What do you get if you shove a drummer and a guitarist into a room with a bunch of questions? Well, in this case…
Jonathan Hohl (Guitar), Nathan Gros (Drums) – We were born and raised in Switzerland in between a few cows, some cheese wheels and chocolate of course. Our first language is French but people from France would probably still struggle to understand us.
How did you meet?
NG – One or the other saw the other play music and went to ask them whether they’d want to play music with them. They said yes.
How long have you been playing as a band?
JH – hubris. was created about five years ago, but we’ve been playing together in many different projects for over ten years. We are about to release our third album with hubris., but our sixth together.
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
JH – Right before we started the band, I was studying English literature and Greek Mythology. I randomly stumbled upon the term “hubris” and was drawn to its various meanings and how it is applied to either Greek Mythology or textual analysis in general. I wanted to name the band something a bit ambiguous which showed a reference to both my passions and from which I would draw all my inspiration to compose.
What are your influences?
JH – I was not strictly born in a family of musicians, but my father was a very talented transverse flute player. My parents forced me to take up piano lessons when I was about six years old and allowed me to switch to the guitar when I was nine. So, in a way, although only my father was a musician, I have always been surrounded by music. I first was interested by rock music and how powerful it sounded. I remember the first CD I bought was Sepultura. Always my first passion laid in rock-metal, I really would find something I like in any music genres. I have always been interested in listening to new styles and thus my list of influences slowly turned endless. To name a few I could say Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Rage Against the Machine, Jimi Hendrix or Mac Miller.
NG – My father was a percussionist and passionate about African music. I was raised listening to his influences until I was about ten when I started developing my own taste in various genres. I believe it inspired me greatly for how I create my drumbeats and I feel like hubris. sound actually very African in a way. I have always looking up to the expressive freedom and the raw power this type of music lets off. It is only much later that I started being drawn to rock and metal music before finally in recent years dedicating myself to hip-hop and jazz, partly after having worked as a sound engineer with the American saxophonist Kamasi Washington.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
NG – As we’ve just mentioned, we listen to many different styles (e.g. jazz, rock, hip-hop, etc.) and we try to include them all in our music. We always try to bring out our own signature and our mood of the moment into our music, yet while keeping some of the rules or guidelines of post-rock. We aim to remain true to ourselves and not overthink what we compose. If something makes us feel good, it will end up somehow in an album. For example, the disco-like drum beat at the beginning of our new single “Dionysus”.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
JH – Yes, everything we compose is from or about the Greek Mythology, either specific or broad. Our first album Emersion for example was about all the metamorphoses of Zeus that he transformed into, in order to seduce other women (usually mortals). For example, our song Gold Drizzle is a musical interpretation the myth of Zeus and Danaë, where Zeus managed to get to Danaë by metamorphosing into drops of gold.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
NG – We try to play as tightly and neatly as possible while trying to remain as true to the album as we can. There is a part of ourselves that like improvisation and everything around it, but our music is heavily arranged, especially electronically speaking and we feel like the experience we wanted the audience to live while listening to our albums should be either similar or better when they see us live. What we try to convey is how much fun we have when we play music, which is why we lose ourselves in our music as much as possible. There is a lot of neck-breaking involved in all our performances. In total, we have approximately played around 50 times.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
JH – Fearing to point fingers, I am just going to say that at one gig we played, everything was going as smooth as it gets during the soundcheck. But as soon as we jumped on stage, we could not have our in-ear systems working, except for the drummer. You may think it’s not a big deal or that we should just deal with it but actually we have got a few backing tracks which are all based on a click track that we have to stick to (especially for sampling likes “rises” or percussions). Not to mention that there are quite a few moments in the performance where the drummer does not play at all. Since we had already started the intro, we decided to keep on playing the rest of the set this way. What we ended up doing is turning the amps sideways towards us a little bit and putting them louder so we could hear ourselves – although barely – and stare at our drummer’s head’s back and forth movements to know where the down beat was. It was extremely frightening at first, but it ended up sounding quite nice.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
NG – I’ve been playing on a Tama Starclassic drum kit (22” kick, 12” Rack Tom, 14” Floor tom) and a Tama Star snare (14” by 6”) since our second album Apocryphal Gravity. I really like the versatility of this drum kit as it can be tuned in many different ways depending of the drum heads you use. For the two last albums, I only used Remo heads (Ambassador coated on the snare, Emperor coated on the toms and a Powerstroke 4 on the kick) with a pretty low tuning as I wanted a heavy and fat sound. Regarding cymbals, I play the Byzance serie (Extry dry and Extra dry dual) from Meinl. I’ve tried many other companies but, to me, only Meinl has this modern, crispy and washy sound I always been looking for. I do not endorse any of these companies (even if I’d love to) and only give those details for the ones that would be wondering what we use to sound the way we sound.
JH – I play an American brand of guitars called Tom Anderson Guitarworks. I use one of their S-series with three pickups for five pickup positions – plus a switch from single coil to humbucker for the neck pickup. It is not only the best sounding guitar I have had the chance to lay my hands on, it also feels the best to me. The other guitar player Matthieu uses a T model from Nash Guitars. For touring, we both use the Helix from Line6 because not only it is extremely convenient, we can also set our delay and reverb pedals accurately for any given parts of the set. We feed them into a 2×12 Orange cab through a poweramp to have some stage sound. The bass player uses a five-string from the French brand Vigier.
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
NG – Our third album Metempsychosis which is coming out on March 13th of this year. We have been working tirelessly for the past year and it feels good to see all that we have managed to achieve.
What are your plans for 2020, into 2021?
JH – We are still planning our various tours for this year and hope that we manage to pull them through. I have also started composing the fourth album and we would hope to start promoting it around later this year already. To keep it very simple, our goal for the rest of our life is making music and touring as much as possible.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
NG – We would love to open for Nils Frahm. There might be a little bit of a style clash, since we have some heavily distorted parts, but the goal is somehow the same, i.e. moving people or fostering introspection. As for an opening band, I don’t think it’s fair that they should open and we should follow, but we would pick the band Arhios from France. Not only are they incredible human beings, they are absolute monster musicians as well.
From previous Band of the Day Muscular Child: Dave Grohl, Mick Jagger, Prince – Who would you kiss, who would you marry and who would you kill?
JH – I don’t think my wife would appreciate this, but I would probably marry Dave Grohl, kiss Prince (although it would be quite hard given his current state) and kill Mick Jagger. Dave seems like a really cool guy to hang around, I love Prince’s music and I have never been obsessed with the Rolling Stones.
NG – I think I would kiss Prince because I would choose to marry Dave Grohl (then I could get free drum lessons) and kill Mick Jagger.
From another BotD, Vanity: If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
JH – Something along the lines of: “Just listen to yourself and do whatever you feel like is right for you. You ended up happy in my case, it probably will be no different for you.”
And from Charly&Faust: What’s your underwear colour?
NG – I’m not wearing any underwear at the moment because I chose freedom.
JH – Dark blue, but I think my socks are more interesting than my underwear. At the moment I am wearing Where’s Wally? socks.