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ORCHESTRAL MANEUVERS

Sammy Oatts brings his symphonic background to Hudson Hank

Hudson Hank.jpg

Walking away from steady work as a Broadway and orchestral musician might seem like an unwise career move for a classically trained trumpet player.

But there’s no trace of regret in singer Sammy Oatts’ voice when he talks about making that decision in order to explore “other creative energies” as the leader of the band Hudson Hank.

“I get to be more creative and be an integral part of the music instead of just a cog in the machine,” he adds.

Oatts began the songwriting process for DayBreak, Hudson Hank’s recently released 10-song debut, back in 2009. Along the way, he teamed up with drummer Dan Muhlenberg, a childhood friend from Nyack, N.Y., and guitarist Simon Kafka, a college friend, to round out the Hudson Hank core.

Through a job writing orchestral and brass arrangements, Oatts met Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman. “He was looking for outside projects to produce,” recalls Oatts, who sent Berryman rough mixes of about 12 songs — “and he called me the next day and said he loved [the material] and wanted to take the record on.”

To give everyone involved an idea what he was trying to achieve with Hudson Hank’s debut, Oatts compiled and distributed reference CDs.

“They had everything from David Bowie to Sigur Ros to Brian Eno,” Oatts says. “For each particular element of the record, I think I had ideas from many different places, so certain tunes had a certain guitar sound that I wanted. And sometimes we had to go kind of far back [to find it], to the early ’70s.

“I’m hearing a lot of resurgence of ’90s alternative-oriented [sounds] in bands, and I think we have elements of that, having grown up in the ’90s,” he adds. “That’s probably where DayBreak fits in, although we have a lot of strings and brass, and some of the melodic and harmonic forms are a little more complex and layered.”

When Oatts and company weren’t working on DayBreak in Brooklyn, N.Y., they visited London to accommodate the busy Berryman (and also to use his recording studio there, free of charge).

“I also think it gave the record a different perspective because I could take these tunes that I had written mainly in New York and add another dynamic to the record,” Oatts says. “We actually did come up with a lot of new stuff on the spot, spontaneously, and I think that had a lot to do with the surroundings. It made the album a little more worldly.”

— By Chris M. Junior