The Hyena Kill recently released their blisteringly good new album, A Disconnect (our review here). The album is full of hulking riffs, pounding drums, driving bass and impassioned vocals. The album is a real step up from a band that have been through a lot, and have seen their ranks grow from two members to four.
Here, we welcome one of the new additions to the band, Charlie Seisay (bass), to discuss his love of CSNY in the latest in our Why I Love series.
In times gone by the Santa Monica mountains hid a new society in plain sight. A euphony of eucalyptus and sage; an explosion of wild flowers. But most of all: tight jams. About two miles north of the Sunset Strip and up into the Hollywood Hills is Laurel Canyon, a once ultra-happening spot.
Like in turn of the 19th Century Vienna or during the High Renaissance, the 1960s and early 70s saw the stars perfectly aligned in the Canyon. The greatest minds in American music were here: Zappa, Brian Wilson, Joni Mitchell… I’ll avoid list-o-mania. This place was all interdimensional jam sessions and utopian values; love and happenings on a biblical scale.
The high priestess of Laurel Canyon was Mama Cass Elliot and she’s the reason I’m typing at this moment. It was she who introduced Stephen Stills and David Crosby to Graham Nash. Crosby & Stills played two run-throughs of ‘You Don’t Have To Cry’. On the third, Nash joined in with the top harmony and mainlined all in attendance with that ineffable narcotic I still can’t kick. Try ‘Carry On/Questions’ for a strong hit of it. The perfect blend of human voice, the primordial conversation here at the throat of god(or other such dampness). Without question the bucolic environment and the Morroccan connection brought the fruit to ripen and it flows through these sounds. ‘Guinnevere’ is a good point of reference.
The Beatles were soon to call it off but the scouse imprint had spared nobody. Nash came up in Manchester during the immediate explosion of Beatlemania and put his old group with Allan Clarke, The Hollies, together using the formula of the Fabs(which of course also included writing one’s own songs). With The Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield, Crosby and Stills electrified their folk numbers, wore Italian boots and mopped their tops. But the early CSN and CSNY albums mark the beginning of the maturity, and not lethargy, of the 60s beat music crowd. Acoustic and twelve-strings came in. Drums were used sparingly at first. The atmosphere took primacy.
Like in other groups with such individual talent, the first album entitled Crosby, Stills & Nash came together as several separate contributions and was blended together with glorious vocal arrangements and a simple, rich production. Although there’s a generous helping of psychedelia(‘Pre-Road Downs’ & ‘Wooden Ships’) in essence we’re dealing with music with roots here. The tentacles of the past are stretching forward to push us into the future. We’re reminded of something but the situation is new. And there’s mojo in it! Dallas Taylor on drums with Stills on bass is industry itself (see ‘Long Time Gone’, penned by Crosby the night Bobby Kennedy was murdered). Greg Reeves got on the bass later for Déjà Vu, the second album when they became Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. ‘Country Girl’ and ‘Helpless’ shine a light on Neil Young’s power.
The spirit of the day transforms roots music from merely academic or nostalgic into a tangible force. The radicalism of the counterculture is ingrained in the short life of CSN(&Y), which saw its truest expression between 1969 and 1971. ‘Ohio’ is a reaction to the Kent State shootings when US National Guardsmen shot 4 young students dead. They were in vocal opposition to America’s war in Vietnam. Their arrangement of Joni’s song ‘Woodstock’ is a countercultural canticle and the festival is indelibly connected with the group, their second ever gig was there in the early hours of August 18th 1969.
Spiritual currentness elevated the already profound though seemingly effortless music into a potent agitator. They put out a legendary live album in ‘71. 4 Way Street was a grubby triumphant last hurrah for the salad days. After that the coke hit and they all hired business managers; the resentments began and the radical magic was soon gone. There’re moments to be savoured thereafter but the ferocity of yoot had subsided and they became AOR.
But never, ever forget the magic. Given the right circumstances great apes can become giants.
Listen to Bleached from The Hyena Kill; taken from their new album, A Disconnect. You can buy a copy of The Hyena Kill’s new album from their Bandcamp page, here.