Having been suitably impressed by their 2017 self-titled album, PureGrainAudio's Mathieu decided a chat was in order with Marcos from Here Lies Man to find out more about this project, it's intriguing sound and plans for the future.
How did HLM come together; was it brought on by a source of sudden inspiration or was the project more something that was studio-rooted that took off? Marcos - I conceived of the project in 2005 when I was in the studio with Antibalas recording the album, Security. About six years ago, I started recording demos with musicians in New York but, it wasn't until I relocated to LA in 2015 that the project finally came together. When I played through some of these ideas with Geoff Mann on drums it finally felt the way I had intended it feel and sound. Within the first two months of living here we had recorded the first album and were looking for the other musicians to fill out the lineup.
People I’ve talked to likened you guys from Santana to The Stone Roses, to even being a bit like Goat from Sweden. Did you draw inspiration from anyone in general to help craft the sound of the band, or was it way more organic a formation? Marcos - That is all a surprise to me; I don’t think we sound like any of those bands. The inspiration comes from West African music and Rock’n’Roll I’d say the concept behind the band is organic. Riff based rock music and afrobeat’s single note guitar figures are where the two cross paths. Being a guitar player, translating between styles has been very natural for me.
I kind of laughed at the fact that your name is very simple and cool of course, but I think it surprised me more that it wasn’t taken already! Marcos - Was there some special or meta reason for the name though, what made you choose the moniker? Marcos - I’d had a long list of potential names and working titles prior to working on the song, Here Lies Man. As the words left my mouth I realized that combination of words expressed the general aesthetic of the music and worked as the name of the band. It signals the angst we feel societally about the impending collapse of western capitalism and the decline of western civilization.
The only hope we have to affect real change is to address our imbalances on personal level first. I refer to the struggle of the ego with death and the angst this conflict produces. It’s a feeling that most people around the world are familiar with, how to cope with civilization in it’s current state and find meaning.
RidingEasy Records is more on the higher-quality end of underground labels in North America; how did you hook up with them? How are they treating you, as they have a pretty varied but heavy roster? Did you approach them, or they approach you? Marcos - After we finished recording the album, I called my friend, Andrew Mason (aka Monk One), to ask him if he had any recommendations for labels that might be interested. He happened to be friends with Daniel Hall of RidingEasy. The next morning Monk texted me back that RidingEasy was interested.
When Daniel and I spoke, I couldn’t help but think how uncanny it was that the guy who made a Fela/Queen mashup in 2006, which I really liked, now had a rock label. It made sense that he immediately got the connection when he’d heard our album.
Prior to connecting with RidingEasy, I’d told myself and Geoff that I was only interested in working with a label that really understood what we were doing and could really get behind it. I really appreciate the partnership with the label and feel like there’s a lot of room to grow together as HLM keeps writing and recording.
The vinyl is crazy in demand; so far the RidingEasy album has gone to its third vinyl pressing; that's obviously a pleasant surprise to you guys, isn't it? Marcos - Absolutely and we’re just getting started.
Growing up under an audiophile father, I had my share of Latin, African and Fusion going on. One thing used to be prominent around the 70s - early 80s: the live experience of music. Do you guys stick to your song’s template as far as performing goes, or are you the kind of group that likes to improvise off of the skeleton of your track? Do you maybe even a balance of both perhaps? Marcos - My approach to recording to to distill the essence of the “song.” Mind you, we’re not employing traditional song form. I approach HLM as ArtRock. When we’re performing live the band has the opportunity to open up and improvise, developing the motifs. In that sense, we’re closer to a band like CAN than any of the other ones mentioned earlier.
Has there been any new material written since your debut? Marcos - We’re in the final stages of finishing the second album. It builds upon the themes and style of the first. I wrote 19 pieces, 18 of which we recorded, and 11 of which will appear on the album. Beyond that, I have the seeds of another album recorded on my phone which I’ll keep cultivating for when I get back from touring with Antibalas and HLM.
Is the band going to be recording anything new before the year is out, or more for some time in 2018? Marcos - We recorded a cover of Fela Kuti’s Sorrow Tears and Blood for a split 7” with Ecstatic Vision that will be released in the fall of 2017.
I know as far as Antibalas goes, Marcos likely has his hands full. Consequently, how’s the band’s touring schedule look? Any festivals, shows or mini tours lined up for the remainder of 2017, or will some of you guys have other engagements to attend to? Marcos - We’re talking with Ecstatic Vision about doing a couple of short runs on both coasts to support the split 7” that will be co-released by RidingEasy and Relapse Records.
Have to honestly say, if and when you guys come to play Toronto, people will take to you guys big when they learn about you (if they haven’t been already). Thank you so much for your time; anything on your mind to tell the folks? Marcos - Thank you!