Samantha On ‘Hourglass Noise,’ SXSW, & More

Samantha Press Photo

Brooklyn-based punk-rock/thrash-pop trio Samantha have picked up major momentum since their start in Chicago. The group seem to be steadily making their mark on the music industry, and listeners everywhere. With their abrasive harmonies and driving beats, Samantha certainly makes an impression. Their new album, Hourglass Noise, is prepped for release on April 21st, and showcases the band’s ability to balance blunt frustration and raw emotion.

Mike Borchardt (vox/guitar) and Alex Hoffman (bass/vox) took the time to chat with Planet Stereo about the new album, what it’s like to perform at SXSW, and much more.

Planet Stereo: Thanks so much for doing the interview. How are you?
Mike Borchardt: Fantastic, thanks for having us. We’ve just been playing a lot of shows, and have a lot a lot of shows coming up.
PS: Your album, Hourglass Noise, is set to be released in April. How are you feeling about getting the new material out there?
MB: It’s exciting. We’ve been living with these songs for the better part of the last year, writing the material and recording. So it feels really good to get the music out to our fans, and perform it on stage. That’s really the ultimate completion moment for me, when the music is played live in front of an audience.
PS: Do you have a favorite song from the album? If so, what is it and why?
MB: For me, at least, I don’t have one favorite. All our lyrics are are very personal to me, but “Slaughter” directly references a really dark and scary moment in my life. So it’s probably the hardest one for me to sing from an emotional standpoint.
Alex Hoffman: “Ghostbot.” It’s one of the first songs we came up with after really figuring out how to write together. It’s catchy and weird and has a ton of energy. It’s super fun to play.
PS: What is your favorite part about going into the studio?
MB:  When you go into the studio, it’s like the music becomes real. Concepts become concrete and you can listen to the playbacks and start to better understand what it is that you’re intending to do. It’s a different type of creativity than when you’re actively writing the music.
AH: I love tweaking things. I’d do it forever if the other guys would let me.
MB: Plus, getting to play with pedals and toys. It’s something I don’t get to do that much at band practice or when writing.
PS: Would you mind walking me through the creative process?
MB:  Usually one of us will come to practice with an idea or a hook, and it kind of just grows from there. We all get our paws on it, and see what elements land and which ones don’t. So it really starts with a single idea, and we all collaborate until it either becomes a song or ends up in the scrap pile.
AH: Recording at home is a huge part of my individual creative process. I record everything when I’m writing. It’s great being able to loop a part and try it a million different ways. Being an independent band on a budget we can’t do too much of that in the studio, so I try to get most of it out of my system early.
PS: You recently played SXSW. Did you enjoy yourself?
MB: SXSW is always a blast.  We had a lot of shows we were playing down there this year, and a lot of friends playing as well that we wanted to catch.  The crowds are insane, and lugging your gear through the streets can be an adventure for sure.  I always describe SXSW as the best and worst week of your life.
PS: What was your first time at SXSW (as a fan or musician) like?
MB: The first time I went was when Samantha played back in 2012, and it was a bit overwhelming. We only had one show booked in Austin that year, so most of our time was spent running around different venues downtown and soaking in as much new music as we could.
AH: This was my first year. I had an awesome time but it was exhausting too. Playing two shows in a day is tough. The last night of the festival we were sitting around our room about 9 PM and I was so tired I didn’t feel like playing at all. A few hours later when we got on stage with that crowd I wasn’t tired at all. It was the best show we played down there.

