitting that record button. Recording as a band, we are capturing a small shared moment in our lives together. Time spent in the studio is a very special thing. From a musical perspective, it’s one of the closest things you can do and share with another person.
How can we imagine a concert of HIROE, are there a lot of light effects and also no song introductions?
For live sets, we incorporate LED reactive lights that are mounted to tripods. We want to give the audience not just a musical experience, but also a visual one. We will typically engage the audience only a couple times during a live show. Once during the beginning of a set, introducing who we are. Once at the midpoint of a set. Then finally at the end of a set to thank the audience.
We typically do not introduce a song, except of “Hey, this song is called…”, or break up a set for small talk. We are all focused on the moment of sharing the stage together, and on delivering the best live set we can for the audience. If there are any breaks between songs, it’s usually to tune up, or change instruments. When that happens, we will either use a small melodic loop, or a kick off a sample that will segue us into the next song.
Which song would you recommend as an introductory song for HIROE?
It would probably be “Black Mountain”, that’s what most people would classify as “the banger”. That said, our producer Mario’s favorite song is “Everything is Fine”. It’s a different type of song, and sometimes you don’t always want to write or play a banger, sometimes, you want to write and play something a little more introspective.
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