“YOU MADE IT SOUND THAT BIG IN THAT LITTLE ROOM?”
With the core of the group finally intact — Simon on guitar and keys, Sam singing lead vox, Alice contributing harmony vocals and percussion, Tasso playing rhythm guitar and Nik on drums— this group of friends that felt more like family eventually became Youngblood Hawke. One of the first tracks that really clicked for the group was “Rootless,” the song that the group spontaneously sung, Almost Famous style, in the van at the beginning of this story.
“I think that song captures the feeling of why Simon and I decided to start this,” Sam told me just moments before he went on stage to perform at a VH1 Party at the W Hotel in downtown Austin. “With [Iglu & Hartly], we were touring for two years. We were away from our families and friends, which is fine –that’s what we’d die for, seeing new places and meeting new people– and what we signed up for when it’s working, but when you’re a part of something that just doesn’t feel like you, there’s a disconnection there. There’s a feeling where you’re rootless, you’re literally like just a part of this moving thing. But you’re just floating. That song’s important to us, because it was the first song where we were like, ‘Exactly.’ That’s always going to be a song that’s close to our hearts, that signified the beginning of this whole project.”
“We made every possible mistake in my last experience,” Simon continued. “So all we have to do is go okay, ‘What do we NOT do?’. It really does lead you down the right path in a general sense. The past experiences were very, very helpful to this project. To really establish it, and get it moving fast, and have it be really fun.”
After writing some 200 songs, the band arrived on a handful by the end of 2010 which they felt were strong enough to record. Save for the drums, the entirety of the album was recorded and produced by Simon in his second bedroom studio. “It goes to show you you can record something at home and get on Top 40 radio if you really, really focus,” Simon proudly proclaimed. “It freaks people out. ‘You made it sound THAT big in THAT little room?’”
The group performed their first official show on May 5, 2011, at which time they also released their EP on Bandcamp. “After our first show, our second show was sold out, just by word of mouth,” Simon added. “We were selling out shows before we knew it.” The band quickly gained a foothold in the Silverlake music community alongside acts like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and Rocco DeLuca, and began growing an audience at the same time. Eventually, the group’s popularity in the L.A. scene led to a multi-night residency at the hipster enclave Satellite. Their shows were so well-received that the band got signed to Republic Records in October of 2011 by famed A&R man Rob Stevenson, who’s also responsible for signing mega acts like The Killers and Gotye, at which point they began working on what would eventually become Wake Up.