Chicago’s Hospital Garden returns to Dayton to release Haunter
By Kyle Melton
While small cities like Dayton may offer ample opportunities for bands to pursue their muse unhindered by expectations and build a strong community amongst themselves, in a city like Chicago, bigger clubs and regular appearances by big-name touring bands offer up-and-coming acts chances to get in front of much bigger audiences. For Gem City expatriates Hospital Garden, their relocation to the Windy City a few years back has resulted in opening slots for the likes of Evan Dando and current buzz band Male Bonding. With their new album, Haunter, Lucas Hollow (guitar/vocals), Sarah Carey (bass/vocals) and Kevin Lang (drums) deliver an infectious slab of raw indie rock, which will see local release with a show at South Park Tavern this Saturday, September 24.
After taking root in Dayton in 2008, Hospital Garden quickly earned a sizable buzz in town with a penchant for their high-energy, voluminous attack and vintage indie hooks. The band relocated to Chicago in 2009, with original drummer Ian Spencer leaving the band last year. Despite this setback, Hollow and Carey carried on with the aid of bandmates from previous bands filling in the void.
“After Ian moved, Kevin, the drummer in my previous band Bear Mountain Picnic, started filling in on drums,” explained Hollow. “He made the commute from Detroit several times to play shows and record Haunter with us. I’ve always loved how he plays drums, and with us being such good friends, it worked out really well having him in the studio. However, playing a lot of shows in support of Haunter would be way too much driving for Kevin.”
Although Lang was able to help Hospital Garden record the album and play a few select shows, it was the man behind the recording of the album, Erik Rasmussen, who recently stepped up to fill the hot seat behind the drums.
“He liked the songs a lot and said he’d be willing to be in the band,” said Hollow. “We really couldn’t ask for a better situation than we are in now.”
In working with Rasmussen at his studio in Bloomington, Ind. the band opted to go completely analog during tracking, employing an eight-track, reel-to-reel system in an attempt to harness the raw energy of their new material.
“Since we were limited to only 8-tracks, recording didn’t actually take that long,” admitted Hollow. “One of the positive things about limiting yourself is that you don’t get carried away with overdubs. Keeping things fairly simple allows for people to focus on the songs themselves more. That’s not to say we didn’t add some instrumentation here and there though.”
The results of this back-to-basics approach provide Haunter with an immediacy and urgency that enables the songs to come through with maximum impact. From the frenetic “Dial Tone” to the introspective “Pact” to the seven-minute sprawl of “Rough Year,” Hollow and Co. channel the essence of the pre-major label eras of R.E.M., the Replacements, Built to Spill and Dinosaur, Jr., delivering impassioned performances and distinctive hooks. Carey steps to the fore on the standout “Cobwebs,” adding further depth to the disc.
“Personally, I think the songs on Haunter offer a lot more,” said Hollow of the new record. “I’m a lot happier about the songwriting. There are definitely more dimensions to the songs and the album as a whole is much stronger because of it. Performing and recording these new songs also felt looser and more comfortable. Knowing Erik and hanging out with him a lot before recording really helped a lot. We didn’t rush and he really knew what we were going for.”
Hospital Garden recently celebrated the release of Haunter with a show in Chicago opening for indie buzz band Male Bonding. Although there may be greater opportunities in a bigger city, the band remains realistic about their expectations.
“We certainly miss playing shows in Dayton,” said Hollow. “People really care about music there. When folks came to our shows they paid attention and provided us with a really warm and receptive audience. Sadly, shows in Chicago don’t always turn out that way. That’s not to say we haven’t had some really fun and exciting shows, but it can be hit or miss from time to time. In Chicago we play for a wider variety of people, but we sometimes long for the familiar and caring faces of Dayton. There’s always that give and take when you play in a big city versus a small one.”
Hospital Garden will celebrate the release of their album Haunter with a show on Saturday, September 24 at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave. Also on the bill are King Elk and Shut Up. Doors at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for all ages. For more information, visit myspace.com/hospitalgarden.
Reach DCP Music Editor Kyle Melton at MusicEditor@DaytonCityPaper.com and read his blog at thebuddhaden.net.