16 Clefs

Interview with Saint Hughs

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We are thrilled that our first interview is with Australia’s very own SAINT HUGHS. SAINT HUGHS is composed of musical masterminds, Drew Fellows and Nick O’Donnell, who are also in the band [26].

On November 1st, SAINT HUGHS released “EP-01” (read our review), which was written, performed, recorded, produced, and mixed by the two.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to fly over to Australia to interview these two gents, but they were kind enough to take the time out of their busy schedule and sit down and answer a few questions for us.

How did SAINT HUGHS come to life?
Drew – It started as my own instrumental side project. The plan was to write my own stuff and send them to Nick for free mastering. I sent him a disjointed version of Sin for Me”, just to see what he thought of the loops, and he sent back a completed song. I listened to it and knew this could never be a solo project. Nick turns my disjointed ideas and sounds into whole songs. We really are a writing partnership. We chatted and decided to make my instrumental solo project into a electronic duo.
Nick – Drew and I already write together for our indie rock group [26]. Drew was writing more and more electronic music “on the side” he sent some for me to mix and I couldn’t help putting a vocal on the first song which was “Sin For Me”. We both loved it and decided to do some more music in that vein together. Drew is the musical love of my life. 😉

When did you know you had something special with what you were creating as SAINT HUGHS?
DrewSin for Me” made it really obvious. We just put it online for whoever wanted it, and we got lots of really good feedback.
Nick – I knew as soon as I sent Drew back the demo of Sin for Me” with a vocal on it.

Listen to Sin for Me”

Why the name SAINT HUGHS?
Drew – Confession time. I love a good TV murder mystery but not the glossy fast paced American ones. I like the quant English ones. SAINT HUGHS is a reference to one of my favourites, “The Bill”. That’s as much as I’ll tell you. I’m sure you can Google the rest.
Nick – Drew mentioned the name and I loved it straight away. He explained the reference to “The Bill” and because I used to love “The Bill”, I loved the name ‘SAINT HUGHS‘ even more!

Describe the essence of SAING HUGHS in five (5) words?
Drew – I’ll pick 2, and you can pick 3, Nick. Collaboration, art …..
Nick – Bastard…I wanted Collaboration and art. 😉 Ummmm…Collaboration, art, heart on sleeve. (Does that count as 5 words?)

Yes, we think that does in fact count as five words.

With the music industry having the need to put artists into category/genres, what category/genre would you put SAINT HUGHS?
Drew – I think the most honest category is just “electronic”. Our first track, Sin for Me”, is very different to our last track “Ghosts”, but what holds it all together is the electronic production. Musically, Nick and I have always been hard to categorize.
Nick – Heartfelt electronica

How has the writing and recording process been with Nick in Brisbane and Drew in Sydney?
Drew – Because of the nature of the music, it’s easy. It’s nearly all digital. I was also able to do a couple of trips to Brisbane, where we did some vocals and listening sessions.
Nick – We have already successfully worked like this for years with our other projects. Even when living in the same city, we often worked in our own home studios and sent files to me to finish and mix. Our set-up is very mobile too and we have recorded in lots of different cities around the world while on tour as well.

How different would the writing and recording process had been if you both were in the same location?
Drew – Probably not too much different. We wrote the same way when I lived in Brisbane. The only difference was I was around more for his vocal recordings, so there was someone to press the record button.
Nick – I’m not sure SAINT HUGHS would have even happened if we were living in the same city. If we were both in the same city we probably would have just started working on the next [26] record.

Both of you are socially active, do you think that online presence is important for fans to find you and critics to find your music to write about?
Drew – It’s important to be active, but it has to be real activity. SOCIAL activity. We don’t want people to buy into just our music. We want them to buy into US, because that’s part of how you create loyal long time fans that will go above and beyond for you. If that means showing them an Instagramed photo of my coffee… then so be it.
Nick – I love social media…. it has opened the world up. I love interacting with people that love music full stop. (Hate the word “fan”….but I guess it’s easier than saying: “Person that likes our music”.)

What do you think about online music sharing? Do you ever give your music away for free? Why?
Drew – Music sharing is a gift and a curse. For a new project like SAINT HUGHS, free music can only help. It spreads the word and put’s your music on peoples iDevices. And we WANT people to have it on their devices. But at the same time, we as consumers have to support artists and craft more than what we are. To do that, artist have to play their part too. For example, we decided to offer three price points for our music: Free, Pay What You Want and an iTunes price. We even put the free/pay-what-you-want option on the very front page of our website. In fact, it’s the only thing on the frontage. As we have an older target market, we are fortunate in that we have more people than you’d think take up the payed option. We really appreciate that, because it means making the next EP is that little bit easier. All that said, I think everyone needs to support the arts more. Everyone.
Nick – Tricky….Please refer to what Mr Drew Fellows said. I love free as much as the next bloke but I also believe that music is one of the most valuable and enriching things in most peoples lives. Personally, I pay for music. I could argue the pros and cons for this little argument all day. (Maybe a whole interview dedicated to this?)

