I am back with another interview! I recently chatted with the American Power Pop Trio Hannity Bronze via email about their debut album Sold Out. The members of Hannity Bronze (Hale, Jesse, and Todd) all individually talked about their musical inspirations, how they produced their debut album, and what are their favorite songs off the tracks. Although there might be no concrete theme behind the album, there is at least a story behind it. What is this story? Continue to read on to find out!
Make sure to listen to Sold Out by Hannity Bronze down below and let me know what you think in the comments!
First of all, please introduce yourselves? How did Hannity Bronze come to be?
Hale: My name is Kirk Anthony Hale Jr, but my dad goes by Kirk, and there’s another friend in our group that’s named Anthony, so I’ve just always gone by “Hale.”
Jesse met a couple of my high school friends online in 2016, and sometime that year he started coming to some of our parties. We became closer friends over time And although we both had an appreciation for music and knew how to play guitar, we didn’t start making music together until a little while after I’d started making music of my own.
I had grown tired of recording videos of me doing covers of songs on my phone, and I wanted the recordings to sound better. I saw a Ted Talk from Steve Lacy that explained how you could record music that sounded professional using only GarageBand on an iPhone. So, I went out and bought one of those, and bought a MacBook shortly thereafter. From there, things just began to grow, and a few weeks after Jesse and I had recorded some songs, he invited another one of his musically inclined friends, Todd, to join us.
Jesse: My name is Brad but you can call me Jesse. My parents say I was born in the middle of a hurricane and tornado. Needless to say, I don’t believe any of that bullshit. I’m 22 years old and I was born and raised in the fairytale land of Louisville, Kentucky.
Hannity Bronze was created while my fellow band mate and friend Hale was caught in the middle of a rather nasty breakup during the autumn of 2019. I remember it like it was just yesterday. I walked in on Hale with his head hung down and a nasal inhaler hanging out of his nose and grabbed his midi controller and opened garage band on his Macbook.
After about two hours of screwing around, I created a total mess of a song titled “Hot New Game” (still yet to be released) an additional two hours of pestering later I was able to convince a fever-ridden Hale to record a vocal take over the track. A month or two into recording these half baked songs, I recruited my long time friend Todd to play on our upcoming EP (“The Chronicles of Hannity Bronze”).
Though nothing ever came of the EP, it was my first step into the door of recording music in a semi-professional setting.
Todd: My name is Todd Anthony Kramer Jr. and I started playing guitar about ten years ago. Jesse and I started a guitar duo during this time. This group was called “The Al’s,” deriving its name from the street we both grew up on. We never made it very far with our playing nor our success. Eventually, we disbanded the group and went our separate ways musically. I continued to play at parties and various family get-togethers in high school.
In 2012, I began to experiment with producing, mixing, and engineering records for the first time. I put out a mixtape called “Symmetry” and “Simple Philosophy” around this time. Eventually, in the fall of 2019, we decided to revive the duo, this time with another friend of ours, Anthony Hale. During that fall we put together a small EP, which you can find on SoundCloud, that inspired “Sold Out.”
What artists and/or musical genres inspire you?
Hale: My biggest and most obvious influences are jangle pop/indie bands like The Smiths and Mac Demarco, but I try to draw inspiration from many different genres and artists. My favorite songwriters range from MF Doom to Townes Van Zandt to Daniel Johnston. My favorite guitar players range from Richard Lloyd to Johnny Marr to Django Reinhardt.
The only music that I don’t like is stuff that was obviously made by a machine to appeal to as many people as possible. There needs to be some element of grit or realness to art for me to be attracted to it.
Jesse: To be honest, I truly can’t site any artist in particular as being a sole influence on the songs I write. I’m sure, like many people, The Beatles had a major impact on me at a young age. But generally, it comes down to whatever I feel like listening to at the moment. I may be listening to Lana Del Rey one day and Daniel Johnston the next.
There are many notable bands to come out of Louisville, My Morning Jacket, and Slint to name a couple but I can’t say they have seemed to leave a major impact on the musical scene in Louisville. Besides that, I’ve always been more of an outsider and can’t attest to being involved in any scene at any level.
