Canadian 5-piece Hillsburn have followed up their award-winning debut album ‘In The Battle Years’ by trying something different. Their new album ‘The Wilder Beyond’ sees the band shifting their sound from folk to indie rock in a way that suits their passionate delivery. They’ve amped up the energy to the fullest on the lead single ‘Strange Clouds’, our Track of the Day, a defiant, anthemic rock song about confronting your fears and fighting back, with a vocal performance reminiscent of Florence and The Machine.
Hillbsurn recently announced their first UK shows this May including an appearance at The Great Escape Festival.
We caught up with Clayton Burrill, the guitarist of the band, to talk about their influences, new single and album.
How did you know each other before forming Hillsburn?
There are a lot of overlapping connections in the band. Rosanna and I are siblings; Paul and I went to university together; Rosanna, Jackson, and Clare went to university together; Jackson, Clare, and I worked together before Clare joined… it goes on!
Do you share the same musical influences?
Not at all. I think we did all absorb a lot of the same pop music growing up listening to the radio in the ‘90s and early 2000s. But Jackson has a jazz background, Rosanna studied classical violin, Clare studied jazz and classical percussion, I grew up playing traditional music, and Paul draws on everything from old American folk to ‘60s rock to Queens of the Stone Age. So we’re all over the place when it comes to influences.
What made you want to change your sound so radically from folk to indie rock?
It really just happened naturally. Once Clare joined the band, our sound started to shift. We’d make one change to the instrumentation and then say, “Well, should we make this other change now then?” So it wasn’t really a conscious decision to switch genres, it’s just where we ended up as a result of the process we started by bringing Clare on board after the last record.
Can you talk about how you recorded your new album ‘The Wilder Beyond’?
It was a pretty low-budget affair. We tracked the majority of it in Paul’s apartment, working on it over a period of about eight months between stints on the road. So it took us a long time to finish, but it was really nice to be able to take our time with things, not to have to be watch the clock, and to be able to go back and change things when we wanted to.
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What inspired you to write a track as ambitious and emotional as ‘Strange Clouds’?
The chorus for this song – including the line “strange clouds are gathering” – came to Paul in a dream. He’s played me the recording he made on his phone when he woke up and it hasn’t changed at all since. He’s said the song is about being in your late 20s, feeling a lot of pressure to just give up on the things you’ve dreamed of doing, but ultimately finding the strength to stay on your own path. It’s a personal one for him I think, so that’s probably where the emotion comes from.
You also shot and produced the music video yourselves. Why is this independent spirit important to you? Is it something you’d like to stick to in the future?
I think doing things independently has been the product of necessity for us. When you’re starting out, don’t have a lot of money, but care deeply about every aspect of your art, you don’t have a lot of choice but to put in the time and effort to learn the skills you lack. And at this point, having had some success doing things that way, and having been burned in a couple business relationships, it’s hard to see us changing the way we approach things all that significantly. I think we’ll always want to be pretty involved.
Are you excited about playing your first shows in the U.K.?
Definitely! It’s a big step for us. We’re hoping it will be the start of a long relationship.