One of my 23 for 2023, it would be fair to say the year is going rather well for Hamish Hawk so far. His fabulously flamboyant single Money has become somewhat of a ubiquitous earworm for the UK’s indie-community courtesy of becoming a regular on the 6Music playlist, he’s been out on his biggest UK tour to date, and sold nearly all of the venues out, and last week he released his fabulous debut album, Angel Numbers. He’s even got plans to take things entirely transatlantic when next month he heads over to Austin to take SXSW by storm. Thankfully, listening to Angel Numbers, it’s easy to see why everyone seems to be quite so excited!
The record opens in typically literate style with the fabulous Once Upon an Acid Glance, all warm organs and soaring guitars as his lyrics paint a portrait of excessive dreams and dreary realities, “in a raincoat on a Monday etcetera, mocking all of my Hockney ephemera”. Throughout the track Hamish seems to want to portray himself as a Scottish Gatsby, dreaming of the finer things and being some worldly artistic great, when the reality is altogether more dreary, watching the “drowning of dreams” as he comes to recognise his, “grand delusions only fit for Napoleon”. This sense of faded grandeur is something Hamish dips back into throughout the record, there’s a sense of longing for status, whether he’s asking, “where’s my limelight” in Think Of Us Kissing, or cursing the cultureless rich while wishing he had access to their wallets on Money.
For all his overt longing for fame, Hamish is also aware of its pitfalls, take Elvis Look-alike Shadows, he finds himself downtrodden and ignored, asking, “is there anyone listening?”, before a chance run-in with Elvis, or at least a convincing lookalike gives him the pick me up to keep going. On the particularly wonderful Frontman, a duet with Anna B Savage, atop a pulsing harmonium, the pair seem to constantly pull each other back down to earth, “what looks like blood on my hands, last I checked I was face down in the sand, don’t you go all frontman on me, soft rain falls, soft rain falls”.
While the record is full of moments of thrillingly grand bluster, it’s arguably the quieter moments that shine the brightest, take Bill, it’s a ying to Money’s yang, a reminder that for everything that comes with fame, it’s not where fulfilment truly comes, atop wavering slide guitars that bring to mind the likes of Friendship or Bill Callahan, he sings, “when you hate the song come and find me, when you’ve spent too long, when you’ve spent too long staring at money”. Another moment of glorious subtlety comes on the recent single Rest & Veneers, a collaboration with Samantha Crain, it’s as close to a country song as he’s ever gotten, as both vocalists trade the subtle power of platonic love, “you know, way back in wartime, you’d be my common-law wife. Thank God, it’s just the two of us and I’ve never felt such freedom in my life, sat by your side inside”.
In many ways, Angel Numbers is a record about extremes, angels and devils, success and failure, poverty and vast wealth, yet within that nuance seems to emerge. Throughout there’s a sense that actually life isn’t a matter of one thing or the other, it’s about coping with what is in front of you, about learning to know whether things seem bright or gloomy, this too shall pass.
Following Angel Numbers’ release I recently spoke to Hamish about future plans, first shows and why, “sharing my own stories in my own way was ultimately too tantalising to ignore”.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Hamish Hawk?
Fairly wordy, Edinburgh-based, exuberant indie-rock merchant with frosted tips and an impotent moustache. New album, Angel Numbers out now.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
Aside from a few high school performances (the details of which I care not to remember), my first show was an extremely short set made up entirely of covers. I was billed simply as ‘Hamish’, which is hilarious in a charming kind of way, and the set contained not one, but two Arctic Monkeys tunes. I was reprimanded backstage by a much more established Scottish band (who shall remain nameless) for playing covers by bands nobody knew. The saving grace of the gig is that it took place at Studio 24 in Edinburgh, and Nirvana played there back in the day. We are inextricably linked!
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Since I was a teenager I knew I wanted to perform on stage. I made a go of acting, and still enjoy it tremendously, but the thrill of being the master of my destiny on stage, of singing my own words, of sharing my own stories in my own way was ultimately too tantalising to ignore.
FTR: What can people expect from the Hamish Hawk live show?
The band and I are immensely proud of our live shows; we give them absolutely everything we’ve got. Tears, sneers, fears and cheers. We try our very best to immerse our audiences in the world of our creation for the best part of an hour and a half, and so far, it’s going well. Everyone is welcome, the more the merrier and all that!
FTR: What’s next for Hamish Hawk?
Our new record, Angel Numbers, is out now and in support of that we’re on tour for most of this month up and down the UK. Beyond that, it’s gonna be a busy year of festivals, and recording with any luck, so we’re sure as rain not slowing down!
Angel Numbers is out now via Post-Electric. For more information on Hamish Hawk visit https://hamishhawk.com/.