By: Chance Williams
The members of Hikes came together in a long series of haphazard stages. When singer Nathan Wilkins and guitarist Will Kauber met at a poetry potluck, they started jamming together after feeling like they were the only people in their sphere not making art.
“It seemed like we were the only two at the dance that weren’t dancing, in terms of being in a group of musicians and not being in an active project,” Kauber says. “So that kind of drew us together.”
Chris Long joined the project next. Wilkins asked Long to join the band before Long left the country for a stint studying pottery in Taiwan. When he returned, he jammed with Wilkins and Kauber as a trio until the latter left the band to found Raw Paw, a local art zine. Wilkins felt protective of he and Long’s subsequent time as a duo, but had begun talking to bassist Colin Jenkins about joining the project.
“I was kinda trying to reel Colin in, cause I was like ‘you should do this but I’m not sure cause Chris and I got a good thing going’and you know, I wasn’t playing with his mind or anything but we weren’t sure how it was gonna work,” Wilkins says.
It worked. The trio along with former member and guitarist Claire Puckett, of Mother Falcon, started work on the band’s first release, “Friends.”
“I remember we had this really good jam, just letting it all out,” Wilkins says. “I was crying and shit, it was really cool. Then that spring we started recording our first full length.”
“Friends” walks a line between folk and more aggressive math rock. Kauber credits this to Puckett’s presence adding a feminine element to the band’s sound, which he says changed when she left the project to start Mother Falcon and he returned as the band’s guitarist. When Puckett left and Kauber returned, Hikes became the incarnation it exists in today: Wilkins, Long, Jenkins and Kauber. Or, “dudes, man,” as Kauber puts it.
The band’s sophomore release, their self-titled album, is more aggressive, with its softer moments coloring the record rather than defining it. In addition to the loss of Puckett’s influence, the band also credits this to their songwriting taking a naturally more “bombastic” tone and Wilkins creating this record as he emerged from a state of depression.
“I was going through a lot of shit, I think I was depressed for the first time in my life, and that last album was me coming out of that,” Wilkins says. “That’s what the very last track is, it goes down into the deepest part, then comes back out.”
Some might say that being in a band today means making music and selling yourself to every label, magazine and publicist you can think of. But Hikes has made sure not to develop themselves that way – they say an important part of their evolution has a band has been doing everything themselves and building a fanbase by touring.
“I was going through a lot of shit, I think I was depressed for the first time in my life, and that last album was me coming out of that”
“I always think that if “Friends” had been picked up by PR, then we’d be making very different music than what we’re making now,” Long says. “I feel like it’s important that we’ve grown naturally.”
The band has an arsenal of tour stories that could fill a memoir, but one of the most important aspects for them is the inspiration they draw and the connections they make while on the road.
“Getting to know the country, and getting to know each other, that’s the best way to do it,” Long says. “You know, a month is a long time and you get into some sticky, wacky situations out there.”
The band is currently focused on Alaska – they are working on a split with their friends and Las Vegas-based band named Alaska, and traveling to the state on tour.