Hawk Nelson: Punk Rockers And Accidental Movie Stars

Sunday 24th September 2006

Canadian punk band HAWK NELSON are getting all kinds of success in the US and even make a fleeting appearance in the hit movie Yours, Mine & Ours. Mike Rimmer met up with the band.

Hawk Nelson
Hawk Nelson

Canadian punk band Hawk Nelson have swiftly moved in to similar musical territory to the popular band Relient K and following the success of their debut album 'Letters To The President' (selling around 100,000 copies in North America) have returned with a second release, 'Smile, It's The End Of The World'.

In the interim they've been having a lot of fun making a television appearance playing The Who, performing "My Generation" on the NBC television series American Dreams. They appeared as a party band for all of 30 seconds in the Rene Russo/Dennis Quaid comedy film Yours, Mine & Ours earlier in the year.

Originally from Ontario, the band's Canadian credentials have been somewhat spoiled by their drummer Aaron "Skwid" Tosti who is in fact American and formerly occupied the drum stool for Pax 217. However he soon demonstrates his credentials by showing off a more than passable Canadian accent. Ultimately he passes the final test of a Canadian accent by saying "out and about" for me, rather convincingly.

It has to be observed that I don't think Hawk Nelson are taking our little chat very seriously. Maybe it's just that singer Jason Dunn is the king of smart comments and bassist Daniel Biro enjoys being funny! Trying to get below the jokes proves to be a difficult task. Maybe it's just that they've been asked rather a lot of questions recently, doing press for their latest album. Maybe they're just not in the mood to answer anything that comes close to a spiritual question!

Asking what the band does elicits "We play music for a living," from Dunn. "That's how we describe what we do. And we're very passionate about what we do. Hawk Nelson started when we were just fresh out of high school. It's always been our passion and for myself, and I'm sure for the other guys, we never ever had a Plan B. So if this fell apart we had nothing to rely on. So we're just praying hard and working hard that this won't fall apart."

I point out that when I first heard their debut I thought it bore more than a passing resemblance to Relient K. Daniel Biro responds, "Obviously we get compared to them because we're like two bands in the same genre in Christian music. There are bands coming up now but we were the, I just saw this in a magazine, the original two. Next to MxPx of course." Dunn is not so sure, "I don't feel like there's that comparison all the time at all. I don't know why. I feel like the songs are different or something. Matt Thiessen is a genius though!"

So, do the band find they get many shows where people wanted Relient K but they were too expensive so they decided on Hawk Nelson instead? The band laughs. "Affirmative," says Tosti. Biro smiles, "That's the best question all day!" Dunn says, "It's happened probably at least once or twice. Yes. It doesn't degrade or devalue me that much I don't think. They've been around for quite a while."

The album title 'Smile, It's The End Of The World' was influenced by REM's "It's The End Of The World And We Know It". Dunn remembers, "It's a great song. I think we were sitting down in Dallas, Texas. We were out and I think the idea came up or something." Biro adds, "When we got to Nashville, we just all thought it felt right. Yeah it's kind of sarcastic, but you know? I'm not scared!"

Jason warms to the theme, "People start worrying about things. Like something happens, like a disaster, hurricanes happen.and everyone's like," he gasps, "'Oh my gosh! It's the end of the world! I KNEW it was going to be in 2006. I just knew it!' And they start predicting things, you know? And it's kind of almost like a superstition. I just think it's so funny when people start labelling the return of Christ because even Christ himself doesn't know his return. Only God the Father knows. But people start putting dates on it. It's just a kind of joke to me when people start doing that and get all worked up about it when nobody really knows the hour."

He continues, "We just need to always stay positive. When all these things happen, all these troubles coming out in the world today, we just need to, not ignore them but just face the fact that this is reality. This is life. We don't live a fairytale. Like we were always playing when we were kids, you always have this fairytale vision of growing up and living in a beautiful house. But things fall apart in the world and that's life. We just need to stay positive to all the negativity that happens in the world and face it with a smile, you know? That's kind of the approach we have."

Hawk Nelson:  Punk Rockers And Accidental Movie Stars

The interview is taking place in my room in the rather posh Renaissance Hotel in Nashville, the home base of Gospel Music Week conference. After a hard day's interviewing, it isn't unusual for a bunch of friends to gather in my room, enjoy the hospitality of the hotel's room service and book movies to watch on the room's TV. Even the hotel's choices of movies are ahead of British releases so we take advantage of checking out some movies that'll soon hit the shores. Consequently one night we watched Yours, Mine And Ours and were surprised to see Hawk Nelson pop up playing in a riotous teen party during the film. They may only have been on screen for 30 seconds but there's still kudos in making it to Hollywood.

Dunn explains, "It's been released on DVD. I went into a Blockbuster last week and there was just like a huge section of it. It's a huge family movie right now. So that's pretty sweet. Kids come through our signing line with copies of it and we sign it and stuff. It's pretty crazy!" So have people recognised the band because of their movie appearance? Biro responds, "Usually people are like, 'We bought the movie because you were in it.' But people are like, 'Wait! Is this true? My son said he saw you in this movie. Is that really you guys?' And we're like, 'Yeah.' And they're like, 'We didn't know that!' They come to a show not expecting us to be in the movie or whatever. They see the movie and they know who we were from that."

Dunn adds, "I think the funniest thing is that all our moms are so proud and bragging to their friends; showing them and stuff. We went to the premiere in Los Angeles. It was on the big screen and we were all sitting there watching it and when we came on, I was actually, literally I was embarrassed! It was a big close-up of my face. I'm like, oh my gosh! I don't want people to see that! So I don't think I'll ever watch it again to be honest with you."

