Hindershot's Stuart Confer on background, Naked Eyes and evolving songwriting
Hindershot (due tonight at 3 Kings Tavern with Force Publique, Achille Lauro and The Show is the Rainbow) started out with songs lead singer and guitarist Stuart Confer wrote in his bedroom a few years before. In just over a year, Hindershot became one of the more popular bands associated with the Hot Congress collective.
This is primarily due to the Confer's ability to craft the core of songs that, while strong on their own, lend themselves well to his bandmates putting a personal stamp on each so that the final products have a wide array of sounds and moods.
Before embarking on a tour to the west coast, Hindershot is celebrating the release of its new 7-inch, Curse Us All. We recently spoke with the charming and confident yet humble Confer about his musical background, his mentoring from an ex-member of Naked Eyes and the importance of evolving the band's songwriting to its very survival.
Tom Murphy Hindershot at the Westword Music Showcase
Westword: What bands were you in before moving to Denver?
Stuart Confer: I was in a couple of bands. The first was this NOFX/Vandals style pop punk band. We actually got on Warped Tour and then toured around the country about six times. They're still a band. It was called S.O.J.H.. It originally stood for "Straight Out of Junor High." Terrible band name. It's actually something I'm kind of ashamed of a little bit. Maybe you should be ashamed of your first band. But it was a fun band to be in. We played with MXPX, Alkaline Trio, the Vibrators and the Vandals. We were fairly successful and had a good time.
For about eight months I was in a band called Carson City Heat. It's long defunct, and it was an R&B band. We wore ties and played guitars. We played some Stevie Wonder covers. We had our own songs, too, in our own style. That was probably in 2003. That was based more out of Omaha [than Lincoln as S.O.J.H. had been]. I moved to Denver shortly after that.
What brought you to Denver?
I got my Bachelor's in Advertising, and I'm the art director at an ad agency. When I moved to Denver I took a long hiatus from music. Right when I moved to Lincoln it was kind of nice to break away from the world I had been living in and reevaluate my tastes. I started listening to LPs and more eclectic stuff, and I tried to widen my horizons. Growing up, my dad had me listening to Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. He was really into grunge, and I remember my dad and I would go on road trips and listen to Metallica. So you could say he had an eclectic musical taste.
When I was seventeen I started skateboarding, and I was listening to Pennywise, NOFX and all those bands for a couple of years. Then we started that band until I became dissatisfied and wished I could be a little more experimental anyway.
How did you get back into writing music and meeting the people you've played with since?
I met Patrick Kelly at Barnes & Noble. You know Patrick. He knows everyone in town -- when you're out with him, he'll stop any random person and say, "Hey, what's up?" I didn't start writing and recording music again until my boss at the first ad agency where I worked bought me studio monitors and an amp mixer. He taught me Logic. He was really supportive. He said, "You should be doing music now that you've graduated." He was in Naked Eyes. He didn't play on the original albums, but he played with them for years throughout the '90s, and up until recently, he's still been playing with them. His name is Randall Erkelens. He got me back into it, and I'm glad he did. He's a cool dude.
You started back into playing live with Old Radio [now Amazing Twin]?
I started playing in Old Radio because I'd been writing music for a long time and I needed to meet musicians. It's funny because I tried to tap the well of the Denver music scene, but it ended up being mainly the members of Old Radio. I even had Eric Peterson play drums for a couple of months, and he just wasn't into it, of course. He moved on, and then I had one of my friends play bass a couple of times, but then he was too drunk to show up to a practice one time, and we found somebody else.
Then it took us a really long time to find a drummer, of course. But I sent John Fate a bunch of demos, and I remember talking to him on the phone and saying, "Hey, nice to meet you." I'd never met him before. "We're looking for a new drummer." And he said, "Oh, dude, I'm way too busy. I play in two other bands." I guess he was playing with Jim McTurnan and another band at the time. So I said, "Well, why don't I send you the demos anyway." He called back and said, "Dude, I don't care how busy I am, I'll be in the band!" And it's been a shitshow ever since.
One day Spence Alred was at our house, and we had a party or something, and I said, "Do you want to play guitar in Hindershot?" He said an immediate, "Yup." It took a long time to get going, and then it happened quickly and organically in the end. We all get along, you know?
How did you come up with that name for the band?
Oh, that's my ancestry. My ancestors were named Hindershot. While we were forming, I had a couple of other names then my uncle found all this crazy family history on Hindershot. But then he recently told us it meant something obscene in German. But I don't think it does. It's a last name, but it's not very common. When you Google it, it's the first thing that comes up.
Hindershot seems to have shifted in sound markedly since the band started. What initially inspired you to make the kind of music you've written for that project, and what has been the impetus for change in songwriting?
I've always loved classic rock. I think that's somewhere in there. It's gotten heavier, too, and I think that comes out of angst. When I was unemployed, I was in a less angsty mindset, even though I had all these struggles from being unemployed -- that's kind of a hard thing. You just have plenty of time. Now I'm rushed all the time with two jobs and playing in two bands, and it's just crazy. So I think the music has gotten more angsty.
Right now, the music we're writing is a total departure from where we were, because we want to be the kind of band that can mix it up, and it doesn't matter if we piss people off and they don't like it. We just want to do our own thing and keep it evolving and have fun. So the shit we're doing now, it's still got elements of the old stuff, but it's faster and more punk influenced but also old rock and roll too.
It's hard to explain but I think we're going to record our next album in a basement with an eight-track live. We decided it's time to not go with the system we've had going on and try to do something different.
Is that music on this 7-inch you're putting out reflective of what you can hear online?
There's demos [online], but I've stopped putting up demos. For a while I thought it was the only way to get our music out. Once the record comes out, it sounds different. It was recorded differently, and we don't want people to fall in love with the demos. Though I don't know if that's even possible. It's just a different feel. The demos are much more electronic, and we're much more an organic band.
So we're trying to change the format of how we put our music out there. That's just what you have to do if you're going to continue on as a band. My computer died and it's kind of a good tool for me. It's hard to do the textural layerings and melodies in my head. I have it in my head but I can figure it out completely until I get it down.
Anyway, this whole 7-inch is about Apocalypse. It's something that gets used a lot, especially right now. But it can go from the personal to a song that's metaphorically about the dinosaurs being eradicated from the earth -- the fact that humans can't control everything like they're trying to do. One of the songs I wrote after the BP oil spill, it's this happy song called "Rain Fare." But it's about this really dark thing that you're very emotional about when it happens.
So there's "Curse Us All" - which is the name of the 7-inch. "Furlough" is another of the songs, then "Rain Fare" and "Dinosaur." I have no recollection of writing that song. It has a Bossa Nova beat with electronic keyboard, and it's really noisy and all over the place. That's going to close out the album. Spencer and I played a cornet on the recording. We were just trying to play it like John Coltrane and blowing through it as hard as we could. We both almost passed out and my lips were super swollen and red because we're not trained. We just wanted to make it as gnarly as possible--like people or dinosaurs screaming.