by Andrew Frey
August 2012

Hewn from Madison, WI - photo by Nick Berard

Hewn from Madison, WI
photo by Nick Berard

Hewn. A short and simple name for a band that is neither simple nor small nor easily explained.

“When Sam Spotts (Acoustic Guitar, Growls & Such) and I first got together I had no idea what kind of music he was playing,” begins Ben Lisser (Pots and Pans, Piano, Guitar, Vocals, Head Chef). “All I knew was that I loved it and had to be a part of it. We both wrote a lot together and never really tried to produce a certain kind of music. Sam would present a song and I would record it and add drums, and piano and anything else we felt was necessary.”

However, the duo ran into a dilemma early on. Sam recalls, “When Ben and I started recording we quickly realized that unless we both grew four more arms and an extra head we couldn’t recreate the sound
that we made on the recording.”

Thus the ranks of Hewn swelled to 7 when Sam and Ben enlisted the aid of musical cohorts, Forrester Barry (Djembe, Vocals, Rabble Rouser), Nathan Bowie (Bass, Vocals, Cool Hand Luke), Jake Blumer (Electric Guitar, Plucko), Adam Bluhm (Pots and Pans, Accordion, Vocals, Whistles/Kazoo, Thrower of Stuffs) and Christian Lisser (Drums & percussion, Motor Man).

That’s a lot of musicians and egos. What keeps the band together?

“We all really enjoy playing music together, and that we get along great,” cites Ben. “When composing a song together with anyone it’s always a question of, “will you like what the other person comes up with” and in this case we do. Writing with this many people is always a challenge and it’s always chaos, and for us that works perfectly.”

Sam continues, “As far as our music goes, it’s just a blend of multiple genres that we all enjoy. You can hear sounds that are definitely rooted in jazz, blues, country, gypsy and world music. I feel like that is where a lot of music is going because people want to find the combinations of genres that they enjoy. We are unsure of what direction it’s heading and that’s exciting.”

Hewn has been hard at work preparing for their new album. The recording process for the new album was quite unique. Ben enlightens us. “In the summer of 2010 I was offered a recording internship ship at Sundlaugin studios owned by Sigur Ros and asked Sam to come along with me. Being in that country and being in that studio was a great inspiration for us. For that first month we were there it was 24 hours of sunlight and a lot of nights writing music and walking the streets of Mosfellbar, trying to figure out where we wanted this band to go. Within a month we were given the chance to have free range of the studio during the late hours of that night. Sigur Ros being such a interesting group of people and musicians, they had loaded that studio with every instrument we could have dreamed of and I’d be dammed if we didn’t take full advantage of that. Recording has always started with Sam and finished with me. He comes up with something; we add on that, take about 20 cigarette breaks and all of the sudden we have a song. Our process has always changed just as our venues have, from a professional studio, a basement, an attic, or in a stairwell in the hewn house.

“The album is dark and eclectic, and kind of all over the place,” Ben continues. “All of the songs have their own story, and at times are written by different members of the band. I would say it’s not really about just one thing but more a look inside the minds of Hewn, plus it is completely produced, engineered, mastered and released by Hewn “It’s the first ever mulberry scented scratch & sniff cd to be released,” notes Sam emphatically. “Ever!” 

In the end, Ben sums up things this way, “Hewn is a big family and we don’t ever want that to change and that is something you can hear in our music. Also, our live performance is very important to us. We believe in creating music that is fun and having a live show that reflects that.”

Jake adds, “On stage we are a rowdy bunch of musicians that like to feed off each other like a family and get loud. “

But don’t just take their word, go see for yourself. Hewn’s CD release is set for August 19th at the Majestic, playing alongside Tiger Clutch, Orphan Bloom, and the Peach Pies.

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