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Q&A: HEDLEY

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When Hedley set out to make a video for its song “Anything,” the Canadian quartet wanted something that felt like it was “coming at you from all angles,” says singer Jacob Hoggard.

“We had about five different cameras going, so we were able to capture the whole making of the video as well as the live shots,” says Hoggard, taking a break from the band’s soundcheck at New York’s Webster Hall in January. “You’ll see in some of the regular shots, there are girls walking around with VHS cameras. Well, those cameras were rolling, so we have all of these in-shot angles of the video that we could attach and edit together and sequence.”

“We wanted to make something that you couldn’t watch all at once on the first take — you had to watch it again,” adds guitarist Dave Rosin.

In Hedley’s official “Anything” clip, which has racked up more than 1.7 million YouTube views since September 2013, the scene is a house party out of control, with the band members performing and also playing around with their guests.

“When you get to go to work in the morning and bathe in a giant bath of Froot Loops and get fed by models, life’s OK!” Rosin says with a laugh. “I had a hard time explaining that one to the wife, but she’s cool.”

“Anything” is the title track of Hedley’s new Capitol Records EP, which consists of five songs from the band’s fifth proper studio album, Wild Life, released in 2013 on Universal Music Canada.

Seated side by side in a small back bar on Webster Hall’s lower level, Hoggard and Rosin spoke about trying to reach markets outside of Canada, a forthcoming Hedley album on Capitol to be issued in the United States and the origins of the song “Anything.”

Medleyville.us: Jacob, in a 2009 interview, you said: “It is not a major priority as of now to establish ourselves internationally. There is more focus on establishment in Canada, building something up that we can come back to.” In what ways have the band’s priorities changed almost five years later?
Jacob Hoggard: “I’d have to say our biggest focus is on making music. In order for us to continue what we’re doing, we have to stay creative. And outside of that, we’re at a point in our lives where we’re really excited that France is picking up the single, or that Australia is excited about a single. So we’re at that point where we’re willing to set aside the time to make sure that we go and service that single, that we can go and continue that momentum where it’s beginning to grow.
Dave Rosin: “We’ve always gone elsewhere. We’re from Canada, so we’ve focused there because it’s our home. But as a touring musician, you always want to keep touring and playing to more people. That’s always exciting. I think it’s really cool when we come down here [to America] because we always get these random pockets [of fans]. I remember we played Salt Lake City one time at this small spot. We had about 20 people from a town the next state over who all came to this show. When you don’t play a place that often, it’s neat to see when fans actually make that extended effort to come and see a band they enjoy.”

Do you think there are more or different challenges involved for a Canadian group trying to make its mark in the United States than the other way around?
Hoggard: “I think there’s a few anomalies as far as Canadian bands, like Arcade Fire. But outside of that, I feel like Canada, in relatively to the United States, is just as if not less significant than France, Australia or the U.K. They’re just based essentially on market size, and outside of the fact that there’s a border [connecting Canada to] the United States directly, their correlations don’t seem to span much farther than that. So for us, we really treat it that way. We don’t treat it like a sense of privilege, like we’re supposed to be down here, that we should be here at any point, just because we’re connected by walkover borders.”

But at the same time, you guys have been at this a long time. So do you feel like you didn’t do all you could in the past and maybe you can do something different now? Or you just taking it as it comes?
Hoggard: “I think that’s a really great way to look at it. For us, I don’t think we’ve ever drowned ourselves in our own ambitions. I think we take it as it comes. … Wherever it is that we’re playing, wherever it is that we’re touring, we’re still doing it. We’ve been lucky enough to be self-made musicians for the last 10 years now. We quit our jobs a long, long time ago, and that’s a really cool feeling.”
Rosin: “I rode the elevator just this afternoon with a guy from Philadelphia. He’s here for a conference of some sort. He says, ‘What are you in town doin’?’ I said, ‘I’m in town playing music.’ And he said, ‘That’s great: Don’t ever get a real job.’ He was really stoked. And as I got off the elevator, I kinda said to myself, ‘This job does rock, and I can’t believe I’m calling music a job.’ ”

The new Hedley EP on Capitol consists of five songs from the Wild Life album, and there’s an album coming out this year on Capitol. Is it going to Wild Life with a few different songs? What’s the packaging going to be?
Hoggard: “I’d love to repackage the whole thing and slip on some new songs. Anytime we can actually get a chance to write a couple more and slip them on to a new project, [that] makes it a little different for us, too.”

Do you have any finished songs ready in case that becomes a possibility?
Rosin: “I would say for Wild Life, Jake probably brought in more songs than ever before. It was actually kind of tough weeding through them. … If we release the album a couple months from now, that means that Wild Life for us would have been finished for almost a year, so at that point, absolutely we’d want to put something new on there. Because I think as artists, we’re always trying to push the envelope.”

Let’s talk about the song “Anything.” Was that your entire writing credit, Jacob?
Hoggard: “That was largely mine, and my friend Brian Howes helped me flesh it out. That was one of the few songs that just [came to me in full] while going for a run. That’s a really fun feeling, to be halfway through a jog, going, ‘Oh, this is a good one. I’ve got this in my head.’ And then getting through the demo process, trying to convince people to understand a song like ‘Anything’ early on because of how unconventional it comes across, especially as a demo or rough mockup.”
Rosin: “Yeah, polyrhythm rap beats with Queen guitar over the top.”

Who or what inspired the go-for-it message that prevails throughout the lyrics?
Hoggard: “That one really kind of came more naturally than anything else. I think those first few sentiments in the chorus were maybe the most sincere gestation of the idea. It made sense for the rest of the song to write it that way. It was obvious right away that that’s what the song needed to be about.”

Was there anyone in particular who discouraged you to stay away from a career in music or actually told you to “burn that guitar”?
Hoggard: “I think I might have been a little luckier [than others] to have parents who were really open-minded. But I know through friends and relationships I’ve had in the past [about] parents being strict: ‘No, you should go to school and be a lawyer. Stop with these creative ideas.’ I’m well aware that is a reality for a lot of people, and I think that’s a really harsh reality to be stuck in. So I think this was a really solid message to counteract that negativity.”

— Introduction, interview and photos by Chris M. Junior
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Jacob Hoggard
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Dave Rosin