Painting Notes of Resilience: An Interview with The Warhawks
Interviews Music

Painting Notes of Resilience: An Interview with The Warhawks

In an era where the music industry often feels like a relentless grind, The Warhawks have carved a unique path with their unyielding blue-collar work ethic and a fierce dedication to authenticity. Signing with Blue Collar Records, a label that seems as robust and grounded as the band itself, The Warhawks are soaring to new heights. Their journey from painting houses to painting sonic landscapes embodies a compelling narrative of perseverance and creativity. With their track “Parade” reaching #1 on the iTunes Rock Charts and #10 across all genres, the band’s success is a testament to their hard work and innovative approach. In this exclusive interview, we delve into their partnership with the label, their ingenious ways of managing studio costs, and how their gritty roots continue to influence their music and storytelling.

I2R: Signing with Blue Collar Records seems like a fitting match for your ethos. What drew you to this label, and how has it supported your vision as a band?

TWH: It really was an instance of great timing. We were coming to the end of our contract with our former label and weren’t quite sure what our next move was. Our manager had been doing some work for Blue Collar Records and reached out on our behalf about potentially funding our next release. Ultimately it led to a multi-record contract. The label has been a huge support this first year. They’ve afforded us opportunities we never had access to in the past, allowing us to level up on all fronts while maintaining our creative freedom.

I2R: We heard you guys will do whatever it takes to make music, including painting the interior of Gradwell Studios. Could you share more about that experience and other similar efforts?

TWH: We’d been painting houses in the South Jersey / Philly region for years. In 2016, Gradwell House moved their studio to a new location in Haddon Heights. We offered our services in exchange for recording time. We finished painting the interior and immediately went to work writing our debut LP. The following year we went back and recorded it. They had added a few rooms by then and I still remember painting one, putting the roller down, and going straight into the booth to lay down vocals. When it was time to record our next album we painted the exterior. And for the third one we painted our producer / studio owner Dave Downham’s house. Then we got signed by a label called Blue Collar Records. Go figure. We haven’t paid cash to record an album in almost ten years!

I2R: With such a proactive approach to your music career, how do you balance the demands of your hands-on projects with your creative process?

TWH: If you’re really going for it, being in a band is like having a second full time job only without any financial reciprocation. There were days when we’d be on a job site for 12 hours and afterwards would drive straight to the practice space to write into the night. You’ve just got to find ways to make it work for you. Sleep and a couple nights off from drinking always helps. You’ve got to really want it. People always say if you love what you’re doing it’s like you’re never working but I disagree. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to make a record. You’ve got to put in the effort even on the days when you’re not feeling it.

I2R: How does your blue-collar work ethic influence the themes and stories in your music?

TWH: On a deeper level I’m sure it’s all connected. We grew up in a very blue collar town. There’s something in the water of Gloucester City (other than iron) that separates it from any other place we’ve been to. There’s an attitude. It’s full of tough, working class people. Just growing up in that environment affects the way you see the world. That outlook on life ultimately makes its way into our music. Whether it be a song about losing friends and loved ones or quite literally about spending an entire summer painting apartment complexes, it’s all part of our nature.

I2R: “Wellness Check Pt. 1” suggests a deeper look into personal or societal issues. Is there a particular message or theme you hope listeners take away from it?

TWH: Whether it’s a certain line in a song that hits home, or the melody of a chorus that you can’t get out of you’re head, we just want people to feel a connection to the album. A lot of the songs are written from a deeply personal place. If one person hears about our experiences or perspective and feels less alone, we’ve done our job. If it takes people away from the burdens of life for 3 minutes, it’s a hit record.

I2R: Can you talk about a track from “Wellness Check Pt. 1” that was particularly challenging to create, and what made it so?

TWH: Many of our songs are written from the first person perspective. They’re inspired (sometimes, unfortunately) by actual life events. That being said, one of the tracks called ‘Domino’ was written about a blurry night in South Philadelphia that ended with our singer/guitarist in the emergency room with a shattered wrist. So it was more so the inspiration for the song that was challenging. It wasn’t the 5 minutes it took to finish the chorus melody. It was the 3 months of physical therapy and 10,000 dollar hospital bill. Would have much rather had to write a song called “Soft Landing”.

I2R: With several releases under your belt, how do you keep your sound fresh and exciting for yourselves and your listeners?

TWH: We honestly just try to write the best songs we can with every release. The Warhawks are not above writing songs in the vein of a style done on previous releases. We know if we were to do it now we would put a new spin on it because we grow. Naturally our influences change and evolve as well as our experiences. This shows in our music keeping it alive and new.

I2R: How has your approach to live performances evolved with your growing discography and experience?

TWH: The Warhawks focus on fast paced dynamic sets. Being on tour for years, you really only have one moment to get the message across. The hawks play songs across the discography; the songs that have had then biggest response. We try to compact the whole thing into 30 minutes or less.

I2R: Music production can be quite costly. Besides painting for studio time, have you found other creative ways to manage or offset these expenses?

TWH: Yes in the music world there is a lot of bartering. As the hawks we have done backing vocals for other artists. Matt and Pat are great studio musicians helping other bands record loads of songs. We also write songs for our label separate from the Warhawks. Helping out other artists, engineers, and producers we eventually will barter back cheaper rates or extra time.

I2R: As a band, you’ve seen a fair share of the indie music scene’s ups and downs. What advice would you give to emerging artists trying to make their mark?

TWH: Change it up constantly there is no one way to make your mark. Making songs that are true and your own is the most important part. You need to take what it is that makes you, you and turn it up to 11. Be exciting and be unique and try to write the best songs you can.

I2R: Given your close ties, how do you resolve creative differences within the band to keep your relationship and music strong?

TWH: Playing together for a long time you find what works. I think we are in a very good place creatively with each member having an open creative say in their songs. The close ties gives us freedom to tell the others how we feel about the songs in a positive or negative way. Being a family you have to face hard truths when the songs are lacking something and when we can work harder for something great. We now compete and push each other in a positive way leading to what we think is some of the best songs we’ve done.

I2R: With the success of “Parade” and other tracks, how do you plan to leverage this momentum for your upcoming projects?

TWH: We hope this early rush of listeners is the catalyst to more and more opportunity. There is no formula to getting your music heard. All we can hope for is someone hears it and tells their friends about it. Releasing the album in three parts creates a wave of anticipation and momentum. With each new moment or accolade we achieve, the word is spreading to similar sources that get the word out to everyone. The Warhawks are expecting to be at full swing come the release of Part 3.