Interview: The Warhawks (2020)
We had the chance a couple of months ago to check in with Patrick Bilodeau, the drummer for New Jersey based group The Warhawks, and chat with him about the new album they were working on at that time. Now that their album Stardust Disco has been released, we checked back in to chat with singer/guitarist John Bilodeau and talk all about the album, how it’s different and similar in comparison to their 2019 EP Never Felt So Good, working with producer Dave Downham again and what he brought to the studio that helped them most with shaping the new album, and much more!
1.Tell us a little bit about the brand-new EP Stardust Disco and what your fans can expect from it?
Fans can expect excitement. We tried to jam pack Stardust Disco with huge hooks, beats that make you move, and new sounds we haven’t ever used.
2. What major differences will people hear when comparing Stardust Disco with your 2019 EP Never Felt So Good?
What’s different about this record is that we wanted a more cohesive sound. The Warhawks ideology is that we can write in any style or genre we want, but we wanted to use similar sounds, instruments, and vocal matchups to make it one melted statue of a record. We also always wanted to stray and write more danceable songs like The Cars and The Clash did. It shows on Stardust.
3. Piggybacking off that last question, what signatures and similarities will people hear when comparing Stardust Disco with your 2019 EP Never Felt So Good?
The albums are similar lyrically. The Warhawks still write about life on the East Coast, relationships, and believing in something bigger than your problems at your local dive bar.
4. You chose to work with producer Dave Downham on Stardust Disco – the same producer you had on Never Felt So Good. This album has some differences to it in comparison soundwise – how did Dave help tighten up these new sounds in the studio?
Dave is one of the best kept secrets in music production. Downham should be mentioned alongside any of the greats. He really can and wants to make the album that you want to make. Weeks before recording we send Dave albums that we like the sound of. He will listen, get a game plan, and come in with some really insightful tricks. For this record, Dave and Pat tightened up the drums to almost mimic a drum machine or a Casio keyboard track. Dave also knows our strengths in learning, and using, new instruments and vocal harmonies. He pushed us to sing in new ways and to use organs, synths, theremins, or castanets to achieve the sound.
5. What is your personal favorite song from Stardust Disco and why?
My personal favorite is “I Can’t Wait.” When we came up with that chorus hook originally, it sounded like The Wonders from That Thing You Do; almost like a new hit they would write in 2020. Matt wrote a cool psychedelic verse that was almost Jefferson Airplane and we put that riff over it and that was it. The words are about breaking down in Toledo on tour. It’s fun, it’s New York dolls; I love it.
6. With a few different sounds and styles shining through on the EP, which one song do you feel is the best definition of the EP as whole?
“Dire” is a good representation of the album as a whole. It has the dance/synthy style that half the songs have, and it also has that indie rock power pop of the other songs. It aligns with some of Pats lyrical ideas and it gives off a positive outlook like my songs, but it’s written by Matt.
7. There used to be a thing in all the music magazines on the reviews, RIYL (recommended if you like), where they’d list similar bands that were comparable to what they were reviewing. Who would you say those RIYL bands are for The Warhawks?
RIYL is cool because it’s separate from influences. For The Warhawks, I think each of our albums has a different recommendation. I’d say The Clash, The Strokes, The Cars, and Beach Boys. All those bands have that hard, fast edge with the ability to explore surrounding genres like Stardust Disco.
8. Your albums have a raw grittiness to them. How much of that sound is really just a transfer from stage to studio captured perfectly?
We always want to be able to play these songs live without sacrificing studio magic. The grit is because we keep things simple and as close to that live sound we strive for. Even on this album we pushed the guitars and vocals heavier and punchier to reflect that live atmosphere.
9. On your live shows, you do have a string of shows coming up (mostly on the East coast) in February and March in support of the album release. For fans who have seen you live in the past, how will be incorporating the new songs into your sets, and what familiar tunes will they also be hearing on this tour?
All the Stardust songs are incorporated. Our local and true fans really love to be surprised by new tracks so we will play mostly new songs. The ones that stick; “Miracle,” “Your Touch,” “Not A Problem,” “Soulsucker,” “Don’t F**k With Me,” and “Change” are because of how well the fans respond to them. Those songs will still be present so they can belt them out.
10. We asked you this last time we chatted, but always like to help the next generation by ending all our Q&A’s with this question. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with their first band today?
Write Choruses. The Warhawks spent years trying to be unique and different and we realized we lost the core songwriting techniques. Write good songs, good choruses first (even if they’re cheesy or basic sounding) and then start developing your own spin.