Bearing the Torch; an interview with Ian Metzger of The Gentle Hits

Inspired by personal tragedy, and comprised of Ian Metzger, lead songwriter and vocalist, drummer Mark Kulvinskas, and multi-instrumentalist James Mulhern, The Gentle Hits have gained a wide-scale following with their critically acclaimed projects Dear and the Headlights (Equal Vision Records) andWhat Laura Says. But it is when beloved things disappear that the opportunity for rebirth and growth happens.
In addition to writing, arranging, and performing its music, The Gentle Hits produced and engineered their forthcoming self-titled album. The result is a 13-song epic that spans the full spectrum musically and emotionally.The Gentle Hits’ previous projects continue to have an effect on their fans, while simultaneously connecting with new ones.
Even with noteworthy appearances at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Coachella, desert band Dear and the Headlights gave their fans only a taste of Metzger’s melodic nature and lyrical delivery. To his fans- Ian Mertzger’s voice is still a part of their daily lives. The Gentle Hits is an unapologetic expansion on Metzger’s own truth. He and the band dynamically create a self assured and beautiful sonic landscape, encompassing all the grit and beauty one human life can hold.
Ghettoblaster caught up with Metzger to discuss this new undertaking.
How did the concept for The Gentle Hits come about?  What made it an endeavor worth pursuing?
The Gentle Hits came together over the course of four or five years. I had finished the lyrics and chord structures for a group of about 15 or more deeply personal songs and when I moved home to Arizona wanted to put together a group of people who believed in the material to help fill out the compositions. Mark Kulvinskas of Dear and the Headlights and James Mulhern of What Laura Says were long time friends and incredibly talented musicians that I had always enjoyed playing music with. After showing the guys a few songs we all saw pretty quickly that this was going to be a great project and a chance to blend our collective styles and put together a solid record.
What tragedies were you tackling in your personal lives during this time and how did it impact your writing?
The writing of the songs was basically dictated by struggle and tragedy.  During the course of this record we saw the end of significant relationships, struggle and diagnosis of mental health issues, parenthood, death in the family as well as financial and medical crises.  Some of the toughest times in our lives thus far, this  record was a chance to work through it all and acknowledge these things face to face.
Who is this project different than What Laura Says and Dear and the Headlights?
I think this project differs from What Laura Says and Dear and the Headlights in the same way.  We have reached a point musically that is beyond wanting to be impressive and more centered around being consise and direct. We’ve become better musicians and writers and don’t have to do as much flailing to get a meaningful message across.
What were you hoping to accomplish with your debut?
The main motivation was to get this group of songs out into the world as a coherent whole. Really if the record does anything, it is my personal hope that it helps someone else through pains that were nearly unbearable for me, and to know that they are not alone and maybe carry some of the burden side by side.
Where did you record and engineer it?  Was it taxing to wear both performer and engineer hats?
We recorded and engineered most of the basic rhythm tracks live in an historic Phoenix home, overdubbing at Ethos Recordings, Mark’s studio and at James’ studio The Delivery Room. It’s like an A room and a B room but 15 miles apart for added convenience, haha.  We loved recording and producing this whole thing ourselves. The learning curve was intense and though it came through years of study and effort we didn’t find it the least bit taxing. To choose how everything sounds all the way down the line is a dream come true for each of us. This also made us more capable of producing music quickly for less money, and moved us toward our goal of recording and producing others. Our eternal gratitude goes to our mix engineer Chris Kasych and mastering engineer Alex DeYoung, who revealed a depth and beauty we didn’t even realize we’d captured.
What has Porch Party done to nurture this endeavor?
Porch Party is the best thing ever for us! Casey Terrazas runs the label and also happens to be my best friend since 7th grade! Casey’s heart and soul has always been about helping bring forth amazing and interesting art into the world without being influenced by money or other distractions.  He is true to his beliefs and we couldn’t be happier to have them put out the record for us. It’s family really.
You’ve already seen considerable attention for the first couple of singles.  How are people responding to those?
In general, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Those that have heard the full record have stated that while it is a departure from Dear and the Headlights and What Laura Says, there is a familiarity of voice and music that really connects with the listener. We’ve managed to take a good portion of our previous endeavors’ fan base along this new journey. We have kept up our tradition of directly responding to people through social media, which has helped in spawning new Gentle Hits fans. It has been interesting to see their growth from being high school/college kids listening to our earlier bands, now becoming musicians, business professionals, spouses, parents, or all of the above.
Do you have plans to tour in support of the record?
It is not an immediate option for us. In undertaking this record DIY style, we’ve invested 10’s of thousands of dollars of our own money and personal loans to make it happen. As of right now, there is no affordable transportation available that could get us touring cross country. Secondly, for us to perform a great representation of the album, we need another person or two to pull that off live.  Performing with backing tracks is not something we’ve ever done or are interested in doing. When the opportunity presents itself that we can’t pass on, of course we’ll have to figure it out.
We ask the Wilcos, Rolling Stones’, Radioheads and Kurt Viles of the world to please contact our booking agent!
Have you continued to write since completing the record?  What’s next for Gentle Hits?
Currently, we have another album’s worth of material in various demo phases. What’s next for us is to continue to write and record music that resonates with the listener on a personal and emotional level that we as fans can appreciate. We are most into music where it is evident that great care has been taken from the creative side and when repeated listening reveals new levels of detail.  We are doing our best to be the bearers of that torch.
(The Gentle Hits will be released on November 18 via Porch Party Records. Pre-order The Gentle Hits’ self-titled debut here.
Visit The Gentle Hits here: