From Garage Grit to Chart-Topping Hits: An Interview with The Warhawks

Known for their eclectic fusion of punk, alternative, and power pop, The Warhawks, have not only grown musically but have also climbed the charts with remarkable success, with  their track “Parade” recently having soared to the top of the iTunes Rock Chart and landed at an impressive #10 across all genres.

In conversation with Earmilk, the band members delve into their evolving sound from their 2019 debut LP, Never Felt So Good to their latest masterpiece, “Wellness Check Pt. 1,” showcasing their journey of musical and personal growth, not only encapsulating their development but also marks their greatest collaborative endeavour yet.

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Can you describe the journey of evolving your sound from your debut LP in 2019 to your latest release, “Wellness Check Pt. 1”?

WH: Our debut LP  “Never Felt So Good” was the first time that we fully discovered our style and sound. It was the first record that features multiple singers and songwriters in a collaborative effort. Our new  album, “Wellness Check” represents the growth and  development of this style. Time and experience have amplified the  individual songwriting styles within the band. This is no doubt, our  best collaborative effort as a group.

“Wellness Check Pt. 1” mixes elements of punk, alternative, and power pop. How do you balance these different genres to create a sound that’s uniquely yours?

WH:  I think one of the most special things about the Warhawks is the fact that there are multiple songwriters in the band. It’s kind of like, “if you write it, you sing it”. With this diversity of songwriters comes a naturally diverse collection of song styles and sounds. I (PB) tend to write with a more aggressive punk style, JB  tends to lean on a more positive pop direction, and Matt tends to have an all-American classic rock and roll style. The fusion of these styles gives The Warhawks a one-of-a-kind sound.

Reaching #1 on the iTunes rock charts is a significant achievement. How has the success of “Parade” influenced your perspective on your music and career?

WH: It was a huge day for us when we found out we went #1. From the moment we started writing the record, to when we flew to Seattle to record it with Aaron Sprinkle, to hearing the final product, each stage of Wellness Check has been special. It’s hard to explain exactly why. It feels like a live wire with a buzzing electrical current. The success of our debut single “Parade” only furthers our excitement and confidence in the new record. We feel the band and our careers are about to fly to new heights…This is, no doubt, the best album we have ever recorded. 

What was the inspiration behind the title “Wellness Check Pt. 1”?  Does it hint at a continuing theme or narrative in future releases?

WH: “Wellness Check” is the title of the 9-song LP. We decided to release the record in 3 parts. I like the idea that it keeps our listeners and fans excited and engaged in the whole release process. The idea for the concept of the record can be interpreted in multiple ways. One can say Wellness Check has a negative connotation; referencing the agonizing attempt to contact a wayward or sick loved one. It could also be a positive idea; like reconnecting with an old lover or friend. The world feels very selfish sometimes, I think all of us could use a Wellness Check every now and then. 

How does the songwriting process work within the band? Is it more  collaborative, or do individual members bring ideas to the table?

WH: The songwriting process is constantly evolving in the band. Usually,  one of us will bring in an idea for a song and work together as a band to bring the full version to life. Because we are a family band, the selection process for the songs on an album can be intense. (We narrowed down 60+ demo ideas to the final nine tracks that made the new record)…We write individually,  but it is our strength as a group that makes the songs special. “Wellness Check” is the most collaborative work from The Warhawks. This record is truly special, and we think people are gonna love it.

With a mix of family members and a close family friend in the band, how do you manage dynamics during the creative process and touring?

WH: We went through some years of learning each other and how we can best use our strengths to pull out the best songs collectively. Being a family, Tom included, means there’s no minced words. We tell how we truly feel about parts the good and the bad. When we first started the band we would all try to write the same song together and it never worked. Currently, each guy brings in the bones of a potential song and the others bring it to life. Pat and Tom probably are the rawest just pure thoughts to sound. Matt and JB have high pop sensibilities and are able to create really catchy parts. The two schools of thought feed off each other and check each other to combine into something we want to put out. 

You’ve managed to maintain a strong DIY ethos throughout your  career. How has this shaped your approach to music production and  distribution?

