Get to know the Dead Girls' Cameron Hawk
Lawrence four-piece the Dead Girls is the latest local band edging its way onto the national stage.
Formerly known as Dead Girls Ruin Everything—consisting of Cameron Hawk, JoJo Longbottom, Nick Colby, and Eric Melin—the band is a Lawrence staple. Featuring former members of Ultimate Fakebook and Podstar, the band was recently honored with a Daytrotter session. (In July, the band was part of the Chevy Music Showcase, a televised series featuring Kansas City-area bands.)
Daytrotter plays host to bands and artists at its studio in Rock Island, Ill., and posts new recordings of sessions at daytrotter.com each day. (If you don’t have a paid Daytrotter account, create a free trial to take a listen to The Dead Girls’ set.) Jessica Sain-Baird recently spoke with lead singer and guitarist Cameron Hawk about The Dead Girls’ Daytrotter experience, upcoming plans, and favorite fellow local bands.
Jessica Sain-Baird: How was the experience of recording at Daytrotter? How did that come about?
Cameron Hawk: Shortly after our hometown buddies Cowboy Indian Bear and Quiet Corral did their sessions, I thought it would be worth it to at least contact Daytrotter and tell them a bit about The Dead Girls. To my delight and slight surprise, they responded right away and booked us on the spot. I booked shows in Des Moines and Chicago, and we made a weekend out of it.
The Daytrotter experience itself was incredible. We were really nervous at first, because we all follow Daytrotter and are aware that many of our favorite bands have recorded with those guys. We don't practice very often since all the Dead Girls are always so busy, and we knew we would have to be at our best. I think it went as well as it could have—not to say it was perfect, but who wants perfection, anyway? That's what is so great about the idea of Daytrotter, or The Peel Sessions, or anything like that—capturing those mistakes or idiosyncrasies that add a new layer of personality to the songs.
JS: Daytrotter writes that the "characters in these songs are handfuls, causing all kinds of drama, losing their shit and just generally freaking out." Would you agree?
CH: Speaking for myself—that definitely describes a lot of situations I have been in throughout my life, and it's a pretty dead-on description of most of the stuff on our first two records. However, I don't think that statement accurately describes all of the songs we chose for the session—though it probably works for “Naysayer” and “Chasing Clouds.”
“Girl In Fatigues,” “Never Erased” and “The Beast Inside” all have radically different things going on. In fact, lyric-wise, I think those three songs are totally different from anything we have written up to now. For example, “Girl In Fatigues” may sound like an unrequited love song, but it's actually commentary on the uptight nature of the military and the ugliness of a war-minded country.
JS: What is the inspiration for your songwriting? Who writes your songs?
CH: JoJo and I are the proper songwriters, meaning we are the ones who come up with the tunes and the words, and we each sing what we write. But once we take them to Nick and Eric, the finished product always turns out drastically different, which is why all our songwriting credits have gone and will always go to “The Dead Girls.”
Our main inspirations are the bands and music we love. Recently, when trying to decide on some album-related details, this question came up: "What would Neil Young do?" That's a pretty good example of our attitudes when working on songs or anything music-related. We don't necessarily try to emulate the sound of these bands—although sometimes, that is the case—but try to take cues from the paths they have followed, learn from their mistakes, etc. As far as the inspiration for the lyrics or the songs themselves, that can be anything that catches our attention. For example, JoJo wrote the lyrics for “The Beast Inside” after watching the movie "Where the Wild Things Are."
JS: What's next for The Dead Girls?
CH: We just got mixes back for our third album, "Fade In/Fade Out," and are hoping to have it out by this fall, or Spring 2013 at the latest. We are also proud to be included in a double CD collection of local artists that is being released by Midwest Music Foundation on Sept. 24. To anyone who has ever doubted the legitimacy or quality of our local music, try looking at everything that has gone into this behemoth of a comp without being impressed.
Other than that, we have a few shows booked before the end of the year, but will most likely be lying somewhat low until album number three comes out.
JS: What's working in the Lawrence music scene right now? What local bands do you love playing with or look up to?
As far as live acts go, no one comes anywhere close to Major Games. They are doing things that I never would have dreamed possible in live settings like the Replay or Jackpot.
Musically, my favorite Lawrence band right now is Rooftop Vigilantes. Their second album, "Real Pony Glue," is one of the most surprising and powerful things I have heard from a Lawrence band in a long time. I also really love Mouthbreathers, though now that their singer lives in Atlanta, I don't know that they can be called local. Same goes for The Noise FM—they would definitely be in here if they had not relocated to Chicago. But I can't blame anyone for doing that, because let's be honest—if you really want music to be your life, living in Lawrence is probably not the best option. I mean, you can live there if you want, but you'll probably only spend about a third of the year there if your goal is to be successful in music—the rest of the time, you'll be on the road.
Obviously, though, we all love Lawrence, and it really does have a music scene that is so vibrant and alive, even compared to lots of major cities in the U.S.
See The Dead Girls at the Eighth Street Taproom on Sept. 26.
— Jessica Sain-Baird