The Hackles: Presented by Sou’wester Arts
“We’re processing a lot of things going on in our world right now,” reflects Kati Claborn during a respite from touring. Along with her partner Luke Ydstie, Claborn is striving to make sense of the present by looking to the past in The Hackles’ upcoming album, A Dobtrich Did As A Dobritch Should, out on Jealous Butcher Records on November 8, 2019. “We’re looking at the big picture through individual lives,” says Claborn. In an era rife with discord, The Hackles are using melodic, shimmering indie folk to chronicle means of control and autonomy through idiosyncratic narratives.
Ydstie and Claborn first met in Portland in the mid-2000s after Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski of Blind Pilot recruited additional band members to flesh out the band. Still members of Blind Pilot today, Ydstie and Claborn first met at these initial band practices, and now live in Astoria, Oregon with their five-year-old daughter. After discovering how well each of their creative processes’ enrich one another’s, Ydstie and Claborn decided to form their own musical project. “I think one of the reasons why it’s so successful when Luke and I write together is that we feel very safe and open,” says Claborn. “Both of us feel like we can throw out any idea and it’s okay. We can try anything.” Co-producer Adam Selzer expands this environment of experimentation. “Going into the mixing process, we gave Adam free reign to do whatever he wanted, and he made a lot of interesting mixing choices and added effects that had a huge effect on how the album turned out.”
Though The Hackles’ upcoming record title might at first seem imbued in mystery, the eccentric name is a nod to the life and death of 20th century Bulgarian circus impresario, Al Dobritch, who appears most markedly in “And The Show Goes On.” The chief producer of famed Circus Circus Casino in Las Vegas, Dobritch made a name for himself after escaping World War II and settling in America, eventually rubbing elbows with celebrities and marrying film star Rusty Allen. His gilded life came to a dark end when he was charged with kidnapping and, soon after, jumped to his death on the Las Vegas strip. “Dobritch went through so many crazy things in his life,” says Claborn, “And though he was able to persevere and create this incredible life, it goes to show that at the end, there are sometimes things you can’t control.”
The interwoven notions of predestined fate, as well as the hopeful antithesis of regaining power over one’s personal circumstances, stream throughout The Hackles’ upcoming release, complemented by the album’s serene sound. The duo’s propensity for glowing chords shines, though it soon becomes apparent that the expert delicacy of the couple’s guitar work only barely contains the graceful, mounting power prevalent in the meeting of Claborn and Ydstie’s voices. Similar to the tug-of-war stories that Claborn and Ydstie portray, the dynamism of the duo’s vocals never overpowers the tranquility of the chords below. Instead, both strengths support and enhance one another. “There’s a thread going through the album about the things that control us in our lives and the things that we’re able to take back,” surmises Claborn, “It’s about the impact of inevitability, the webs you can weave, and the webs that weave you.”