While many bands can be somewhat categorized by mentions of three or four other bands, Charlotte’s own Hectagons need more than a couple of paragraphs. Metal, math rock, funk, free jazz, and whatever else strikes them on a given night is all part of their unpredictable sound. Guitarist Buck Boswell, bassist Korey Dudley and drummer/Saxophonist Rick Culp are already known for their work with other projects, but Hectagons is unlike anything else the trio has been a part of. You may not always be prepared for what the band is doing on a given night, but a Hectagons show is always unique and helping to throw Charlotte’s collective doors of perception just a little bit wider.
Boswell and Culp sat down with me via email to talk about the band, and where Hectagons (and their other bands) are going next.
Tangents: How did the band come together?
Boswell: Ricky and I went to high school together at Northwest School Of The Arts where he played saxophone/trombone and I was in the visual arts program (printmaking, photography, illustration, etc…). We were playing together in a band called Clavius during the first half of 2008, until our guitarist and primary songwriter got married and moved to Chicago, to go to law school. Both Ricky and I had other projects, but nothing as heavy or experimental as Clavius, and I had a bunch of material I had been working on since the demise of my previous songwriting venture, Hell Or High Water. So we decided to work on arranging some of it with me on guitar and Ricky on drums. After we worked up 6 songs we were pretty happy with, we recorded a demo with Neal MF Harper & Andy ‘the doorbum’ Fenstermaker at the Milestone in Charlotte.
We gave the demo out to a few bassists and tried a couple out when I reconnected with my old friend Korey Dudley, who had played with Abe Reid & The Spikedrivers, Afrojazziacs, American Fetus, and others. He had recently parted ways with Tropic Culture, a band he was playing electric bass in, and he seemed to be looking for a heavier, more diverse project. So it was a match made in heaven. He listened to the demo and a week later came to practice with his towering upright bass, kicked one heel back, and played all of the songs with us near about note for note. We immediately asked him to join us and we began working on developing even more new material. [It's now been] a year since our first show.
Tangents: Musically, what are you trying to achieve with the band?
Boswell: We’d like to take this project as far as we can. I really feel like these are the best musicians I’ve played with and that this is the band I’ve been trying to start for years now. We really want to keep things diverse, while still maintaining the energy and dynamics of our style of playing. We hope that people will just continue to listen and hear new things each time they see us play. We never really came up with a mission statement as a band, but really we try to challenge ourselves to write better songs with more original complex structures and to go out on stage every time we play and just kill it as hard as we can. We really want to be different than most of the other heavier bands out there.
Tangents: On stage, how much of the song structures are planned and how much is improvised?
Boswell: Most of the song structures are composed and rehearsed ahead of time. There is a noticeable degree of improvisation that happens in between songs, or during certain parts. It seems like every heavy band I’ve been in has somehow taken a more organic form in contrast to the machine gun kick drum and digitally processed precision of some more modern metal and hardcore records, and this band is no exception. It’s really nice to be in a band that can focus really hard on learning complex linear song structures with lots of different riffs, and then once we’ve got it down, just open things up and see what we can do to make it sound better, or adjust it so that we can play it a bit differently each time or spotlight an individual in the band. If we hit a good vibe with something live that was unplanned, then we will definitely ride it out and see where it goes. We’re constantly communicating with each other on stage through our instruments. it seems like we always end up on the same page.
Tangents: How do songs get created between the three of you?
Boswell: Most of the material was composed by myself in the years since Hell Or High Water broke up. As I said earlier, initially Ricky and I collaborated to arrange this material I had been fine tuning for some time. Of course with the addition of Korey and repeated playing of the songs, some tempos changed and a couple of riffs got rearranged to find how it fit us best. When we practice in preparation for an upcoming show, we typically find ways to run the songs together without stopping, and we’ll come up with ways of playing the songs differently than we have at past shows.
Rick Culp: We aren’t really restricted to just one writing style. If any of us comes to practice with a new idea for a song, or a riff we would build off of that. For example, if the drummer came with a drum pattern composed as if it was a guitar riff, we would write over top of that and come up with some shreds that fit that pattern. Or if any of the string players has some sort of rhythm in mind, they could sing the rhythm to figure it out and the same with the drummer having an idea for a guitar riff. Just sing it or try to explain it the best way to possible and try it out. Basically, what we are trying to say is there are no limitations on what we do. If something sounds cool and is fun to play, we will stick it in the song.
