By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of Manish Gosalia.
Sometimes a great band will draw the source of its inspiration from a single well. This isn’t to say that the sum of a group’s parts doesn’t make their sound possible. Rather, a leader will step to the forefront and take the helm, steering the music into uncharted territories.
Wil Farr is that kind of rock and roll captain. His ship is Hurrah! A Bolt of Light!–a band based out of New York City that blends foot-stomping anthems of arena rock with dance beats so infectious that, according to QRO Magazine, you’d have to be in “a full body cast” not to shake along to them.
While the group is still relatively young, they’ve been drawing a considerable amount of buzz from the press. Time Out and The New Yorker have both given a tip of their musical hats to Farr, while The Deli magazine has hailed them as the number one emerging indie rock band from New York City.
As all artists and musicians know, this seemingly “overnight” critical reception doesn’t just spring out of thin air.
“Some of the guys knew each other when we first started, but I didn’t know most of them,” Farr tells BTR. “I just put together this group of musicians that I didn’t really know to throw myself outside of my musical circle.”
Farr is certainly the kind of frontman that will never settle for a life of artistic complacency. You can sense it in his restless stage presence, the way that he delivers each line with an unhinged desperation, like he’s giving everything he has just to hold on.
His determination and vision, ultimately, have shaped Hurrah!’s trajectory into the successful group that they are today. In 2011, in need of the resources to record a second album, Farr decided to assemble a Kickstarter campaign. The pledged goal was $10,000, and donation prizes included writing songs for those who met a certain contribution, or the band traveling to supporters’ homes to play personal shows.
“It was very stressful,” says Farr, “as any sort of crowdfunding can be if you aren’t a huge artist. It took a long time, and I’m just very grateful that people liked us enough to show their support.”
Audiences certainly did want the band to succeed. With the designated goal met for funding, Hurrah! set their sails for the other side of the country. They dropped everything and traveled to Los Angeles, the city that so many budding artists seek out as a musical haven (albeit one that gets an unnecessary bad rap from New Yorkers, Farr adds).
It was there that they met with producer John Fields, who helped them shape their sound into the band’s self-titled full-length record. Fields, whose past work has included artists such as P!nk, Switchfoot, and The Presets, opened Farr’s musical perspective on the material he had worked so hard to bring along with him.
“John’s a prince amongst men,” says Farr. “I had all of the material written before we got there, but he helped guide the process at every step of the way.”
While the songs were essentially written, the producer reshaped some of the arrangements to incorporate electronic elements–leading to a finished product with a polished, danceable feel reflective of the group’s infectious live grooves.
Farr writes all of the material for the group, including lyrics, melodies, and chord structures. Although he relies on his band members to “really kill it onstage,” the brunt of the creative process falls upon Farr’s shoulders. He’s also adamant about keeping the music to himself until it’s absolutely ready for the group to tackle, knowing that anything less than fully-realized will only make the process confused and muddled.
“I know a song is ready for the band when I can play it by myself all the way through,” he says. “And I have to feel happy about it. I feel like if you can’t play your song by yourself, on one melodic or chordal instrument, then it’s probably not the best song.”
For the group’s next record (of which Farr tells us the material is well on its way to being polished) expect something much darker. Farr wants the songs to be less formulaic and more rooted in vibes that escape from the constraints often imposed by pop music.
One of his biggest creative influences on the new album? You’d be hard-pressed to guess, but Madeleine L’Engle’s classic young adult odyssey A Wrinkle in Time has served more than a spark of inspiration on the songwriting process.
“It’s really weird, I know,” says Farr. “But that book is really frightening. It’s written in a way to not frighten children too much, but when you read it as an adult you realize ‘hey, this is some really scary stuff.’”
To hear the rest of the interview, tune into this week’s Discovery Corner.
Or interpret the music for yourself by clicking here.