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The Long Road Proves Rewarding for Youngblood Hawke

Yonugblood Hawke Capitol Records
There was a time a few years back when Sam Martin and Simon Katz thought they were on the cusp of hitting it big in the music industry with their previous band.

Instead, the ceiling crashed down before much of that success ever came to fruition.

That’s why it is hard not to root for Youngblood Hawke, the current group Martin and Katz helm—the band with the infectious hit “We Come Running,” the buzz-tastic debut album Wake Up and the catchy new single “Pressure.”

It’s safe to say that the singer and multi-instrumentalist, respectively, put together Youngblood Hawke with memories of their first failed project still fresh in their minds.

Martin and Katz first got together as students at the University of Colorado. Katz had been a longtime musician, picking up guitar, drums and piano at various points of his teenage years, and eventually pursuing a minor in music studies.

Youngblood Hawke
Omar Ahmed (L) and Simon Katz at Capitol Records.

Meanwhile, Martin was studying film and growing increasingly frustrated with the methodical pace his major offered.  He wanted to make movies—or more accurately, tell stories.

The duo teamed with Jarvis Anderson, a fellow University of Colorado student, and formed Iglu & Hartly upon moving to Los Angeles.  Relying heavily on bass and spitfire vocals, that group gained momentum, landing a deal with Mercury Records and spots in England’s V Festival and Coachella by 2010.

Still, something was amiss to Martin and Katz.

“I was just learning to write with that project, and I didn’t think I really got to be myself there,” said Martin. “That’s why Simon and I fought to make this band.  A band should be about being able to express yourself, and we didn’t feel like that was happening [with Iglu & Hartly].”

So once they found themselves holed up in Katz’s L.A. apartment with nothing else to do, writing became an emotional salve. Melodies and lyrics spilled out during many late-night sessions.  Even though they began writing with no intentions of creating a new band, a few of those initial ideas wound up being among the 13 songs that would make it to the final pressing on Wake Up.

“If you’re in a really dark place and write a really dark album, you’re just going to stay in that place,”  Katz said in an interview with Seattle’s The Sun Break. “It was almost like our pill, our way of getting everything out – our therapy. And it’s been perceived as this really upbeat record, but if you read the lyrics, it’s not that at all. It’s dark. We have a positive spin on things because we’re a hopeful group of people. And we knew if we kept working on things, and really dug deep, we would make some progress.”

True, Katz and Martin weren’t in the best of places following the dissolution of Iglu & Hartley. In fact, they were contemplating pursuing “real jobs.”

“I do think we were at a crossroads where we were like, ‘F**k, because we had this successful band before this and that’s over,’” Martin said.  “At one point I was thinking to myself that I was going to get a real job, go to community college and just do something I don’t want to do, but I should.  Or, I could just do this.  It’s going to be way harder, but it’s what I want to do.  That simple internal conversation was really tough, but I mean, we were scraping together $10 to buy burritos.”

Martin and Katz ultimately decided to forge on with their creative dreams, and built Youngblood Hawke with a focus on fostering a family atmosphere with like-minded people who believed in the same musical direction.

Youngblood Hawke
Youngblood Hawke’s Tasso Smith (L), Alice Katz and Sam Martin.

First, the pair tabbed Katz’s then-girlfriend Alice Beretta, whose haunting voice adds vibrant color to each song.  Both Katz and Beretta grew up in the same Texas town, but didn’t really connect until they both lived in L.A.  After months of dating, the two got married (hence Beretta’s current name of Alice Katz).

Next, Simon Katz reached out to childhood friend and experienced multi-instrumentalist Tasso Smith.

Smith, who played trumpet as a kid and fronted a band as a student at Texas A&M University, was living in Florida at the time, working for a real estate development company. He didn’t need much convincing to move west after Katz and Martin sent him a few YBH demos.

The final two pieces came in the form of drummer Nik Hughes, who had actually gigged with Iglu & Hartly before the breakup, and his friend, bassist Omar Ahmed.

“We were all doing different things while also knowing that we wanted to do music in the back of our heads,” said Martin.  “They were people who all shared in the same dream.”

The passion of Youngblood Hawke was evident during their recent performance at Capitol Record’s hallowed Studio A for Fender’s Studio Sessions.  The sextet unleashed heartfelt versions of the fiery old favorite “Protect Yourself” and their latest single “Pressure.”

And the final cuts weren’t captured until each song got at least three run-throughs. There is an air of professionalism – perhaps perfectionism – that showed throughout the two-hour shoot, whether it was Alice Katz asking for another try for the perfect vocal or Hughes calling for another take to make sure everyone was right on time.

The outcome was nothing but the best, with two videos that are clear representations of Youngblood Hawke’s energetic live performances and tight musicianship.

It’s the type of work ethic that offers a glimpse into the lessons Martin and Simon Katz previously learned, in addition to the comfort level between each member of the band.

At this point, Youngblood Hawke has a few headlining tour dates before embarking on a slate of summer shows with Panic! At the Disco, and the ship is clearly pointed in the right direction.

Considering how things worked out for Martin and Katz’s previous band, it has to be a refreshing feeling for the entire Youngblood Hawke family.

“We just all feel really lucky,” said Martin. “I was a waiter for three years. We’ve cut trees. I think we just look around and think, ‘My God, how are we getting away with this?’  It feels great.”

Watch Youngblood Hawke’s Fender Studio Session at Capitol Records here.


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