Danny Ebdale, the lead singer and guitarist in well-received Auckland indie band Hospital Sports, has also quietly been working on his solo project – April’s Fool – for the last five years. Hospital Sports is known for their delicate combination of emo and indie rock, with Ebdale exploring this sound further with April’s Fool. Jean Bell sat down with him to discuss his involvement in both projects.
Hospital Sports was formed when Danny Ebdale, Morgan Allen and Nick Prussing met and started jamming – what started five years ago as instrumental math rock jams grew into the band releasing full albums with lyrics.
“I met Nick six years ago and we were just having guitar and drum jams for a while…then I met Morgan a year later and we sort of just jelled straight away,” says Danny.
A number of classic emo rock bands have had a strong influence, such as American Football and Death Cab For Cutie, both of which he has seen live.
“I started listening to Death Cab when I was 13 and I still do.”
Hospital Sports released their latest album ‘Take Care’ in January this year, the three band members all having a hand in producing. The record is tactfully short but sweet, eight tracks of finely detailed and well-constructed indie rock with emo influences. Danny says his music writing, including for the band, happens very intuitively. He records a demo at home and then refines it further.
“I think it’s good to take your time when you’re writing and recording. I don’t want it to seem rushed.”
Taking time to tweak things isn’t limited to just writing and recording – it extends to the album in its entirety.
“I wanted to make sure ‘Take Care’ flowed like a concept album. It’s not really a concept album, but I like to make sure all of my albums are like that.”
While ‘Take Care’ largely sticks to the staple guitar, bass and drum arrangement, the band introduce some variety by the way of strings from Laurence Diak and Sam Loveridge on Notes and What Am I Gonna Do.
“I’ve had the idea of having strings for a while in my songs and it serves those two songs well – something about having it at the end gets the message across more strongly.”
Album closer What Am I Gonna Do in particular proved a challenge.
“That took us so long to get perfect, like six months, but it sort of has this nice flow to it. It’s the most intense song I’ve written – there’s like this weird math rock bit in the middle and the time signatures go crazy.”
Lyrically, the album keeps it real and covers all the angst of being young.
“I don’t want to sing about random shit like Bon Iver. I make sure they sound as much the way I talk as possible,” he says.
While things with Hospital Sports are in a lull following the album release, Danny hasn’t slowed down, turning his attention instead to his solo act April’s Fool, for which a debut album, ‘Blood Of Love’, was released in late last year.
“I started recording the songs at the end of 2012 and finished mid-2016. I recorded all the songs in my bedroom on an M-Audio interface that I’ve had for years and I played all the instruments.
“April’s Fool is a bit more personal lyrically as opposed to Hospital Sports where I try to keep the words more universal. The live shows are just me playing the guitar, singing and using some loops. I want to record another album soon… I’ve been working on this math rock [with a] really weird time signature thing. I really want to keep it instrumental but I feel I might put vocals in at some point. Maybe I won’t sing in American, maybe I’ll sing in New Zealand, in a Kiwi accent!”
Under the April’s Fool moniker, Danny enjoys complete control and freedom, allowing his compositional approach to change as he has become more practised at recording.
“I used to record all the songs as demos first, but now I just write the songs in my head and then anticipate recording them properly, which makes recording even more fun. I usually write the music first and then words shortly after.”
Commenting on what he feels is the vital ingredient to success, Danny reckons there are a number of factors, among which is the old cliché: practise, practise, practise.
“Practise when you don’t need to practise. We practised so much [and] wasted money at practice places, but it was all worth it because we don’t need to look at each other when we play. In any band I am in I just want to make sure we don’t have to think about it and that it’s ingrained in our brain.”
Resilience also is important – especially in the face of apparent indifference.
“Just play shows to no one. I’ve done that many times. It’s all good unless you beat yourself up about it. I just can’t believe there is one person there watching and staying there the whole time.
“Spending a lot of time alone really does make for something beautiful, [but] I don’t need to do that anymore. I’ve spent so many years in my room recording and writing, but now I never do that – which is something I’ve been aiming for.
“I’m not saying everyone should aim for that, but I’m glad I don’t have to spend any more time in my room,” April’s Fool laughs.