interview with Darren Hayman of Hefner March 12, 1999
Hefner is a pop band more than any other band I’ve interviewed. their songs are love songs about insecurity & praying for mail & stuff. they have an organ & a kinda jangly guitar & they’re from London. Some people don't like the way Darren sings &, for a reason I'm not sure of, more girls seem to like his music than boys....
QRD – what click or genre do you think your music might fit into? I’ve heard you use the phrase urban folk, but what exactly is that supposed to mean stylistically?
Darren – I'm pretty sure I've never used the term “urban folk,” maybe I did. John says we're a soul band, Ant says we're a punk band. I like to think we're a folk band in so much as we do simple, narrative songs that are quite specific to their location & time. I've always liked music that dates quite easily.
QRD – do you think of Hefner as a band or is it really just your project with hired hands?
Darren – it is absolutely a band, more so than anyone really appreciates. Antony sings & plays all sorts of instruments on our first album, ukuleles, harmonicas, guitars. John plays a major part (often bigger than me) in arranging & producing the songs. if either one of them leaves, the band splits.
QRD – why did you release a recent song as a Real Audio exclusive?
Darren – no real reason, it was just a song we had lying around. the whole internet/MP3 thing does worry me a little though.
QRD – what's your favorite Swans' song?
Darren – oh, I wouldn't know, I saw them once years ago, they needed to cheer up. my girlfriend recommends “Saved.”
QRD – do you think the ease people have to relate to love songs makes them more or less interesting to listen to for you personally?
Darren – I'm not sure if I follow, to listen to my songs or other people’s? well, I never listen to Hefner. my favourite songs tend to be love songs as are most people’s. sometimes they're interesting, mostly they're not...hmmm crap answer, sorry.
QRD – what's your favorite love song?
Darren – ooooohhhhhh, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (by Peggy Seeger not Roberta Flack).
QRD – what amount of time do you realistically think you'll write music in the style you do (or at all) & what do you think you'll move on to?
Darren – see, the secret to Hefner seems to be to never think or plan anything too much. I can't ever imagine completely switching genres in the way say Primal Scream do. the new album has our friend scratching some records into a song, so maybe it'll be old school hip hop.
QRD – I assume that live you aren't able to take along your organ, does that change the character of the songs?
Darren – ha! you've heard about the size of my organ! well, yes, I write a lot of the songs on piano, there’s three songs on the new album with no guitar on them at all, & we rarely have a piano on-stage, but it doesn't stop us doing songs live. in fact, one of the better songs in our set is the guitar/band version of “Tactile.”
QRD – so far, what years of your life do you consider your glory days?
Darren – oh my god, these questions, I mean they're interesting & not at all what I usually get, but er... hmmm, well a couple of years ago would be my more adventurous years I guess. I went to the west coast of america on my own, played shows & stuff, guitar on my back you know. is that ok?
QRD – how's the new album different from the last one & when will it be released?
Darren – it will be released here in June I don't know about the US. it sounds a bit tougher I guess. we have a brass section on a few songs, I used lots of different keyboards: hammonds, harmonium, wurlitzer, old synths, my “organ.” the songs lyrically are a little sadder, but oddly faster & catchier.
QRD – how extensively & often would you like to tour?
Darren – less than we do to be honest. I enjoy the shows, but touring isn't my favourite part of being in a band.
QRD – what's your favorite line on Breaking God's Heart (Hefner’s first record) & why?
Darren – I don't know about a line, but “Love will destroy us..” probably has the most successful lyrics.
QRD – you have your own record label, how big is it, how big would you like it to be, & why did you decide not to have Hefner on it?
Darren – well, the record label (Evil World Records) has barely started. our first release, a seven inch by Antony, will be out in April. maybe Hefner will do a record on it at some point, but it’s really just a hobby at this point.
QRD – what are the side projects you currently have & how are they different from Hefner?
Darren – I don't really have any side projects, I just do Hefner. John however has his band Rhatigan, Antony does his folky thing under the name ANT, Jack the little known fourth Hefner (he plays pedal steel & violin with us live & on the new album) has his band; Spongefinger.
QRD – what bands are there that you think deserve more attention & respect than they get?
Darren – I don’t know how much attention these people get over in america, but we are big fans of Built to Spill, The Mountain Goats, Neutral Milk Hotel, & Simon Joyner. they could all do with more exposure.
QRD – what is it that you personally find so appealing about the Beach Boys?
Darren – many things. I guess the fact that their lives off record were so traumatic, but their songs still retained this optimism. I find the whole thing quite heartbreaking, especially Dennis & Carl’s songs from the early 70's.
QRD – you say that your music is pretty much tied to current day London, what do you think would be different if you were living in Portland or something?
Darren – well it’s very hard to say obviously. I mean people still have boy/girl trouble where ever they are don't they? I mean I don't mean for the songs to be exclusive just to people who live in London, but just to give the impression that the events did happen somewhere specific. funnily enough it was my friends who write songs in Portland that unintentionally got me thinking in this way... well, them & Billy Joel. now there's an example of a folk singer if you ask me.
QRD – anything else you want people to know?
Darren – absolutely nothing.