In a town with a lot of buzz bands, Hockey has to be near the top right now. The Mercury's own Music Chief, Ezra Caraeff, said it best: "Wait, the band that was playing Portland basement shows a few months ago just played a television show with Cat Stevens? My head just exploded."
Hockey is huge—in the UK. "Later with Jools Holland" airs every Friday on BBC and has up to 12 million viewers in 17 countries. So you can understand Ezra's head symptoms when, on April 21, we watched them literally rocking Jools Holland. And yes, Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam) came on after them.
Hockey has been stationed in the UK, playing gig after gig, ever since. They co-headlined with Friendly Fires and Passion Pit (talk about buzzzz). Not bad for a group of friends fresh out of college (Gonzaga & University of the Redlands) who recently relocated to Portland from Spokanistan.
I met them at the Radio Room on Alberta. Recently back from the UK, they were genuinely glad to be back in Portland. Three out of four of them rolled up on their bikes. They were fun, friendly and clearly good friends, we sat down to chat on the rooftop deck.
Hockey - "Too Fake"
I consider your hit song "Too Fake" the anthem for our time. Where did you write it?
We wrote it in this shitty 10 by 10 practice space off of Nicolai Street in industrial Northwest. It was like a rented closet. And the guy ripped us off. He kept our deposit and wouldn't give it back to us, even though the room was shitty when we got there. We only had it for a couple months, and then it got way too expensive. So, we moved into a house in Hollywood.
Is that where you live now?
Yeah, three of us live in the Hollywood district. Brian (guitarist) lives just off Alberta. We've got a big old 100-year-old Old Portland Style house with a nice deck. Nice Portland living over there. It's got a practice room in the basement that we didn't even know was there until we moved in. Someone else had built it for a drum practice room. We saw it and were like "fuck yeah!"
When did you move to Portland?
Last year, from Spokane.
What's your favorite Portland venue to see live music?
Holocene. For a certain kind of a band, the Crystal is really cool. We saw the Cold War Kids there... and Ghostland Observatory. The Crystal has that European feeling. It's like a lot of the places we've been playing over there (in the UK).
What about if you're playing. Where would you choose to play?
Not Mississippi Studios (laughs)! We had some sound issues last Thursday night (Hockey played a free show for KNRK). They're more of a folk venue. We were having issues with the kick drum. Tony (drummer) didn't dig it, but it wasn't their fault. Half the PA broke... and they didn't fix it.
We had a really good show at Holocene in the fall. Really happy with the sound there and the crowd. Rotture is a really good show. We want to play Tube, but they wouldn't let us. We used to go there all the time. We took Brian (guitarist) there once when he was visiting Portland and he got kicked out. He was crushing beer cans on Tony's head and then tossing the cans behind the bar. We saw three people barf in the corner that night and they didn't get kicked out. We biked past there the other day and had a nostalgic laugh.
Speaking of biking, what kind of bikes do ya'll ride?
Brian (guitar): I have a baby-blue Bianchi. It's an older one.
Jeremy (bass): I've got a white Specialized Allez road bike, which I painted rainbow colors around.
Tony (drums): Vintage Lotus with all new, but original parts. I put on some chopped off mini bars. I'm pretty proud of it.
Ben (vocals): I have a normal commuter bike called Jamis. I got it for my birthday 2 years ago.
You're seen biking in your "Too Fake" video. What's the story behind that?
We had a really good time filming that video. It was filmed in February over two or three nights, outside on Sauvie Island.
What's your favorite PDX-based band?
Tony - Explode into Colors. I'm in love with their drummer. I professed my undying love for her and she was terrified. Then, I asked her if she wanted to play a show and she roundabout-ly said, "No." (Laughs.) Blind Pilot too. We're friends with them. We just played the same town in England five days ago. We also like the Hugs.
What's your favorite place to eat?
(Emphatically) Thai Noon! We're going there right now. Pad Thai, medium. Don't get the spicy! We got in from UK, and the first thing we said was "Is Thai Noon open?" The waiter there is DJ Girlfriends. We love that guy.
Got any Portland moments worth mentioning?
Brian: When i first got here and moved to Alberta, it was sunset time in the summer. Suddenly, I hear pots and pans banging really loudly—like 20, maybe 30 of 'em. I turn the corner and there's this huge group of naked people covered in mud doing this enchanting tribal thing. This was a side street. It wasn't even on Alberta. It was a mini naked mud parade. Right after that I was like, "That's awesome!" Blessed be the weird. Seriously.
So what does the next couple of months hold for you guys?
I think we're only gonna be in Portland a few days until Christmas. We do Sasquatch, and then we're off to Paris, Germany, then back to London and LA. It's amazing and shocking to us. I would not have believed it a year ago. We will play Doug Fir in July.