For Hawk & Dove, deferred dreams, family dysfunction as old as mankind
Hawk & Dove makes quiet music.
Except that Hawk & Dove makes loud, intense rock music.
If ever two conflicting things were true, the Brooklyn sextet’s music hits that mark with conviction.
Hawk & Dove — which includes former Denton resident Caitlin Becker on keyboard — stops in Denton on Saturday at Dan’s Silverleaf.
The band is touring in support of its debut album, This Yesterday Will Never End, which followed its EP Rocking Chair.
“We’d been working on these songs for a while,” said Elijah Miller, in a recent phone interview. “They all deal with issues of familial dynamics, family issues and quiet introspective reflections, even though we worked through those in some pretty loud songs.”
The band developed a lot of songs, and Miller, the melody-maker-in-chief, said they picked the songs that best expressed the themes of family, togetherness and loneliness.
Songs like “Stain” and “Things We Lost So Far” are quiet tunes about the loud tapes that play in all of our heads. A fair few of the songs are told in scenes borrowed from the Bible — like Adam and Eve in the first 10 seconds after they’ve tasted the forbidden fruit. Characters are shocked by their epic nakedness, rocked by how quickly they understand the inevitability of sin and its grinning wage named death.
All at once, though, Miller reminds us that in ordinary life, we acclimate to the dual realities of sin and death as readily as frogs get used to boiling water. Truth and consequence overtake us gradually.
“There’s red in the sky, seeping into the night,” Miller sings in a voice older than his years on “Stain.” “If you believe what they tell you, it will all be all right./But the truth is, I’m jealous, and though I act polite, I’m not giving up./I’m not finished. Not quite.”
Just when the moment seems right for Miller to scream and the band to crash into a barrage of raging noise, singer and company reel it in.
In “A Song for Him,” ancient family patterns explain the postmodern human condition of deferred dreams and imposed beliefs and behaviors. In it, Miller wonders how things might have turned out if “father Abraham” had gone through with his deepest desire on the mountain where he planned to sacrifice Isaac to prove his faithfulness to God.
What if Abraham were to spare his favorite son and curse God? In the Old Testament story, God rewarded Abraham’s faithfulness by staying the patriarch’s hand, only to follow through with his own son in Jesus.
“All parents sacrifice their children for their own desires,” Miller said. “Every aspect of our identity is made up of stuff that came before it.”
The song takes on a Springsteen-like crescendo as Isaac climbs down from the altar of wood.
“Now maybe we’re too close together in a city where we can barely to see the sky./Maybe we’re too close together in a city where we can’t look into each other’s eyes,” Miller sings. “Now I still smoke my grandpa’s cigarettes from World War II./I still wear the hood that hung that cross that folks was burned onto. … I’m sick and tired of living in everybody else’s shoes.”
“The Space Between” gets loud, too. It starts with Becker playing bells and chimes via keyboard, then picks up energy with the drums and guitar. Eventually, Miller is considering that fussy space in relationships that grows and compresses almost in spite of the human will on either end.
Becker said the literary bent of Hawk & Dove is both a lure and a limitation for the band.
“There are some target audiences in every show,” she said. “There are people who come because they want to hear the lyrics and feel all that in the music. Those are the people who come up after a show and are like, ‘Wow, that was the coolest music.’ There are just as many who aren’t going to appreciate that part of it as much.”
The band’s sound — rocking hard on the contemplative songs, and using restraint during the numbers about intimate little twists and turns — gives it a home in the same playlist with John Cougar Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen but also evokes the indie spirit and harmony of a band like Seryn or the Last Bison.
Hawk & Dove made the album independently and was signed to Selfmade Records afterward. The music might seem like a strange fit for the German hip-hop label, but Selfmade admires the DIY fire of acts like Hawk & Dove.
Did the band have to strike a terrible bargain to get its debut done and dropped?
“Yeah, constantly,” Miller said. “Recording in my apartment, and asking a lot of the great musicians who fleshed things out on the record. None of those folks got paid. But I would never think that’s a sacrifice.”
Hawk & Dove includes Miller on lead vocals, Becker on keyboards and backup vocals, Joan Chew on bass and violin, John Kleber on lead guitar, Aj Sausville on drums and Max Hodes on tenor guitar and backup vocals.