Todd: My earliest influences were Three Dog Night and The Beatles. My dad gave me a mixtape when I was about eight years old that had several Three Dog Night songs on it. This was sort of revolutionary for me. For one, I grew up on country music, particularly Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, and others like that. Three Dog Night was my first taste of rock and roll. I never appreciated music until that moment. However, I never considered picking up an instrument until I heard a Beatles song.
My first true exposure to The Beatles also occurred around the same time. My dad used to collect 20 ounces Coca-Cola bottle caps for a program called MyCokeRewards that was relatively popular in the U.S. in the mid-2000s. Those codes could be redeemed for prizes such as hats, CD’s, etc. On one particular occasion, my dad had decided to redeem his points on a copy of The Beatles 1 album on CD and from that moment everything changed. It was sort of the “let there be light” moment in my musical journey. I grew to love The Beatles from that point on.
That feeling increased once I found out that my friend Jesse was into The Beatles as well. I think it was not until I began to play The Beatles RockBand in Jesse’s basement that I ever really wanted to become a musician.
How was it like to make your debut in 2020? Anything positive?
Hale: I’m fortunate to say that the chaotic nature that plagued 2020 never affected me too harshly on a personal level. Although there were plenty of negatives throughout the year, we were able to get a lot done, including releasing this album.
Jesse: We were in a garage during the middle of summer in Kentucky and it was hot. Parts of my body I never knew could sweat began to sweat.
Todd: For some reason, it seems oddly fitting for this record to be released in 2020. This is a strange record and the same can absolutely be said for this historical context that we are currently living through.
It should be noted that the bulk of this album was recorded during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. For those who are unaware, we are based out of Louisville, KY where the brutal killing of Breonna Taylor took place. As a result, our whole city was filled with demonstrations throughout the summer. In order to maintain public safety, our city was under curfew for several nights during the height of the demonstrations.
This just so happened to coincide with the recording of “Sold Out.” So this album was recorded in a hot garage with literally no budget, by three guys who practically worked full time, during a pandemic, and during a time of civil unrest.
Let’s talk about Hannity Bronze’s latest album Sold Out. Was there a theme behind it?
Hale: It really goes back to what I mentioned earlier about art without “grit” or “soul”. It seems like art, music included, has become increasingly more commoditized, and “sold out” is just our reaction as independent artists.
Jesse: There is 100% a theme behind Sold Out. But, if I told you it would get rid of all the fun of piecing it together. I believe any good project can be interrupted in many different ways. But in short, Sold Out is a very hyperbolic play on a bunch of no-bodies hitting it big for a whole lot of nothing.
Todd: The concept of Sold Out comes from a very loose thread we developed in our EP released in 2019. We asked ourselves, what if our EP just blew up overnight? How would we react? Would we sign with a label? In an essence, we sort of created this loose story across the record with those questions in mind.
The album tackles becoming successful and “selling out.” That is essentially the point of “Radio Tonight.” It is a song that boasts about being successful. We had no reason to write a song like that, but that’s part of the joke. Throughout the album, we develop a storyline about our band’s success. We [Hannity Bronze] start out by signing with a record label, becoming local heroes, losing ourselves in the process, and ending up back home. That’s the story that I was trying to tell across this record.
It’s fictional, but I think it signifies a feeling that all three of us had around the time. For a variety of circumstances, we all were “selling out” in relationships, employment, etc. Sold Out is about coming home and remembering who you are in spite of all the departures we tend to take in life.
How was it writing the songs and producing the album? Which came easier for Hannity Bronze: the melodies, the lyrics, the sound, or something else?
Hale: It really depends from song to song. All of our approaches complement each other, as I find it easier to come up with a melody or a tune than lyrics, whereas Todd and Jesse fancy themselves more as songwriters. Frankly, Todd and Jesse did most of the heavy lifting on this one, and I just kind of helped wherever I could.
Jesse: I can’t get myself to write a song if my life depended on it. In most cases, songs and melodies hit me out of nowhere most of the time while I was in the shower when I was writing for Sold Out. I feel the songs just came to me naturally for this project. I am definitely an inconsistent writer.
Todd: I think this question would elicit a different response from all three of us. For me, I always try to write in a “one and done sort of way.” To anyone, trying to learn to write songs, I don’t recommend this method! It’s way too stressful! But I digress. I tend to write the chords, melody, and lyrics altogether. I always try to do them in that order as well. Usually, the easiest part is the lyrics, that is if I have a story to tell. Melodies or original chord progressions are not my forte.
