On Campus, Arts & Culture, Music, Featured

30th November 2022

Live at the Stanley with Hazel Dormouse | Interview

Live at the Stanley was a beautifully organised event, which brought the Stanley Theatre to life with an eclectic mix of live performances and incredible artworks displayed by Oscar H, founder of the Fabric collective and Theo Brown, both incredibly talented photographers. I watched in awe as Hazel Dormouse and Book 5 took to the stage, both paralleling each other. With Hazel Dormouse’s unique punk sound and Book 5’s jazzy melodies, it was musical ecstasy.

I had the chance to sit in a TV interview with Hazel Dormouse and ask my own questions at the end. In this interview, we spoke to Seth (lead singer) and Jack (guitarist).

How did you name your band?

Jack: Have you ever seen Springwatch? It’s from Springwatch, they introduced a Hazel Dormouse back to Huddersfield – which is where we’re from – and to honour that, it’s what we’ve named the band.

How did the band form?

Seth: I was a bit of a latecomer, it was originally Jack and Sam (our drummer), who are brothers and they’ve been in bands for donkeys now. I joined them later because their old guitarist was looking to leave, so I started playing with them on the Manchester toilet circuit. Eventually, I think Jack was looking for a bit of a rebrand. His writing was changing and I think the old name didn’t quite fit with the vibe he was going for, so I think Hazel Dormouse was just a bit more fitting.

How did you discover your sound? How would you describe it?

Both: Twee!

Seth: But kind of, a bit of punk in there. Bit of post-punk in there, a bit of Indie, some jangle. A lot of sixties as well.

Jack: We want to sound like the Beatles.

That’s a good thing to say in Liverpool, they’ll love you! Well, get really excited or really mad at you.

Seth: Exactly! Depending on which Beatle you cite as your reference.

I think always saying Ringo is quite a funny choice… I love Ringo! What keeps you together as a band?

Seth: Well, we all enjoy it, that’s the main thing. You know, we don’t really have any other reason to do it, like financially or anything, we’re not exactly there. I think we’re all infused by what we do and we enjoy gigging and enjoy writing. We enjoy playing with each other, being around each other and you kind of just get a bit of a vibe, you get a feeling of whether it’s working or not. I guess we haven’t really questioned that, at least I haven’t. I don’t know what goes on in everyone else’s heads.

Would you say your individual music tastes reflect what the band brings? 

Seth: We’ve got very different tastes but there’s a lot of stuff that we all enjoy. I think we’ve all got quite open minds when it comes to what we listen to and I think we’re all willing to take on each other’s influences and shape the way we write.

How does songwriting happen? What’s your process?

Jack: It used to be very much that I’d bring a song but now we’ve started writing a bit more together.

Seth: Yeah, the past couple of months we’ve been writing more collaboratively, right from the start. Many of the tracks we played tonight were songs that were already formed, you know. Jack would write songs of his own on guitar and then we’d kind of embellish them with our own parts and they’d evolve in their own way over time.

Does the music come before the lyrics or does it differ between songs?

Seth: I think it differs, I can’t speak for Jack. He will write on his own typically but recently we’ve been riffing and jamming and coming up with ideas in a group a little bit more.

What are your main musical inspirations?

Jack: Bob Dylan and the Beatles.

Good choice. What part of Bob Dylan; the way he sang, his fashion, his style or just a fusion of everything?

Jack: I think just the songs. Even other people’s versions of his songs, I will listen to more than his. I think his songs are the best songs.

Seth: I think he’s one of those covered artists. The singer-songwriters from that era nailed it, writing really good songs you can just play in any situation.

What’s your favourite Bob Dylan song? Not to put you on the spot!

Jack: Blood on the Tracks. I think it’s really such a sad album but it’s the one I listen to most.

What’s your favourite Hazel Dormouse song?

Jack: I think Scrap of Life is my favourite. It’s more like a ballad. I think we’ve had songs where I sometimes wish weren’t playing them – I wish Book 5 were playing them, they’d do a better job – but Scrap of Life, I think we play it well.

