“Writing a song is like wiping a steamy window. You’ve got this mess in your head, and then you put it in a song and it’s not at the forefront of your mind anymore. You can see through it,” indie duo HUX tells me over half a pint in Bristol on Friday. “I thought I had more to drink, that’s the problem with half a pint” member, Patrick says a few moments later, before conceding and getting another drink. In the oak-panelled pub, rain beating the pavement outside, Friday evening workers finishing off their third gin and tonic and shouting about crypto currency behind us, HUX talks in circles around each other, eloquent and thoughtful, they provide the perfect lens through which to view the landscape of new music today.
Where Patrick leans forward, rolling my questions of success and what HUX wouldn’t do for $10 million (“give up music”), round his imagination, Jorge Hux is animated and effectual, answering authentically and then circling back round to his responses moments later (“I’d like to change my answer!” he frequently interjects.) In this way they balance each other out, the two twenty-something-year-olds honing an intuition and poetic interest in the world that is forthright in their music.
Having met at a school talent show, Jorge singing a Jason Mraz song and Patrick playing “an instrumental guitar thing”, they began collaborating before taking music more seriously in the three years since they left high school. Jorge is Australian, claiming that moving to England at age 15 was the long shot he’s taken that actually paid off, and is bartending in Chichester while making plans to relocate to London next year. Patrick has just quit a marketing job at a nightclub, “The minute I decided to do music full time was the minute that long shot paid off. Deciding you want to be creative as your career is always a long shot.”
There’s a strutting oxymoron in HUX, however. So sure of themselves, as they sit opposite each other, Patrick’s felt hat and three years of vulnerably writing music between them, yet they’re still experimenting with their sound. “I don’t think the album will be folk. The songs are in the same world but they’re quite different. Although it’s not like one track is going to be thrash metal,” Patrick explains. “I had to take off my eye makeup, wash out the black hair dye, was gutting,” Jorge responds. Experimenting does seem to make sense for HUX, with such a stream of influences surrounding them. When asked what music they’d make in another genre, Jorge instantly responds ‘Green Day-esque’ (“There’s just something about playing three chords and smashing out the drums.”) While Patrick goes on a rollercoaster about blues and Jazz, mentioning Alexis Corner, Bill Evans, Charles Lloyd and Oscar Peterson like their old friends, (“Jazz has to be approached delicately, it’s human.”)
Some things, HUX are certain about. Their dream festivals to play would be the Byron Bay Blues Fest (Jorge) and Coachella (Patrick, “wearing leather, the whole works”), the best gigs they’ve ever seen were Tom Odell (South Hampton Guildhall) and Jacob Collier (Ronnie Scotts), they’d happily play Sydney Opera House or Madison Square Garden, should the opportunity arise, and when asked if they’re happy with the state of the world the pair simultaneously responded “No” with a firm look and bright, daring eyes. But on other subjects, they’re still thinking. Their insights into what the music industry is and what it’s like being an emerging artist today, are vulnerable and honest. Lessons can be learned and opinions can be formed based off their wonderings, but most of all, their music gains conviction.
Why do you like music so much?
J: Because it makes you feel things that nothing else can.
P: The word transcendent comes to mind. It’s probably the purest form of escapism.
There are artists who just want to make the music, and there are artists who genuinely want to be The Next Big Thing and tour for 367 days a year– but it takes a certain type of person. Do you think you’ve got the strength of character and the drive to see it through?
P: There’s nowhere near a lack of drive for us. We’ve been doing this properly for three years, under the HUX alias. We signed publishing, but unfortunately, the person we signed with died, and the publishing rights went with him. There were lawyers and it was really difficult, but it made us want it even more. I think when young artists or emerging artists go through a real test early on, it cuts the naivety. It makes you want it more. We want it more than ever now.
J: We are beyond the point of ‘I just want to make music for myself.’ We have our sights set, we want people to hear it. That experience with publishing just made us want to write better and more songs.
Do you think that being signed to a label where you’re pressured to produce and create a brand would be creatively stifling?
P: There’s definitely a move against major labels; which is why people like AWAL, who we are lucky enough to be with, are going against that grain. It’s quite fashionable now to say, ‘we are our own label,’ but when push comes to shove, I think it would still be nice to be part of a label. We have also heard so many stories of people being signed to labels and the label going “if there’s no heat after six months then you’re out.” I think that does stifle creativity because it puts pressure on it. My songwriting history definitely indicates that the more pressure you put on it, the less creative you become.
