<--- All About Hem Interview, Page 1

Christina: Has it been different touring in Europe than over here? Is the response different either to your shows or to the album in general?

Sally: Europe's always been really great. They were pretty ahead of the curve. The audiences there have always been really warm and really receptive. I would say that in Europe they have more exposure to more different kinds of music--

Christina: On the radio, you mean?

Sally: Yeah. But I think therefore that you have many, many more music fans in Europe than you have in America because you've cut off the main source. They can't get access to all the music that's out there. They don't know what the good stuff is. I think you get a lot of people who are all into it, who get really involved with the musical {influence}.

Christina: That makes sad sense. And you guys are going back there in June, right?

Sally: June 9th? We don't ever know. That's another thing, we never know until right before. We're like, "I don't know what we're doing" until somebody tells us, "Oh, get ready to go. You're leaving!"

Christina: These northeast weekend tours [in April-May 2005], were they any sort of prep? What was the idea, just these random dates sort of popping up?

Gary: "Let's go play some shows!"

Christina: I mean, I'm so glad that you guys are here, but--

Sally: Basically, they wanted us to tour again, and we just said we have to be home.

Gary: And we were like, we need a break.

Sally: So we just agreed to tour on weekends.

Gary: We had done six weeks in the fall and two months straight in the winter, and were like, whoa--

Sally: We need to be home.

Gary: Let us relax for a minute here, we're tired.

Sally: And we just wanted--

Gary: And we'll probably be out a lot in the summer. We needed rest.

Dan: And it's very hard when you're touring to start to make a plan for the next year, and we really need to make a plan. Like whether we're recording or touring or what. So this is sort of just a catch your breath sort of moment, basically. And also, I wasn't touring for the last month when they were in Europe. [Because he and his wife just had a baby.]

Christina: Right.

Dan: So like this is also a chance for me to sort of...

Christina: Make sure they haven't rewritten all your songs?

Gary: Catch up?

Dan: It really is. Because Hem's lineup is constantly changing, it is a constant learning process. One of the things that's sort of fun is, no matter what happens, you're going to have to deliver. And we're going to have to bring it no matter what. And so sometimes we'll have a bass and sometimes we won't have a bass. Sometimes we won't have a violin. Sometimes we won't have a glockenspiel. It definitely makes playing not a complacent sort of event.

Gary: Yeah, I think it makes everybody play better. There's a big difference between an eight or a nine piece and a four piece, and you really have to be able to think on your feet. I love it. I like the changing lineup.

Christina: One thing I haven't heard much about is the Birds, Beasts & Flowers EP. How did that come about? It just kind of seemed to appear all of a sudden.

Dan: It's sort of a little...

Sally: The Autumn Defense approached us about doing a little EP with them, and we were like, "Great!" And that's how it happened.

Dan: I mean, we had...

Gary: We're big Wilco fans--

Dan: Right.

Gary: And John [Stirratt, of Wilco and The Autumn Defense] is a big fan of Hem, and he's a really great guy, so, we had this stuff that we recorded at the BBC in Glasgow, Scotland. I don't remember what year it was. 2002 maybe? Right?

Dan: I know where it was.

Gary: 2002?

Christina: 2002.

Gary: Or no, wait. "St. Charlene" was recorded at BBC Scotland?

Dan: No, "St. Charlene" was an outtake of Rabbit Songs. No, of I'm Talking With My Mouth.

Gary: I'm Talking With My Mouth, right.

Christina: Oh, but you didn't put it there because it wasn't a cover.

Gary: Because it wasn't a cover, yeah.

Dan: Exactly.

Gary: See? You know more than we do about us!

[Christina laughs!]

Dan: I'd forgotten all about that. I don't know why it didn't occur to us before that, "Hey, this isn't a cover! Why are we doing this song?"

Gary: "Hey, let's do a whole bunch of covers and 'St. Charlene!'"

Sally: I know why. I remember. We'd decided that we were going to put it on there anyway, and then in the end changed our minds.