Guitarist Jonathan Steingard shares, "I was on a plane, flying back from the UK. There were those little personal TVs on the seats. And the guy next to me was watching the movie. This was just a couple of weeks ago. And that scene came on and we were playing and I'm sitting there, just kind of chuckling to myself. I'm like, 'He's watching me right now. That's so weird!' He had no idea. And I'm not going to be that guy that turns round and goes, 'Yeah, that's me. Yeah, I'm in that movie.' I'm not going to do that."

So are the band interested in playing in the UK? They laugh, "Yes please! May we? May we?" Jonathan shares about his experiences, "I just recently visited there. I was overwhelmed with the culture and how everything is just so close together. There's so much history there. It feels very rich culturally compared to North America." Dunn adds, "Honestly? I love the United States of America. We've been so honoured and blessed to play our music here. But I'd like to grow and take our music to other continents. Europe would be my next choice for sure, if not my first choice. There's a lot of great music that comes out of the UK. We've been honoured to have music from the UK come here so should just give it back."

Drummer Tosti is not so convinced, "I don't know man. I've actually never really travelled off this continent and so I'd like to see a little something. A little culture shock maybe?!" Daniel Biro is keener, "To be honest, my mother's from the UK and I'm thinking about getting a UK passport. I think that travelling is the best education and with education comes power. And we're just going to try and take over the world!"

Everybody laughs. Daniel tops the laughter shouting, "I want to hang out with Mike Rimmer! I want to stay at your house!" Somehow I think that can be arranged! And then there's the British music, did that influence them? "Oh yeah. The Clash," says Biro. "The Ramones," adds Dunn. Erm.they were from New York actually! So they haven't got British influences then? "I know The Pretenders," says Dunn. OK, Chrissie Hynde was actually American. Biro throws in "The Selecters." Selecter? The ska band from Coventry. Well that's closer, oh well!

One of the strangest experiences during the week I was in America was seeing Hawk Nelson perform songs from their second album at a record company showcase. At the home of EMI Christian Music Group, there was a showcase of artists in the company's Founders' Room where there were a number of unplugged sets. Seeing Hawk Nelson play acoustically was a strange thing considering the fact that a lot of their music is propelled forwards by the sheer pop punk power of their guitar sound. Seeing that unplugged let the songs breathe a little as they introduced the new material, larked around and generally enjoyed themselves.

So what is it as a band that they are carrying, in terms of what they want people hearing their music to get out of their songs? Dunn sums it up, "Originally we started off as kids just wanting to play music, looking up to our influences and other bands. But with time you've played the shows and you've heard the kids' stories. You have your own stories and I think we just want to share that and offer hope and encouragement. Obviously we're all Christian guys and we believe in the power of Jesus Christ and if we can get that out there then that's amazing. I mean we're not the most preachy band or whatever but we try and live it. Actions speak louder than words. So if we can make a difference then we're happy. Whatever God wants from us, you know?"

I expect that when they do finally make it over here, they'll find plenty of British music fans who will take to their energetic fun style of pop punk. I also expect to see them on my doorstep and don't worry guys, there's always a bed for you chez Rimmer. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Mike Rimmer
Mike RimmerMike Rimmer is a broadcaster and journalist based in Birmingham.


Reader Comments

Posted by thandie in romford england @ 14:34 on Jan 26 2008

i absolutely totally undoubtedly loooove hawk nelson and I hope they dont go secular. Love y'all to bits!!!!

Posted by kaela in indiana @ 23:00 on Sep 29 2007

i luv hawk nelson so much!! u guy were like the first pop-punk band i listened to. i luv ur guy's hair! i agree with kalie. lose the mowhawk jason!! it isnt u. luv u guys and i cant wait to hear wat u come out with next!!!

Posted by kalie in michigan @ 02:54 on Jul 2 2007

i love hawk nelson. one of the main reasons i do love them so much is because of the Good lyrics. there are so many groups with bad lyrics that frankly arn't worth lisenng to. so hawk nelson keep with the good songs, but lose the mowhawk jason!

Posted by Lindsey in MI @ 01:49 on Jul 2 2007

I LOVE Hawk Nelson!!!! But I really don't like Jason Dunn with a MOHAWK!! he just doesn't look as good

Posted by Alyssa in ohio @ 20:05 on May 11 2007

O.M.G i love this band you guys are so HoT exsept jason dunn is the hottest please jason dont change your hair!! my computer wall peper is Hawk Nelson!!! i love you guys!

Posted by maddie in Wisconsin @ 00:54 on Apr 22 2007

Go Hawk Nelson! They rock so much. They're all so cool and funny! I love em! Keep it up hawk nelson!

Posted by osvaldo in mexica @ 20:37 on Apr 9 2007

"rock on man" you guys are so alsome!!!!

Posted by Kelly in Florida @ 20:28 on Feb 13 2007

Hawk Nelson is my favorite band and they are soo awesome. And I think they should go secular. People are so hypocritical. I'm a Christian, and I think it's great when bands like Reliant K and Swtichfoot reach out to the secular community. It's a different sound, and I'm sure tons of people have been saved by it. But whether they do or not, Hawk is still the funniest, most talented band out there and I love them!!

Posted by marissa in il @ 20:47 on Feb 7 2007

I LUV HAWK NELSON THEY R MY FAVORITE BAND EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!! THEY ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !

Posted by rachel in bristol @ 19:19 on Jan 1 2007

you have all proberly heard this but hawk nelson are the best !!!!! you guys rock it loudand tbh are ma faveourite band ever i love you guys n plz come to england i rele wanna meet you all n wen i listen to ur music it helps me with ma problems that i have n stuff so thanks so much much love rachel

p.s plz come to england !

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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