Interview: The Hackles on bringing their Oregon sound to the UK for the first time

The Oregon-based duo are expanded to a trio on their first-ever UK tour including a prestigious slot at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival.

This New Year opens on a much more positive note than the last one when a resurgence of Covid again prevented many musicians from touring and drastically reduced the number of overseas artists to our shores. Now, barring another wave, we are almost back to normal and one band taking advantage of this is the Oregon based husband and wife duo The Hackles who embark on their first UK tour this January. Kati Claborn and Luke Ydstie have released two albums, the second, ‘A Dobritch Did As A Dobritch Should’ receiving a positive review here on AUK, and they have a third album, ‘What A Beautiful Thing I Have Made’ scheduled for an April release. Their music is a fine amalgam of Luke’s love for songwriters such as Paul Simon and Kati’s knowledge of old-time music and the 1960s’ folk revival and on this tour, they will be joined by fiddler Halli Anderson of River Whyless. Americana UK caught up with the pair via Zoom in between Christmas and New Year, an engaging couple, they frequently answered almost simultaneously so we’ve just attributed their responses to the band entity.

How are you looking forward to your trip to the UK?

It’s the first time we’ve played over here as The Hackles but we’ve been over before with a band we are both in, Blind Pilot. The Hackles had a tour booked for January 2021 but of course that never happened so we’re excited to be actually getting the chance to play and some of the venues look great, much further afield than we ever managed with Blind Pilot. We’re really looking forward to Edinburgh as Luke’s grandmother came from there and it’s really exciting to play a show at Celtic Connections, that’s a big festival we hear.

Yes, a bit of a feather in your cap and the venue you’re playing in (Drygate) is a brewery so that’s always a plus.

Yeah, we saw that, it’s an interesting prospect.

Halli Anderson (fiddler with River Whyless) has become the third member of the band. How did that come about and how does her addition affect your live performance?

We’ve known Halli for a long time. We first met on the road when River Whyless was opening for Blind Pilot and we just got along. She was living in North Carolina at the time but then moved to Astoria, just about a block away from us so she started sitting in with us on our gigs whenever she was able to and she played on both of our albums. When River Whyless went on a hiatus it seemed natural for her to join us. Having Halli allows us to do three part harmony which we love to do and and she’s a wonderful fiddle player. It’s really nice to have a third instrumental voice, the dynamic range is just bigger and it’s just much more fun with the three of us interacting on stage, it just builds up the energy.

I believe that Halli is featured on the new album.

One of the things we’re most excited about is that Halli has two songs on the album. Although she’s played on our records she’s never taken lead on any songs so it’s great to hear her singing them, adding another dimension to our sound. We recorded this album at home so we had a lot more time to experiment, our previous albums were pretty immediate. The first one was pretty much recorded live and for the second we were in the studio on a schedule. On this one we were able to take our time and there were a few songs which just went off in directions we did not see happening, changing lead instruments, harmonic structures and such, it was a good process. ‘Damn The Word’ which is the lead single is a good illustration of the mix of songs and ideas going into the album, taking in Kati’s old time sensibility but with lots of room for thing to get pretty weird sound wise. On the first two records we just picked out a lyric from a song but this time we decided to ditch that and we’ve called the album ‘What A beautiful Thing I Have Made’,  the title just tries to describe what we think about the album. The album artwork is a really wonderful illustration of a pile of garbage. We lived on a farm for a while and there was a rubbish tip there which was just amazing to look at and we took lots of pictures of it thinking it would make a great album cover, but then we lost the pictures. However, we described it to an artist friend of ours, Will Elias, who did a really good job creating his vision of our beautiful garbage pile.

It’s not often you get garbage piles associated with music, the only one I can think of is Arlo Guthrie’s in Alice’s Restaurant.

We’ll take that, that’s cool. They brought their pile up, we brought ours down.

Can I ask you about Oregon and in particular, the musical community around Portland? You appeared on the Michael Hurley tribute disc, ‘Snockument’, and I see that you often share a stage with the likes of The Delines.

We live in Astoria, the oldest settlement west of the Rockies, it’s where the Columbia River meets the Pacific. It feels like a lot of the Portland community has come out to live here as they were priced out of Portland. Michael lives just about 20 minutes down the road. We had been playing his song ‘Oh My Stars’ for a long time and Michael heard us singing it and asked us to do it for the album which was a thrill. We know folk like The Delines, we’ve played with them several times and their keyboard player, Cory Gray played on our second album. There’s a great little community here, a real collaborative scene. We recorded much of the last album in a studio in Portland, Type Foundry, where a lot of great records have been made and that’s a great community hub. Adam Seltzer who mixes our records, that was his studio. In actual fact Luke recently recorded some bass guitar with an English band, Our Man In The Field, for their next record.  They had been touring with a Portland singer Jerry Joseph and then came over here to do some recording.

Finally, what does the title of your last album ‘A Dobritch Did As A Dobritch Should’ mean?

As we said we named our previous albums after a lyric taken from one of the songs and this was taken from the song ‘The Show Goes On’. It’s about a guy called Al Dobritch who was a circus entrepreneur. He was born in Bulgaria and came to the States, eventually running Circus Circus in Las Vegas. Despite his success he eventually killed himself by jumping off a building in Las Vegas. It’s a fairly obscure reference but it fitted the feel of that album.

The Hackles – January 2023 tour dates:

Sat 21: Ropery Hall, The Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber
Sun 22: Drygate, Celtic Connections Festival, Glasgow
Mon 23: Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Tues 24: The Playhouse, Montrose
Thurs 26: Acoustic Music Club, Kirkcaldy
Fri 27: Café #9, Sheffield
Sat 28: Fishery Wharf Café, Boxmoor, Hemel Hempstead
Sun 29: Green Note, Camden, London

About Paul Kerr 416 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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