Gary: I think the thinking was that it would probably not ever make an actual Hem album. "If it wasn't on Rabbit Songs, it probably would never be on an album, so let's put it on this," I think is what we said.

Dan: It's like any outtake. There are some bands that record twice as much, and then they pare it down. I don't feel like we have a lot of stuff that gets wasted. Stuff doesn't get finished if it's not--

Sally: We have two songs now, "Oh No" and--

Dan: Right, but--

Gary: No, it's more than that.

Dan: But "Oh No" is a song that...

Sally: That she [Christina] doesn't know about.

Christina: No, because you put it as one of the downloads at your site. So, I do know it, I'm sorry!

[Laughter!]

Sally: When?

Gary: Last fall. [When it was available by preordering "Eveningland" through Hem's website.]

Dan: "Oh No," that's one of my favorite lyrics.

Sally: I love that song.

Christina: It sounds so different from all the other songs. Sing that one!

Dan: That's why--

Sally: We played it once, and there was one {miss}, which, to be honest with you, I won't say who it is, and the second thing--

Dan: We should do it again.

Christina: That would be a fun song since it has an upbeat tempo to it.

Dan: We should try to relearn it. That's one of my favorite Hem songs.

Sally: I know, I love it.

Dan: It wasn't right for anything, but I definitely love that song. Someday we'll find a place...It'll wind up on the next sort of weird little--

Gary: Yeah.

Dan: Something or other.

Gary: Birds, Beasts & Flowers, yeah.

[Here we segued into talking about the night's setlist, and I'll pick up at the tail end of that.]

Christina: Every single [song somebody names], you're [Sally's] like, "That's one of my favorites!"

Sally: It's true.

Christina: I know. Well, that's how I am too.

Sally: When he [Dan] first starts playing them for me, I turn around and I'm like, "Oh, that's my favorite song. I don't want to play anything else!" And then he'll give me another one, and I'm like "Oh, now I only want to hear this!"

Christina: Yeah, I understand that! Now, I'm trying to think of another question. Have you [Sally] ever thought about writing any songs or helping with lyrics?

Sally: I don't know about that. They're so good that...

Gary: She doesn't want to embarrass herself.

Christina: It's intimidating?

Sally: Right. I don't really want to humiliate them by being better than them. [Laughter!] Honestly, part of it is that they're so good that...I've never written a song. Well, for some reason {for a play I was in} I wrote one song. But that was like a...

Christina: Still, you know your voice, though.

Sally: But the problem is that lyrically, I know nothing...Dan's such a good lyricist, and he does it with such humility. I don't think it's my forte. My best answer is that--

Dan: The same reason I don't sing songs.

Sally: I mean, I wish I could learn it, and...

Christina: You [Dan] used to, though.

Dan: But I never really entertained it seriously.

Christina: Yeah, I know.

Dan: It's like, when you hear someone like Sally, she becomes a voice in your head. For me, I don't hear my own voice in a song, I hear Sally's voice.

Sally: And when I write music, I don't see Dan there, I see mine and I'm playing on that keyboard. Let's start little by little. If I learn an instrument first, first learn how to play music, and then maybe one day, for the fun of it, I might, but no.

Christina: What about art?

Sally: What about what?

Christina: Doing art for any of the albums.

Dan: Yeah, I love Sally's art. Actually, I have some--

Sally: Actually, I was a drawing/painting major originally--

Christina: A what?

Sally: A drawing and painting major. And a lot of the stuff on the albums is my stuff, my aesthetic, creative {work}.

Dan: She definitely defines the aesthetic of the band in a lot of ways. For example, just walking in her bedroom is like...It's like walking into {a haven}. It really is. Like, the {work} on the walls, the sense of old-fashioned...But--

Sally: But not--

Dan: Right. There's...Other-worldly about it too.

Sally: It's sort of like [jewelry made by a friend of the band's]. The things that we love are these beautiful, special, treasure kind of things that aren't over-adorned but have a simple beauty.

