Hammer No More the Fingers talk new EP
Growing up in the Triangle during the height of the Merge Records boom, Duncan Webster, Joe Hall, and Jeff Stickley — the trio that plays as Hammer No More the Fingers — cut their teeth in an ideal musical environ. This is apparent in their sound, which draws from the angularity of Polvo and the snot-nosed vitality of Superchunk. But it would be unfair to completely ascribe it to emulation; After all, the members were making “90s indie-rock” during the actual decade.
Since their official formation in 2007, the trio has released three well-received albums, been written about by The New York Times and obtained a loyal following. Their new EP, Pink Worm (streaming below), is a continuation of their off-kilter rock, replete with fuzzed-out guitars and intelligent hooks. Shuffle’s Samuel Baltes recently caught up with Webster via email to talk about the record and Hammer’s plans for the future.
Shuffle: How’d the name Pink Worm come up, and why name the EP that?
Duncan Webster: It started off as a 15-second song I wrote on piano like three years ago. Just kind of “scrambled eggs” lyrics until we came up with something better. But alas, like most of our lyrics, the “scrambled eggs” or “Pink Worm” lyrics took on a life of their own. Then it kind of morphed into this epic, psychedelic, prog jam (with a lot of phallic references). Our last album was called Black Shark, so we thought it would be funny to name this EP something that is totally physically opposite of a black shark; a Pink Worm.
Shuffle: You guys recorded the album in two days, what was that like?
DW: We recorded it in Jeff, our drummer’s, living room with mastermind and master man, BJ Burton. It was by far the easiest recording sesh we’ve ever done. BJ just set up a couple mics, and we just went for it. We asked him to turn up the fuzz, or he asked us if he could turn up the fuzz. Can’t remember. But it worked.
Shuffle: How did it compare with past experiences?
DW: I think we finally realized that an album doesn’t have to be this perfectly produced and played masterpiece. We had a lot of ideas on the spot that we ended up using. Like the babbling brook sound on the bridge of “Window Falls.” Kind of a dumb joke, the bridge over a babbling brook. Of course, BJ is the man, and he probably did all sorts of studio trickery to make us sound good. But we finished recording and mixing in like two and a half days.
Shuffle: What’s the band’s typical songwriting process like these days?
DW: One of us will come to practice with a part, and we try and match it with one of the hundred unused parts that we already have. We mix and match until it starts to sound like something.
It’s definitely easier these days. We can arrange a song in one practice, sometimes two songs. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but it definitely feels awesome. We’re always trying to find ways to make a song leaner and meaner.
Shuffle: Does jamming play a large role in coming up with songs, or is it confined to the stage?
DW: Jamming plays a huge role in arranging Hammer’s music. A part definitely has to be intense before we’ll use it in a song. Not just loud or rocking, but intense. It’s nearly impossible for a part to have intensity straight out of the gate. You have to play it over and over again for it to really find a groove, and for everyone to find the exact thing they need to be playing. It’d be boring as hell otherwise. That’s by far my favorite thing about this band and writing music in general. We jam so much at practice that it kind of seeps its way into our live show. Jamming live is an art form that we’ve yet to master, but I think we’re on our way.
Shuffle: You’re gonna embark on your second UK tour this fall. What’s the band’s fanbase like there? Is the reception any different?
DW: The UK rules. The food gets old after a couple of weeks. The beer somehow doesn’t. England has been very good to us. It’s comparable to touring the East Coast. It’s very concentrated and if you’ve made a fan in London or Manchester, then they’ll tell their friends in Liverpool or Leeds to come check you out a couple days later. Everyone knows everyone, which is pretty rad. We’ve met some pretty amazing people over there. Watch out for the Chavs though.
Shuffle: What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had while touring?
DW: We played at a Black Biker Week rally thing in Goldsboro very early on in our career. Our set was at noon. We played for about half an hour, and then the next act came up on stage and asked if we were finally done with our sound check, so they could do theirs. We played on this huge stage next to a race track. There were maybe three people watching us. They gave us $500, no questions asked. Very fun and very strange experience. I’m sure Jeff and Joe have their own favorite shows though.
Shuffle: Favorite Carolina venue?
DW: I gotta say Satellite Lounge in Wilmington. It’s just a fun place to hang out. Very low pressure, and everyone has a great time. Definitely have to give a shout out to Spazzatorium in Greenville, New French Bar in Asheville and Legitimate Business in Greensboro. RIP! There’s nothing like playing a huge venue, but there’s something very special about playing small, intimate, sweaty rooms.
Shuffle: Any plans for the rest of 2012? Can we look forward to more music this year?
DW: We just had an impromptu recording sesh in Boston a couple days ago. We recorded with our friend Jesse on his old four-track cassette recorder. It sounds amazing. Thinking about maybe releasing a two song cassette sometime soon. We’ll see how it goes. Oh yeah, and we’re breaking up … just kidding