Hazel on Soft Sound Press

Interview: Hazel adds another brick to their empire’s foundation with “Deathwish”

Some bands live solely to make music; others love the social building aspects of interacting online and engaging their fanbase with new content 24/7. Hazel exists in some other dimension in which they’re building themselves an entire empire: new music, a clothing line, a creative studio, a whole catalogue of skills and accomplishments. Today they’ve added another brick to the castle with their latest single, “Deathwish“.

We had a chance to chat with Tom & Seb between the release of their last single, “Delude“, and today’s new release. We found out more about the band’s year of big changes, even bigger ideas, and finding a way to make being a musician a sustainable career. Listen to “Deathwish” below and give it a read!

Thanks for taking the time to chat! “Delude” is amazing, I love where the band is headed. I feel like you guys woke up one morning and said, “hey, it’s really cool being in a band, but what if we built an empire instead and did everything?”

It kind of just all came together. We’d always tried to do everything DIY in the past but once we decided to change things up, we started utilizing a lot of different skills that each of us have in ways that we didn’t think to before. It became something completely different that we weren’t really expecting.

You recently made the transition from being The Wildhood over into being Hazel. Did you write songs first and then decide it sounded like a different project, or did you decide to make the change before writing the new songs?

We finished recording the last Wildhood song called “For The Record” in summer 2019. Once we finished that, we didn’t really know where to go from there. We started The Wildhood in 2016 with the idea of taking inspiration from classic pop punk — Real Friends, The Wonder Years, The Story So Far, stuff like that — and come summer of 2019, we weren’t really feeling that anymore, but we didn’t know where to go. A lot of us knew we wanted to take it in a heavier, more serious direction. We didn’t write anything as Hazel until we decided that we wanted to become Hazel, essentially. It felt like a pretty natural progression, and everything we did in The Wildhood gave us the opportunity to get out there, play shows, meet people, and learn stuff along the way. Becoming Hazel was our opportunity to use all of that from the start on a new project.

Are there any specific lessons that you learned as The Wildhood that you wanted to put into this project right from day one?

Probably just being more prepared. Putting time behind the releases and actually giving them each a spotlight is definitely a big one. Knowing when to collaborate is probably the biggest one because in The Wildhood, we were purely DIY; we didn’t really work with anybody outside of the band. With Hazel, we are still very DIY, but we’re a lot more open to working with other people. That’s what led to us working with our producer, Kyle Marchant, on all the songs, which made a huge difference for all of us.

Yeah. It sounds like a project where you’re on your third album and you’ve already found your groove and everything’s easy now. But it’s only your first few singles and you already have that energy, so it’s only gonna get better from here. We’re also over a year into this nightmare we now call daily life. How has that been for your creativity and actually putting this whole project together?

It’s been very interesting and if anything, it’s helped exercise that creative muscle. We’re trying to come up with different ways to get over barriers that pop up, especially with Ontario coming in and out of lockdown constantly. Not being able to play shows is definitely a big one, losing that personal level of being in a crowd and just interacting like that. You’re stuck to a screen now.

Have you found anything that’s filled that void for you in terms of connecting with other people as a band?

It’s been hard. I think what’s helped us the most in that regard is trying to put out as much content as possible. That gives us that subject to connect with people on a more regular basis. With the whole livestream show thing, it’s such a logistically difficult thing to put together. So even though that’s kind of the only medium to replicate the live show thing right now, it’s not an easy medium to execute to the level that you’d want to. Here’s hoping for 2021.

I’m hoping we get a really nice fall that stays warm so we can have some outdoor gigs.

Yeah. That would be nice. That would be very nice.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I have hope. Well, I mean, I kind of have hope. I don’t know anymore, but I really hope that we’ll hear these songs soon.

We’re really looking forward to playing them live because we wrote them in lockdown. We haven’t even had the chance to play them in front of a crowd, but we’re more excited than ever to do so with these.

When you were The Wildhood, you were releasing music in an entirely different world in an entirely different way. But I feel like these songs are really connecting with people and people are getting excited about them. How has it been from your perspective, starting a new project and releasing music right now?

It’s been interesting because when there were shows around, there wasn’t such an expectation to have that daily content. You were out there, so you felt like you were connecting on a daily basis anyway. Now, the focus is completely on digital content because we’re not out there talking with people. The schedule definitely feels more packed, but with our new process of collaborating, it’s also taken some of the load off our shoulders. Kyle took care of the audio side of things, so that took that load off our shoulders and gave us a bit more room to hold all of these songs in our pocket and work ahead of schedule. We’ve had the freedom to work ahead and really think things out and put way more effort into everything. It’s awesome.

Well, also now you have this creative studio where you can make a lot of the content. Can you tell me more about WHEREABOVTS?