Christina: Mm-hmm. Comfortable. That's what I'm picturing.

Sally: Yeah. Cozy.

Christina: Yeah.

Sally: Cozy, as Dan's son usually says: Coooooooozy.

Christina: When we talked a little about the songs sounding very cinematic, I was wondering...When I try to describe what your music sounds like, I'll often call it cinematic or lush, like it tells a story really quickly, like it would fit in a movie really well.

Sally: I think it would.

Christina: Is that anything you guys want?

Gary: Absolutely!

Sally: Uh, more than I want to live.

[Everyone laughs]

Gary: Well, not quite that much, but...

Dan: We actually were...

Christina: Because the first time I heard it, then especially "Eveningland," the long version. [It was another song available for download at Hem's website by preordering Eveningland through the site.] I love the long version, and it sounds so much like a movie every time I hear that.

Dan: I go back and forth on thinking whether should've put the longer version on.

Christina: I love the long version of "Eveningland."

Dan: I go back and forth on it.

Sally: We've had a lot of our music, supposed to be in...Like, Shrek. A lot off Rabbit Songs was supposed to be in Shrek, and then Dreamworks [Hem's label at the time] folded, they wrote us out, and--

Dan: Shrek 2.

Sally: Shrek 2. And then supposedly we're going to be in [an upcoming] film. But, like you said, the music is very cinematic. That's an absolutely perfect way of putting it.

Christina: Mm-Hmm. Yay.

Sally: We would love to be in a film.

Christina: Cause, I guess, it was on one TV show once. [The March 26, 2022 "Wound-Up Penguin" episode of the Fox show "Wonderfalls."]

Dan: The waltz was, yeah.

Christina: What?

Dan: "Waltz." From--

Gary: Yeah.

Christina: Right.

Sally: The instrumental.

Dan: And they butchered it. Totally. Did you ever see it?

Christina: Did they?

Gary: I think I did, actually, and it was so upsetting.

Christina: They spliced it together.

Gary: Yeah.

Dan: I think what happened was that it must've been something where they put the music to the movie and then they cut the scene. And so there's like this totally bizarre...I was like, "What was that?"

Gary: I remember watching that thinking to myself, "I hope Dan didn't see this."

Dan: I mean, it was an embarrassing show, also.

Gary: Well, I didn't...

Christina: I didn't see--

Dan: I mean, God willing we're in a movie someday because it'd be great for us. But it is--

Christina: I mean, I know that every band probably wants their music in a movie, but it seems especially appropriate for you.

Gary: I think a lot of new bands get a lot more success because of movies and being in films.

Sally: Yeah, yeah.

Christina: Yeah.

Gary: They're not going to hear us on commercial radio.

Christina: Not in the US, anyway.

Gary: No.

Sally: That's how you get the exposure in the USA, you know what I mean? You get the exposure.

Christina: Yeah.

Sally: People hear your music on the soundtracks.

Gary: Right.

Sally: When people hear us, they thankfully, they'll tend to like us. So, we just want more people to be able to hear us and the music. {We're just hidden!}

Gary: I think we're all in the dark. I think we're all surprised that we haven't been in a movie yet, but there's one thing that occurs to me, and that's not a criticism or anything, it's just, I think a lot of soundtrack music tends to be thematically or lyrically general, and our stuff, a lot of Dan's lyrics, are super specific, and that might be--

Sally: I actually disagree. I can see Dan's lyrics sitting on so many different areas of so many films. You know, the general feeling of sorrow and happiness and...

Christina: And not even hearing the words, just listening to the music.

Gary: Yeah.

Sally: Yeah.

Christina: It sounds like it sets the mood without even having--

Sally: Like, "your love is better than ice cream." That Sarah McLachlan song that was on the end of Brothers McMullen. That song, you know, "your love is better than ice cream?" [The song is called "Ice Cream."] It's a simple idea, but it's a universal idea. Like, being sad is a universal idea. Being in love, feeling alone and disassociated, or feeling like you failed again. These are all themes that are universal. I don't...