We are going to take Nick up on his offer and do an interview on online music sharing so we hope he was serious.

With artists having the potential to rise and fall at supersonic speeds, do you find it harder to make a name for yourselves?
Drew – The hardest part isn’t the speed, but rather the quantity of artists today. Every single person with a computer can now make an album. That album might be rubbish, but you have to push past that rubbish to show you are good and have a long shelf life. I don’t expect Robin Thicke is going to have a long and illustrious musical career. (Was that too bitchy?)

We didn’t think that was too bitchy at all and agree.

Nick – This might seem like a ridiculously over simplified concept but I think if you have great songs people will find you, not that I am implying in anyway that I think we have “great songs”. If you have average/good songs but a marketing budget you can be seen by more people but it probably won’t move people. I think it depends on the type of artist you are and the decisions you make as an artist that determine longevity.

There are music fans that change what they like as often as they change underwear, how does an artist in this day and age connect and make them a fan for life/stand out amongst the cookie cutter bands?
Drew – Be generous and offer more of yourself. Give them dodgy demos, or advanced copies of unreleased stuff, or videos of you playing with your dog… anything. People become friends with people, not just mp3s.
Nick – A massive cliché but I think if you make honest art, people connect with it. As opposed to “music by numbers”. If you look back through music history, it’s interesting to see how there are always two types of music from any given time. There’s the “current fashionable popular music” and there is the “music that matters” and the more time that passes the more the “throw away” music is forgotten and the “important” music is revered.

With the release of “EP-01” versus a standard full length, did you find it easier or harder to release an EP of select songs versus a full length?
Drew – For me, it was easier. We have plenty of demos, but these songs stood out as a well rounded collection of songs.
Nick – What he said. 😉

On “Ghosts,” you have guest vocals by Ronit. For those Stateside (like myself), who is she and why was she the right fit to compliment Nick’s vocals on “Ghosts”?
Drew – This is going to sound super showy and naff, but we first met her at a cocktail party in London (that’s about as rock as we get). She played to a room of music industry types. Just her and her guitar. I remember everyone saying “Geeeez, she’s amazing”. And she is! Just listen to her. But that was last year, maybe even 2011? Nick was the clever one that reached out to her to do a vocal for us.
Nick – Ronit is an Australian singer/songwriter living in NYC….hugely talented…. and we had always kept in touch since our first meeting. We have been wanting to do something with her ever since and finally made it happen. You are right Drew, Ronit is tops! AND I am clever.

Any other vocalist you’d like to work with on the next EP/full length?
Drew – We have a couple more Aussies lined up. Snoop keeps calling, but we’re just not that interested right now. (Jokes…Call me Snoop. We’ll do lunch ;))
Nick – So many people I’d love to work with! Ummmm…. I’d love to work with Beth Orton on a track.

Do you notice any difference between Australian music fan and US music fans?
Drew – I actually think American fans are some of the best. They have less of a ‘prove yourself’ attitude. At least, that’s what I noticed over there.
Nick – In my/our experience American’s seem to love us Aussies’, so that’s a great start. American’s seem to have a more positive attitude. They seem to WANT you to be great. Where as in Australia audiences seem to want to see you work hard for their love or fall off the stage. Whichever comes first.

For fans of [26], that listen to SAINT HUGHS, what would you say to them that lets them know that [26] and SAINT HUGHS are two different bands? Or is SAINT HUGHS an extension of [26]? Or does it even matter?
Drew – I don’t think it really matters. But I think SAINT HUGHS is mostly just an extension of Nick and myself as a writing duo.
Nick – To me it doesn’t matter what it is. It’s heartfelt music. It’s not [26], but it happens to be electronic music written by two members of the rock band [26]. I like all sorts of music, I think most people do these days.

Will there be a full length by SAINT HUGHS in 2014?
Drew – I don’t think so, but there will be plenty more music. Plenty!
Nick – I’m tempted to say yes just to confuse people now (and Drew)….but no not likely. Probably some one off singles in the not too distant future.

I can only hope for a SAINT HUGHS full length album in 2014, but as long as there is more music, I’ll take it track by track, EP, or LP.

That’s not all though, check out Nick and Drew’s answers to “5 Questions.” 5 Questions are those silly questions we all want to know but some “serious” interviews don’t ask.

I personally want to give a huge THANK YOU to Nick and Drew for sitting down with us here at The Hippie Hipsters and letting us pick there brains.

For all things SAINT HUGHS :: web | Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Sound Cloud | Tumblr | Twitter | YouTube

SAINT HUGHS EP 01 artwork courtesy of Drew Fellows