May/June 2021

by Amanda Mills

Adam Hattaway: Probably Quite Genuine

by Amanda Mills

Adam Hattaway: Probably Quite Genuine

Woolston, Christchurch. The home base of musician and songwriter Adam Hattaway of Adam Hattaway And The Haunters, the city’s most exciting – and only – alternative rock’n’roll band. Since their first album back in 2018, ‘All Dat Love’, the quartet have steadily grown their fanbase and developed their sound. 2021 sees them releasing ‘Woolston, Texas’ which as Hattaway tells Amanda Mills, is an album that’s half about having dark thoughts, with the other half about nostalgia and trying not to look back on fond teenage memories.

Adam Hattaway and the Haunters has a core of three members – Hattaway, bassist Liam Quinn, and guitarist Elmore Jones – with other musicians coming and going. Quinn and Hattaway have been playing together since they were 15, while Jones first met Hattaway a few years ago.

“We’re all Bob Dylan fanatics and love classic stuff, and love old soul and country, and blues,” Hattaway explains. “But we also love a variety of new things, and know how important it is to listen to new genres and styles.”

Hattaway always gravitated towards music. His father taught him the piano as a child, and he had guitar lessons from age nine to 14, from when he continued to teach himself, developing his own sound.

“I tried to not worry too much about being technically right… but with guitar, for instance, there are just some things that you should really iron out early on,” he laughs.

He has come up with the genre ‘alternate rock’n’roll’ to describe the sound on their new album, ‘Woolston, Texas’, which was recorded at The Sitting Room in Lyttelton, produced by Ben Edwards and mixed by Ryan Fisherman (included in the photo above), a long time friend of the band who also played the drums on the album. The term was adopted after brainstorming with a friend and his partner/manager, who suggested Hattaway come up with a “bold” label for his music.

“What it really is is rock’n’roll, but it’s kind of like alternative rock’n’roll… I’ve looked it up, and no-one called themselves that,” he smiles. “It kind of fits what we do, even though it’s not that far off the grid from what anyone else does.”

The band’s debut album ‘All Dat Love,’ gained some attention, but Hattaway says he didn’t really notice anything much.

“Maybe there were a few write-ups… and people who say they like the record, and some people who request the songs. But it’s not like we’ve been playing to lots of people… it’s just been a really gradual thing.”

Their 2019 follow-up ‘Crying Game’ album was stripped back, less indie rock and more soul-tinged rock ‘n’ roll. Produced by Delaney Davidson and recorded at The Lab, with Jol Mulholland engineering, it went top 10 on the NZ Albums chart, an unexpectedly positive result.

“I don’t know how any of that stuff works!” Hattaway laughs. “Sometimes we play shows and there’s a bunch of people, and sometimes there’s not many people… I don’t know who’s buying it where, or if they’re listening through streaming?”

2020’s lockdown proved productive for the band with a lot of new material written. Hattaway looks back on the period positively for his own songwriting particularly.

“I felt pretty good… I wrote some songs that were quite sad, but they were more reflecting upon previous sadness and hard times. To be honest, I think I write more efficiently in times of contentment, obviously I write songs about happy things as well, but I think if I’m sad I can’t write very efficiently. If I’m happy I can draw on the sad times and write quite a lot.”

‘Woolston, Texas’ has been almost ready for some time, written in 2019, and mostly recorded before NZ’s early 2020 lockdown. Hattaway thinks the album emerged in a more organic way than others.

“I set out to write those first two albums in a certain style,” he explains. “Variations on old-school soul, RnB, rock’n’roll kind of stuff, which didn’t exactly come out quite that way, but I was trying to write in a certain genre.”

His previous songs have been largely fictional, but ‘Woolston, Texas’ reflects more personal themes and “… was probably quite genuine,” he muses.

Speaking of which, Hattaway and band happily wear those American music influences on their sleeves.

“Probably most music I listen to is from America, whether it’s soul music, or blues, or really older music, or classics like Bob Dylan. But all that stuff definitely influences us more than most. And I like American music blended with some NZ styles.

“I reckon if I was actually gonna name artists, I could tell you exactly where things come from on that album,” he smiles. “It’s probably like Neil Young and Crazy Horse, especially on the first track, The Replacements as well, which is not Americana, and I like to veer into that… indie rock area. Then there’s The Stones, and Tom Petty… the Beach Boys as well… and then there’s Pavement.”

Continuing on with the theme of mixing different styles is the album’s title – this time combining Hattaway’s home suburb in Christchurch, with the second-largest state in the US of A. Describing Woolston (NZ) Hattaway notes that as well as the Port Hills view, there’s also an industrial zone, and the gelatine factory near the river, which he says, “smells like dead, boiling horse.” Now that’s a vivid picture.

He likes the album title which directly reflects the influence of both NZ and American music, but had there been a Woolston in Texas they would’ve changed the name. He wanted it to be a hybrid of reality and fiction.

“I like album titles to be a little bit silly, and if it sounds good genuinely then it’s good, but if it’s also got a little bit of tongue in cheek, then I’m happy with that as well.”

Some of the themes running through ‘Woolston, Texas’ are what he describes as “…a part of life in some way or another.” Hattaway’s acknowledgement of having had quite a bleak period during 2019, when he wrote the album, comes through in the lyrics to the musically upbeat and lush Big Night, (he is fond of such juxtapositioning), while the album also has passing references to his band and partner.

He admits he follows “… the classic thing of writing about breakups”, (although he hasn’t gone through one for years), knowing that the topic is universal.

“I don’t want to say it’s a cop-out,” he smiles, “but I listen to so much music that’s about that it just comes out that way.”

The process of recording at The Sitting Room was disjointed due to lockdown, and while it was frustrating, Hattaway has nothing but praise for producer Ben Edwards. He’s particularly grateful for the attention to detail.

“There’s things he thinks of, which [you] never would have thought of without him. Just the minute details, like bass dropping out for a few seconds at a certain point, drums coming in or changing the feel and really getting the best out of things.”

The band’s prolific nature means they have another record coming up. When we speak they’ve just recorded 22 songs to four-track tape (for a potential double album) at Sublime Studios in Kurow – a studio Hattaway rates as one of the best he’s ever recorded in. And they have material ready for yet another album, scheduled for recording in July. He is keen to write and record a lot.

“I feel like why wouldn’t we if we can? If you’ve got time, do as much as possible. I don’t want to cut corners or anything, but it doesn’t need to be… ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, not every note has to be perfect, you know?”

Known for having frenetic, incredible live shows, Adam Hattaway and the Haunters are touring ‘Woolston, Texas’ during May.

“It’s just sort of every weekend for most weekends for two months… I just really want to make it as much of a show as possible, even though it’s just little venues,” he says. “When we toured last November, I was gagging for it. I’m always so keen. If I think it’s viable, and we could at least break even, then I’ll tour as much as possible.”

Yep. That’s the alternative rock’n’roll life for you.


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