Hard To Define Sound In All Its Eclectic, Energetic Glory
The Hague creates music that ebbs and flows with its own singular logic, abandoning easy categories in favor of a wide-open approach that moves in all directions at the same time. The sound of Travis Chapman’s lead violin may be the first thing you notice, but you’re soon drawn in by the clash of industrial noise and delicate melodies; guitars that dance between acoustic finger picking and thick power chords; soaring vocal harmonies that shift from melancholy to jubilant and arrangements full of dynamic shifts of volume and tempo. The music is rock, but the band’s epic sound tips its hat to country, pop, jazz, post rock, punk, early R&B, classical and 90’s underground sounds. “Our songs are all over the place,” says Charlie Fisher, the band’s bass player. “We have grungy post rock, up tempo dance songs, pop punk and alt. country songs. We’re likely to include anything that comes to mind when we’re playing.”
On stage, in the studio, and in the songwriting process, The Hague is a collaborative effort, with every band member contributing to the final result. Drummer Jesse Tranfo and guitarist Shawn Steven grew up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, playing punk and metal, but wanted to create a band without
preconceived limits. A mutual friend introduced Fisher, they found the classically trained Chapman on craigslist and added old pal James Logan on second guitar to complete the lineup. They’ve been playing, writing and recording for three years and Black Rabbit’s nine expansive tracks show the band at the peak of their power. “This album is darker and more layered than
anything we’ve done,” Steven says. “It’s a headphones record, as much as a rock album.”
The band says the sound of Black Rabbit is “quiet music played loud,” a description that perfectly fits their wide-ranging approach. The album opens with “An Open Book Conversationalist,” a bracing shot of instrumental
punk/jazz, driven by Chapman’s fiddle, chiming guitars and unexpected rhythmic shifts. An a cappella intro hints at the early R&B chord structure of “Everyone,” but Chapman’s excursions are more Celtic than urban, leading
to a harmonic choral interlude that sets up the tension filled finale. The cryptic lyric of “I’m Sorry, I Thought This Was A City” is full of disappointment, pain and drunkenness, but it’s musically buoyant, propelled by Fisher’s serpentine bass and Tranfo’s skittering beats. Steven and Logan drop a quiet, shimmering guitar interlude into the mix before a conclusion
that blends roaring post-rock noise with Steven’s anguished vocals. “Passing Cars,” another instrumental track, is a moody tour de force, featuring Chapman’s spectral violin, cavernous reverberating guitar overtones and Tranfo’s slightly skewed timekeeping. Throughout the album, the band’s densely layered sound keeps you off guard as instruments and vocals float
through the mix, beckoning you deeper into the band’s kaleidoscopic musical universe.
Steven and Tranfo started The Hague in 2009. “We wanted a band without boundaries, where we could play without worrying about it fitting into a genre or a scene,” Tranfo explains. “Shawn and I grew up together and, when we ended up in Portland, we wanted make songs that were fun to write and play, without worrying about the end result.” Tranfo played jazz and
classical music in junior high, but joining a rock band changed his life. Steven wanted to play jazz guitar, but got sidetracked by The Smiths and punk rock. He played in a few bands growing up, but concentrated on honing his chops until starting The Hague. Travis is a driven musician; he practices violin six hours a day, teaches music and writes his own music
when he’s not playing with The Hague. Fisher was raised on punk and considers himself a bass player more than a musician. He wants to make music
with an emotional impact. Logan, like his band mates, grew up playing guitar and listening to underground music, while dreaming of the perfect band, which he found when he joined The Hague.
With all five band members in place, the band began a rigorous schedule of songwriting, recording and touring, venturing up and down the West Coast and as far east as Chicago. They’ve been released three EPs and two albums including, The Hague: Live from the Banana Stand, which had local media hailing them as “the future of the Portland music scene.” In July, they’ll be embarking on a national tour to support Black Rabbit.
Being compared to: Minus the Bear, Mogwai, The Smiths, Explosions in the Sky, Maps and Atlases, At The Drive-In, The Sea and Cake, The Lemonheads, Look Mexico!, Arcade Fire