Seth: Yeah, I think it’s quite… measured, as far as our songs go. A lot of our songs are quite full on, like we all enjoy playing at the same time but Scrap of Life, is a bit more stripped back and it’s one of our slow ones.

Do you guys ever clash?

Jack: Not me and Seth but me and Sam have. I think we’ve got better as we’ve grown up.

Seth: I love watching you and Sam just like, the way you interact is just so funny.

Jack: We’ve had our fallouts.

Seth: I think if you’ve been in a band for more than a year, you don’t really fall out in the same way. It’s like friendship, making fun of them or giving them honest advice. Especially when it’s music, it’s not like you’re going up to someone and making comments about how they look, it’s just music. You’re allowed to say ‘I’m not feeling that.’

I suppose that’s how good songwriting happens. So, are you studying at the moment?

Seth: Yeah, I am in my third year at the University of Salford, doing Popular Music.

How do you balance being a musician and a student?

Seth: I’d like to say I was busier than I am at university. Any students out there probably know what I’m talking about. We’ll rehearse every week or two weeks maybe, your priorities are always changing and it’s not necessarily something you always think about. As someone who likes writing music, it’s just something I do all the time anyway. It doesn’t really get in the way. Everything sort of counts towards university, I can make it work.

What about performing live, do you still get the original thrill? Tonight was amazing! I’ve never been to see live music before but you did it justice!

Both: Ah, thank you very much!

Jack: Tonight was good but it’s different because usually, we play at smaller venues. Even just the sound, it sounds so different. If you play in a packed venue it’s brilliant but if you’re not, I think it’s alright.

Seth: Yeah it was a big room! There is a challenge with filling a room but it depends on who’s there. It’s like when you hear comments like that, about people enjoying it, that was nice, people stuck around and watched it.

Jack: Even if you’re playing for like one person. If they enjoy it, that’s brill, it’s much better than some gigs where we play to like a hundred people and they don’t care and they don’t enjoy it. It would be better to play to no one.

Seth: My favourite is when you play to a group of like three people and there’s a Radio 6 dad at the front. They end up being like, “can I get the setlist?” That’s really cool, this guy just wants a setlist because he enjoyed it.

Shout out to those Radio 6 dads! Have you ever been approached by record labels or managers?

Jack: No.

Would you be open to that?

Both: Yeah!

Jack: If someone signed us, it would be perfect.

Seth: If it’s the right label.

Do you think you would be picky?

Jack: It depends, I wouldn’t really, I wouldn’t moan about record labels because at least you’ve got it. It’s like, if you never even went with that, you’d have nothing to moan about because you’d be in your normal 9-5.

Seth: Also, I think for a band like us, it’s not exactly like we’re running a risk of getting signed by Polydor or something like that. I think if we were approached by a label, chances are it would be a grassroots label that was quite ethical, they wouldn’t be making us do 5 albums in less than three years, so I think it would be unusual if a label would be dodgy to us, at least on the level we’re at.

How did you decide what you were going to play tonight?

Seth: It kind of changes each time we play really.

Jack: It was all the songs we have. Like every week there’s a new song, I basically go, “that’s not a good song, we’re not doing that again” and it gets shorter and shorter every week.

Seth: You’ve got to keep it fresh.

It was a great set and everyone enjoyed it, definitely has a sound that’s different to this uni. Finally, have you got any messages for up-and-coming bands out there or any people thinking of starting a band and trying out music?

Jack: If you’re in a band, just don’t give up. That’s something I’ve always been told.

Seth: Just don’t stop.

Jack: If you enjoy it, keep going. If you’re enjoying it, don’t get disheartened by anything, keep going.

Seth: Don’t wait for your big break, keep playing those gigs that might feel like they’re not worth the time. Take every opportunity you’ve got and enjoy it, if you don’t enjoy it then maybe it’s time to reconsider.

To find out where Hazel Dormouse are playing next, make sure to follow their Instagram.

Cover image by Daniel Caddick, used with permission from Hazel Dormouse.