WH: No one is going to do it for you. Touring, Writing, Promoting,  Producing; you have to make it happen. That’s the DIY mindset that’s the way it has to be. We still hand out CDs, and posters to shows, and go into cities before a show to promote ourselves. The hawks do in-house artwork and videos. Spray painting T-shirts and bringing designated driver buses into Philly, we want to make the music and the live show as personal and exciting as possible. 

Aaron Sprinkle produced your forthcoming album. What was it like working with him, and how has it impacted the final sound of “Wellness  Check Pt. 1”?

WH: Aaron Sprinkle is one of the best producers on the planet. After months of research and vetting different producers, the moment we talked to Aaron, we knew he was our guy. His attention to band dynamics,  songwriting and tone is remarkable. Sprinkle is a tone guru; anytime we wanted a certain sound we could just explain similar bands and riffs and he just knew the right mix to get it. With his help we were able to achieve a sound that feels both freshly evolved and also somewhat reminiscent of our earlier material. We flew to Seattle for three weeks to work with Aaron, and the experience was spiritual. Without a doubt, this is the best record we have ever done, and we can’t wait for everyone to hear it.

Your music is described as a blend of The Clash and The Beach Boys. How do these influences manifest in your songwriting and  sound?

WH: As a group we bonded over those bands through the years. The Clash seemed to us like average joe’s who were telling their stories about their hometown. We felt connected to them in that aspect. The hawks push to be honest and forthright, representing our upbringing and the people we grew up around like them. The Beach Boys used their harmonies and voices to elevate their sound. All 4 of us can sing well so we used that to our advantage. Take some of that voice power and blend it with the garage punk of the  Clash and you can have something powerful. Both bands respected the songwriting craft as well. A good song is a good song regardless of genre blending. 

“Live From Lockdown” captured your live performance essence during a challenging time. What did you learn from that experience, and how has it affected your approach to music?

WH: “Live from Lockdown” was the first time we recorded since the world shut down in quarantine. It was really exciting to record this album because it was something we’d never done before. It was such a positive moment for the band to come together and re-imagine these songs in a live setting. We wanted to give people a nostalgic  feeling of “Hey, do you remember going to live shows?” It was a moment of light in a time of darkness. 

With a strong connection to your blue-collar roots, how do you think your background influences your music and your relationship with your fans?

WH: There’s a strong work ethic required among the blue collar community.  I think it has definitely impacted our approach to being in a rock and roll band. Nothing is handed to you. The house isn’t going to paint itself. The songs aren’t going to write themselves.  It takes hard work. Our fans know what it’s like to have to wake up every day and earn their keep. I think they can sense that same energy when it comes to our music. We can all relate to each other. 

Could you tell us more about the track “Dead Air” and what it represents in the context of your new album?

WH: “Dead Air” was our first single on Blue Collar Records and the last song we released before heading to Seattle to work on the new record. It was co-written and produced by our friend Nick Bruzzese at The Gradwell  House in Haddon Heights. More so than any stylistic or thematic comparison, I think it represents a transitional time period for the band. It was our first song to break 100,000  streams. It showed that we were capable of reaching an entirely new audience with the help of our new label, something we are anticipating to an even greater with the release of our new record. 

Given the digital era, how important are physical formats like cassettes and CDs to you and your audience?

WH: The market for cassettes and CDs is definitely niche. We’re certainly  not relying on those sales to pay rent. But in 2024, those formats are  considered vintage and I think for fans of music it’s still cool to get  to take home some classic merch, even if  you’re using it as a coaster. 

What can fans expect from your live shows now that you’re promoting “Wellness Check Pt. 1”?

WH: As always, fans can expect a high energy, razor tight set. We’ve  always prided ourselves in our live performance. This album feels like  the strongest material we’ve ever recorded and there’s a sense of  opportunity in front of us. We’ve put in the hard work  writing and recording this record. We’re not going to fall short when  it comes to promoting it on the road.

Looking ahead, what are your goals for The Warhawks in the next couple of years?

WH: We’re constantly trying to outpace our previous efforts. I’ve always thought that as long as the latest thing we’re working on is a level-up,  then we’re moving in the right direction. This last year was big for us, having signed to a new label and flown across the country to record the new record. I think one of our biggest goals looking forward is to gain serious traction in other cities across the country, building fan bases like the one we have at home.  We’ll be happy if we can fill a room in a city that doesn’t rhyme with foster.

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