Good art almost always only comes via artistic freedom, with talent and commitment a close second and third. Coming together through a completely unrestrained space of creation and formulation, Spirit of Hamlet emerges with their brand new single “Float,” from their equally fresh album, Northwest of Hamuretto, due out on March 17th via Broken Sound Tapes.
All four members of this ensemble have long histories as musicians and songwriters, which really helped things click when they came began working together. You may recognize some of the names behind Spirit of Hamlet, led by Mike Watt of Minutemen, fIREHOSE, and The Stooges, Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mothers Temple, Scotty Irving, known for his work with Clang Quartet, and the well-known, highly regarded songwriter and producer, Benjy Johnson.
Interestingly enough, this is a long-distance collaboration, which says a lot about the collective chemistry this unit was able to manufacture, despite not recording together in person. With a comment on the accompanying video for “Float,” Irving tells us:
“I lived in a little town called Candor, North Carolina for nine years. That’s where I started playing drums. Candor is something like 16 miles from Hamlet, and I get sort of a Candor vibe from the pics of Hamlet in the video. It almost feels like a ‘going home’ experience.”
Elaborating on the song and its conception, Johnson adds:
“That groove that Watt and Scotty laid down was so nasty, and then Makoto’s guitars were like a sci-fi movie with an alien spaceship of some kind involved. But I wrote the lyrics based on a vision of a Japanese surfer riding the waves of the Fukushima tsunami at night. The images I sent Watt for the video were fused together perfectly into a vibe and almost a press release for the band.”
The desire for artistic connection is one of the primary reasons why this rather unlikely project came together in the first place. All showing interest and admiration for each other’s artistic output really is what helped bring these men together. They all saw it as an opportunity to bring together musical interest, mould them into something novel, and at the same time spread a little love around.
Mike Watt also shared his two cents on the new project, stating:
“My first time in Hamlet, NC, to visit the town where John Coltrane was born was on tour w/a trio I’m a part of, il sogno del marinaio, in 2014. you can see still photos I shot of myself and what I was seeing on that visit. I pulled the boat over to the side of the road where a sign said something like ‘John Coltrane was born here’ and I thought in my mind ‘John Coltrane prolly wasn’t born on the side of the road’ and so searched an area a couple blocks from this sign… I found a building that had a sign saying ‘Coltrane Room’ and started checking out around it…
“This mechanic man across the street at his shop I guess saw me and came over to see what was up and I told him I was most interested in John Coltrane. Crimony, he pulled out some keys and opened up the hatch to the ’Coltrane Room’ so me and the fratelli could check it out. There’s still photos in the video I took here besides the ones around town and of myself… what a beautiful gift the most kind man brought us, truly. Besides my still photo stuff, fellow _spirit of hamlet_ bandmember Benjy contributed video from a recent trip he made to hamlet on his way to the Atlantic coast where you see some video he also took of the waves coming up on the beach.”
When they began the collaboration, it quickly took on its own identity, influenced by each member’s musical upbringing. It’s a masterful fusion of psychedelia, punk, experimental noise, and free jazz, not exactly genres that are frequently associated together with each other. There’s a fearlessness to the music, which is pretty much a must if you are going to get this experimental. But within that musical independence is a punk rock attitude that always has and always will guide these men forward, as they continue to evolve and get to know each other’s musical characteristics even better.
Northwest of Hamuretto Track Listing:
1. Strike It Rich
2. New Eyes For Red King
4. My Cold Cereal Is Getting Soggy
5. Sardine $
6. March Of Rain
7. Pillow Song
8. $2 Dinosaur