For the last thirteen years, Super 400 has been making good rock and roll music and playing shows across the country. With the release of their newest CD, Sweet Fist, the band is hoping to kick things to the next level. I recently spoke with guitarist & vocalist Kenny Hohman about the band, their music and the key to their longevity in the cutthroat world of the music business.
The name of the band Super 400 is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
Kenny: Early in the formation of the band Joe Daley (drums) overheard his brother speaking excitedly on the telephone in their Brooklyn apartment about a “super 400” that he wanted to get. Joe thought it sounded cool and decided that was going to be the band’s name, not knowing at the time that his brother was talking about a rare and collectible vintage Gibson guitar.
Give us some insight into the record Sweet Fist and the meaning behind its title?
Kenny: We are a tough band having endured now a 13 year career in a harsh business that has seen us through having our major label (Island) debut release get crushed under a corporate takeover, 3 solo record releases, cover gigs, sessions, sideman gigs, many tours in the US and Europe and all the struggles that go with being an indie band who is self managed, booked and promoted. You have to have some inner strength and a real love for music making and each others’ company to keep together as a band through all of that. Lori Friday (bass) was doing all the booking, managing, album cover art and road managing work up until our recent signing with Xanderworks management and Response Records. I (Kenny Hohman guitar/vocals) took to calling her “The Fist” as she had to get tough with people sometimes in order to do her job and make sure things got done properly for us as a band. “The Fist” is not really a fully appropriate name for one so sweet so there you have it. As time passed, it meant more to us, like you hear that your heart is roughly fist sized, and sort of a peaceful warrior American Indian name vibe too. Whatever it means to anyone, I think it just sounds unique and exciting.
Now that your brand new CD Sweet Fist is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Kenny: We were allowed the luxury of recording at Ardent Studios in Memphis home to some of rock and soul’s greatest records due to our signing with Response Records. They allowed us to self produce this record and completely stayed out of our creative process, giving us the chance to get locked in with great Ardent staff engineer Jason Latshaw (engineer, mix engineer) who along with the entire Ardent staff has become like family to us. The recording process was a dream come true and one we will hold dear as one of the best times of our lives. We are very satisfied with the results. We worked hard, put forth our best effort on every step of the process and were all there for every note played, sang, mixed and even mastered. I feel the songs are honest and unique. The vibe playing live all together in Ardent was fantastic with the ghosts of so many great performances surrounding us. We feel it is our best record yet as it showcases well so many sides of our personalities, playing and writing both. The icing on the cake was to have Klaus Voormann (Grammy winner for the Beatles Revolver cover/bass man for John Lennon) agree to do the cover. A dream fulfilled.
What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
Kenny: Everyone in the band has a hand in the songwriting one way or another. One person will write all or part of a song and we will get down in the basement of our country home and work on it, recording it and listening back over days of tweaking then taking it out on the road and seeing what sticks. If people dig it live and we feel that “right energy” we know we are on the path.
What can fans expect when they pick up a copy of Sweet Fist?
Kenny: Sweet Fist contains all the colors of the band at this moment, heavy guitar freak outs, soul songs, acoustic leaning tender moments, and a first in a Lori Friday lead vocal on the single, “Flashlight”, which is just a great-feeling song. A live rocked out studio performance of the Carol King classic “I Feel The Earth Move ” is also included. We wanted to go to Ardent because Ardent fits our vibe to a T. That studio has been about soul and rock acts coming in and recording live to tape in great sounding rooms with classic gear and engineers steeped in that approach . We went for loose and great feeling uncluttered tracks and I hope we got that across.
Give us some insight into the album lyrically.
Kenny: We don’t write story songs much in the sense of third person perspective or narration stuff generally. We write from personal experience. The songs on Sweet Fist are about things that have happened in our lives over the last year or so. That stuff gets mixed with a surreal dream presence that comes from the subconscious room during the process along with a pinch of things that just sound cool when sung.
How has MySpace and the internet impacted your band and do you think downloading helps or hinders the artists?
Kenny: I honestly don’t know exactly. We have not had any kind of traditional breakthrough yet and are trying to figure it out as we go along on this changing landscape, the same as every band. We are putting trust in our new team of management, label and promotion to help us get to the next level. Someone else is taking the wheel finally after years on our own and it feels good to not worry as much about the little details and just make the music, play the shows, do the interviews etc.
What is the hardest part about being in a touring rock band and what is the biggest obstacle your band faces?
Kenny: We love each other, we love our records and playing live; those are the rare and hard achievements for any long standing band. We have a supportive team who believes in us and a loyal fan base to rock. We need some kind of breakthrough to get us to another level, in the form of a major opening tour slot, radio hit, major film soundtrack placement, TV show theme etc. That next level for us is filling bigger clubs across the country and in Europe, making touring life easier and selling a bunch of records.
You guys have been in the business for a while. Can you offer any advice to any of the younger readers who may be reading this out there and are trying to etch out a career in the music business?
Kenny: Write amazing songs that hold a key to people’s hearts that no one else can hold. Play shows that leave people telling everyone they know that they must see you. Sing great. Play great. Be original without being unlistenable. That is what I would like to have more of in the music world anyway. I don’t know anything about being wildly successful.
What does the future hold for you guys as a band?
Kenny: We will play together making the best music we can from our hearts until we can no longer physically or emotionally handle it. Whatever else happens along the way we’ll just have to wait to find out. [ END ]