Hector Gannet, who are rapidly winning over the ears of some of the biggest names in the business. After touring with Sam Fender in 2019, release their third single, Dead Nag, ahead of a busy festival period and the release of their first album in the Autumn.
You cannot help but to be drawn to thier incredibly tranquil blend of clean guitar work, euphoric vocals and outspoken views. At the heart of Hector Gannet is Aaron Duff, a storytelling lead singer and guitarist who is fronting the band with his intricate visions, backed by Jack Coe, Martin Wann and Joe Coady. I got the opportunity to ask Aaron a few questions, about the single releases, playing live, and the new album.
You recently toured with Sam Fender, who has had a phenomenal 2019, is it true that you went to the same school?
“Yeah that’s true, he was a couple of years above me but we both played guitar and stuff so we used to knock about together through that. He’s had an unbelievable 2019 and it’s so brilliant to see. It’s amazing that he asked me and the lads to open for him on so many occasions and I’m really grateful for his help and support. He’s a champion of North-East music.”
The lyrical content of your songs are deep and clever in equal measure, I love the storytelling. Is it important to you that each song has a clear message?
“I suppose it depends how you define it. I always make a conscious effort to be honest in my writing. I’d find it hard to sing about something that I don’t believe in, so in that sense it’s important, I couldn’t live with an meaningless song. I wouldn’t say I always set out to purposely write a clear message to influence anyone though, unless I feel the topic calls for that. I just write about stuff that I know and that I’m passionate about.”
Hector Gannet’s first single was The Haven Of St Aidans, a 9-minute track that meanders in and out of folk, acoustic-rock, progressive and everything in between. I was interested in understanding the track evolved.
The Haven Of St Aidan’s was inspired by the incident that led to the founding of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, and is beautiful, how did it evolve into such an epic?
“The song came out of our Moving North: Coastal project where I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to write an original soundtrack to archive footage of the North-East coast. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring Northumberland including on and around Holy Island and the Farnes (Islands). I’ve always been really inspired by the heritage and culture of the area, it’s a place of huge historical significance as well as being an area of outstanding beauty.
The story of Grace Darling is a tale of real heroism, of female empowerment, triumph and tragedy. It deserves to be shouted about, so I suppose I wanted to get that across the best I could. The drama of the situation had to be reflected in the music. It took quite a while to write as there was so many influences going into one piece, both lyrically and musically. We started rehearsing the idea by just playing around with the melody in the practice room. We’d record it, then I’d take it away and write lyrics. It was probably only time I’ve written a song like that, usually I’ll have a finished song and then take it to the band and build their parts around it. It wasn’t intentional for the track to end up at nearly ten minutes long, it’s just one of those things, I don’t think you could take it apart, you couldn’t edit it down and still end up with a song of the same impact.”
Their second single All Hail, All Glory continued their experimental story, with flashes of indie in the chorus and an overall anthemic feel from start to finish.
All Hail, All Glory is a clever anti war song, which includes the lyrics Dulce et decorum and pro patria mori. Did your interest in history inspire this song?
“Absolutely. Equally though, the song is a response to issues all too current. I wanted to include that line not only as a tribute to those who have fought and in many cases died in the struggle against suppression, but to reiterate the message in Wilfred Owen’s poem. War is hell, it’s futile and life is fragile. That should never be forgotten, it’s impact should never be underestimated.”
Dead Nag features some of the most serene clean guitar melodies you will have heard in a long time, it is an incredibly beautiful song. Consisting of gentle, foundation laying drums, grooving bass tones and a folk feel from the get-go, this one transcends into an expansive piece of music from a very talented group.
On the deeper meaning of Dead Nag, Aaron Duff says “Dead Nag is undeniably charged by current affairs. It’s about the exploitation of regular people, the way some are manipulated by the media, and the propaganda that preys and feasts upon fear and the false promises made for political gain.”
“It’s about the ‘choices’ we’re given, the gamble we take and the trust we blindly invest in leaders. It’s backing a horse without form, and about the rebranding of old ways, with campaign slogans designed to tug on the public’s emotions, masking the true motives of those who have no concept of how ordinary people live or what effect their actions have on ordinary lives.”
By comparison Dead Nag is social comment on the here and now. Do you think, like me, that at the very least the madness of world politics will lead to some intelligent music?
“Yeah, you’re right there. The decisions made have such a huge effect on ordinary lives, you can’t fail to be inspired. Dead Nag was born out of frustration with the political system, the biased nature of the press and the way they play on the public’s emotions. At the very least, the political climate should lead to some really great art, that always seems to be the case doesn’t it?”
Dead Nag is released with an accompanying music video that was shot on a farm in rural Northumberland. It projects a farcical and almost panto like image, which reflects how the class system and politics often come across. Yet among this, as with the song, there is a very serious side of how some people are downtrodden, and how inequality is as much evident now as is it was in the dim and distant past
The video is very striking and was shot on a farm in rural Northumberland, how important is it for you to keep your roots?
We had the opportunity to use that location and it was perfect for what we were trying to achieve. We were given access to it by some really good friends of ours who I’ve known since I first started playing music, so in that sense I was definitely sticking to my roots. It’s incredibly important to me, I can’t thank the people around me enough for the amazing support they’ve given us.
The head of the headless horseman looks vaguely familiar, was this intentional?
“Haha, I really couldn’t say.”
Are you planning to hit the road hard in 2020 and if so where can we see you?
“We definitely want to play more live dates, and we want to get out further afield and across the nation. We’ve been mailing out copies of the limited CD we had done to people all over the UK, so we want to get out there and play of them near where they live.”
What can we expect from a Hector Gannet gig?
“I like to think we always put on a dynamic performance, I always try to work it so it ebbs and flows, there’s peaks and troughs. I’ve always been conscious of that, maybe it’s that Pixies ‘loud, quiet’ mentality, I’ve found it to be a really important part of both song-writing and performance. So you can expect it to be pretty loud and energetic, but equally as subtle and quiet.”
It looks like you are also going to be busy during festival season with appearances at Stockton Calling, Hit The North, Northern Kin, This Is Tomorrow and Lindisfarne Festival. Are there plans for any other festivals?
“Yeah the ones you mention are festivals around the north east which we’ve been lucky enough to be invited to play, and of course we’d love to play more, and further afield. We’ll see what the management have in store for us but yeah, if people are looking in who organise gigs and festivals, give us a shout!”
Festival organisers could do a lot worse than inviting Hector Gannett to play.
Can we expect an album release in 2020, and if so is there a concept or theme that you are working on?
“You can expect an album yeah. I wouldn’t say there’s really a concept, it definitely feels like one body of work but the subject matter varies. It does all tie in and a lot of the tracks are linked because they were written around the same time and as always I was influenced by my surroundings, but I wouldn’t say there’s a definite theme.”
Finally what are your ambitions from 2020, is this the year that we all sit up and listen to Hector Gannet?
“More releases, more live dates. Definitely feels like we’re picking up a bit of steam now so I’m excited to get more out there, can’t wait for everyone to hear what we’ve been working on.”
Interview by Tony Creek, February 2020