How do you feel about new artists and social media?
J: Social media is an amazing way to get music out in the world and because so many people have it, you can really give them more inclusive, ‘personal’ access to everything going on.
P: The only issue I have is that it’s a lot easier to take things for granted when it’s all at your fingertips. To be told that you ‘have to’ use it to get anywhere in music makes you resent it sometimes because you have to think about strategy and engagement and ‘likes,’ when all you want to do is play and write and work on your craft. But at the same time, I guess if it allows you to be heard by more people, it’s worth all that shit, the exposure’s gotta be a positive. Essentially it will always come down to the ability to be creative, and if you can play well live, eventually people will talk, so social media would merely be a bonus.
And how do you go about writing these experimental tracks?
J: It changes every time. We are always writing, wherever we are, and because I’m down in Chichester most of the time, we end up sending each other ideas and putting it all together when we meet up.
P: We seem to almost telepathically know where the song is going. The vision is the same.
That makes it sound very easy to do, is it always like that?
J: No, and yesterday is a perfect example. We had a demo that was very guitar driven, quite rocky. We took it to this producer and he was like ‘yeah it’s a good song, but it sounds like another band.’ That was quite difficult. We felt like we should scrap the song because we couldn’t see another way to make it work. Then we had lunch and got some air, came back and worked on it, pretty much completely changed it.
P: Sometimes with writing a song, you can end up really fighting for a lyric or a melody or a verse, and that goes back to the point of being pressurised by a label. But if you sleep on it and you give it space, you can come back to it and it will flow because you’re open to it going in a different direction.
Do you think writing is therapeutic?
J: It’s almost like you’ve got this mess in your head, and it’s in a box, and then you put it in a song and then it’s wrapped up. It’s an infinite resource as well: one song will be about one part of what you’re feeling, and you have so many different emotions. A break up isn’t just about feeling sad. It’s about missing this part of them, or something they said that you can’t get out of your head. There are so many avenues.
Do you think you can write about being in love? Because people write about falling in love and then losing it, but no one writes about staying in love. The in-between bit.
P: The Rex Orange County song ‘Loving Is Easy’ is one of the only songs I know about staying in love. I think it relates to a lot of people: in relationships, after the 6-month barrier, there’s nothing to report. It’s just life. You’ve already got the comfort blanket, so you don’t need to curate something great. I think that’s why writing about it is rare.
Lyrics written by you or otherwise, that have resonated with you the most?
P: ‘Heartbreak Warfare,’ John Mayer – ‘how come the only way to see how high you’ve got me is to see how far I fall?’
J: ‘Didn’t I Say,’ HUX – ‘I don’t believe in fate. I make my own mistakes.”
Is there a message or an agenda that you are addressing or would like to address in your music?
J: Our message right now is a lot to do with honesty. That has come from the last few years because there has been a lot of false promises, just a lot of fake. A lot of dressing things up. A lot of dangling carrots. I think honesty gets you places. ‘It’s Alright’ is a perfect example because it says to be honest even if it’s going to be hard.
Do you think that artists with a platform should be using their platform to promote a socially conscious message?
J: I don’t think should is the right word, because not every artist ‘should.’ If you’re in that spotlight, you’ve really got to think about what you’re saying, you’ve got to be so careful and you’ve got to be inclusive. It’s an amazing thing that you can do – to be heard by so many people.
P: If you’re going to use your platform to spread a political agenda, then you’ve got to be mindful of the people who are receiving it. The people deserve to be fully informed. Because of social media, it’s easy to form an opinion based off very little, and it’s easy to shoot off quick-fire opinions that don’t have any real political or social benefit. But as long as you’ve done your research and you’re informed then absolutely. It’s one of the great things about having a platform.
Your sound is very unique. Where does the inspiration for that come from?
P: We write songs that we feel the market doesn’t provide. I think that, in this day and age, originality is very difficult, near impossible, and I’m not saying we are – but if you can find some scrap, some vain of originality, you f*cking hold on to it.
Hux’s debut single ‘It’s Alright’ is out across all music platforms now; with more new music to follow this year.