Christina: I guess, mentioning "Redwing"...Did someone mention "Redwing" or did I just have that in my head?

Gary: You had it in your head.

Christina: I had it in my head, then.

Sally: You're crazy!

Christina: No I'm not!

[Everyone laughs]

Christina: Um, anyway, what does that mean? I think of birds. Or hockey. But...

Dan: Oh, no, to me it's just like saying..."the heart is still a redwing." Even though you're scared of everything, the heart will always lift you up. It's sort of corny, but it's...

Christina: Yeah. Talking about the movies and how things can apply in different ways...I think "Redwing" popped into my head as something that would be able to apply universally in a lot of ways.

Sally: I think there are so many songs that apply universally. {I just feel like the themes of the songs are all so universal.} They're not my songs, I can say it.

Christina: I think so too, and they're not my songs either.

Dan: It would be a great thing for us, and we're definitely praying that it happens and we're keeping our fingers crossed. We're assured that it is imminent. People assure us, and then {that'll last} for years--

Christina: A long time, yeah.

Gary: I was going to say, how many times has that happened?!

Dan: Then again, we almost got on this TV show that was--

Gary: Oh, Nip/Tuck. That was imminent too.

Dan: Dawson's Creek. My feeling is this. And this is true whether it's about our stuff being in the movies or whether we're with a major label or not with a major label. We started out as an independent project. We are very self-contained. Gary is an amazing engineer, Sally is an amazing aesthetic and an amazing voice, Steve's an amazing instrumentalist and songwriter, and I know exactly what I want too, and together we know how to make great records. And we're going to keep doing it. And we're going to hopefully be smart in a business way so that we can afford to feed our families. But we're not under any illusions about--

Sally: And to feed ourselves, definitely.

Dan: We would like to just keep being able to do this. But whatever happens we're going to keep going on. We've already been through a million different business iterations. I mean, how many--

Sally: And we'll probably go through a million more.

Dan: Right. How many releases has Rabbit Songs had? Like, seven releases. Seven or eight different labels have put out Rabbit Songs.

Sally: That's not true!

Christina: Four or five--

Gary: Is that true?

Sally: Here's something about the band--

Dan: I'll count 'em!

Gary: Let's count 'em.

Dan: The independent one that I did myself. The one with a bar code that actually got sold, once we realized that there was a market for it.

Gary: Setanta.

Dan: Setanta. The Bar None.

Gary: Bar None.

Dan: The second Setanta printing that actually had the actual right artwork.

Sally: Well, don't you think you're being a little bit, uh--

Dan, Gary, and Christina: No!

Gary: No, they're all separate--

Dan: They're all separate releases.

Gary: They are!

Dan: With different contents too.

Gary: Yeah.

Dan: The Dreamworks, that's six. And Rounder. Seven. And I have a feeling that it's gonna have an eighth release.

[Long pause]

Dan: Can't talk about it right now.

Christina: [Pathetic voice] Then why'd you bring it up?

[Laughter!]

Gary: C'mon, we're just relying on the first seven!

Sally: Looking at the way this works...If we say something, more than likely something weird will...Maybe we'll have another album.

Christina: Well, I hope so because a lot of people seem to have trouble finding Rabbit Songs.

Sally: I think what that means is--

Christina: A bunch of people have written--

Gary: It has been hard to find in the past year, yeah.

Christina: Have written me asking me where they can find it.

Gary: It won't be long.

Dan: I mean, once Rabbit Songs got released in Europe and the press was like...

Dan and Christina: "Wow!"

Dan: "This is amazing!" We were approached by all these major labels that were like, "Oh, it's only a matter of time." Or all these industry people were like, "You're going to be signed by a major, don't worry about it, blah, blah, blah." It wasn't until Lenny Waronker came along and basically shoved us down us Dreamworks throat that it happened because...

Gary: Well, there were other...

Christina: Yeah. It's a hard sell, I mean,--

Dan: I just think that the big--

Christina: Thinking in terms of radio, I think is what people think about.

