“Two guys sitting around the living room, kicking around songs.” That could be a stage direction for an image-conscious music video, but in truth it’s a factual description of the genesis of Haymaker’s Now, Now, Now. The Long Beach, California-based band’s third album is anything but high concept; rather, it’s an organic chronicle of working joes rolling with life’s punches. Like the artists you could file Haymaker next to – Hayes Carll, Steve Earle, Todd Snider, the Old 97s – singer-guitarists J.W. Surge and Mike Jacoby mine illuminating stories from everyday experiences and midlife transitions.
“We wanted to make a livelier rock record that was more true to how we had been playing lately,” Mike explains. “And there’s a sense of getting older and dealing with life’s curveballs.”
A lot of life had happened in the three-year interval since their critically praised 2010 set Beyond the Break, which had found them taking a slight pop turn from 2007’s Music From Ed’s House. Death, divorce and band personnel changes had simplified their goals. They were still playing local dives from time to time, but mostly they were kicking songs back and forth in that living room, 86ing those that didn’t pass muster. Some are written by J.W. Some by Mike. And some are collaborations. “Each song has to pass the test of the other guy, so we’ve got songs that we kicked out because the other guy didn’t like it,” J.W. says. “It takes a while for a song to make it onto a record.” “The quality goes in before the name goes on,” Mike wisecracks.
Songs like “Marisol” capture their affinity for telling turns of phrase (“My mind wandered like a drunken fool/ Looking for another drink”), while “Stomp the Gas” showcases their knack for relatable roots rockers with catchy hooks:
You’re a big time downer with an attitude
Calling everything “cool,” calling everyone “dude”
You better fast figure out something better to do
Cause hanging around ain’t working for you
“Leave for Awhile” finds them tiptoeing through emotional limbo (“She loves her weed and I love my beer/ Sometimes I think I should leave for awhile”). The country rock turn “Different Girl” evolved out of them taking pre-written lyrics and then messing around with different musical feels. The revealing “Lie in Bed” goes deep into love that has passed:
You count the hours as they move too slow
You move the blanket and she just says ‘no’
You hear her breathing through her soft soft tears
You try to sleep before you reach your fears
They credit producer Ed Tree with introducing savvy arrangement ideas and vibrant guitar sounds that give the recording more punch. Tree played all the keyboards on the album, while acclaimed L.A. Americana songwriter/bassist David Serby and former Hacienda Brothers drummer Dale Daniel hold down the steady bottom end.
Having taken their time with selecting and recording Now, Now, Now’s dozen tracks, J.W. and Mike are ready to share them with the world. They plan to “try to earn a fan at a time” but ultimately, their reward isn’t in the result as much as that creative process of kicking songs back and forth until it yields something true that connects with listeners.
“When you hear a song back and it’s everything you think it could be, that to me is success,” Mike says. J.W. concurs, “It’s pretty satisfying to hear the music come back that started out in my living room, with Mike and I and two acoustic guitars.”[adrotate banner=”4″]