By Andy Downing
RedEye special contributor
5:03 PM CDT, April 24, 2013
Near the close of Youngblood Hawke's debut album, "Wake Up," frontman Sam Martin sings, "You don't get a second chance to make the same mistakes."
Yet a second chance is exactly what Martin has been given.
Prior to forming the Los Angeles-based sextet, the singer and his bandmate Simon Katz spent six years grinding away in Iglu & Hartly, a California-by-way-of-Colorado rock band that scored a major label deal and briefly flirted with mainstream success before disintegrating in 2011. At the time, Martin, 29, considered giving up music altogether. Instead, he formed Youngblood with some close friends and set about recording "Wake Up," a triumphant, fist-pumping album filled with radio-ready anthems about overcoming life's many obstacles.
"I think we wrote these songs to make ourselves feel better," he said. "At the time we were feeling low, and we wrote these songs to try and get ourselves out of that mindset."
By phone, Martin discussed the lessons learned from his time in Iglu & Harty, the first time he heard Youngblood Hawke on the radio and the link between the band's breakout song "We Come Running" and Fun's "We Are Young."
What did you learn from your time in Iglu & Hartly that you've been able to apply to Youngblood Hawke?
I think the major thing that went wrong with [Iglu & Hartly] was just the relationships within the band. I think for a band to have longevity you need to have really strong, healthy relationships with everyone in the band. With Youngblood, we've been friends for years, and it really feels like a family. Simon and I both came from Iglu, and we didn't really have a voice in that band, so it was hard for us to make the music we wanted to make. We had to fit a certain mold, and this band has allowed us to break out and make the music closest to our hearts.
Did you have any qualms with signing to a major label a second time around?
There were certainly some nerves going into it. We were wide-eyed and young before. Now we're smarter and more careful. Everything we do has to have a purpose and be meaningful. And it has to come from us. It can't come from other people. We told the label what we wanted, and we felt we'd have the control over this project to get our vision out there. Our songs are radio songs, and they're maybe the best label to be with to get your stuff on the radio.
Do you remember the first time you actually heard your music on the radio?
Yeah. It was completely surreal. KROQ, our local station in Los Angeles, wrote us an email that said, "Congratulations! They picked up your song and we're playing it in 10 minutes!" We ran out to the car to hear it, and the station wasn't working so we had to drive up into the hills. Right when we got there it came on ... and it felt like all the hard work was starting to pay off.
You guys named the album "Wake Up," and there are songs titled "Sleepless Nights" and "Dreams." Were you having issues sleeping during the writing and recording process?
Absolutely! It was one of those things where we'd had good success with [Iglu & Hartly]. We had a top five hit in the U.K., and you get in this mindset, like, "It's going to last forever!" Then one day it crashes. We were sitting in our living room after taking this explosive ride, going, "What now?" It was scary because it took us six years to get that other band off the ground, and we didn't know if we wanted to do that again. We talked about going back to college and doing something else, but in the end we decided to just go for it. We were broke and didn't have anything, and there were plenty of sleepless nights. It was a stressful time, and there was a lot going on in our lives, but we just threw all of that into the music.
"We Come Running" features the West Los Angeles Children's Choir, which also appeared on Fun's "We Are Young." Is this merely the opening shot in an inevitable battle royal between the two bands?
[Laughs] I think that was just a coincidence. It was always our dream to have kids on a song, and it just really went with the message of that one, which is about not giving up and not letting obstacles get in your way. We thought children's voices would really help the message stick out because when you're a kid there's nothing in your way. You're going to be an astronaut, a doctor, a baseball player -- whatever you want to be. Kids don't set limits for themselves.
Youngblood Hawke, 8 p.m. May 7 at Lincoln Hall, $13-$15
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