Tangents: How much do the songs vary from show to show?
Boswell: We currently have songs in 3 different tunings, so some songs often get strung together or fall closely to each other in the set, but we try to play a different set every show. Some songs were also created with optional extended intros or outros, so that we could more seamlessly construct each live set. Often times as I or Korey will be arpeggiating a chord or working in a familiar scale, we will take our own liberties with it and just let it happen so there are definitely slight variations each time. In the same respect, Ricky has a drum solo or a fill here and there that he plays differently each time, which always makes it more exciting for us, and hopefully the audience as well.
Tangents: How much of an open mind and open expectations does one need at one of your shows?
Boswell: I often say that I don’t like to think about Hectagons as a metal band, but I do realize how heavy it is and I understand that if one is not a fan of heavy metal, or hardcore or punk music, then they might have a hard time getting past how loud and aggressive we sometimes are. We are clearly influenced by a wide array of musical genres and we try to incorporate whatever we can from that into our music. The more open-minded one is, the more they will be able to enjoy our music, but we’d really like to think there’s something for everyone. We’ve turned the heads of some people that I KNOW are not fans of heavy metal and that always feels good.
Culp: Even if there is a part of a song that we are at during our set that is particularly heavy, I do say to the listener that does not prefer heavy riffs that if you keep listening there will be a part coming up that’s more your style. Or even a whole new song that’s completely different than the last one. Going from heavy thrash riffs to a more somber clean sound happens quite a lot. Or even kind of a country shuffle to a sludgy slow metal to a sort of hip hop funk part. But it doesn’t stop there. We like to put a lot of different styles into one so those are just a few. We’d really like people to walk away from a Hectagons show realizing that music does not always have to be divided into specific genres. If you like it… play it!
Tangents: What plans do you all have for recording? A CD, a EP, a live album?
Boswell: We have discussed the potential of all of these. We have most every show we’ve played recorded on video, and we’ve talked about putting out a live DVD. We’ve also talked about a CD or 7″ EP. Right now we are looking into our studio/producer options and we hope to have something quality coming your way before the weather gets too cold again.
Tangents: What have been your favorite places to play?
Boswell: I always love playing the Milestone, it’s like my second home and it always sounds fantastic. I also really like the sound and the staff at Tremont Music Hall. we got to play Elwood’s before they closed, and the sound was great. We really just love playing anywhere. Basements, bars, garages, art galleries, living rooms, wherever as long as people are listening. Charlotte has been really good to us so far and now that we’re getting on the road to SC and GA and whatnot, the response has been great. We’re just working on building a crowd wherever we can.
Tangents: How do you all balance Hectagons with the other bands that you all are playing with?
Boswell: Barely, hardly. It’s difficult, but Hectagons will always be my priority. It really stinks having to turn down an awesome show with one of my other bands, but as I said I’ve wanted to start this band for years, and any time we can play a show or get in the studio that’s what I’m gonna do. Fortunately, our practice schedules don’t overlap because we all work different jobs, so we manage to keep up on that pretty well all around, but it doesn’t leave us with much free time. A lot of times, people will contact me about playing a show and say, “We want Hectagons to play, but if y’all can’t make it we’d love to have Appalucia or Andy the doorbum,” or vice versa, which is cool because you can usually always work something out. And if not, I can always turn a venue or promoter onto one of Ricky’s two other bands , Zeusn and For Disaster, or I can recommend a list of other great local/regional artists looking for shows. We somehow manage to make it all work in the end. As stressful as it may sometimes be.
Culp: As local artists we try not to over-saturate the Charlotte area. If one band plays too many shows within a month then it begins to affect the draw of the clubs. So we try to space it out, which in turn leaves room for our other projects. Since we all have those different projects it usually kind of falls into place. Sometimes we end up playing a Hectagons show one night, and then each of the following nights for a week we are playing a show with one of our other bands. Individually, we might be playing every night, but Hectagons would only be one of those. We just like to play music anywhere and anyway we can, so If being in multiple bands allows us to do that then so be it. Live the dream in any way you can!
Tangents: Any questions for the interviewer?
Boswell: Exactly how famous are we going to get from this interview?