It’s always great news when you put out a new Spongetones album. How has things been different with "Too Clever by Half" as compared with earlier albums?
JH: It was kinda like setting a fire-we just kept adding fuel. It was a really exciting record to make-for all of us. The success of "Skinny" (single from the Textural Drone Thing) has lit a fire.
You’ve been producing and playing on so many interesting albums – any cool experiences you’ll want to talk about (the most fun, the coolest sessions)?
JH: They are all fun and interesting to me-in different ways. I get to see a lot of cool things develop from the ground up. I get to discover great new singers and writers. Rebecca Rippy and Clayton Williamson, to name a recent few. Lindy Dobbins too.
How did you and Steve come up with the title track "Too Clever by Half"?
JH: It was a game. He suggested each of us writing a line each-using the dictionary. The rule was you had to open the dictionary to a random page and choose a word-then write a line. It worked very well and at some point it became a story-which we just finished-without staying to the "rules". I love that tune. It’s a real co-write-in every sense of the word. Lots of fun to do!
You have had an amazing influence on lots of North Carolina bands. What advice do you have for these young power pop bands today?
JH: Always continue to make records… and make the records YOU want to make. Don’t be guided by anything but your own desires.
Having been together for 30 years, do know what the other guys are thinking on stage or in the studio when you play?
JH: Absolutely. We "shine" a lot. It’s a brotherhood and a great marriage.
I heard there are no cut tracks or outtakes – did you plan for 18 songs??
JH: Not at all. I actually hate for records to be too long, personally – but I just couldn’t leave any of these songs off.
You are part of a unique fraternity of producers, yourself, Mitch Easter and Don Dixon are considered the fathers of the "jangle" pop – do you all like the same types of music or do you get into any debates on musical tastes?
JH: We all share like mindedness on our musical tastes, really. We can all veer off in different directions-but I can never recall just thinking "well I don’t like that shit" when either of those two were talking. They are both easy and fun to be around, for me. I love and respect them both.
Any interesting stories of playing live you’d like to share? Like, the most embarassing moment on stage?
JH: Playing a Marti Jones show at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium in DC with Tommy Keene opening up for us. 800 seater, or so. Lots of Spongetone fans with records for me to sign. The sound check went fine-no problems at all. They had plugged all my equipment into the lighting circuit-which wasn’t a problem at all-until the dimmed the lights at show time. When they did dim the lights it immediately blew my old trusty amp. Marti had to sing her second song solo while they put in my spare. On the same circuit, of course. Bang… the spare blew…Marti had to do another solo tune. They plugged my pedals directly into the PA-which sounded like shit and Dixon couldn’t stand that-either could I. Marti did another solo tune while they changed out my stuff to play through Tommy’s amp; a transistor Rolland Jazz
Chorus amp – which actually continued to work. (thanks Tommy!) Then I
began to break strings… more changes and interruptions. Finally – when I was about to give up and die – we played "Follow You All Over The World" – as song I play mandolin on – over my vocal mike. I sing too. My mic stand started to lower itself-because it was never tightened up properly beforehand. It just got lower and lower. It became comical-I had to keep sinking with the stand hight-until at the end I was on my knees.
I suppose this gig could have been worse – if I’d crap in my pants or something… Otherwise, it was my worst gig. A whole row of Tones fans were still there – asking for my autograph – of which-of course I gave them happily. Marti still loves me too.
I heard another Spongetones album is in the works… when is this one coming out?
JH: Steve and I already have 7 co-writes. Still on fire! Soon, I’d say. I just need to get them into my studio!
Thanks for interview, Jamie.
Click here to get the new Spongetones CD "To Clever By Half".