Analogue Music | Hammock


By Matt Conner

Hammock's new album is decidedly different. It's also distinctly Hammock.

The sonic terrain of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson never veers too far from the ambient soil they've explored thus far, but within that sacred space created by Hammock's beautiful compositions, the duo's new album required a greater "push-pull" than ever before.

Coming out of the pandemic, Byrd says the duo wanted to reintroduce the human element to album creation and to let go of the administrative side. That meant bringing in an outside producer like Chad Howat (Paper Route, Paramore) and shaking up the creative spaces in which they worked. The communal aspects made things messier, perhaps, but therein lies the tension that often gives rise to new considerations.

A few weeks before the release of their new album, Love in the Void, we sat down with Byrd to hear more about this present stage of Hammock and the journey to make an album "apart from their own devices".

Analogue: I've gotta start with a personal anecdote, because I'm friends with Chad Howat, who helped produce this album, and love his work. Curious if you'd worked with him before or how that came to be?

Marc Byrd: No, I hadn't worked with Chad. We just knew we wanted to work with someone who could offer some outside perspective without being too hands-on or overbearing. I got the impression Chad liked our music and Matt Kidd is a dear friend and is in Slow Meadow and I think he turned me onto Chad. I knew about Paper Route, but honestly, I paid attention to some of the things he'd mixed. That was probably the biggest things. Without him knowing it, I would listen to what he put on Instagram and I decided we should give him a try and it was a really good balance.

This record is heavier—heavy in a sense of Hammock, not Underoath—and Chad had a lot to do with that. I also didn't want to have anything to do with booking players or a studio or any of that stuff. Andrew and I just really wanted to be artists on this one versus doing everything. Coming out of the pandemic, we'd done the album Elsewhere separate from each other for the most part, and we really just wanted to work with humans. We wanted that communal experience when making an album. So I think Love in the Void is the most band-sounding album that we've done.

https://www.hammockmusic.comAnalogue: I want to follow a couple of those threads. How hard is it for you to let someone in? You seemed to speak about that difficulty of trusting someone else and yet that's what you wanted.

Marc: I’ve produced and I’ve been produced and I know that trust is feeling comfortable enough to fail, feeling comfortable enough to express your limitations without feeling like… in Nashville, I don’t like the way a lot of records are made because it’s so conveyor-belt. Andrew and I have our limitations, and it’s important to understand those and have that help you find your signature sound.

I knew I didn’t want someone in there who would say, ‘Go to the four.’ I mean, there’s no chart-reading in Hammock sessions. That’s bullshit. That’s not what we want at all. So to have the trust with someone I knew would push but not over-push, I don’t know how that came about.

I think it’s also about getting older. You become more comfortable saying, ‘I’m not going to do that’ but also ‘I need to try that because I’m not comfortable doing that.’ So the real reason to bring someone in from the outside is to push you to get comfortable doing something you’ve been uncomfortable with.

To do what we’ve done with strings and choir on the last records is an immense amount of pressure. I just didn’t want to feel that on this record. Asking anyone to come in from the outside is dangerous and exciting. You have to allow the process to unfold to see if you can trust each other. There are things that Chad suggested that we didn’t do and there are things that we did do. Having him there to push some elements and having a real drummer to do the real push and pull with us—it was more exciting than it would have been if we’d been left to our own devices.

"Asking anyone to come in from the outside is dangerous and exciting. You have to allow the process to unfold to see if you can trust each other."

Analogue: The way you just spoke about wanting to work with “real humans." Did you feel that hunger during the pandemic?

Marc: It was something even before the pandemic, which was weird because I’d been talking to our manager and saying, ‘I want to go into a real studio.’ I mean we always go into a real studio in the making of all of our records, and I say that as if we don’t already have studios in our houses. You know what I mean. But I told him that I wanted to be able to do what Andrew and I used to do and be able to camp out—to only go home for 9 hours and then get right back to it.

I knew I wanted to do that before the pandemic hit, and then when it did, I just thought we’d have to find a different way to make a record. That record ended up being Elsewhere, because we had some sketches that we’d done, and that kind of record is easier to do sending files back and forth. The pandemic just amped that up, I’ll say that. It pushed me to want things even more.

The last thing you need to do when you’ve been a band as long as us is to get bored and take for granted that what you’re doing is good. Our records definitely sound different because some have drums and others don’t. Some are straight-up ambient and others are shoegaze, but I don’t think the sign of a good band is one that’s always reinventing itself. I don’t think that’s the case for us.

Analogue: So how would you answer that? What is the sign of a good band?

Marc: I think you have to do away with fear and you have to do away with outside peer pressure to make you think you have to do something that would be so far outside the comfort zone that it’s almost like being in a band. I think Andrew and I have the perfect working relationship, where I’ll push him and he’ll push me. If there were two of me in the band, it wouldn’t last. We would have beaten each other up already. But Andrew and I have a nice push and pull.

I always like a band where I can tell… I mean, Radiohead always sounds like Radiohead and The Cure always sounds like the Cure. I’m referencing older bands but they can do different types of records but there’s a defining characteristic to it. The trick is, when you’re primarily an instrumental band without a singer, how do you keep that excitement going. For us, it’s this ambient wash or atmosphere that undergirds everything—whether it’s a string part, a heavy compositional piece, or a guitar piece. I think there’s a lot of baby Hammocks out there that have taken parts of what we do and it sounds derivative and that’s the last thing I want to do is to sound derivative of our own selves.

Love in the Void
Love in the Void

That’s the challenge. How do you do that without being so overly conscious about it? I also think that’s self-defeating. Guess what you’re going to sound like if you repeat yourself? Yourself!

Analogue: Yeah I get it. You can become the voice at the same time that you’re trying to keep the voices at bay.

Marc: Exactly.


Marc: In hindsight?

Analogue: Yeah.

Marc: It was exactly what we needed. We went into a place that’s no longer a studio—I guess they sold it—run by two younger dudes. They had incredible gear and a sense of experimentation. A lot of times when you’re making a record, the drums are the big thing you need to set up and stay set-up because it’s so time-consuming to get the sound. But they were willing to tear down and build a new set—and this is all on one song that could have three drum-set configurations.

I’ll tell you this was the reason that Chad was so important to have. When we would get uncomfortable to want to push, Chad would push. You get to the point where you don’t want to upset anyone. People are moody. But Chad was able to just say, ‘Let’s try this.’

There’s a title on the record, “It’s Okay to be Afraid of the Universe.” That title exists because one of the engineers was talking with me about some scientific thing and I heard him say that under his breath. I was like, ‘We’re stealing that for a title.’ That would have never happened had we shut out the rest of the world.

It’s also getting feedback and watching people react to the music in real-time to see which things are moving people. So it was exactly what we needed and the type of place we needed to do it in. I began my career in a studio in Berry Hill in Nashville and it was a home studio. Now I end up just two blocks away doing a record I feel was a risk to take, but at the same time, it was necessary. I think we needed other people in the room to push us toward that.

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