Thanks to Johnny Pleasant for setting this up and Hammock for answering the questions! If you haven't picked up their new album yet, you should do so now.
Would you please introduce yourself for people who don’t know who’s behind the beautiful music that they listen to (or are about to after this interview)?
It’s mainly just us, Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson.
For how long have you been making music together? How about individually – for how long have each of you been playing music?
Individually we’ve both been playing music since we were teenagers. We’ve worked together musically for over ten years. We’ve been creating music as hammock since 2004 and released our first album in early 2005.
How and why did you decide to name your band "Hammock"? I'm curious because it's what caught my attention when I first checked out your music a couple of years ago.
I (Marc) had a hammock in my back yard. I used to go out at night and listen to music and gaze at the stars while lying in it. Anytime we finished something in the studio I would always bring it home and listen to it in my backyard to see if it stayed in that kind of otherworldly realm. I had a party at my house one night and Andrew came out and our mix engineer on the first few records, Skye McCaskey. We had by that time gathered enough material to make a proper album. We were outside about to walk in and one of us asked out loud what we should name our band and Skye saw the hammock in the backyard and said, “Call it Hammock.” It made total sense to us. Since then I had to throw out my hammock due to the recent flooding here in Nashville.
It’s certainly not easy to be a full time musician, so what made you determined to follow that path? And when did it finally become a “full time job” – or has it yet?
It’s pretty full time now. We are both very determined people. At one point I was sleeping on the floor of a studio on a blue air mattress with all of my belongings in the band van. So it hasn’t been easy for either of us. You sacrifice a steady pay check and we both have health insurance through our wife’s jobs. In Nashville you’re surrounded by music and there are studios everywhere. Not everybody here makes bad music but sometimes you have to just go in a session put your head down and wait for the check. We’re both not doing that as much anymore as Hammock grows.
What would you say is the best part of being a musician?
The best part is the creativity. We both view music in a very cathartic way. To be able to purge your personal demons through the craft of creating music is a beautiful thing. With Hammock it’s total artistic freedom. So we try to let what’s inside of us just come out. Then to have something so personal have an impact on others is very satisfying and surreal. We don’t take it lightly
You have been extremely consistent with your releases and have so far released 4 incredible full lengths in 6 years. What inspires the beautiful music that you create?
There are probably three things that continue to inspire us whether we are conscious of them or not. We’re both from small towns in the South. So we both love the southern landscape and the experience of the different seasons. The second thing is an understanding of the impermanence of life. When we look at this aspect of the human experience straight in the face we have a greater appreciation of life but at the same time we also experience a deep sense of melancholy. We hope that both of these emotions come out in our music. The third thing would be inspiration that we find in other people’s music.
Are there any bands that have affected your sound as a band, as well as your own personal take on music, significantly?
We like music that has an atmosphere so of course Brian Eno, William Basinski, Stars of the Lid, Cocteau Twins, and the more spacey sound of the Church and the Cure. We also gravitate towards the more cinematic side of music like Sigur Ros, Max Richter, Johann Johannsson and Arvo Part.
Many people need lyrics to tell them a story, but I believe that music itself can do that too, if not better. Do any of your albums tell a story, or are there any predominant themes?
I wouldn’t say they tell a literal story but they definitely have an interior one. The thing about music that is primarily instrumental is that the listener can create their own story. The predominant theme would probably be the juxtaposition of melancholy and loss along with a sense of redemption.
Do album titles mean anything? I find the latest titles (“Chasing After Shadows... Living With the Ghosts,” “Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow” and “Raising Your Voice... Trying To Stop An Echo”) quite intriguing. Any stories behind these?
Chasing After Shadows… Living With the Ghosts has to do with only seeing the shadow of things and not their reality and spending your life constantly chasing what’s not real. The idea of living with ghosts is a symbolic term that represents the things we can’t let go of. It might be the death of someone close to us, a relationship that ended or a past memory that continues to haunt us. Raising You Voice… Trying to Stop an Echo is from a Zen koan that I read. As far as Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow--A couple of years ago we were asked to play at the after party for Jonsi and Alex’s first US exhibit of their Riceboy Sleeps visual exhibit. Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow is the title of a piece that was in their exhibit. They were kind enough to let us use the title and create the cover for that record.
What about the use of the ellipses? Do they mean anything?
It both continues and separates a thought.
It seems as though instrumental music has taken off in recent years and is becoming more mainstream than ever before. What would you attribute this change to – the internet, or anything else?
It’s always been around. Probably the access the Internet brings has helped a great deal. For most of us that make instrumental it still feels like a pretty niche market.
We have a thread in our forums about how musicians rip themselves off sometimes. How do you manage to stay original and consistently make new, different music?
I think we always have the Hammock sound. Our first record was probably more electronic than anything we’ve ever done. The second one we wanted to be a little more polished and crisp. The third one was all beatless ambient because we wrote it for Riceboy’s after party show so just the two of us could pull it off in a live setting. Our newest one is more organic. We used real drums, a horn section and a string section. It’s definitely our most bombastic record so far. We don’t consciously set out to do something different, it seems to just happen.
Do you have plans to tour for the remainder of the year?
We have a show on September 11th but no solid plans for a tour yet. Still working some things out. We had to put some plans on hold due to the flood. It’s been an experience to say the least.
What bands have you toured with so far that have made quite an impression on you?
Stars of the Lid was a great experience because we’re fans. It was also cool to get to hang with Jonsi and Alex for a couple of days.
Are there any other ones that you have yet to tour with but would love to?
Sigur Ros would be amazing!
Any last words? Especially for those people who have yet to check out your music?
To our listeners and the ones familiar with us—Thanks for being so loyal. We know our kind of music is not for everyone. It does require some patience. I think you have to get into an album mindset when approaching our music. We still like the art of creating full albums. So if you take the time you might enjoy it.