It’s essentially a creative studio that we built in the middle of nowhere, Niagara. We literally back onto a cornfield. It’s just a big open square of a room. We shoot all of our music videos and photos here, we print our own merch here. Essentially everything. Since we have this space, we also have the opportunity to invite other artists and bands and creative people to come in for an affordable price to help bring their creative visions to life that maybe they couldn’t before with Hamilton or Toronto prices. Niagara doesn’t have too many spots like this, so it’s really cool that we were able to do that. We needed a space to do our thing and we were lucky enough to find one, it just worked out and it’s cool that we can offer it to other people too. You don’t have to worry about bothering the neighbours too much, which is nice.

I think there’s a lot of value to that as well, just because it’s hard for bands to own a whole space, especially now when artists aren’t making as much money off of their music. Having a whole space for whatever you need to do is really difficult. So to have a space where you can bring other bands in and create that sense of community as well is really cool.

Yeah, exactly. And it’s allowed us to do things that in the past we weren’t capable of doing. It allows us to print our own merch and shoot our own music videos, which is awesome. And it helps support that expectation of constant content.

Oh, I did want to mention on our SSP live stream when you did a giveaway and then screen printed the shirt live on stream… that was the coolest shit I’ve ever seen. What a cool idea.

It was super last minute. We weren’t able to get Brad in here to do any sort of performance thing, so we were trying to think of something else that we could do that was different that made it unique and interesting.

It just shows off how cool it is that when you get merch from Hazel, it’s from Hazel. You put your own blood, sweat and tears into making it. I guess that leads into a big part of what you guys are also doing, which is your own fashion line. What inspired you to combine that in with the band as opposed to a separate creative project?

I think it was a huge part of us rebranding and trying to visually rebrand as well. I guess as a musician, you’re also playing a big part into lifestyle and fashion, and we wanted to push it further from that. Some of us are involved in vintage and a bit of the reselling. From that, we’ve acquired a lot of clothing on our own. It gave us that idea to recycle it or do other things with it. Seb has always had a deep root in the fashion industry and he’s always had that skill set that with sewing and alteration and everything. It just made sense. We got that inspiration from Grayscale where they were doing a higher level of merch, performing at lululemon, all of that. We thought it was really cool that they mixed that world in and we kind of took that and pushed it one step further. So far it’s been pretty cool.

Well, it makes sense, right? You’ve already got this audience that’s a part of a similar lifestyle to you, if they’re listening to this music. So to be able to add into that with other things, it helps make it a sustainable business for you as well as getting you to do what you love. If you can put a bunch of your loves into one thing, that’s even better.

Yeah, that’s essentially what the idea of WHEREABOVTS was too, just having everything that we do together. Before it was all separated into their own little projects and we thought, let’s just put it under one umbrella.

I think that’s smart. I feel like it’s clear that the industry itself is not going to adapt to help everybody. Watching bands adapt to make it work for them is really cool. And I think it’s cool how you guys have really been able to do that. You’re setting yourselves up for some cool things once the world comes back.

Yeah. That’s the hope.

At the same time, it sounds like you guys are doing like a lot of work. Have you found anything to balance out the amount that you’re working, in terms of work-life balance?

It’s been a bit of a back and forth just because of lockdowns. I’m constantly not working, or I’m working full-time. If anything, that’s been a big silver lining in terms of giving us time to do content. A lot of it doesn’t necessarily feel like work and our space is super local to where we all live, so we just hang out in here and then get an idea and it segues into work. Then it’ll segue back into hanging out and back into work It’s a very natural thing and we’ve just tried to set it up so there’s the least amount of barriers. When someone has an idea, what’s the quickest way we can bring that to life, to see if it’s cool? So that’s awesome.

What’s the thing that you’re most proud of achieving in this year of lockdown?

I think we’ve achieved a lot more than we thought we were going to achieve, that’s for sure. When we decided that The Wildhood was becoming Hazel, COVID wasn’t a thing here yet. It was January of 2020. The fact that we were able to take that initial plan and still execute it, even with everything that’s been thrown at the world, I’m pretty proud that we were able to do that.

Yeah, it’s funny. I feel like I’m having similar band conversations a lot. It feels like in those couple of months before COVID, everybody was feeling like it feels like they were starting to find their footing and see where they wanted to go. It’s cool to see how you guys have still been able to do what you wanted to do and even potentially make it bigger than it would have been, if you’d still been busy with so many things outside of the band.

Yeah, exactly. I think in a lot of ways — going back to that silver lining — we did have these random bulks of time to really focus on these projects that we wish we could have focused on full-time in the past. In some ways it sped it up and in other areas, slowed it down. But we’re making it work.

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Paige Williams

Paige is a writer & creative multi-hyphenate living in Hamilton, Canada. Every band she loves breaks up eventually, but she can't find the witch who cursed her to this life. You can find more of her work on Billboard, Consequence of Sound, A.Side, and Paige Backstage.

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