An interview with founding member of I See Hawks in LA, Paul Lacques

On January 11, the band I See Hawks in LA will play a date in Silver City, Nevada. The funky Silver City School House is a well-suited venue to see and hear a group revered as one of the best psychedelic, alt country bands working today. The Hawks are well-seasoned in the studio and on the road and have recorded eight albums over nearly 20 years of gigging. For a clear look ahead, Nevada Capital News musical arts correspondent Will Houk spoke with founding member Paul Lacques …

The show begins at 7:00 pm. Doors open at 6:00. The Silver City School House is located at 385 High Street Silver City, Nevada 89428. Proceeds will benefit the Silver City Historic Preservation Society.

Will: The name of your band is very unique. Can you tell us about the origin of the name and what that name means to you?

Paul: It’s deep in our lore. It was 1999. It was my brother Anthony’s 30th birthday, and we were driving to Vegas to celebrate. We stopped off in the East Mojave Preserve. It’s on the way, and we had a couple hours so we went on this hike, this circuitous route into the desert mountains and got very primal. We were throwing rocks and acting like apes, and I don’t know, the subject drifted to the current state of country music, and we are pretty high on ourselves, so we made a vow to call our new band, which was going to be, we were going to change the face of country rock and we were going to call it “I See Hawks in LA.” We actually made a declaration and then six months later we actually started writing songs.

Will: Cool. So you have an album that came out pretty recently. It’s called Hawks With Good Intentions and it was recorded with the band Good Intentions. I’d love to hear about how that collaboration came about.

Paul: It was very interesting and challenging and ultimately very rewarding. We were good friends with this very folky, very old school folky husband and wife duo the Good Intentions from Liverpool. We would host them for concerts and when we were over there, they put on house concerts for us in Liverpool, and we just really evolved into friends and just got the idea well, let’s write some songs. Peter is a really top notch songwriter.

So we sat down after one of our desert concerts and came up with a couple of tunes off the bat. So they went back, and we wrote the entire rest of the album by email. Which was, I mean, we were skeptical and it took a couple of years. We’d send over an mp3 and Peter would come back with some lyrics and then vice versa and multiple revisions, cultural clashes. But we came up with songs we all really liked. So, yeah, finally put it out this year, or last year midyear.

Will: Were you recording demos into the phone, or do you have a little recording studio setup? How does that work?

Paul: For demos, we just used our iPhones. They sound pretty good for getting the melody across. And then when we agreed it was done, know the form … everyone has very strong opinions. They’re all strong writers. So it was like, all right, it’s done. Then we would record all the tracks in our studio.

I have a studio in my house and show them the tracks, and they would do vocals in their (studio). They had a good studio in Liverpool, and we were just bouncing back and forth. Then we’d add our harmonies. They would add harmonies, and suddenly we were done. We said ‘let’s put it out.’ So yeah, it did well. It was an experiment that paid off. I would say we got very good response, and we’re happy with the tunes. Yeah, it was pretty fun.

Will: That’s cool. One of the songs on the new album is called “Things Like This.” The song references parts of the landscape of the California 395. I’d love to hear about the influence of the outdoors and the environment, and how that impacts your music.

Paul: Oh, very much. I think you hit at kind of the core of what we do. Most of our songs are about the earth or society on the earth or our town Highland Park and about our … where I used to live in the desert … things like this are almost a verbatim telling of the Los Angeles Times story of a mass shooting off the 395 in New Hesperia, which I grew up right near there.

It hit close to home, and the irony of it is, the sheriff said, ‘Well, we only had three murders last year,’ sort of a commentary on how used to gun violence we’ve got and how it’s just … we were shell shocked … this is like an ordinary day in the high desert in a shootout with the cops. So that was pretty topical and also informed by 395. It’s kind of our favorite road. We’re looking very forward to coming down to 395 on the way back home. It’s a gorgeous, beautiful, beautiful drive.

Will: I’ve driven it many times down to LA. It goes right through the middle of Carson City. It’s Carson Street. That’s where I grew up knowing it as you know it, so I thought it was cool hearing it on the record.

Paul: I used to hike the Sierras a lot. Always going from the east side, the steep climb, so I know the road very well. And it’s my favorite terrain, kind of transitional terrain.

Will: Another song on the record is called a “Steel Rail.” It incorporates elements of the effect of technology on our culture and kind of how technology changes, and I was wondering if you could talk about that song a little bit.

Paul: That’s exactly what it is. The car is a very, very mixed blessing and becoming a little bit less blessed every year, and we feel the sort of decline of the rail system is a real tragedy. Rails are just more socializing, and people mixed together more. They’re not autonomous and they’re more efficient, and a lot of it talks about a lot of small rail towns dying because of the car. The trucks just go right past them, and the only thing left is a Walmart to save the region. So it’s kind of a strange feedback loop of … oddly enough a national grid system leading to the decline of small town life too. That’s not too grandiose a picture to paint.

Will: That’s cool. I like that. So you got a show coming up here in Silver City in Northern Nevada on January 11. You mentioned you never played at that venue.

Paul: We have not gotten into Nevada and Evangeline set it all up. She’s done many shows with us over the years. She’s kind of a guardian angel for a lot of roots Americana bands, and so yes, she set it up, and we’re really looking forward to that. I think it’s the first time … I don’t know did we play Vegas … I don’t think so … I think it’s our first time playing Nevada.

Will: You just put out an album in 2019 and you’re playing some shows and stuff … do you have any big projects coming up in 2020?

Paul: Not on the horizon. Rob is doing a solo gospel record, and Victoria and I have a project with a guy named Tony Gilkyson. He’s a really pretty legendary LA guitar player. That’s kind of just starting out, but that’s a baby project. The Hawks will probably start recording next fall if I have any sense of the pattern to how we do things. So we’re just doing gigs really and coming up with a few tunes.

Concert information
I See Hawks in L.A.
Historic Silver City Schoolhouse
Saturday, January 11, 2020
7:00 pm, doors at 6:00 pm
385 High Street
Silver City, Nevada 89428
$15-$25 Donation requested – proceeds benefit the Silver City Historic Preservation Society
Reservations highly recommended: email SilverCityLive@gmail.com