Back in the blossoming noughties, the birth of music spotted online - in monumental proportions never dreamed of before - stemmed from the revelatory online platform Myspace, maturing into an essential tool to exhibit sound and connect with listeners in such a pacy and easy manner. Portland's Garage Rockers The Hugs, formed in 2007 by lead singer-songwriter Danny Delegato, willingly surfed a wave of the movement, and, although the period holds treasured memories, the landscape inevitably made tremendous shifts, for better or for worse.
"MySpace days are so nostalgic for me. It was a great platform for new indie bands initially but got sold and fell apart fast from what I gathered. It got our music when we were starting far and wide and really listened to by the industry. Music streaming has changed a lot since. Time has brought a lot of things to The Hugs: Like paying attention to detail, song-writing and the craft in the studio, learning how to perform spectacular gigs and get tight live and consistently, and I think mostly finding the right songs and production I want to make that will make my ideas flourish and shine."
From being a diligent 16 years old, Danny has tended to his music almost every day until he believes candidly it is ripe to be plucked and ready for the world; this can take years to revise a song, with no concerns of timescales an exercise of value. "Learning to take your time with demo's and not rushing songs is one of the better lessons I have learned in time. It's okay to rework old songs and ideas or even make a pop song into a rock song. I think it's important to tinker and experiment until I have something special. Most of all, you gotta keep having fun and enjoy the process."
COVID- 19 hit globally in 2020 and, along with unpredicted worries for all of society, a logistical nightmare of postponed gigs, producing and rehearsing halted and forced absence from each other made life troublesome for artists. However, modern technology outstretched its helping hand to offer a substitute route that aided not the survival of creative peeps.
"I got through the initial global pandemic focusing on creative writing at the Oregon Coast and outdoor recording sessions, where I finished a full-length album and an acoustic lo-fi E.P. We had a lot of furloughed shows etc., but rescheduling has started, which is good. I just kept going. Most of the time, we would do Skype or video chats for some writing sessions. We were also able to do a lot of the work in the studio; I had full demos written before we recorded the new album. They took advantage of sharing ideas by email but rejoiced to settle into the irreplaceable studio buzz. "We finished in December of 2020."
Likened to historic British Rock and American Pop bands of yesteryear, The Hugs are still captivated by the dependable style of international groups, who did not need to diversify themselves but influenced countless subgenres, while linking with contrasting inspiration with Hip Hop and Alternative Pop artists as they travelled on as an outfit.
"I enjoy a lot of Liverpool Psych-Rock music and American Pop from the 60s and 70s. The Doors are still a major influence on my writing. I also have been getting into The Monkees, Tommy James and The Shondells and Neil Young a lot lately. I am into newer groups like Peace from Birmingham; they are a talented and great band."
"I'm a big longtime fan of Damon Albarn, Beck and The Vines. Elliott Smith's albums are very dear to my influences as well since I was 16 years old. Acts like Mono from Japan, Cro from Germany (German Hip-Hop artist) are some unique influences I have. I like to jump from genre to genre, but Pop and Alternative Rock are always present."
A collection of new works temps fans with some varied approaches and new concepts. Song On and On acquaints us to the forthcoming, full-length album, pulling on the heartstrings with its progression, bongoesque beat patterns and smatterings of tingly bell sounds. It would fair well as part of an Indie film soundtrack, which was always the intention of the piece.
"On and On was recorded in several locations and built from a drum beat and an acoustic 12-string guitar. It's a sort of celebration of life in a dark time. And how humanity keeps trucking "on and on" and more so that we're strong in awful times. It was really written for a movie of some sort when I composed the song. I wanted it to be epic and inspiring."
Blustery and denser, track In The Dead Black Night channels a Madchester spirit but with the revered Garage Rock vocal effect retained, which may have a lil something to do with the mighty force of mixing by producer Gordon Raphael, who worked his venturesome magic on proceedings once more.
"Gordon brought a lot to the mixing of In The Dead Black Night; really brought the drums out and got the song to breathe new life. We sang the 'bah bahs' about five times - I think - in the chorus so we could bring that hook out. I wrote that song mainly about a fast-paced party lifestyle I lived through in my past and, sort of, travelling around the city a lot at night."
Golders Green, London, was where the original demo was written in 2010. "I reworked new drums and a catchy chorus into the mix. The song got close to what I wanted to capture, so we added vintage maracas and tambourine to give it a more nostalgic feel to finish it. I adore the Madchester scene, and we sang through some totally interesting microphones to get a natural grainy sound on the lead vocal."
There's an arresting retro visualiser to observe for number Future Nostalgia, which increases as a song beautifully; like a trend of The National perhaps, as it tells of the necessity to live in the right now, right this second, not in the past nor the future; to grab every moment with the respect it deserves.
"On the video, we had the idea to put old footage of past b-roll footage behind me in a basement studio through a projector with lots of extra blue lights. It was a loose idea but worked great once we coloured the footage and added the song. I think the link with the message was past moments that go by and how life is short, and it's important to be in the moment. As in Future Nostalgia, these periods now will slowly become new nostalgia."
"I think it reminds me to live in the moment. It's one of my favourite songs from our 5th album, Love You To Death. Mainly the build and harmonies at the end. I think I captured something special and sorta timeless, which I hope to build from and write more songs like that one."
We are chuffed to hear the news of Raphael mixing other works from the band - in the Northern England cultural magnet Hebden Bridge - that our ears will greet throughout summer 2021:"All four have a cool vibe and are different sounding but still sound like The Hugs."
"We've only just released Singing Out My Window, which is dedicated to one of my favourite actors and musician: River Phoenix. I wrote the song a while ago but wanted to get the production accurate and the vibe, and it finally all fell into place. It's one of my best singles as The Hugs, I think, from the new album and has a dreamy vibe. Lots of synths, piano and backing vocals that wash over the chords in a nice pleasant, peaceful way."
With an announcement of their 6th 12 track album, Delegato's lockdown acoustic E.P. untethered in the Fall, and oodles of new songs on the way, we tip our hat to the days of Myspace and its role as a vehicle to transmit, and even though we move on, the bands, music and The Hugs stand the test of time.
Article by Beverley Knight