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Thunderhawk: What's in a name?

By Sean Smith

Fort Wayne Reader

2008-01-07


I'll admit it. At first, I didn't think that Thunderhawk existed. My friend Greg Locke passed along a song that he wanted me to hear. I trust his taste in music, so I gave it a listen and couldn't believe my ears. It sounded as if every great 90s indie rock band that he had ever cared about was playing all at once. There were elements of Pavement, Guided by Voices and Sebadoh.

I couldn't believe it. He'd finally gone and done it. Greg had finally gotten the gumption to record his very own indie masterpiece. Then, he pointed me in the direction of myspace.com/thunderhawkband and what should have sealed the deal, merely convinced me further that this was all part of Greg's elaborate plan.

You see, the information on the website indicated that Thunderhawk were from Muncie. There was simply no possible way that a band of this caliber was from Muncie. Then, realizing that his plan was backfiring, Greg put me in contact with Josh Hall, the man behind Thunderhawk. Turns out, it's all true, everything right down to the somewhat suspicious band name. Hall explains: "I was kind of thinking, 'What's the cheesiest 80s metal band name you can think of?' That was pretty much it. From day one that was it and then we stopped calling ourselves that and people kept calling us that. It just kind of stuck."

Hall grew up in 'the Philadelphia area' and after high school made the move to Muncie in 1998, to pursue a music career and focus on the Music Engineering program at Ball State University. He became friends with Doug Market, who was a drummer, right away. The two based their friendship on a mutual love for all things indie rock.

That was the early genesis of Thunderhawk. The band has been everything from a duo to a five piece, with the one and only constant being Hall. The result of his desire to run things his own way and the constant routine of students making their way through the school.

In the early days, Hall says that the band wasn't all that interested in playing music beyond the confines of student housing. "For a long time we were just playing in basements and not really even playing shows. At first it was just kind of like a drinking club, where we'd all sit around and drink beer. Then around 2004 or 2005 we realized we were actually pretty decent and we could take it out on the road.”

Hall set about to get the group shows at all of the bars that would book independent bands and eventually they would play Rock Lobster, C T Peppers and Birdy's — all reputable clubs in the Broad Ripple area, but the crowds that showed up didn't quite know what to make of what they were seeing. "I think people just didn't get it. It’s indie pop and we don't really have a gimmick to draw the people in. It's just, 'Here's the music. This is what we sound like.' I don't really look like an indie rock guy. I don't wear the jean jackets and tight pants. I'm just a dude."

After spending time on the road and not seeing much reward, the members of Thunderhawk decided to go their separate ways. "The last show we played was over 2 years ago. Pretty much everybody quit. We were just kind of spinning our wheels, playing the same shows over and over again and not really building any kind of fan base. We weren't making enough money to keep it going. A lot of people got burnt out and it fizzled out."

After that, Hall pretty much closed himself off from the music community in Muncie. "I've just pretty much completely detached myself from whatever scene is down here. I don't think people like us down here. So, I've stopped talking to everybody. I couldn't tell you what one band is doing down here."

While Hall might have cut himself off from the music community, he hadn't cut himself off from music. After WhatzUp gave IV a good review, Hall decided to send a copy of his newest record V for a review as well. Greg Locke loved what he heard and set about getting a show for Hall straightaway. And if Locke hadn't been such a fan of the album? "We pretty much would not be playing. It's pretty much just because he asked us to," says Hall. "I'd still be making CDs, but I don't think anyone would hear them."

Since getting the gig at the Brass Rail on January 18th with Vandolah lined up, Hall has recruited his old band members and the rehearsals have been going great. The foursome have picked right back up where they left off and the majority of practice is spent learning songs off of the most recent release, V a.k.a. Gravity Wins!

'V,' much like the other Thunderhawk releases, contains songs that are a melding of Hall's two favorite styles of music while growing up. R & B and indie rock. Confused? Don't be. "I used to listen to a lot of Motown when I was a kid," recalls Hall, "If you look at all of the Motown hits, they're all 2 minutes and 30 seconds long. Verse, chorus, verse. That's it. I think that kind of crept into my style. Short songs. To the point. No jamming. Here it is. When I was 12 or 13 and I had some older friends and they were big into indie bands like Pavement, Pixies and Ween. They kind of forced me to listen to it and I got stuck on it. It was awesome.”

This is the secret to Hall's success as a songwriter. He writes incredible songs that recall the tone and aesthetic of 90s indie rock, but they also tend to wrap themselves up in a matter of minutes. It's no wonder that he still spends the majority of his time listening to Pixies' Doolittle or Sebadoh's Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock. "There's not much stuff lately that's blown my mind," Hall says, "There's been nothing in the last two years that's blown my mind. I guess more recently I listen to New Pornographers and I kind of like My Morning Jacket's stuff. That's about it."

While he may not have entirely come around to modern music, Hall has certainly come to realize how open and receptive Fort Wayne is to his brand of music. When Thunderhawk toured a few years ago they did not bother to play here. Hall says it had to do with not having any connections. But, in the time that Locke has been promoting the show, Hall has seen the very positive and welcoming nature of the music scene and is curious why it outshines the one in Muncie. He's quick to point out that they have nothing in the way of weekly free papers and they certainly don't have anything close to Little Brother Radio. In short, "Everyone seems a lot cooler."

So, make sure you are in the audience when Thunderhawk make their live debut in Fort Wayne, along with Vandolah, at the Brass Rail on January 18 th. The show is brought to you by Ease Down the Road and gets underway at 9 p.m. and costs $3.

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