Hadouken! are sitting comfortably in a boardroom at Atlantic Records, making a mockery of the formal atmosphere with their bright t-shirts and swept across fringes. Their five welcoming smiles indicate that regardless of the imposing black chairs and giant meeting table they’re here for an informal chat, not a grandiose meeting to knock out some UN peace agreement.
For Gigwise readers not in the know, those five smiles are affable frontman James Smith his girlfriend and keyboardist Alice Spooner, bassist Chris Purcell, drummer Nick Rice and his brother guitarist Dan who collectively form genre-mashing outfit Hadouken! In simple form let me use James’s own words: “two lovers, two brothers and a Chris.” All fresh faced and in their early twenties, they’re the picture of enthusiasm that their band name suggests and are all set to discuss everything from loving their label to why the recession might bring down the festival industry.
For a band with such a loyal army of fans you might expect, rather than hope, for chart success, but frontman James is more realistic about their prospects. “I don’t think Myspace hits translate into record sales, it’s kind of the younger fans online, but if you’re online you’re more likely to download.” Dan adds that despite their album not getting an international release yet, a lot of their fans are from farther fields. “It’s more international; half of our messages are from people asking ‘when are you coming to the States?’”
Not that Hadouken are bitter at the online music phenomenon - in many ways it has been the making of the band with Myspace in particular playing a big role in their development. Despite the abundance of downloading James is unworried. “It’s quite cool because even with downloading, they (fans) will still go and buy tickets to live shows.” Even with the unique release of their mix-tape ‘Not Here to Please You’ in November on a USB stick, James says they still refuse to shun the idea of an album as a means of releasing music. “I’m personally a massive fan of an album as a unit; I think it’s the unit of currency that works.”
Their new album, ‘Music for an Accelerated Culture’, will be that unit. James indicates that it will be a more electronic album and that pigeon-holing is something they’re desperate to avoid. “We’ve been kind of boxed in with the indie kid scene,” James rues. Their debut single ‘That Boy, That Girl’ may have gone someway to causing this, singing (albeit ironically) about “Hoxton heroes” and “Indie Cindys”, two lyrics which have stuck with Hadouken since they were first uttered.
In a deliberate attempt to broaden their fan base James says that despite their ambitions for bigger festivals, they have plenty of incentives to play smaller festivals too. “We try and get round to those smaller ones because it is the people who can’t afford the £150 tickets and the locals. You’re going to hit more people. It’s not so many middle class or industry execs.” They’re also a band not lacking in intelligence and awareness with James boldly forecasting “I think there’s going to be a massive cut of festivals this year because of the recession.”
Whether this will prove to be visionary is yet to be seen, but James is also happy to forward his opinion why Glastonbury has struggled in ticket sales this year, indicating the punters might be to blame. “It’s a bit of a middle class schmooze, with Kate Moss look-alikes trying to look best in their Ugg Boots.”
He feels that the variety of headliners is also causing problems. “I wouldn’t say it’s any of those particular headliners, I think it’s a combination of those acts not appealing to a certain person. I don’t think the person who wants to go see the Friday night will maybe want to go see hip-hop on a Saturday Night. There’s usually cohesion there, so I think it’s not because of a bad lineup.” Dan then chimes in with his support for the most controversial headliner. “I’d fucking love to see Jay-Z, I was like amazing!”
Despite the theories and the criticisms, James still has a healthy sense of respect for Glasto. “I’d look forward to it, and it is the king of festivals you know, so if we were to do that that would be fantastic.”
With Bestival confirmed and Reading and Leeds looking extremely likely the band have already begun formulating a stage set up for the summer, testament to the bands attention to detail and enthusiasm. Dan explains that last summer wasn’t Hadouken at their peak. “We want people who saw us last year when we were finding our feet to see how far we’ve come.” Mouthpiece James adds excitedly “I want to convert those at the back of the tent.”
Hadouken are mindful of where their opportunity has come from too, giving praise to the organic way the band has been allowed to grow at Atlantic Records. “I’ve got nothing but good words to say about them. They have been really supportive saying ‘you don’t have to release the most commercial songs’ and that’s been quite refreshing,” says James.
Alice highlights the lack of pressure to rush the album and enthusiasm for their other ideas as a big factor in their development. “They were really up for the mix-tape and the Aerials thing (Hadouken’s fan community) and they’ve been totally cool with that and taken it a step further and made it happen.”
Hadouken offer a youthful exuberance which is only matched by their enthusiasm for their work. They are unflinchingly original, pleasantly articulate and most importantly highly motivated to make a success of their band. If they continue on this path then not even the recession can stop them.