I was listening to the radio in my car a few weeks ago and I heard a new song in a familiar, yet not, kind of style. It caught my attention; I cranked up the sound. Was it a Phoenix song I’d never heard before? Had Two Door Cinema Club released a new single? No– it was a band from Little Rock, Arkansas (I know right?? Who knew that big rock was coming from Little Rock these days? See what I did there?) called Knox Hamilton, comprised of members Boots Copeland, Brad Pierce, Drew Buffington, and Cobo Copelandand, and the song was called “Work It Out.” Intrigued, I looked them up (but not while I was driving, of course) and found a catalogue of their infectiously catchy music on Spotify. I couldn’t stop listening. I’m always thinking of you, loyal reader, so I decided to track them down for a interview, and help spread the word about Knox Hamilton. The band was busy at the recording studio, but Drew and Brad were able to take a break to chat with me and answer a few questions:
Eo8: Is there a really active music scene in Little Rock, or are y’all it?
KH: Oh we’re definitely it (*laughter*). There is a music scene here and there always has been one, there just haven’t been a lot of alternative bands like us; there’s a lot of early 2000s rock, so if you’re into that, we’ve got it, a lot of metal bands, some country, some bluegrass, things like that. There are a few bands playing indie pop music, but it’s not the norm.
Eo8: You’ve said that your music is a combination of your collective musical sensibilities. What kinds of music make up that combination?
KH: We listen to all kinds of stuff, especially on road trips, like we’ll run the gamut from 90s hip-hop, 80s rock, current stuff like Phoenix and those kinds of bands, 70s influences like America, Chicago, we are fairly eclectic in that. I’m always like a year behind (this is Brad) whatever is playing, whatever’s the newest, best thing; I’ve been spinning Phoenix’s last album Bankrupt, it’s almost two years old but I can’t stop listening to it. I’ll get on one thing and wear it out.
E08: You were number 9 on Alt Nation’s Alt-18 countdown last week, how does that feel?
KH: It’s pretty awesome. We’ve been getting some spins on Alt Nation for a while, and we finally made it onto the countdown, then we were off, then back on, so to be at number 9 now is pretty amazing.
E08: You’ve been playing some festivals this summer, you recently performed at Wakarusa, right? How have your festival experiences been? Any fun stories?
KH: Yeah, we played Wakarusa, which is out in the Ozarks in the middle of nowhere. I got a tick bite. I wouldn’t necessarily call that a fun story, but it’s a small price to pay. (*laughter*) Festivals are kind of strange, it’s almost like a survey of a bunch of different types of bands, so sometimes it feels like you’re not really in your neighborhood, so to speak. It’s always fun to meet people and be exposed to a lot of different kinds of music. We played Riverfest, which is a festival here in Little Rock, and we had people came out to see us who knew who we were, so for that one we had an audience that was a little more active. At Wakarusa, we were on a smaller stage, and people didn’t really know who we were, so we were just basically yelling at passersby.
Eo8: How will you know when you’ve “made it,” what will that look like for y’all? Will you still be in Little Rock?
KH: For me (Drew), it would be a matter of being able to quit my job and pursue music on a full time basis, I think if it’s sustainable at all monetarily, we would know we’ve “arrived.” Right now, everything is self-produced, we haven’t really had an opportunity that presented itself that was really worth us quitting our jobs over yet. We’ve talked about packing up and moving to LA or New York, jokingly more than anything, but we’d like to think the music scene has changed enough to where you don’t have to be in a hub to be successful, since it’s so easy to share music now, and it’s easy to travel, we’d like to think we could do it from Little Rock. Our families are here, we’re all, with the exception of Boots, pretty newly married, so we’re not looking to uproot unless the right opportunity comes along.
Eo8: You’re currently at the recording studio, can we expect an LP soon? Do you have a certain message you want to put out there with your lyrics?
KH: I don’t think we ever really stop recording music, it seems like we’re always recording something, whether it’s a demo or spots to try to get some commercial play, random assignments; but right now we’re working on a song that we really like, to hopefully share with everyone, I’m not sure we can be more vague….we’ve got a lot of song ideas and we’ve demoed like 4 or 5 of them, but one has stood out with the band and with other folks, and at live shows, so we are back in the studio trying to get it radio-ready. As far as an LP goes, we try to get as much music out as soon as possible, so we’ve been going the EP route. As far as our goal in writing and in coming up with lyrics, I (Brad) certainly, whenever I write lyrics, my goal is phonetic in nature (*laughter*), so Drew can speak more to that….(Drew) first and foremost, we write pop music, so we want it to be easy to sing along with and catchy, and even if it doesn’t always make a lot of sense, but sometimes we write a good lyric or two.
Eo8: What is your favorite Knox Hamilton song to play, and can you explain how your song “Lechuga,” the Spanish word for lettuce, got its name? Any particular reason why you wrote a song about lettuce?
KH: That’s tough. We’ve been testing out our new songs live; as far as recorded stuff, I (Drew) really like playing “Barely Missed You,” we released that one a couple of EPs ago on So Far Safari. I (Brad) like “Beach Boy,” it’s close to my heart, I sing the lead on that, I guess naturally I enjoy it, so I’m proud of that one, and it always seems to go over well, it’s fun to play. I (Drew) don’t know where “Lechuga” came from; I (Brad) am pretty sure that was totally random and pretty sure it was Cobo that named it “Lechuga.” In fact, I was at work, usually there’s a democratic vote about track listings and what titles will be, and literally I saw it as track listing online when The Great Hall EP got released, and I was like, “Lechuga? What is that?”
Eo8: What can we expect from Knox Hamilton in the future? Is there anything you specifically want to share with my awesome readers?
KH: Right now we are just trying to get a lot of our ideas down, in some kind of demo form, like the new song we’re trying to get radio-ready. Hopefully this fall we will line up more dates and travel a lot more regionally, just really get out and play more shows. That’s some of the feedback we’ve heard, we’ve had a chance to talk to some folks whose opinions we really respect, we really need to do some stuff like work on our live show and kind of be road dogs for a little bit, play a lot of live music. We are playing a festival in Kalamazoo in early September, and we have some shows lined up on the way there and back, like Chicago and Columbus, and even coming back through Tennessee, possibly Nashville (*insert GASP! and YAY! from Eo8 here*). We recently played with our friends Sleeper Agent in their hometown of Bowling Green…we do get out occasionally. Just hang in there with us and keep up with us! We may not be playing Jimmy Fallon next week, but we are hopefully not going away anytime soon, so keep with us and look out for our new music. I (Brad) will also add that we are all much better-looking than we appear in the video for “Work It Out.”
You can download The Great Hall EP here, and be sure to check out their Facebook page to see when Knox Hamilton is headed to your neck of the woods.