Playing a high energy form of melodic hardcore, H2O are an institution in punk rock. And although their musical output has slowed down considerably in the last 15 years, when they do release a record, it’s usually well worth the wait.
7 years on from their last album of new music Nothing To Prove, Use Your Voice is H2O’s sixth studio album (not including 2011’s covers album Don’t Forget Your Roots). It’s filled with the same brand of high energy, catchy, positive punk rock the band is known for.
Adam Blake, who has been the band’s bassist since 1997, spoke to us about the new record, the history of the band and the state of music in 2015.
I guess the best place to start is to ask the most obvious question: Why seven years since your last studio album?
Adam: There’s a few reasons for that. The first one is we were always busy and we never felt pressure to go in the studio. We were always playing shows, we always seemed to have a good amount of momentum moving forward. And, to be completely honest, there’s a certain amount of performance anxiety there. I mean it took us seven years after Go to get to Nothing To Prove. So things are going well and we know if we make a record that doesn’t stand up to Nothing To Prove, at this stage in the game, it’s kind of a bad look. So we decided that we wanted to take our time and make a record we could really be proud of. We needed to wait for Chad (Gilbert, producer) to have availability as well as our engineer. But once we decided to do it, it took us three months to actually have a record in the can.
So were most of the songs fairly recently written?
Adam: Yeah. I mean some of the songs were from demos that were done in 2012 or 13, four of them were from that, but everything else was written for this record, or presented to the band as finished pieces for this record.
Well, musically it doesn’t sound like you guys missed a beat. This album could have come out a year after Nothing To Prove. It’s got that same energy, that same quality of penmanship.
Adam: Thank you very much. That’s also one of the side benefits of taking so long to make a record because there’s a level of excitement and energy that comes when something is not routine. When it’s kind of new. And that’s a big reason the record sounds like that, because we were excited to make it. We felt kind of like little kids at play.
One song I love on the record is ‘Father Figure’. Is that about musical communities and having them as adopted families growing up?
Adam: Yeah. I know from an autobiographical aspect, Toby’s father died when he was three, so a lot of lessons he didn’t have a father to teach to him, he was able to get through a lot of the bands he was listening to at the time. And to draw the strength that he would have had having a physical father from the music.
Is that emotional connection still there today?
Adam: Yeah absolutely. I mean we’ve grown up and everything, but when I hear certain music, it takes me back, it inspires me and gives me that same kind of kick that it always did, you know?
Another song I love is ‘Skate!’ And I love the video where Steve Caballero is playing guitar with you guys. Did he play on the record as well?
Adam: Yeah he plays the lead guitar part at the end of the song. It was awesome, we really wanted him to play on the song and it was really cool that he was able to bring the song to another level. I love the part he came up with, it lifts the song up and I was so happy he was able to do that.
That’s really cool. Where did you film the video?
Adam: We filmed the video at Hurley, which has a skate park in their headquarters and at the Vans skate park in Orange, California. There’s a lot of people skating in the video, people from other bands, Toby skates in the video, Ryan Hurley, Steve Cab.
Have you guys been tight with Steve for a while?
Adam: Yeah, we did the Warped Tour with him years back. He’s a childhood hero of Toby’s and he and Toby became close friends, so we’ve known him for a while. But he’s just a really wonderful, gracious guy, a very warm energy. We hope he can come out and play the song with us on a couple of dates.
That would be very cool. I know that Nothing To Prove was influenced in a big way by things like having kids, family, etc., as well as being proud of who you are and where you came from. What was influencing the writing of this record?
Adam: I just think life, you know? I mean it’s been seven years, a lot of stuff happened, the world around us gets referenced. The song ‘Still Dreaming’, the lyrics were written while we were in Nashville doing the vocal sessions and it’s about the Baltimore riots, which were on TV.
So those lyrics were written mid- session?
Adam: Yeah, exactly. When we went to Nashville, Toby brought a big book of lyrics and Toby’s really good at writing under pressure, so you tell him ‘hey, we need this many lyrics in a week’, he’s going to knuckle under and have a ton of stuff ready. When we got to Nashville there were still a few songs he didn’t have lyrics for, that being one of them.
One thing I love about your band and I’ve always loved about you guys, is that message of positivity you bring forth. How hard is it to maintain that message, when, in some ways the world can seem like it’s getting better, in others, it seems like it’s getting worse.
Adam: Well as far as the world getting worse, it kind of depends on where you look and how you look at it. I mean war and poverty and all these things, they’ve been going on for a long time. It feels sometimes, to me at least, that because the negative stories are juicier, that’s why they get told. But there’s a lot of good things out there, especially when you look closer to home and not look on such a global scale, you look on a more local and personal level. But everybody has shitty days. I’ll wake up in the morning sometimes, probably not the nicest guy in the world and have those days too. But you just need to be a little more introspective and kind of steer yourself back on track when you see yourself heading in that direction.
The music industry is changing as well. Some say for the better, making music more accessible and portable now than ever before, some say for the worse, making it hard for independent bands to make a go of music as a career. How do you feel about where things are now as opposed to when you guys got started?
Adam: See, it’s weird because while we make records, we’re not necessarily the best at selling records. So for us it’s kind of business as usual. It’s like: make a record, go on tour. And that’s kind of where our heads are at. But it’s a different world for sure, one that’s still figuring itself out. As long as there’s music, non musicians are going to look for a way to monetize it. And for whatever reason right now Pandora’s box is open. And I know our record leaked, I know people have downloaded our record and I’m almost comfortable with that. What are you going to do, are you going to complain about the rain? You can’t stop it, it’s coming no matter what. But I do think, if I’m a person and someone downloads our music for free, and they like that music, find a way to give back. You know? Go to a show, buy a t-shirt, tell a friend to buy the record. You know what I mean? It’s just a different world out there.
Without trying to make you feel old, you guys are like the elder statesmen of the scene nowadays. If you’ve got a kid coming up to you at a show or wherever who has a band, what advice do you give him to achieve the kind of longevity and uncompromised values you guys have kept?
Adam: I would say don’t take it too seriously. Find the fun, find the joy in it. Because if you get too career minded, you might become exactly what you wanted to avoid being. Stay young, stay positive, make it fun. Also, get a life outside of it, have something else. If all you have is the band, I promise you it will start feeling routine. If you are able to step away from it and then come back to it, you’ll always feel f*cking stoked to be a part of it.
H20’s latest release ‘Use Your Voice’ is out via ITunes, and all other outlets including Band Camp at www.bridge9.bandcamp.com/album/use-your-voice, Also be sure to catch these guys live who are on tour in Europe and ih the USA. For mor details on dates and other information check them out online at www.h2ogo.com & www.facebook.com/H2Ogo