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Indie Rock Superhero: The Return of Kevin Hambrick
By John Hubner
Fort Wayne Reader
It's always exciting when one of your favorite local songwriters is readying a new album. And what's even greater is when there's several local songwriters and bands that you get excited about. Since I've become aware(and from a distance become a part of) the Fort Wayne music scene, I've continuously been blown away by how incredibly rich and diverse the music community is here. And while the Fort's music scene is filled with die hard and loyal fans, what makes it even more special is that some of these bands most ardent supporters are other bands. They play shows together, stick around for each other’s sets, collaborate, and are generally the best kind of fans a band can have. When you have the support of your peers, it's the greatest feeling in the world as a musician.
I think without a doubt Kevin Hambrick can be considered the elder statesman of the Fort Wayne indie rock scene. Between albums he's released with the Orange Opera and the ones he's released under his own name, Hambrick has quite the discography. Not only that, but not a bad record in the lot. Kevin and the Orange Opera were the first Fort Wayne band I listened to back in the mid-2000s, and his knack for Beatles-esque hooks, jangly guitar buzz, and his quirky songwriting made for a wonderful introduction to the Fort's music scene. Not one to sit on his laurels, Hambrick will be releasing his newest solo opus called Mox Nix later this month. I sat down with Kevin to talk about the record and whatever else came up.
J. Hubner: It's been awhile since we've talked. I think it was when you released Turtle Wagon. How have things been? Is your son Van a member of Orange Opera yet?
Hambrick: Things have been pretty good. Van use to play guitar and sing everyday(only Dr. Dog songs) but last April he said he was taking a break and now it's all superheroes 24hrs.
J. Hubner: Hey, superheroes are great, too. I like the fact that having a son gives me good reason to give into my love of comic books without feeling weird about it. But hey, we're here to talk about your new record, Mox Nix. Where did you get the name from?
Hambrick: Well, I noticed the last couple years my mom saying “it's all mox nix” quite a bit. Then I thought, hmm, sounds like a good name for an album. I always got the irrelevant or doesn't matter feel from it and I liked it. Also a big shout out to Kalie Amber and Zach Stanley for their artwork for the album. They made me way cooler than I could ever be. They're awesome.
J. Hubner: I was going to ask you about the cover art. It looks amazing. From what I've heard of Mox Nix the album sounds amazing, too. "Sad Tomato" and "Coming Over" are pure pop bliss. How long have you been writing and recording the record?
Hambrick: Probably seven or eight songs have been done for a couple of years. I added another six since then and was ready to be done with it.
J. Hubner: Was the recording process similar to past records?
Hambrick: The recording process was most definitely the same for the most part. Go thru my digital 4 track into the computer to a typical multitrack program.
J. Hubner: I heard you had some help from Philly's Dr. Dog. I know you've known those guys for years, but is this the first time you've collaborated with them on an album?
Hambrick: Yeah, the Dr. Dog experiences in my life have been so amazing. They had a rain date in Indy during October 2013. I was planning to see that show then saw it get rescheduled for a couple days later. All of a sudden that night I got a call from Scott McMicken saying that a couple of the guys were thinking about renting a car and coming up to play or record some tunes with me. He said I could think about it and get back to him. Done deal, nothing to think about. They came up the next day and it was so awesome. They learned one of my songs (Sad Tomato) that I hadn't recorded yet and helped out with the sound and ideas. It has Scott McMicken on Guitar/Zach Miller on Bass and Keys/and Dimitri Manos on Drums. We recorded those 3 together live and I added all the rest. They also had some Pizza King while they were here. One of the best experiences in my life. They are so friendly and humble. Oh also they let us use their sound guy’s(Whiz) space echo machine for the recording.
J. Hubner: Who else helped out in the studio?
Hambrick: Kevin Hockaday played drums on the song "Closure" and Bryan Brubaker recorded the drums for "Closure" at the band house.
J. Hubner: What's informing your writing on Mox Nix?
Hambrick: Everything can be an inspiration in writing. This one dabbles into some relationships, friendships, and God aspects in life.
J. Hubner: I'm curious, what makes a Kevin Hambrick song different from an Orange Opera song?
Hambrick: Never have a clue. These days I try not to separate the songs like I did before. It just ends up where it ends up. My problem has always been waiting to record with others so I usually get anxious and do it myself.
J. Hubner: Let's talk about the CD release show for Mox Nix at the Brass Rail (March 18). Who else is playing that night? Who's backing you that night on the stage?
Hambrick: Void Reunion will start the show followed by 2 sets from The Orange Opera. Our first set will be the Mox Nix album. So yes the Opera boys are backing me live for the new album.
J. Hubner: Will you be hitting the road at all to promote Mox Nix?
Hambrick: Don't have a van or really the time with all of us to hit the road. Would like to but don't see that happening.
J. Hubner: You made it down to SXSW a couple years ago right? How was that experience for you?
Hambrick: SXSW was a good time and mainly a great networking experience. It also makes you realize you're just a tiny freckle of a whole world of music.
J. Hubner: What's the plan for the rest of 2016? Any chance you might get to play a show or two with Dr. Dog this year?
Hambrick: I'm going to see them play in March@The Vogue. I plan on giving them a copy in person. Would love to open for those guys someday in life again. I really don't have any control over that but would love any chance I get. The rest of the year I'll just take whatever comes my way. Maybe some recording, playing, and definitely continuing my superhero knowledge with Van.
If there was an indie rock version of The Avengers, I think Kevin Hambrick could easily be our Iron Man. Or Thor. Either way, he's a rock and roll superhero — you need to go see him play March 18th at the Brass Rail. And pick up a copy of Mox Nix.