Hawktail hasn’t performed in Iowa. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the instrumental bluegrass band only plays out one weekend a month.
“That’s the way we like to do it,” guitarist Jordan Tice said by phone from Berkeley. “We’re all working on different things. I’m out in California opening some shows for (folk singer/songwriter) David Bromberg. We all do our own thing.”
Tice, a singer/songwriter when working solo, focuses on his personal projects. The rest of Hawktail is busy, as well. Bassist Paul Kowert records and tours with the Punch Brothers. Fiddler Brittany Haas is a member of Crooked Still and is an in-demand session player. Mandolin player Dominick Leslie performs with Sam Reider and the Human Hands and Phoebe Hunt and the Gatherers.
“So will we ever make Hawktail our full-time job,” Tice said when probed about the band’s future. “I don’t think so. But it doesn’t mean that we won’t put everything into what we do with Hawktail. We worked very hard on the new album.”
“Formations” is due out in January, and the band will preview songs from that second album Sunday night (9/29) at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids.
“We’re going to play a lot of the new material when we perform in Cedar Rapids,” Tice said. “The new songs are more groove-oriented, more robust. This album is more in-your-face than our last album.”
“Unless,” the quartet’s debut, released in 2018, is a loose and open album. The light shines on each musician throughout the recording. That’s an appropriate approach, since Hawktail is bold enough to create without a singer.
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“That’s by design,” Tice said. “There are plenty of bands with vocalists out there. It’s all about the music with Hawktail. You can always make an album with songs with vocals on them. I can’t express how much satisfaction we get out of making instrumental music. We take chances. It’s an adventure.”
Both Hawktail albums feature Punch Brother Chris Eldridge producing.
“We’re comfortable with Chris or Critter as we call him,” Tice said. “We trust him and we believe in him and he believes in us. Critter has been a vital part of what we have done.”
Adventurous bluegrass icons Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer have had a massive impact on Hawktail.
“I can’t say enough about Bela and Edgar and the effect they’ve had on us, since those guys ended up taking instrumental folk music into an experience that’s larger in scope,” Tice said. “We’ve been moved by what they’ve done with improvisation. They created many of the templates we use.
“We get inspiration from them to take our music to new places. We’re willing to take risks or add anything to our music to make it better.”
Hawktail will invite musicians into the studio, like Victor “Futureman” Wooten.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to achieve a certain standard,” Tice said. “We’ll ask whomever to come in to add that certain something. We’ll take chances. Wait until you hear the record. You’ll hear a band that went in a different direction.”
“Formations” was recorded in just four days.
“We did so much heavy lifting with the first album that this one was a breeze to complete,” Tice said. “It’s more than possible to complete an album in less than a week. Now the fun part is going out and playing these songs.”
Tice hopes to arrive early in Cedar Rapids and check out the town.
“Iowa is one of my favorite states,” he said. “I played in Decorah years ago and something about Iowa reminds me of home. I’m from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. There is a deep-seated culture there, and the same is so for Iowa. There’s also something mystical about Iowa — and the people who come out to shows are among the most enthusiastic that I’ve seen — so I’m very much looking forward to returning to Iowa.”
WHERE: CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday (9/29)
TICKETS: $17 advance, $21 door; CSPS Box Office, (319) 364-1580 or legionarts.org/events/upcoming/hawktail/
BAND’S WEBSITE: hawktailmusic.com