A Chat With American Babies' Tom Hamilton

Philadelphia based jam band American Babies will be coming to Indianapolis for the first time in their nearly decade long career.

American Babies’ upcoming album An Epic Battle Between Light and Dark focuses on mental health and looking for the positives in life. The album is kicked off by “Synth Driver,” a sprawling seven minute track based on a looping drum pattern. The rest of the album shifts from bluesy rock to indie jam always returning to the motif of darkness and light.

Tom Hamilton, courtesy of Chart Room Media

Tom Hamilton, courtesy of Chart Room Media

Lead singer and guitar player Tom Hamilton has been making music full time for the last fifteen years and has noticed changes not only in his own writing style but the landscape of music. Along with being the frontman for the band, Hamilton is the director and editor for all the band’s music videos.

Being so intimately connected with every aspect of the band has allowed Hamilton to communicate an idea through art as well as the recording. The American Babies is certainly Hamilton’s baby.

The Campus Citizen caught Hamilton on the phone before he took off with American Babies for their upcoming tour.

Will this be your first time playing Indianapolis?

I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve ever played there to be quite honest. I’ve played a lot of towns over a lot of years, but I don’t recall playing Indianapolis.

Your new album “An Epic Battle Between Light and Dark” is coming out March 18 and it’s definitely jammy…

Yeah, it definitely feels like you’re rolling down the windows and taking a drive.

How do you keep your music fresh?

I try with all my might to keep from repeating myself artistically. I feel like it’s something any good artist tends to do.

The record weighs both the positives and negatives, do you feel the record is more positive overall?

For me it was. That’s kind of all I can get out of it. It’s art, people get out of it what they want. Some people may hear it and think it’s a really dark record, some people may think it’s a really positive record hence the title. For me it was a very positive experience both emotionally and artistically. It’s more on the listener to get out of it what they will.

How do you go about writing an album?

As I live and walk through the world I just write things down. If it’s something that comes to mind, or something I heard someone say, or a sign, or something carved in a park bench there’s things everywhere if you are paying attention. That’s part of my job, to just pay attention to take the temperature of the world. For me personally, it’s a very slow process, very organic. I try not to force anything. I let the tank fill up and when the tanks full it’s time to empty, hopefully by the time the tank is empty you have a cool record.

How have you changed as an artist as you’ve gotten older?

I think the difference in general between a 20 year old and a 30 year old is patience. Realizing that you don’t really know anything. When I was 20 I thought I knew everything, I was doing the thing I loved and trying to assert myself in my place in the world. You make all these definitive statements, something is ‘the best’ or ‘the right way’ or whatever. But as you get older you realize that those were almost all wrong, everything is a matter of opinion, and everything is subjective. Socrates once said, ‘the smartest man is the man who knows he knows nothing.’ I try to take that as a pretty sound way to live, that’s the difference. Wait to play your hand. Patience, patience would be the biggest thing.

An Epic Battle Between Light and Dark, available March 18.

An Epic Battle Between Light and Dark, available March 18.

You directed your new video?

Yeah, I filmed something that I really loved. All of our videos I’ve directed and edited. For me it’s fun to be learning a new craft, and it’s interesting to take a song and bring in another medium in which to make it mean something. To be able to not just stop at the end of the recording but think of it visually and conceptually and give these songs more depth than they had on just vinyl.

Do you think rock is dead?

It’s hard because when there is genuine rock’n’roll, very quickly it get consumed by the insincere and gets regurgitated into the popular consciousness and it loses all of its edge. You know you had Gun’s N Roses which was this barreling, crazy, rip-your-fucking-head-off-and-fuck-it music and it turned into fucking FireHouse. You had Nirvana and Pearl Jam and that turned into fucking Creed and Bush, you see what I’m saying. The thing is it’s happening quicker now than it ever has, the minute you get something sincere you get some fucking shit-bag version of it. At the same time you can look at it in the positive light and it’s kind of cool like if you want to listen to the good shit you gotta do the work, you have to find it. I’m just spitballing, what the fuck do I know?

Do you still enjoy touring?

I enjoy it for sure. I gotta find a better way to balance it, I think. That’s the trick to everything is balance. In the last few years I’ve gotten lucky and had really cool things happen in my life and my career. I’m not the kind of guy who says ‘no’ to a lot of shit but I feel like I’ll have to start saying ‘no’ to have some semblance of sanity. I don’t know anything else, I’ve been doing this since I was 22. It’s hard to even fathom doing something else.

American Babies will be performing at The Mousetrap on Friday, Feb. 19.

Show starts at 9:00 p.m. 21+

More information here.