PS: How do you manage to find time to write new material between playing shows, life, etc.?
MB:  It can be a challenge sometimes for sure. I mean we all still have day jobs to pay the bills and stuff, which leaves mostly just our nights free. A lot of times it feels like a balancing act between rehearsing the set for upcoming shows and finding time to work on new music. There’s also a lot of business that needs to be handled on a regular basis to keep the band moving forward. We’re self-managed in almost every capacity. I think it’s just a matter of proper time management really. When you have shows coming up, you practice. When you’re in a creative flow, you lean a little more focus toward working out new songs. I usually write lyrics when I’m on the subway or walking.
AH: That’s another reason I record everything I’m writing; I’ll come up with a bass line or melody I like, but time constraints won’t let me play it or sing it more than a few times. Recording it you don’t even have to take the time to write it down.
MB:  It helps that we’re friends first, and we hang out so much outside of being in a band. So we are fortunate that our social life can also double as band time.

PS: What would you like people to come away with when they hear your album?

MB: I’d like people to see that rock music still rocks. The 1990s don’t have to be the last great era in rock n’roll, and moving forward, we can be excited for where music is headed.
AH: I don’t know, I guess I just want it to be something people enjoy and connect with. Something they blast through headphones on the train and use to spark they’re own creativity.
PS: How did you get involved in music?
MB: Growing up, my parents were always blasting music, and I’d sing along to their records. I was raised on bands like Dire Straits, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, and whatnot. I also took piano lessons when I was like 5, because my mom thought I needed a creative outlet for my imagination, and by the time I was an angsty teen, I was glued to the radio and MTV, dreaming of getting a guitar and being in a rock n’ roll band. Luckily I had a friend in high school whose sister was selling her old beat-up acoustic guitar for cheap. And he also taught me to play it. Around that same time, my uncle won this crappy blues electric guitar in a poker game, and gave it to me for my birthday. It was like a switch had been permanently flipped, and I knew right then that making music was the the only thing I ever really wanted to do.
AH: When I was a kid my creative outlet was fiction writing but my dad played guitar around the house a ton. One day I picked it up and started trying to learn to play but immediately gave up. I don’t how he played it. This thing was the worst guitar I’ve ever played. It was a super crappy garage sale nylon string that he’d put steel strings on. To get it in tune the strings had to be so tight the neck was bowed, the action was like a half inch and the bridge was starting to come off. I could barely hold the strings down. When I was about 14 all my friends played guitar so I decided to give it another shot. Two years later I worked all summer at McDonalds and bought a used Strat. That’s when I really fell in love.
PS: If you could work with any artist, past or present, who would it be and why?
MB: As a songwriter, I’d say Bob Dylan. No one can write a song like Dylan, and he has made a career out of reinventing himself and just doing whatever the hell he wants. He’s the original punk rocker. That guy has hands down been coolest dude in music for 60 years.
AH: I’d have to say Matt Sharp. I like playing with people that make everybody around them better. There’re definitely musicians whose music I admire way more but admire is different than wanting to play with some narcissistic asshole that only wants to hear her own voice.

PS: What was the first album you ever bought?
MB: The first records my parents bought me were Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, Cindy Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual,” and Fraggle Rock all on vinyl. A few years later, I traded some Garbage Pail Kids cards for Nirvana and Green Jelly cassette tapes. But I believe the first CD I ever bought with my own money was “Use Your Illusion II” by Guns n’Roses.
AH: I don’t remember the first album I bought but the first album I owned was Weird Al In 3D. I know I didn’t understand that he was being funny I just thought the songs were awesome. I think Weird Al is the reason I got so into bands like Dead Milkmen and Violent Femmes.
PS: In music, especially with social media coming into play, which do you believe to be more important: quality or likeability?
MB: Quality. We care far more about making music that we are proud to put our names on than we do about having millions of fans or Facebook likes. But fans and Facebook likes are cool too.
AH: Quality for sure. I mean of course likeability is important. Pretending it’s not is ridiculous but it’s a means to an end. If that end is shitty music then what’s the point?
PS: Any last words?
AH: Yeah, thanks for having us. Also, we’re super excited about our record release show. We’re playing on April 24th with some great bands at Cameo Gallery in Brooklyn. It’s gonna be awesome.
For more on Samantha or to purchase a CD or tickets to a show, click HERE.
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