In the case of “Radio Tonight,” everything came together at once. I had sort of had the riff for ages but never really thought much of it. Same with another track, “Soul Survive.” I had just found that riff at some point and only put it to use found a melody and a story to tell. I usually try to develop the chords and the melody first and let those sorts of things dictate the story I’m going to tell.
Was there a certain musical sound, melody, or artist that influenced the tracks?
Hale: One of the sections that I was most heavily involved with, the last few minutes of “Sockapolooza,” was largely inspired by my favorite psychedelic rock bands like Pink Floyd, The Alan Parsons Project, and Tame Impala.
Jesse: As I had mentioned previously I can’t speak for any artist directly influencing myself while I know Todd definitely had some influences during recording (Bruce Springsteen). If I had to compare the approach I took into the production and recording I would liken it to the chaotic energy of Ween but my involvement in the actual production wasn’t to the same scale as Todd’s was.
Todd: Not really! At least for my songs that is. “Radio Tonight” is the only song that I wrote where I was going for a certain sound. However, I never quite did capture what I heard in my head. Some songs had influences from other songs though. For example, “Soul Survive” was born out of a riff and a melody that closely resembles “Open All Night” by Bruce Springsteen.
We also used Yamaha keyboard presets on this track which was inspired by the outsider musician Freedom Shapes and his song “You and Me.” The other songs blend styles a little more. I will typically add something to a track that is more influenced by the styles of Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, or Bruce Springsteen. Hale tends to play leads that are inspired by Johnny Marr of The Smiths. Jesse tends to blend a lot of 60’s British Invasion sounds with outsider music (Ween and Daniel Johnston). All of this sort of comes together to create the sound of what we have dubbed to be modern-day garage rock.
Which track is everyone’s favorite? Which one would you recommend for listeners to listen to?
Hale: My personal favorite, and the one I’d recommend for people to listen to, is “Losing Game.”
Jesse: There are definitely conflicting opinions. But for me, my favorite track is probably “Soul Survive,” although it is lacking Hale’s presence. It just came together perfectly and only ended up taking a couple of hours to record and mix.
Todd: My favorite would have to be “Soul Survive.” I had a blast writing that song. Plus it came together very easily in the studio too. It would also be the one that I would play to anyone who has never heard the album. I also really enjoy “If Oceans,” they’re both essentially great representations of what our sound can be.
What would you like listeners to listen for in your music?
Hale: It’s hard to tell people what they should look for in music, because everybody likes different things. On that note, when making this album we tried to strike a balance between serious emotional music and light-hearted fun, and hopefully all of that shines through.
Jesse: Hopefully something different. That’s all we could ask for. We definitely aren’t the most talented musicians so I hope our music is unique enough to be a breath of fresh air to the average youthful listener. If not original I would hope it portrays our personalities well.
Todd: I would like our listeners to have fun listening to these songs. I mean these songs are born out of the crazy imaginations of three guys in their twenties. These songs are not here to preach some sort of crazy message, but rather they serve the purpose of encapsulating the feeling of fun. More importantly, many of these songs symbolize an almost 20-year friendship between Jesse and me. In fact, that’s even a theme I hope to explore in the future a little bit more. I tend to get sentimental with these sorts of things.
What are the future plans for Hannity Bronze?
Hale: We’re gonna keep making music until we create a masterpiece or reach an age where it’s embarrassing to be in a garage band. Whichever comes first.
Jesse: We all become Forklift certified.
Todd: We are always working on something. We have a bunch of new songs that we’re currently working on recording at the moment. We hope to have that project out sometime in the near future. It can just sometimes be hard to balance recording between being a full-time student. But, we can work it out! We always do!
Lastly, do you have any messages for the readers of ai love music?
Hale: Support independent artists. Listen to Hannity Bronze on Spotify, SoundCloud, or wherever you get your music. Thank you for reading this far.
Jesse: I love all of you all. I would personally give you all a long hug and kiss on the forehead if possible (COVID-19 aside with consent). And please for the love of god stream our [Hannity Bronze’s] album, Sold Out. I’m tired of working this 9-5!
Todd: I’d like to leave everyone with a quote from Paul McCartney’s song “Early Days”:
“May sweet memories of friends from your past, always come to you, when you look for them. And your inspiration long may it last. May it come to you. Time and time again.”