Interview: Hiram-Maxim Are Getting Off To A Good Start

Photo by Lauren Voss

Interview with vocalist Fred Gunn  |  Written by Tyler Gibson

Cleveland, Ohio’s Hiram-Maxim are a doomgaze four-piece who came together as part of L.A.’s Lottery League, which groups random musicians together to form new bands. Their self-titled debut was released March 3rd via Aqualamb Records.

You guys are a relatively new band. How did Hiram-Maxim begin?

Before we were called Hiram-Maxim, we were called Kill It With Fire!, before that, Band 12, and before that, we were complete strangers.

The band was formed in a Cleveland project called Lottery League. Lottery League has been held in 2008, 2010, and 2013, and was created by Jae Kristoff, Michael Pultz, and Ed Sotelo. The guideline is to invite a selected group of local musicians, pool everyone’s names into a bingo hopper, and randomly draft bands out of the pool, with the only rules being that musicians must have performed out live previously and that they couldn’t be drafted into a band with someone they have already been in a band with before. Bands are then given two months to create a band name and write a 10 minute set of music to perform at “The Big Show.” The goal is to force people out of their element, their “comfort zone,” and create something new.

Before being drafted into this band together, I was friends with [guitarist] Dave [Taha], but had never even heard of [drummer] John [Panza] or [synth-er and vocalist] Lisa [Miralia] before. It all clicked right away, and after the project was over, all of us wanted to keep going.

What was writing and recording your self-titled debut like?

There is a big element of improv to this band. Usually, when we get together, one of us will start and then we all just all play off each other. Finally, after many practices, I decided to pull out my phone and record the practice. “Visceral” and “One” started off as rehearsal jam sessions that, after listening to them, we went back and learned how to play. Going into the recording sessions with John Delzoppo at Negative Space, we had these two songs prepared. “Can’t Stop” and “Worship” were both improvised in the studio. We went back in after I wrote lyrics and finished up the tracks. We added some other stuff, but for the most part those are untouched. Both songs even still have some of the original scratch track vocals in the mix.

What’s it like working with Aqualamb Records on this project?

Nightmare, never met two bigger assholes. But seriously, they’ve been great. Both [owners, graphic deisgners] Johnathan [Swafford] and Eric [Palmerlee], are super friendly and encouraging. I think their idea for packaging an album as a book is so smart and creative. I mean, let’s be honest, CDs are dead and there is no point printing them anymore. If you do get one, you take it home, upload it to your computer, and never touch the thing again. So what does that leave a band with to sell—besides vinyl—when they play out? “Hey guys, go check our Bandcamp page when you get home,” or, “Hey, buy this book: it’s 100 pages of artwork and comes with a download of our album”? The books are really fucking cool. [An] 100 page bound book with artwork and a download code. Ours was done by graphic designer, Dangerous Minds contributor, and friend Ron Kretsch.

Does Cleveland hold a significance that embeds itself in your musical output?

Our drummer John Panza says, “There is a gorgeous bleakness about this area that inspires great music.” As far as the individuals in our band, we’re all pretty pro-Cleveland. There is a lot going on here right now. I know no one outside of the area knows or really cares about what’s going on in Cleveland. But I think they’re missing out. Our local music scene is thriving right now. Cloud Nothings and Obnox are on a national scale, but there are so many Cleveland bands right now that are just killing it! Goldmines, Murderedman, Herzog, Shitbox Jimmy, Field Trip… Man, I feel really strong about the talent in this city right now. The cool thing is there not much trash talking or competitiveness; everybody is very supportive of one another.

What’s next for Hiram-Maxim?

In December, we went back into the studio with John Delzoppo and began recording again for the next record. Still in the very early stages of that, but we’ve already laid down over 90 minutes worth of music to play with. So, we’re off to a good start.

Purchase Hiram Maxim’s self-titled here.

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