Thursday, March 26, 2009

Catching up with the Flying Black Hats - Part 1

The charming indie duo The Flying Black Hats (Pat Patsy and Danny Lockjaw), featured here a while back, witnessed some rather surprising success and rising listening counts in their site at late. The surprise stems from their almost laid back approach to the music industry which may also be reflected in their songs. One of the tracks in particular, "Love Song", reached notable popularity status on the Hype Machine.

I wanted to learn more about the duo so I asked Dan to answer some questions and thankfully he agreed, providing some very interesting insight into indie music. As the text is a bit long (and I loathed cutting out too much out of it), it will be in two parts. Here's the first:

Q. Can you tell a little about yourselves. How do you operate and work on your music? Are you still active?

A. Pat and I met in High School in San Diego in the early 90’s and have been friends ever since. When I met Pat, he was playing in a band called James Campbell Nylons. I joined up and we played some terrible, but fun shows. That band broke up pretty quickly and we formed a band called The Patsies. We played very poppy punk music. Generally, I would write the lyrics and Pat would write the music. I spent most of my time in class writing lyrics and would give Pat 2-3 “songs” by the end of the day.

When we met, we both played guitar... barely. Both of us are self taught and we picked up some other instruments along the way. Pat plays piano. I can play Harmonica pretty well and so can he. We like to bang on stuff in lieu of drums. It’s weird when I think about it…I’ve been in several bands, but I never really had a connection with anyone musically the way that I do with Pat. We have been writing songs together for 15 years, and it just works. Always has, and hopefully always will.

When we recorded the songs on Recordings, 2003, we were living together in the Mission District of San Francisco. It was something we did for fun. We had a busted up Tascam 4 Track and we sat around and drank and just had fun with writing music. I don’t think either of us really enjoyed being in a “band” as much as we enjoyed the pure process of writing. We never attempted to get gigs after High School. We just recorded and shared the songs with our friends.

Eventually Pat moved back to San Diego, but we see each other fairly often and it is never a question of if we will record music, but when, what, how much. It is a way to relax and a way to communicate with each other. Neither of us are very good at talking openly about our feelings, but we understand each other through the emotion in the music we create.

Q. What inspires and drives you in music? What are your influences?

A. I don’t think it is a question of inspiration so much as necessity. I have to write down what’s in my head or I start to go kind of insane. A lot of our songs are kind of depressing if you listen to the lyrics, but I have always thought that happy things weren’t worth writing about. That sounds corny and clichéd, I know. And that is not to say that we haven’t written our share of silly songs. Generally, I consider writing a way of purging the anger and depression I feel whether it be at a girl who broke up with me, the general unfairness of the world, or the fact that I think most people’s priorities are so incredibly out of whack.

Pat is an amazing musician. When we first met, I was probably a better guitarist than he was. He caught up to me in about a year. And he is just one of those people who is naturally gifted with music. I’m not. I look at music as a vehicle for language. Music is language for Pat, and I think that is beautiful. It is also why we make a good team.

Influences... When I was young I lived in the south, and folk music was always very important to me. Pat is obsessed with Neil Young. That said, when we were younger we looked up to bands like Screeching Weasel, The Queers, OpIvy. As we got older, we both became more interested in what would probably be referred to most accurately as Indie music and old folk/country/blues: Elliot Smith, Beulah, Belle & Sebastian.

And folk, old and new. Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie, The Carter Family. Not big fans of new country, but we both love Hank Williams and Johnny Cash - those old guys who played their guts out. The fact that most of the songs only had three chords appealed to me. There are so many people who have influenced us individually and together, but I think the commonality is good lyrics, not much pretension, and heart. Hard to go wrong with that combo.

The Flying Black Hats - New Start {MP3} (a new song)
The Flying Black Hats - Calling Out Your Name {MP3} (Recordings, 2003)

To be continued tomorrow.


Jumping Beans Baxtor said...

Sounds good guys! Can't go wrong with Johnny Cash! I love the Flying Black Hats' lyrics, quirky, and a bit silly at times, but very contemporary - real and relevant. Thank you for the insight!

Jumping Beans Baxtor said...

Can't go wrong with Johnny Cash. I love the Flying Black Hats' lyrics, quirky, a bit silly at times, but very contemporary - real and relevant. Thanks for the insight into your history!

Oded said...

Thanks for your comment. The Flying Black Hats are quite unique in their approach and story.