Gary: There were other bogus big money deals that we could've signed but they were all totally bogus. I mean, it was all A&R; guys that wanted production credit, wanted to hire their friends to be the mixer, and wanted to hire their friends. And it was like, "What? Did you listen to us? Did you notice that every person that worked on the record is actually in the band? Did you ever notice that?" So it was like...So then Lenny comes down, like, out of the sunny sky--

Dan: "Hello, Hem! I've come to take you away!"

Gary: He did.

Dan: Even then, we were like finally...

Sally: "Finally! We can relax!"

Dan: And then, of course, Dreamworks, out from under Lenny, it just gets...Like I said, there is nothing in this business that's a sure thing, and the only thing we can count on is each other. And that's what I fully believe. I can count on Gary to be an amazing producer, and I can count on Sally to be an amazing muse and voice. [Steve had left the table a little earlier, so Dan wasn't leaving him as the odd man out.]

Sally: And I can count on you to be an amazing writer and a pain in the ass.

Dan: Exactly. We can definitely count on each other to be big pains in the ass. That'll happen.

Christina: ["Redwing"] is the single in the US as opposed to the UK. Was that your guy's decision? I don't know how that works.

Dan: Not really. I mean, we listened to our radio promoter. Who said that that was the single.

Sally: He said that he would not work with us unless we made that the single.

Dan: Right. We always thought that "Receiver" was more representative of...

Sally: That's my favorite on the album.

Dan: But, I don't know. I don't know what to say about radio.

Christina: Um...Any questions for me?

Dan: No, but--

Christina: Probably not...

Dan: But I do seriously thank you--

Sally: Yeah, seriously.

Dan: For being a disseminator of Hem lore and information.

Sally: Yeah, it really is amazing.

Christina: Yeah, it's fun for me.

Sally: It's so cool! I mean, I swear to God I learn things that I don't know about myself.

[Christina laughs!]

Christina: Now that I have you guys here I'm thinking I need to ask every question that I've ever had.

Dan: Go for it!

Gary: Do it!

Christina: Well, no, I want to! But my mind...I'm overwhelmed at the opportunity--

Gary: Well then, we'll just buy you a drink. How about that?

Christina: No, you don't need to do that! I know one question I didn't ask. One song I haven't heard many things about was "Living Without You," how that got chosen for the covers EP.

Dan: I'm just a huge Randy Newman fan--

Christina: Of Randy Newman, yeah.

Dan: Yeah. I guess we were looking for a Randy Newman song. That was one of the first covers we ever did live.

Gary: That was our very first cover.

Sally: That's why we did covers! We didn't have enough songs.

Gary: Yeah, I remember playing that at Fez and stuff.

Christina: Are there any more covers that you guys are playing now?

Gary: We're working on a couple, actually. You're not going to hear them tonight, but a couple are in the works. Oh...No.

Dan: What?

Gary: Well, no, I would love to do it, but...

Dan: What song?

Gary: Johnny Paycheck. A song called "Motel Time Again." You know that song?

Dan: I know that song, yeah!

Gary: That's such a good song. It really is.

Sally: I might have the music.

Gary: I would have a hard time hearing us sing that, but it's a fantastic song, though. Hearing Sally sing "I sat here on this stool drank so much I blew my cool" might not--

Dan: I can totally see her saying that.

Sally: I wouldn't have a problem--

Dan: That would be awesome!

[Now, after Christina has monopolized the band for ages...]

Dan: I'm going to go write out the setlists now. Thank you so much.

Christina: Oh no, thank you guys.

Gary: Thank you. What you do is so cool. We really appreciate it. You know that?

Christina: I'm starting to get that impression.

Gary: We really do. Thank you.

Sally: Thank you.

Christina: No, thank you.

All About Hem (c) Copyright 2005. Please do not use or distribute text or pictures without prior permission.
This site is fan run and is not affiliated with Hem in any way. You can visit Hem's Official Website here. You can contact me at christina@allabouthem.com