The Hammer Party are one of the best bands in America. They will pummel you not only with the sheer volume but the power of their music. I had a chance to talk to lead singer and noise shaman Dan St. Jacques about your new favorite band.

Hassle:
Tell me a good origin story, since you all are like musical super heros.

Dan:
The Hammer Party started as a one-off side gig to perform a set of Big Black tunes on Halloween for the White Mice reunion at Fete in Providence a couple years ago…
We were only a three piece unit with Andy Newman on guitar, Jon Croce on bass (and also handling drum machine programming) and yours truly on vocal duties. From my perspective of not really ever being in a cover/tribute style band I gotta say it was a real challenge to first figure out all the tunes and then rehearse them enough to be worthy of performing live. On a side note…we also had strong suspicion that Steve Albini would definitely not approve in any way of a Big Black cover band, which to us seemed even more Punk Rock…kill your idols! Haha! Anyway, we had such a had fun time on Halloween that we decided to keep the project going and turn it into an actual band…but to start writing and performing original music instead of the BB tunes…it is at this point that we ditched the drum machine and asked Joe Propatier to play drums, along with Justin Silvia as the new bass player (Jon Croce left the band). We were ready to shed off all novelties relating to Big Black, besides our moniker of course, which still seemed to fit the style and delivery performance of the band. We practiced for several months and put together a live set to perform for Andy’s birthday in April of 2019. It was amazing…all the hard work we put into writing and arranging our music all winter paid off…we ended up being booked around town and consistently played shows at least once a month opening for touring acts as local bands tend to do right into January 2020 before the whole rest of the year turned to absolute shite.

Hassle:
Tell me about the recordings you have so far.

Dan:
We asked Dan Baldwin (the sound engineer at a small local club in Providence called Dusk) if he’d help out. We scheduled a Sunday afternoon at Dusk (fall of 2019) when nobody would be around and basically performed our live set with Dan at the helm operating all the audio equipment. After mulling over the rough mixes for a while we were eventually ready to get back to it and then the whole Covid crisis hit. It initially prevented us from finishing up the recording but luckily for us, an amazing studio in Pawtucket called Machines with Magnets was able to reopen their studio last summer and we were able to work with Seth Manchester to finish up the material we had recorded the previous year…it was starting to really shape up and we were very happy with the overall audio quality of the recording so we decided to mix and master it for vinyl. I gave a copy of it to a buddy who was looking to start an indy record label and the rest is history! We cannot thank James Merida enough for the time, energy and faith he has put in us releasing our album on his new Psychic Static record label.

Hassle:
How is the record going?

Dan:
It is with somewhat ironic and under bittersweet conditions that our debut record Smashed Hits was released about the same time that our mutual long-time friend and guitar player Andy Newman unexpectedly died this past fall and the band’s future could have potentially been nil…but we all thought that’s not the way Andy would have wanted it…he never gave up on his dreams and rocked ’til the end. You can’t stop the ROCK! Andy was a Rock n’ Roll road warrior who had a relentless drive to play music and his output over the past 30 years confirms that. He was so excited about everything happening with the band and our future plans… We had been practicing pretty religiously at least once a week for the past couple of years and had another recording session booked at Machines with Magnets in February to record our second album. We obviously had to cancel the recording session and have been taking our time to process and mourn his loss…and it ain’t gonna be easy finding the right puzzle piece so we aren’t in any rush to force anything. But that being said, we have begun to slowly work on the new tunes again and will eventually find someone to put their own unique stamp on them.

Smashed Hits by The Hammer Party
Hassle:
As you know, I was good friends with Andy and the Glazed Baby guys for about 31 or 32 years,. This was devastating to so many of us in the Boston and Providence underground communities, and beyond. How are your songs crafted?

Dan:
Justin and Joe are the engine of the band and seem to be able to create music out of literal thin air…it all happens on the spot and often by chance. Maybe Joe starts tinkering around with a fill or a high-hat pattern and Justin adds some bass or vice-versa…then the vocals and guitar riffs creep into the mix, adding a call and response/counterpoint type of feel into the music, thus completing the overall sound of The Hammer Party. There has never been any one person writing the music and having everyone else then learn it. It’s just not the way we work together as a band and why there aren’t any specific writing credits. I think this organic type of group creativity keeps all the songs sounding unique from each other and keeps the music fresh…we just feed off each other’s energy and it eventually just flows out.

Hassle:
How about the lyrics? Can we peer behind the curtain and see how the magic works?

Dan:
I usually wait until they get something really cooking and then find a specific place to put some vocals in…somewhere that feels right and then maybe I will end up scribbling a few lines in a notebook as they play so I don’t forget them later! Ha! Improvising just a couple root lines/phrases (maybe a chorus?) and then fleshing out the rest of the lyrics later seems to be the most organic way for me to craft my stuff and it keeps it interesting because I never really know what the song is gonna be about until it happens. After all the rhythms, riffs and lyrics are tightened up we arrange the music and settle on a structure that makes sense for that tune.

Hassle:
I know we are living in a Stephen King novel and everything but what does the future hold?

Dan:
We don’t have anything else in the works at the moment and have only discussed staying our course and keeping our vision alive. The record has been getting some positive attention and as soon as this pandemic is over we’d like to get back to recording another album and start make some touring plans. So that’s basically where we’re at and plan on heading…I guess we’ll just keep hammering on until we physically can’t! Because you know…you CAN’T STOP THE ROCK!!!
Hassle: Thank you so much Dan. I hope everyone can check out

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