Tony Cummings reports on the Minneapolis pop rockers HYLAND
The release by Tooth & Nail in May 2011 of the Hyland album 'Weights & Measures' has resulted in the band getting US TV exposure, their second radio single "This Love is Free" reaching 29 on Billboard's Christian Songs Chart and Cross Rhythms putting the powerful "Desperate Man" onto its playlist. Yet it was only through the most unlikely "chance" that the Minneapolis pop rockers came to be signed by Tooth & Nail. The band's drummer Steve Weigel told thesoundalarm.com how Hyland landed a deal with the renowned Seattle record label.
"A friend of ours, Josh, was interning down at The Compound, which is the studio where Aaron Sprinkle works. Aaron Sprinkle is a producer that we have all just worshiped growing up. We love him as a producer and it was basically a dream to be able to work with him. Well, we sent Josh a demo of one of our songs we were working on and he listened to it in the studio after hours and left it up on the computer by accident. Well, the next day Sprinkle comes in hits play and is like 'What is this?' It didn't even have our band name on it. It was just an MP3 file. So he is asking all day, 'Who is this band? Who's using my computer?' Finally he gets around to asking Josh and of course he thinks he is in trouble because he isn't supposed to be using the studio computer. So he just kinda splutters out that it is one of his friend's band and he's sorry, but Aaron told him that he loved it and it was great and was just asking questions about us. The next day he called up Jon Lewis, our lead singer, and of course Jon starts freaking out because it isn't every day you get a call from Aaron Sprinkle. He basically told him what Josh had done and was like, 'I want to work with you guys'. Jon was like, 'Uhh, okay!' Then Aaron told us that the best way for that to work out was to pitch us to Tooth & Nail, 'cause Aaron is their main go-to-guy for recording. We went in and they heard our stuff and in the next couple of days we had a record deal. It was kind of crazy but it all fell into place."
Hyland (currently Jon Lewis, vocals, rhythm guitar; Mitch Hansen, lead guitar; Ben Early, keys; Jaran Sorenson, bass; and Steve Weigel, drums) formed in Minneapolis in 2006. Jon Lewis spoke about the band's origins to mindequalsblown.com. "I had all of my best friends in high school and once I went to college, I decided that I wanted to start a project, so I wanted an excuse to see my best friends in high school, because we all were going to different colleges. So we came together and it was basically our excuse to hang out. Just fun and games for the first few years. Then a couple guys got married and a lot of stuff was happening so we started swapping out band members and then I started finding members I liked in other bands and we ended up forming a local supergroup basically. We just started playing around and getting serious, and that's the basic gist of how Hyland got started." During that time, the band released their first two EPs independently, 'Polyphonic Telegraph No. 1' on 22nd July 2008 and 'Quotients' on 13th May 2009.
Working with Aaron Sprinkle on their record label debut was an unforgettable experience. Remembered Steve Weigel, "We had never done anything this professional I guess, so going into the studio we were a little bit nervous. We had never worked in a real studio with a big producer like this. It was so chill and laid back though. Aaron has the CRAZIEST stories you can ever imagine. It was a great time overall though. I was only out there for like two weeks tracking drums and then I flew back home, but Jon was out there for about six weeks at a time and then he went back out there a month later, so he got to spend the most time with him. The whole thing was just a blast. Kind of surreal though."
Jon Lewis' favourite song on the 'Weights & Measures' album is the CR turntable hit "Desperate Man". Explained the singer, "It's about just getting kind of pushed down and getting back up again. We had a bunch of gear stolen from us about a month ago, but that was like the second time it happened. So we wrote this song. There's a line that says, 'Take what you want, I'm not giving up/The cry of a desperate man.' We are just very determined and it's what we are called to do and we are not giving up. So that song is kind of like an anthem to me just to keep going."
A huge plus for Hyland's 'Weights & Measures' set was a guest appearance by Anberlin's renowned frontman Stephen Christian on the song "The One That Got Away". Jon Lewis explained how that came about. "I was supposed to go to Nashville to do co-writes for the album. We had about eight of the songs done, they were in the can and ready to go. We had to write about four more to finish the album. So Tooth & Nail were sending me to Nashville. I was supposed to work with Kutless. All of a sudden I looked at our schedule and it had a misprint, and suddenly I wasn't able to actually go down to Nashville on those dates; I was only available on other dates. They had to go back and find out who was available, and guess who was available? Stephen Christian was available for a co-write. Actually, this worked out perfectly because all three guys that I wrote with I'm huge fans of writer-wise, and so it was just awesome to go write with all of these guys. So I got to go write with Stephen, and I actually went over to his house and met his great danes and hung out with them all day. It was pretty neat.
"And so, when we were in the studio, because I felt like that song (even before Stephen worked on it) had kind of an Anberlin vibe to it in the first place. I was like, 'Now that I wrote with Stephen and this thing really sounds like Anberlin, let's cover our butts and see if he wants to sing on it.' I contacted Aaron about it and he was like, 'Well, let's call him!' So Aaron asks Stephen if he wants to sing on it and he's like, 'Yeah bro, that'd be great.' So he sings on it in Nashville and sends it back. It was actually just one of those things where I was lucky enough to write with the guy, opened that door, and Aaron kind of filled in the gap."
Jon explained where the album's unusual title came from. "I was trying to think of something that I felt had a lot of meaning to it, and yet was so simple that it's something we see every day. I was at a gas pump, pumping up, and all of a sudden I looked up and saw 'Department of Commerce: This has been weighed and tested.' The Department of Weight and Measures. What the government does is this testing thing to make sure everything in the country is exactly the same across the area or else commerce can't happen. So if you get gas here for this price, you can get gas in a different State, and they should all weigh out to be the same. Then I started thinking about peer pressure and I started thinking about people. So, thinking about weights and measures, what are we comparing ourselves to? What are we finding that we're comparing ourselves to? There's this line that's being drawn in society, but what are we actually measuring ourselves to? So 'Weights & Measures' is just looking at that push and pull from a society standpoint and who we are as people. It's just looking at a social example of what the bar is that we're measuring ourselves to."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.