Sound Scene Express

Deutschtown Music Festival Preview – Jay Wiley of The Hawkeyes – Interview

Jay Wiley describes his band, The Hawkeyes as, “Straightforward, honest and passionate rock n roll. We’re very proud to be from Western, PA  and we enjoy channeling that heritage and work ethic into our songwriting and performances. We like to have that “look you in the eye” type of attitude.”

How could you not get excited for this band after reading that? Well, Saturday is your chance, as they are headlining Penn Brewery at 10PM! Check out our interview with frontman Jay Wiley who will always give great insight about the Pittsburgh music scene and music in generak. Along with Wiley, The Hawkeyes are Colin Bronnekant on drums, Brian Chalmers on bass and Mike Grego on lead guitar.

Sound Scene Express:   When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music

Jay Wiley:   We formed in August 2010. I had just gone through a breakup of my solo backing band and Colin was the drummer but he was also a member of the alt-country Pittsburgh band Country Music Gas Station with brian and Nick Libeg (former member). Colin invited me to a jam session with them and we ended up writing a few songs, one of which was “Double E” and we literally got a gig with 28 North the next week. we just said that we were gonna make the most honest and up front music, because that’s what we know and we’re gonna do our damndest to write about stories, characters, and situations that we know reflect what area of the world we come from and we would also be able to convey these messages to audiences and allow them to believe in what we do. Not just from a simple musical persepctive but from an attitude one as well.

SSE:   Have you been in any other bands?

JW:   When I was very young in my early early 20s I was in a band called Alisium . We took first place in the now defunct Graffiti Rock Challenge in 2004. We had a great Black Crowes vibe with that group, a lot of partying, but that definitely laid the ground work for the rock n roll.

Brian and Colin of course were in country music Gads Station.

Mike was in a very popular New Castle band called Burning Sun (during my time w/ Alisium), then he and I formed a group called Geneva and Mike also played a little in my solo backing band as well.

SSE:   Who writes your song lyrics? What is your Inspiration?

JW:   At the moment just myself, but Colin has thrown me some lyrics which i’m definitely going to incorporate in some material we’re writing. We’re always writing, everyday i used to just write about whatever, sometimes not even trying to make sense just being cute and all. Then I started listening to bands like Drive By Truckers and Whiskeytown and it completely inspired me to try and write about personal experience through stories, local lore and heritage. A little bit of history here and there, characters we meet wherever it may be; the shitty dive bar, the field party, working in the mill (which i did for a time). I truly believe at the moment that all of these aforementioned entities enable me to channel better and more honest songwriting rather than just making a few lines rhyme and hoping to pick up a pretty lady.

SSE:   What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?

JW:   We’re a rock n roll band first and foremost, guitar driven, we’ve been called “americana rock” and that’s fine but when people ask us we say we’re a “rock n roll band,” no tricks just stuff that makes you feel good when you listen to it. We love people to see our passion for what we do on stage and hope they get something positive and fulfillling to take away from it, when they leave a show. That’s what music is all about right?

Major influences , geez there are so many, I mentioned Drive By Truckers & Ryan Adams but also the Stones, CCR, Black Crowes, Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Cracker, Sponge, Hold Steady, Lucero and on and on and on.

SSE:   What band would you love to open a show for?

JW:   Any of those I just mentioned. I think DBT would be fun guys to meet and just hang with, Cracker would be cool because i think Dave Lowry is a pretty rad dude in his own right.

SSE:   Where have you performed? What are your favorite venues?

JW:   All over the Northeast, South and Midwest thus far favorite local venue is the Rex Theater, just sounds amazing in there. Stage AE was pretty badass too.

Out of town: Radio Radio in Indianpolis, Musica in Akron, OH, The Garage in Winston-Salem, NC, Yield Bar in Milwaukee. We did Rocklahoma one year and that was a blast!

SSE:   What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each

week, in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?

JW:   I always make a list of old tunes to go over that i thought were kind of  iffy at the previous gig. Usually just give it a quick talk and a once through and we’re good. Then we just try and write new tunes, even if we only get part of just one at a halfway point, that’s fine. We always try to make progress and we record rehearsals too, nothing fancy just on the smart phone, we generally practice once per week but lately those days have been replaced by recording sessions, between the band and myself. Most days of the week are taken up by gigs. We’d rather be busy than bored.

SSE:   What do you think of the Pittsburgh Music Scene?

JW:   It’s really coming on strong, i’d think you’d agree with that. There is a ton of talent and now that talent is getting the support it needs from venues, promoters, radio people (i.e. randy baumann) and incredibly well crafted events, like Deutschtown Music Fest, The Thunderbird Rambles and the Hartwood Music Series to name a few. It’s not the next Seattle or the next Austin or a replica of Brooklyn, it’s just our scene and we take a lot of pride in being a part of it and expressing that pride to folks everywhere in hopes that they check it out and spread the word about it.

SSE:   Who is your favorite Pittsburgh band/ musician?

 JW:   No way i could pick just one, there’s too many I love and respect and if i started listing them i’d forget somebody for sur. Here i’ll cheat a bit, my dad, Jeff Wiley, he put the music in me before i knew what was what.

strong>SSE:   Have you ever been to Deutschtown Music Festival, if so do you have any favorite moments or performances?

JW:   We broke in last year and played at the Elks Lodge with Chet Vincent, Big Gypsy and Bastard Bearded Irishmen and the night was fabulous. The only other performance i was able to catch was my buddy and fellow Ellwoodian (Ellwood City) Andre Costello at the James St. Ballroom and his set was awe-inspiring and anyone that was there can attest to that.

SSE:   What bands do you plan on seeing at Deutschtown Music Festival before or after your set, if any?

JW:   As many as we can, i’m pretty sure we have rehearsal earlier in the day because it’s the only time we have a break this week to do so. We’ll definitely catch The fed and our buddies 28 North at the Penn Brewery Ballroom, who play at 8pm right before us.

SSE:   How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?

JW:   Best place to visit is or

obviously you can get our cds at shows and we prefer that method the most, but those links are a good way to listen and buy our stuff.

SSE:   What is your all time favorite Hawkeyes song?

JW:   I really liked what we accomplished with “Karl from ’81.” It has the edgy character sketch, little storyline, it’s got movement and it just trucks along. I’d say that tune is a tie with this new one we’ve got called “Had Enough”  just because the tune is so simple, but it just seems to have this power to win any audience over the moment we bust into it. It has a jangly 70s Stones/Springsteen vibe to it and we can’t wait for folks to hear it on the record coming out this fall.

SSE:   Is there anything else you wold like to add?

JW:   We’re about 3/4 of the way done with the new record tentatively titled “One Plug in the Wall” due to release in the fall 2015. We’re stoked about it, especially since this is a real deal rock n roll guitar driven record, a lot of songs about “the working struggling band.” How this rock n roll dream is essentially a pipe dream , the naysayers involved, how negativity can just consume you sometimes to the point of wanting to give up on this beautiful thing completely and how there is no real clear cut formula to combat that other then to press on, have faith, stay positive and make your own luck as best you can but also be thankful when you’re more lucky than good.

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