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Interview: Hex Talk About Their Debut Album 'The Hill Temple' + SXSW

Interview: Hex Talk About Their Debut Album 'The Hill Temple' + SXSW

Wednesday 7th February, 2018 2:32PM

Wellington witch rockers Hex are gearing up for a game-changing year. Their highly anticipated debut album The Hill Temple is launching this month on Valentines Day, they'll be dropping a stylish new video for single 'Sight Beyond The Line' this week, and the band are heading to the US for the first time ever to play at South By Southwest in March. Hex have launched a Boosted campaign in support of their overseas adventures, and recently expanded from a trio into a four-piece in preparation for the trip. We caught up with founding members Kiki Van Newtown and GG Van Newtown while they were visiting Auckland, lending their considerable talents to the first ever Girls Rock! Camp Aotearoa. Read on for our chat with the duo, where they dished the dirt about their upcoming album, overseas ambitions, and love of Dolores O'Riordan from the Cranberries...

Your debut album is coming out on Valentine's Day.

Kiki: [sings] Valentines Day!

Why Valentines Day? How long has the album been in the works for?

Kiki: The album's been in the works for about a year and a half. We started recording it probably a year and a half ago.

GG: I think we actually recorded it three times.

Kiki: Yeah we recorded the album basically three times.

GG: But that's okay, third time's a charm.

Kiki: It was a very long process, and there were a number of practical reasons for that. A lot of it revolved around limitations of time, and the ease of us going to record having children and stuff, a lot of it was about that.

GG: (For) the second recording, our friends bought a Masonic Lodge and they're turning it into their house and they offered it up to us. It was this absolutely stunning hall with all these symbols everywhere.

Kiki: And wallpaper made out of metal that had creased masonic symbols... we kept all of the bass takes. The way it had been recorded, there was bleed and stuff, so then it all got re-recorded again. If we went next time we would need to get those sound baffling wall things.

GG: And Valentines Day because that's Kiki and my wedding anniversary.

Ooh nice. What's the album about, what's The Hill Temple?

GG: The Hill Temple is a tarot church in Naenae. Naenae is a mini-Queenstown, it's a little suburb surrounded by these glorious hills. It's the Australasian headquarters of the Builders of the Adytum. They hold a service every Sunday morning at 10.30am and you can go there. That's the Hill Temple, the temple at the bottom of a hill.

Kiki: We go sometimes. The album I think, after having listened to it and co-written it, is about using anger productively. There's a couple of songs on there that are like prayers, but they're quite fierce. So it's sort of about using your feminine anger and rage and power to create.

GG: [nods in affirmation]

Who did the artwork?

Kiki: We got two artist friends whose art we really love. We got Holly Aitchison from Dunedin and she did a watercolour for the front. And we got Devon Smith also from Dunedin, that's a coincidence, to do the back cover. That was line drawings.

GG: We will be making a nicely printed zine to go inside the record. Lyrics, liner notes, thank yous, and some nice glossy pictures taken from the 'Sight Beyond The Line' music video.

Kiki: It's only coming out on vinyl physically. We're putting it out.

GG: Independently.

You're running a Boosted campaign in support of your upcoming South By Southwest shows in March. What's the plan with travelling overseas, will you be touring over there as well?

Kiki: Yes, we're heading over at the beginning of March to do a tour.

GG: We'll do the tour first and then play South By Southwest so we'll be outrageously hot and tight. A tight-fitting unit. We've gotten a fourth member to bolster us for the US tour. We've got to play a bunch of shows with her before we showcase ourselves at South By Southwest, so the natural thing to do was tour!

Where are you playing?

Kiki: Just all over the West Coast and then across to Texas. We were going to do some on the East Coast but the US is fucking massive and the drive times are insane.

GG: We're hiring a mini-van, a Mercedes Sprinter or something. The biggest one leg we have to go, is it thirty hours?

Kiki: Thirty six hours.

GG: That's the way the shows worked out and we don't have the luxury of getting it exactly how we want it.

Kiki: For this tour we're sucking it up.

GG: And our manager Pennie Black is coming with us. We're taking Bernie Galaxy with us on sound, and then the four members of Hex. The competent drivers will all be driving.

Kiki: It's going to be really good, we're playing eight or nine shows before we get to South By Southwest, and we're doing a bunch of shows at South By Southwest. It's been an administrative fucking nightmare. [laughs] I feel I can sleep when I'm dead.

GG: I'm just walking around crying about other dead rock stars. [Dolores O'Riordan from the Cranberries had just passed away]

Kiki: That's important work too. This will be our longest overseas tour and the furtherest away. We did two weeks in Oz... I think the thing with Australia though is that it's so close to home. You go over, and if everything fucks out you pay three hundred bucks and get on a plane back. Whereas going to the States, it's a lot more... "don't fuck this up." Especially because we have kids. It's like okay mum's going off to work, we hope we don't entirely ruin every prospect that our children have by just being irresponsible. [laughs]

You were talking about how you were really upset that Dolores O'Riordan died, and that her music was an influence on your work.

GG: Yeah for sure. The latest track that I just wrote is pretty much a cross between Black Sabbath and The Cranberries. I've called it 'Heavy Metal Church'. I filled up my iPod to come to Auckland and be on a long journey, so I put my best music on it and I put the first two Cranberries albums on it. I'm so glad I had them because today I decided to take the long walk home and I just listened to them back to back, and just allowed myself to sob and wail all the way back to Mt Eden where I'm staying. I have a lot of respect for Dolores O'Riordan. It probably can't help but come out it my music. Like that bit in 'The Moon', where the vocal overdubs start happening during the final outro, that's so Cranberries.

You're both at Girls Rock! Camp Aotearoa this week, how's that going?

Kiki: It is so incredible, young people are so awesome, we should just hand them the keys to the city. They're really smart, just so much more switched on than I ever was. I phone my mum and was like "they're so amazing" and she said "they've got the internet." But she was just trying to make me feel better. In her head she was probably "Yeah you were a wreck." They are so smart and so confident in their ideas. It's so great.

GG: They're also really fragile and you have to be really careful to make sure you've given everyone a "well done." Even the ones who look like they might be the most robust, you never know what's going on inside a teenager.

What's both of your roles with the Camp?

Kiki: Instrument tutors.

GG: So I'm a drum tutor, which is really funny because I said I could be a drum or guitar tutor. And very shortly after that, Hex made the swap that I would come off guitar and on to drums, and out drummer would come off drums and on to guitar. That decision was made, and then a couple of days after that I got accepted to be the drum tutor for Girls Rock Camp. So I feel the universe was just pushing me back on to the drums. For me in my life it's all about drums now and only a couple of months ago, there I was being the guitarist of Hex with drums on the back burner. [puts on a voice] It's funny how life changes.

Kiki: You're such a great drummer. Maybe the universe just needs your pounding rhythms.

GG: What are you doing at Girls Rock Camp Kiki?

Kiki: I'm one of the bass tutors, I just love it. I'm trying to teach them how to dance and play the bass. It's quite a big instrument, so we did lots of spatial perception exercises. Holding a bass and dancing around the room today.

GG: I was trying to get my girls to headbang while they were drumming. To help keep time of course. There's always a good reason for headbanging.

Hex will be celebrating the release of their  debut album 'The Hill Temple' alongside Earth Tongue and Finn Johansson at Wellington's Meow on Valentine's Day, Wednesday 14th February. For more info and tickets see HERE.


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Hex Album Release w/ Earth Tongue and Finn Johansson
Wed 14th Feb 8:00pm
Meow, Wellington