Gentlemen Hall Talks Boston Calling, Local Music Scene
After playing a show, the guys of synth-pop band Gentlemen Hall like to hang out at their merchandise table to meet the fans that made up their crowd for the night. In Boston, they have repeated encounters with fans whose names they already know, the ones who have attended a handful of their shows by now, seven years after they first laid their roots in this city.
“It’s just like an extended family,” said bassist Rory Given in a phone interview earlier this week. “You can’t beat that.”
The bandmates met at Berklee College of Music, and bonded while attending the same parties and sharing similar musical interests. But it wasn’t until after their music school days that they began writing music together, eventually forming Gentlemen Hall.
“We ended up writing songs, and it progressed to the state that we’re currently in, which is loving what we do, loving each other, and trying to make more cool music for our fans,” said flutist Seth Hachen.
Throughout the years, they’ve maintained a home base in Boston, with current residences scattered in Brighton, Cambridge, and Mission Hill, and they’ve established a strong fan base in the city. In 2010, the Phoenix named them “Best New Local Act,” and then “Boston’s Best Act” two years later. They received “Pop Rock Artist of the Year” and “Video of the Year” honors at the 2011 Boston Music Awards, and even boast a signature smoothie at local Ben & Jerry’s locations.
“We have a long history in this city. We’ve done pretty much every venue—and venues that are not venues at all,” said Given.
He and Hachen recalled their early days playing house shows in Allston basements before breaking into the local circuit of venues. They cite their shows at Brighton Music Hall as “some of the best” they’ve done, laud the fairly recent addition of The Sinclair onto Boston’s roster of concert halls, and mark their first time playing at the House of Blues, at a sold-out show in support of Third Eye Blind, as a “mind-blowing” defining moment.
“It’s more personal. We have such a deeper history with fans here,” said Given. “It’s really cool going out and playing new crowds and exposing new people to your art and getting appreciation for it, but it’s really nice being here because we play Boston so often, and the fan base is really dedicated.”
Last New Year’s Eve, the band performed at the First Night Boston festivities at Copley Square—a night they describe as “sheer madness,” but in the most positive way.
“It was really cool because that’s just a huge gang of Bostonians celebrating New Year’s Eve. There was no cover charge, so anybody could be there, and everyone was there,” said Given. “It was a monster party, and it was so much fun.”
Next weekend, Gentlemen Hall will perform in front of a crowd of thousands of Bostonians once again, at the fall 2014 edition of Boston Calling, where they’re looking forward to debuting new material that they’ve been recording all summer in New York.
“When we write in the studio we always think about how [the music] would sound in front of a few thousand people at a festival, and try to compose for those experiences,” said Hachen. “Now we’re [rehearsing] in a basement imagining thousands of people in front of us, and it’s exciting.”
Gentlemen Hall will kick off Sunday’s lineup at the festival, but on Saturday night they’ll also play a more intimate gig at Great Scott for one of the official Boston Calling after-parties.
“We’ll play ’til one in the morning, and then pack up all our stuff, and then be at the festival seven hours later, and then play three hours after that,” said Given. “Why not?”
Great Scott’s capacity is much smaller than City Hall Plaza, but the band is equally looking forward to both experiences.
“You always perform as if there’s a million people in front of you. It could be a crowd of 20 people, but it could be the most special night,” said Hachen. “We’ll get both experiences within 24 hours—we’ll play for 200 people at Great Scott, and then we’ll go play at the big festival, and both will be equally special.”
Watching Boston Calling grow with each edition as both performers and spectators—they attended the fall 2013 edition to support fellow Berklee alumni Lucius—the bandmates recognize the place that the festival has carved out for itself within the city’s music scene.
“It’s gigantic, and it’s important,” said Hachen. “Everybody was always talking about Boston’s music scene, and how it lacked a great festival, but now it’s here, and it’s right on City Hall Plaza. It puts Boston even more on the map as one of the great music scenes in the states, and we’re just so happy to be a part of it.”
Gentlemen Hall will perform at the official Boston Calling after-party on Saturday, September 6, 9 p.m., at Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, $19, ticketmaster.
The band opens day three of Boston Calling on Sunday, September 7, 1 p.m., City Hall Plaza, Boston, bostoncalling.com.