The Hot Seat | Indie

Hands Like Houses Hidden Hospitals
Richard Ahlgrim
Jake Boshold | Staff Writer

Hidden Hospitals are an independent Alternative/Progressive Rock band consisting of members from two bands from New York: Damiera (David Raymond, vocals & guitar, and Steve Downs, guitar) and Kiss Kiss (Jared Karns, drums, and Aaron Boynton, bass & backing vocals). Hidden Hospitals themselves however, all formed together in Chicago, Illinois. The band currently has two EPs out, EP 001 and EP 002, as well as one album, Surface Tension. I had the opportunity to speak with Hidden Hospitals’ lead vocalist David Raymond right before their live performance in Chicago’s own Burlington Bar.

Jake: I have heard that Hidden Hospitals was formed out of members from two different bands; Kiss Kiss and Damiera. How did members of two different bands come together to form what we see today as Hidden Hospitals? Also can you tell us a bit more about Damiera and Kiss Kiss?
David: Sure, Damiera was formed in New York between a bunch of people, it was the end of one band, and the start of another, and it took me a long time to find the members, then over the time of having that band, we went through a lot of different members. Signed a rad record deal with Equal Vision, we did a couple of full-lengths, toured all over the country, and throughout that time, just constantly changing people. Towards the end of 2009, we decided to move out to here, Chicago, and a friend who I used to tour with, Steve, introduced me to Jared from Kiss Kiss, he’s like “hey, I got this guy, he’s a close friend, all he wants to do is tour, he’s a fantastic musician”. A few days later, Jared was put on a bus out here to Chicago. We were auditioning drummers, and nobody made the cut. Jared came out and already knew the songs, and there were Damiera songs. So after we had the band together, I decided that Damiera wasn’t who I was anymore, and we formed Hidden Hospitals.

Jake: According to your FB page, you guys describe your sound as a combination of Indie, Alternative and Progressive Rock. Those are 3 sub-genres of Rock that can be very different from each other. What are some of HH’s biggest influences from each of those genres? Also, can each of you name your personal favorite artist?
David: Specifically, I can’t really say, but what I will say is that why those three genres are rightfully melded into what we describe ourselves as, is we grew up in a time of like, you know, Hard Rock, 90s Rock. Progressive Rock was new to until I started Damiera, which was a pretty Progressive band, that was a new idea to me. So that’s naturally in me when it comes to songwriting, but it isn’t necessarily who I am at this point. Then as far was Experimental goes, we do an awful lot of experimenting. I think what we do best, is that we are a Rock band at heart, and we pay homage to what was, the greats of Rock & Roll. We’re still a guitars-bass-drums-vocals Rock band, there’s just an awful lot going on beneath the surface.

Jake: Interesting. So you guys don’t really have any personal favorite artists that you were inspired by?
David: Amongst the group, we absolutely do. I don’t know it if necessarily translates from like “oh, I listen to like, Deftones, or Muse”. Personally, I grew up on a lot of R&B, I grew up on Hip Hop. And I think that the nuances of that music gets into my songwriting, but you’d have to dig for it. Like listening to Surface Tension, a lot of what I was listening to at the time was CHVRCHES, and I was listening to John P. Kee, and I was all the way listening to Bjork, who wrote one of the most heartbreaking records in the world just last year, we’re all over the map, and I think that that lends itself to having a sound that is a little bit more rounded.

Jake: Great variety in all of those influences, I would not have guessed any of that. Anyways, lyrically, what are some of the main themes of Hidden Hospitals’ music? Also, David, what are a few things that influence you to write songs?
David: Lyrically, you’ll find a theme of kind of, severed things that don’t really matter, they’re fond in the real truth of things because it’s a lot of that heart vs mind. Your heart will always scream at you to do what you really want to do, but your brain is in place to kind of keep you safe, make sure you’re fed, make sure you have a place to stay, and all those kind of things. So my lyrics are about that, and coming from that place. And celebrating the little moments in life that bring you personal happiness, as opposed to “I got this paycheck”, it’s more along the lines of “I climbed a rad hill with my friends and we went cliff-jumping”, and that memory is etched into your brain, so it’s a play on those things, and it’s abstract, but it’s all in there. As far as writing songs, it just occurred to me in the last couple of years the reason why I do music, is that it doesn’t matter to anybody. My music, my art, anyone’s art, anyone’s music, it doesn’t matter. It matters to me though, because I found something that makes me be the best version of myself that I can be, I found this thing in my life that I can do that helps me appreciate everything I have and the people around me, the friends and the family I have. I guess that’s about as complex as it gets.

