Sergeant Thunderhoof are hard to pigeonhole, on one hand it's clear to see them dip into genres such as psych rock, but on the other they are so experimental with their music that it seems absurdly silly to lock them down like that. As you'll find out when you read on this is because they have given up on "making it" in the music industry. Furthermore, find out why they have a magnificent name, and why their new album, Terra Solus, may just be your album of the year...
Sergeant Thunderhoof: We knew we wanted a name which conveyed a theme or character. None of us in the band are particularly extravagant or charismatic to the extent that we feel comfortable having pictures of ourselves all over the place. I guess having a name like ours takes it away from us as individuals and allows us to hide behind it. So we just sat down and started tossing around names like ‘Captain Thunderclap’ and so on. Sergeant Thunderhoof seemed to have a nice rhythm to it. I can’t remember who specifically came up with it, but it has shaped the sound of the band massively in my opinion.
Q. What is the usual response when you tell people about your band name?
ST: It usually results in either a smile or a derisory rolling of the eyes. I guess some people assume we must be a joke band, but I think music can be taken pretty seriously.
Q. How was the band formed?
ST: I’ve known Jim and Darren since school, we were in a band called Indica together back in the late nineties until 2005. We always remained friends but pretty much fell out of touch for a while. Darren and I carried on with other musical projects and I also started working with Mark in a bar band around 2008. I think it was in the winter of 2013 when we all got together, initially just to have a jam and catch up. I hadn’t seen much of Jim at all for years so it was a nice way of reconnecting. Luckily, it turned out that there was a special chemistry with the line-up so we eventually recorded a bunch of songs which turned into the ‘Zigurat’ Ep. We recorded that before we even played our first gig.
Q. Given just one word, how would you describe your music?
Q. Listening to your music is genuinely an experience, how do you go about creating music like that?
ST: It usually always happens spontaneously when we’re jamming. Someone will start making noise and we’ll all join in at some point. We record all our practices, so 90% of what we jam gets abandoned and we’re left with 10% of stuff which has potential. We’ll then come back to it a week later and see if we can make it in to a song,
Q. What is your creative process like?
ST: It’s interesting as we all bring something unique to the table. Jim and Mark are very adept at pulling a huge riff out of the ether. Darren approaches his parts in a very holistic way, he’s always concerned with the riff first over his own ego which I’ve always admired. He’ll do whatever he thinks best serves the song. I think my main talent is in arranging and a lot of the time I’ll find myself conducting the proceedings with hand and voice commands until we all think we’ve hit the sweet spot.
Q. How hard is it to continue creating psych infused rock, in a generation where it doesn’t get the love it deserves?
ST: It’s not hard at all for us because we all genuinely don’t care anymore! We’re not bothered if no-one else likes what we do or whether there’s even a market for it. We stopped caring about ‘making it’ in the music business years ago. I think that removing that pressure has helped liberate us and it allows us to take risks in a musical sense. We often get lumped in to the ‘stoner rock’, ‘doom’, ‘desert’, ‘psychedelic’ scenes but we’ve never looked at it in that way. We just play music that makes us smile and laugh and enjoy ourselves. The fact that we’ve refused a number of record deals has been a massive bonus for us. We communicate and sell directly to our fans and I love that.
Q. How often are you writing and going into the studio?
ST: We’ll generally always have something we’re working on or is on the back burner for later exploration. We treat each album as its own project, so once we release something we’ll change the live set to incorporate and include as much of that as possible. I happen to own a music studio which obviously helps us to achieve our goals and so it’s very easy for us to pop in and out of the studio when we have something ready to go.
Q. What comes first for you, the lyrics or the music?
ST: The music always comes first. I’ll generally sing a load of gibberish over the music during the writing process. It’s often the sound of a word rather than the content that eventually inspires the final lyrics.
Q. You’re due to release ‘Terra Solus’ on May 14th, how much are you looking forward to that?
ST: Can’t wait. We’ve put so much hard work in to this album and I really think this is us at our best. Each album has been a progression from the last and this one feels very much like an album that only we could release.
Q. I’ve had a sneak listen to it, there’s a deep sense of progression for you as a band, is that something you strived for?
ST: Absolutely. I’m not interested in playing rock music by numbers or doing something ‘heavy’ just to please a certain percentage of our audience. We’re all about creating atmosphere with dynamics, patience and tone.
Q. Which of the songs mean the most to you, and why?
ST: There’s a short quiet song near the end called ‘Half a Man’ that we recorded as a kind of afterthought. I came up with the lyrics on the spot and it was very much a stream of consciousness. I listen back now and lyrically it has everything we wanted to say about the story of Sergeant Thunderhoof within it. That probably means the most to me. As for my favourite song on the album, I’d probably go with ‘The Tree and the Serpent’. To me it has a slight Rolling Stones vibe with the bluesy guitar. Mark’s guitar solo on that sends shivers down my spine.
Q. How long has this album taken to create?
ST: The writing took about 12 months. We tackled the recording in two, week long chunks over the space of a couple of months.
Q. What hindered you the most whilst making the album?
ST: There was so much shit that we had to deal with both personally and professionally. There’s been quite a lot of illness within the band and our families. Me and my partner had our second child in October which was right in the middle of the recording process. There’s been loads of good and bad stuff happen over the last couple of years which I can’t go in to, but we’ve stuck together and helped each other out where we can. Ideally we would have liked to have got this out in early 2017, but the master of all things had other ideas for us.
Q. What tips do you have for any aspiring bands?
ST: Turn up to rehearsals. Don’t break up. Don’t drink too much. Don’t be a dick. Treat every single one of your fans like royalty.
Q. What’s coming after ‘Terra Solus’?
ST: We have a bunch of gigs over the Summer and we’re hoping to get some festival dates in by the end of the year. We’re going to keep writing and recording and just see where the wind takes us. We don’t have a record company breathing down our neck, so we can pretty much do as we please which is a lovely feeling.
Terra Solus is available on CD and double vinyl direct from www.sergeantthunderhoof.c