Words with Gentlemen Hall
Claire Stephens | Monday, October 10, 2011
Gentlemen Hall, a band hailing from Boston, rocked the LaFortune Ballroom last Thursday after performing in Kentucky earlier that same day. The group’s infectious, electropop set included songs from its new album, “When We All Disappear.” Guitarist and vocalist Gavin Merlot and flutist Seth Hacen, a South Bend native whose story of joining the band includes an Oompa-Loompa costume, spoke to Scene about their experiences in the band.
Why the name “Gentlemen Hall”?
They’re two words that fit well together.
Would you say electropop/synthpop accurately describes your genre?
In the past decades there have always been obvious genres. We’ve reached a point where there’s such a reach and mix of genres. We guess the only form we’ve ever had is good, catchy songs with strong hooks.
How do you reconcile and synthesize different musical backgrounds when making music?
When we started the band, it was kind of tricky. We each come from jazz, rock, blues, classical, funk … everybody has a completely different background. We had to figure out how we can meld all these different styles. I would say that’s the biggest milestone. It took a couple of years and hundreds of songs. It took a long time being comfortable with what each of us felt they were bringing to the group. A big part was our producer. He helped us and worked with us, telling us what songs “sounded like Gentlemen Hall.” It’s hard for a band to find a sound. We stumbled across it by writing a lot of material.
What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done as a band?
Recording the album. That was also a spiritual milestone. We were all together trying to make the best album in our entire lives having been in bands before. It took months in a studio with 16-hour days. It was off the schedule of normal life, literally just writing this album and being so proud of it. It was the hardest work, but the most rewarding. Now we get to tour on it. It’s sweet.
What is the biggest catastrophe you’ve faced performing as a band?
We played a basement party in Boston, and previously we had written a song, “Take me Under.” Before we did the show, we were really excited, thinking we should play this at the show even though we haven’t actually rehearsed it. We had only played it once or twice, but went to the show and tried to play it. We forgot the words and were just mouthing it, not singing, the synth parts completely forgotten … that was the biggest dive bomb ever. It was super fun though. We’ll never forget that show.
When did you first know music was going to be a huge part of your life?
Cobi Mike: It had to be when I heard the electric guitar. My mom’s friend brought one to my house. He brought it in and showed my brother and me. I must have been 10 or 11, but at that moment it was over. I just wanted to play guitar so bad.
Gavin Merlot: My older brother had a bunch of CDs, and the first CD I ever stole was “Never Mind” by Nirvana. I listened to it like 20 times a day. It was the beginning of the grunge era. From then on, I was obsessed.
Seth Hachen: Between me and my twin brother, it was a battle of who can hear and find the cool new stuff. [Forget] studying, watch MTV, BET and VH1 all day.
I think maybe that’s where our love for music videos comes from. Our first official music video is “Close to Me.” We literally just made this video, stumbled on concepts and are really proud of it. Videos make a song a different experience. We’re working on another two videos right now. Some people don’t’ really get it until they see the video.
Did you face any resistance pursing music? How did you overcome it?
Seth Hachen: My family was really supportive, and music teachers I studied with were great. They did tell me it’s really hard making music, but I was just like, “I don’t care, it’s not about ‘making it to me,’ it’s about making music and have fun.” A lot of people are like, “You’re writing songs all day?”
Gavin Merlot: My family is supportive too, but when I told my family I wanted to go to music school, I got the speech about, “You have to separate hobbies from career and pay the bills.” If you tell them you’re not going to college, they’ll send you. When they saw us on ABC, they had a very different tone.
How has the Boston audience been different than other audiences?
It’s cool they’re so supportive of us. We started out, grew there and the shows are crazy now. The
Boston music scene is awesome. We are part of the community of musicians. Passion Pit and The Bad Rabbits definitely influence us. Everyone’s supportive of each other. There’s a really good music scene in Boston now, even another band with a flutist.
You all attended Berklee College of Music. What kind of atmosphere is Berklee for a genre like yours?
You’re completely surrounded by people trying to be creative all day. It’s intense. You’re all trying to make music of all genres. It’s a school where it’s more about the people you meet and connect with in the network. We all met after Berklee. It’s a great community.
Tell us about the signature lemon-flavored smoothie on the Ben & Jerry’s menu.
We were just chilling and made this smoothie. It was so good a drinkable lemon chill. We asked Ben and Jerry’s if they would mind putting it on their menu. Ben & Jerry’s is supportive of the local community. We’re part of their fair trade festival, and they honored us with a menu item and kept it on.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned through your experiences?
Have fun. We’ve played with so many famous bands that aren’t having fun, LMFAO for example. That’s the peak of the worst situation to be in. They hate each other. Literally, backstage they were punching each other. When you’re in a band you see that and you’re thinking, “They have the dream, but they’re hating the whole experience.” Have fun, be nice to people. It’s all about just having a good time. It’ll always be fun for us.
Gentlemen Hall’s new album, “When We All Disappear,” can be purchased on iTunes. For more information, check out GentlemenHall.com, the band’s Facebook page, MySpace, Twitter and its YouTube channel.
Contact Claire Stephens at [email protected]