A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
In the first 13 days of September, Hessian played 13 shows in 13 cities.
That might sound like the Portland four-piece is courting bad luck, but for a band that deals in equal parts black magic and boogie, the risk seems to have paid off.
Tonight also serves as a CD release party for Hessian’s debut LP “Bachelor of Black Arts” on Stormspell Records — an album that has been thumping through our earbuds and transporting us back to a simpler time when all beer came in cans and our photographer’s hairstyle was still mainstream fashionable.
On the eve of the homecoming show, we spoke with Tim Webber — Hessian’s lightning-quick drummer — about the glory and anti-glamour of the road, and how to keep time in so many time zones.
Post Mortem: How’s the tour going?
Tim Webber: The tour is going great. The first two weeks have flown by and we’ve had a fantastic time. Everyone we met was super nice and we had a lot of great shows and great responses.
Our final show at Burt’s Tiki Lounge in Salt Lake City was particularly good. Three of us Hessians — myself, Dan and Salli — had a real rockstar experience where we finished our set around 11 p.m. and were in a cab headed to the airport at about 11:20. Really, it was just a necessity to get back home and have time to get everything done here, but it was a surreal sort of ‘Thank you, goodnight!’ then get-into-the-limo-and-drive-off moment, even though that isn’t even remotely close to where we are tour- or career-wise.
PM: Even if the van experience isn’t glamorous, the non-stop, city-to-city gauntlet must feel vindicating in a way. After so much hard work and a record release, you must feel kind of like a rock star, right? Is it how you’d always dreamed it would be? Or do you have a deeper appreciation for Bob Seger and Jackson Browne road songs?
TW: Well, it’s true that van life isn’t very glamorous, but so far life on the road has turned out to be very satisfying and enjoyable. There is definitely a bit of a rock star feeling associated with blowing into town, rocking out and then moving on. There is also absolutely some real truth to those songs even if the presentation of a struggling, road-weary artist is a bit romanticized in the lyrics and mood.
“Turn the Page” deals with things like getting crap from jerks about having long hair which still happens to us all. Not me, Mr. Baldman. And “Running on Empty” talks about the struggles of doing what you love versus what you have to do and doing what you gotta do to keep going, which is very relevant to me and my life. It’s not always easy out there and yeah, we’re all getting older, we might be running low on funds, and it might be a drag to cram into the van for a 5- to 6-hour drive every day. But this is what we want to do and we’re going to keep trying to move forward. We all want to succeed and we’ll take the bad with the good because the positives far outweigh the negatives. All in all, touring and playing a different town each night is really exciting and is a heck of a lot of fun and I feel very lucky to be able to do it.
PM: Have you noticed any effects from daily performances?
TW: Absolutely. The Hessian machine is solid and running smoother with us playing every night. It’s a really nice benefit of being on that schedule. We all still have occasional off nights here and there, but overall the playing is going really well. The biggest performance killers we’ve found are not getting enough rest and not warming up. When those things are in check, we win over any crowd.
PM: Are songs evolving — speeding up or slowing down? Does touring lend itself toward improvisation?
TW: The songs haven’t changed a lot but things like modifying how a part is played slightly or extending a solo section have definitely happened. We all try to be aware of that sort of natural evolution. The overall “show” is something we are working to solidify as well because having that run smoothly is very important. It’s OK for the songs and our performances to be alive to a point because we are always growing as musicians and entertainers, but there isn’t too much room for a lot of improvisation in Hessian. My playing is probably the most flexible in that regard, but I resist it as much as I can. My parts are written and deliberate and are there to serve the overall song, so I don’t want to mess with that too much. Of course, I’d be lying if I said that I never get a kick from wowing the crowd by throwing a quick figure or a flashy move in here and there.
PM: Are there any notable differences between West Coast and East Coast crowds?
TW: Not really. Not that I can think of. The crowds seem to vary in intensity and “style” depending on what state or town you’re in, but that’s pretty much the same as the East Coast. Honestly, everywhere we played the crowd was great and, for the most part, really enthusiastic.
PM: Are you at all apprehensive about playing Portland again and introducing Blood of Kings to your hometown audience?
TW: No way. People are going to love Blood of Kings. They are a great band and we certainly love playing with them every night. They actually played with us in Portland once before and once in Boston about a year and a half ago or so. It’ll be exciting to play again now though because both BoK and Hessian have grown a lot since then. For Hessian, playing home is always a treat after being away for awhile. It’s awesome to have our album release at Geno’s start off the second leg of our tour and we’ll hopefully see a lot of friends out. The following night we are at Ralph’s Diner in Worcester and it’s always a good time there so playing these two New England shows will be a real nice send off for us.
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Don’t forget to pace yourself this week. Tomorrow, Sylvia, Superorder, Capture the Sun and Dour play a benefit for Grime Studios, which is raising funds to buildout a new location.