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Hefner - Interview

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 1 / 1 / 2000

Hefner - Interview


Hefner could claim to be the most popular “indie” band in Britain today. They have gained a huge following among regular John Peel and Steve Lamacq listeners on Radio 1 . In recent years their positio

Hefner could claim to be the most popular “indie” band in Britain today. They have gained a huge following among regular John Peel and Steve Lamacq listeners on Radio 1 . In recent years their positions in the John Peel Festive 50 have almost rivalled the achievements of The Smiths in the nineteen eighties. They are definitely my own favourite modern group, and I would guess the favourite of many of the visitors to the Pennyblackmusic website. All four of their albums are exceptional, but if you don’t know Hefner, their stunning debut was “Breaking God’s Heart” which came out in April 1998. They followed that with “The Fidelity Wars” (July 1999), a rarities and sessions compilation “Boxing Hefner” (April 2000) and most recently ''We Love The City” which came out in October. Although they haven’t built up a huge profile in the national press, reviews are generally positive and they could hardly be described as obscure. I was lucky enough to secure an interview with Darren Hayman, Hefner’s singer and songwriter . The other members of Hefner are drummer Ant Harding, bassist John Morrison and gutarist Jack Hayter. BH: Your recent album, “We Love The City”, has a fuller sound and much more instrumentation. Did you make a conscious decision to start writing and recording in this way for this album, or was that something that came about naturally as you began to work on it? DH: It was a little of both. It is natural that as you grow and learn a little more about production and arrangement that you become more ambitious. It was a conscious decision as well. I like Lo-Fi, but don’t want to be tagged as a Lo-Fi band necessarily. I wanted to make a record that was hard to dislike, if that makes any sense. It was born out of an ambition to see what we could do, not how many copies we could sell. That is the important thing. BH: Do you like “We Love The City” as much as your previous albums? What is your own favourite out of the 4 albums you have recorded? DH: That’s hard to say. I heard a few of the songs again recently at a radio station and was quite struck by ‘Good Fruit’ and ‘The Greedy Ugly People’ The first album has all this awkward naivety about it and to my ears is quite bizarre, so I guess that remains my favourite. BH: Many of the songs on “We Love The City” tell love stories. How many of them are based on personal experiences and how many of them are imaginary? DH: It’s rare that I would completely imagine a situation or story. Likewise it is rare that something would be so autobiographical that someone near and dear to me would recognise it. It’s a truth pick’n’mix! BH: “We Love The City” represented excellent value for money, having videos and 4 bonus live tracks. In doing this, and also having so many albums in so few years, do you see yourselves as a fan’s band? DH: I guess so , though I’m not quite sure what that means. The record company have these ideas about multi-formats and ltd editions etc. I work so hard to make them not a rip off, so it’s good to know you think that. Being a “fan band” has its downsides, though. If you start off with very high standards, people get very mad at you when they slip. BH: What bands are you currently listening to? DH: Kraftwerk (lots and lots of Kraftwerk), OutKast, Sugababes BH: And what are your all time favourite albums? DH: “Holland” by the Beach Boys and “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac are in my top 3. I can never settle on a third. BH: Your drummer Ant released last year his first ever solo E.P. “Cures For Broken Hearts”. Will he ever write songs for Hefner, and does he have plans for a full solo album? DH: He does have plans for a full album, but everything works on Ant time. He writes more songs than you could imagine but destroys most of them before anyone else hears them. Ant and I used to have bands where we both wrote and I’ve often asked him to contribute to Hefner. He’s not very keen. I think everyone being captain of their own ship is what makes all of Hefner such happy sailors. BH: The Hefner song “Half A Life” on your recent split 7” with Murry The Hump is quite different in style from the songs on “We Love The City”. Is it a new song or was it a left over from that album? DH: No, it’s a new song. There is only one left from “We Love The City” called ‘Down Street’. ‘Half A Life’ comes from the sessions currently taking place in my kitchen for the next Hefner album. It’s the first single totally recorded by Hefner ourselves. Maybe that explains the difference. BH: You have just done two shows at the Camden Underworld in London in which you played songs from the “Boxing Hefner” and “Breaking God’s Heart” albums on the first night, and then songs from “The Fidelity Wars” and “We Love The City” on the second. Do you see this as a chance to rule a line under your career so far? Are we perhaps going to see a new Hefner, or are you just doing these shows as something a little different and for the fun of it? DH: Well, in some ways the London shows in the past have been the biggest but some how have often been lacking due to the importance of the event. We wanted to play some stress free shows for the Cockneys. I have been thinking that it might draw a line under our career. Some of those songs get harder to play with enthusiasm and, yes, Hefner is changing in more ways than you would imagine, really. The new album sounds very different, and is largely programmed and played on old synths. (I’m not kidding you!) BH: Will you ever go back, then, to the simpler, punkier sound of your earlier albums? DH: It is not impossible. The new stuff is certainly not as finished as “We Love The City”. I have an ambition to make a proper rawk record at some point but it won't be the next one. BH: You are currently, probably, the most popular “indie” group in Britain. Are you happy with this status? Would you ever consider going for a more mainstream audience? DH: Well, I firmly believe that you should do what you do and your audience automatically finds you. I’d like more people to like us, of course, but not at any cost. We are currently making our most insular and arrogant record, after our most giving one, so I can honestly say we’re not governed by the bank balance. And there it is left. It is good to know that Hefner are remaining as prolific was as ever . They have only just released “We Love The City”, but now already I cannot wait for the next one! The photos that accompany this article were taken by Laurent Orseau, and can be found with many other of his black and white photographs on www.hinah.com

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