Jake: That was amazing, very well-put, I can tell that you are very passionate about what you do. Now then, listening back to your first EP from 2011, EP 001, and then listening to your most recent release, your first full length album, Surface Tension, I definitely notice you guys experimenting more with different sounds, ST is definitely more Progressive than your first 2 EPs, what exactly would you say helped you guys grow as musicians as time went by? What influenced you to dive into these new realms of creativity?
David: That is an awesome question, and its very intentional. Making an EP with us coming out of the gate, was like “ok, we got this group, let’s figure out who we are”, it was kind of a fringe of Damiera. And Damiera was very much a burst-of-energy kind of thing. We started to branch out a little bit towards our next EP. Now Surface Tension, a full-length that we actually never intended to make, was an exercise in just allowing ourselves to experiment. You allow yourself to stretch and experiment on a full-length album, as opposed to like, 4 or 5 tracks on an EP. So we put a very big stress on turning the page, it wasn’t about “the thing”, it was about how things change over a period of time.

Jake: Again, very well-explained answer. Surface Tension definitely sounds like you guys put a lot of time and thought into it, loved the record. Now then tonight you guys are performing at The Burlington Bar here in Chicago, what do you guys enjoy the most about performing live? Do you prefer larger venues and concert halls, outdoor festivals, or smaller venues and bars like The Burlington?
David: The way we’ve always described playing live is that the birth of a song, an idea, ends at the stage, that’s always been our destination. Lots of songwriters, and bands and artists, don’t necessarily think of the stage as a place that they wanna be, and it isn’t necessarily myself, or our band needs to be in front of people, it’s just that expression of this idea that you’ve spent crafting inside of you, that you just can’t help it, you wanna express it, you wanna show the world, even if there’s only 2 people there. But as far as playing live, it’s just the end of the line for us, that is the trajectory of an idea at its’ end. And to answer your previous question, for any band, it feels best to play on the floor in front of people, because you don’t get to rehearse in front of people on big stages, when you get to be Queen, or Muse, or whatever, you do that, but it feels the best to be eye-to-eye with people, to me it feels the most human.

Jake: I can definitely see being closer to your fans, right in front of them, as a more enjoyable experience. Have you performed here in Chicago a few times before, or even here at The Burlington?
David: We’ve played one time here at The Burlington, we’ve had the opportunity to play at a lot of places here in Chicago, Lincoln Hall, The Bottom Lounge, our very first show was just around the corner here. We’re actually on tour right now, we’re on a three-and-a-half-week tour, and this is us ten days in, tomorrow we go to Michigan.

Jake: Awesome, hope you guys do well on the rest of your tour. As for tonight, what are your expectations for this show? What do you hope to get out of it?
David: Tonight, I’m expecting us to get through a Chicago show and celebrate the chance to do this, and maybe 20 or 30 people will come out and hang out with us tonight, see some people we haven’t seen in awhile.

Jake: Sounds great. I have one more question for you guys. I read that you guys are currently unsigned, but judging from the material I’ve heard from you, you guys sound very professional and experienced, studio-quality albums, your material is just as quality, if not more than most of the modern signed Indie Rock bands or even major label modern bands. Have you guys ever had the chance to be signed to a major label before, or have you ever had contact with any major or Indie label executives?
David: No record labels have approached this band. I mean, I don’t think it's necessarily that we’re not label-worthy, I just don’t think that anyone’s paying attention to Rock music in this capacity. I found, a few years into this, that we know how to do this, we know how to be happy, and with or without a label we’re going to continue to do this because it’s what we do, it’s what I do, I’m not going anywhere. And I hope the people continue to enjoy what we do and what we make, but I would love to partner with somebody, I feel like we’re a good bet, maybe not the next thing that’s gonna sell 200 million records, but we do good things, we make people smile, I like being apart of that. And above all, I like to lift up the people that helped lift us up. But until then, we’ll continue to do what we do, connecting with people, reaching out to people like you, putting things together, making memories and music for people to enjoy.

Jake: Awesome, that was fantastic. Is there anything else you would like to say to Musiqtone before we wrap this up?
David: Just thanks for your time, I very much appreciate this.

Jake: No problem, thank you for your time as well, and we’ll see you at the show.

Later that night, Hidden Hospitals performed a 45-minute set of songs, most of the songs coming off of their latest album, Surface Tension. There were about 50-60 people in the audience, and the band kept the whole crowd on their feet. The energy on stage from all members of the band was phenomenal. Everyone on stage was full of raw energy and power and were completely engaged with the music they were playing. The show ended on a very high note, and the whole crowd was left happy and cheering.

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