The every day tedium of adulthood is wrought with expectations. Health, wealth, career, marriage, home ownership, children: these are the mile markers of the crumbling American Dream. It’s up to the newest generations to question, break down, and reorganize these pillars into something that looks like a bearable future.
Home Body’s new music video for “DNA” explores so-called traditional values and gender bias through the lens of the stereotypical heteronormative relationship. The backbeat feels like a date night groove, with Haley Morgan’s voice treading softly overhead. Morgan and Eric Hnatow have been making music together in and around Western Massachusetts for over 13 years, and the cohesion is easy to hear; “DNA” doesn’t take a while to wind up, it moves confidently, with the maturity of shared experience. The track appears on their forthcoming LP (and first in five years) Spiritus, out April 26.
Watch “DNA” and read our full interview with the band below:
AF: Home Body formed in 2011. Tell us about that initial beginning. Were you already a couple?
ERIC HNATOW: Yes, we had met and fallen in love at Hampshire College five years prior to Home Body, way back in 2006. We each had our own creative outlets. Haley had been doing lots of site-specific, community-engaged installation work, and I was working on my own music and visual art. Until then, I was mostly working on instrumental music, and had a deep desire to integrate vocals. I had tried doing it myself, but it always fell somewhere between terrible and dangerous with me usually writhing on the ground in a pile cables and power supplies.
HALEY MORGAN: Yeah, I remember being nervous you were going to electrocute yourself or something! I think we both sort of expected we would eventually have a band together, since it seemed like such a great way to live a creative life, connect with people, and travel. I had never been in a band before but had done like, musical theatre growing up and have always loved singing. Eric and I had collaborated in different projects before Home Body though, like both singing in our friend Shira E’s rag shag choir and participating in friends’ dance projects. It took us a while to figure out how to communicate about music though because neither of us are like, trained musicians.
AF: Let’s talk writing process. Your music has such beautiful layering to it. Do you normally start with a beat or lyrics?
HM: The writing process is always different but usually it comes from a place of playfulness and improvisation. We have utilized many different strategies and equations for making songs over the years, but usually jam and find grooves or texture combinations we like, and sculpt from there. Sometimes the song literally just drools out of us and sometimes we work for years on a song and then throw it away, only to rediscover it years later and become re-enchanted with it.
EH: Some of the machines I play in Home Body I’ve used for so long that they seem to have their own life, their own story. There is often little to no memory left on them, so some of the patterns have been kicking around for over a decade, some even closer to 20 years now. In some weird way, it feels as if our machines should have partial songwriting credit, not because they are “doing all the work,” but since it often feels as if they have contributed in a strange and intangible way, having been with me all those years.
AF: How do you approach sound design? Do you go looking for a specific sound (a la Eurorack)? Or do you have a set up you just keep and tweak?
EH: More like a keep and tweak situation. Like I said, I have been using the same variation of machines for a long time now. I use a few Korg Electribes and a Korg MS2000 that I’ve used since the year 2000. The machines and I have been together so long now that they’re like an extension of myself – I almost can hear them talking as if it’s a language. I can often get the machines to sound exactly like I want without having to think too much about it.
HM: Vocally we’ve evolved a bunch though. In the beginning I wanted to sound raw and “real,” but over time we’ve learned how to finesse my vocals so they fit in the overall mix better. And on this new album we’ve really filled out the sound with multiple layers of backing vocals. They sound so lush now!
AF: Do you oscillate back and forth in terms of taking the lead on a song? Or is it organically even?
HM: Though some parts do come together organically, our process also involves a lot of emotional work. It’s important that we both feel heard in our music. We love playing with dynamics and exploring that shadowy space between us, where we’re both extended, where we’re both holding each other up, reaching out towards some shared goal. I think we’ve learned a lot from improvisational dance practices like Authentic Movement about focus, taking up space, and the roles of witness/performer. In the end we are most concerned with serving the composition.
AF: You describe this release as “a departure from our previous releases, in terms of content and production… we followed our delight to its core, slowing down the process, inviting spaciousness and reflection, isolating all the drum parts, and sculpting sonic depth with background vocals and supportive synths…” What delights inspired this new record? Certain books, music, art?
EH: Since we made these eight songs over such a long period of time, it seems a little difficult to pinpoint exactly what music inspired Spiritus. Some artists or albums that immediately come to mind include Talk Talk, Jenny Hval, Sarah McLachlan’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Bonnie Raitt, Enigma, The Eurythmics’ In The Garden, Peter Gabriel, and Mort Garson’s Plantasia. And visual artists like Nick Cave, Alex Da Corte, and Mary Corse, and the choreography of Sonya Tayeh. We are also just really inspired by the things our friends do and make, and by the natural world and our immediate surroundings. Western Massachusetts has many natural swim spots, rock formations, and dense forests that feed our spirits in a big way.
HM: Yeah, I guess the delight we’re referring to there is our own! For this album we wanted to make a real record of our emotional realities, something that was the clearest reflection of our spirits as possible. We’ve been to some dark places in the five years since our last release – dealing with death, heartache, deceit, and the general shit show that is American politics. In that tangled, heavy darkness we experienced a real yearning for light, movement, and resolution. We were both able to heal and move on from these challenges through working together on these songs, through all the little negotiations and agreements, each scratching our own auditory itches, and following our shadowy curiosity until we both felt totally satisfied.
Our process for this album looked very different from our other albums in the way that we really took our time and let the songs breathe so that we could gain perspective on them, recharge our emotional batteries, then go back in and sculpt more. It’s like with a relationship – you need patience, and you need space to process change and growth. You must love and accept yourself in order to be a good partner to someone else. We wanted to really love what we were making – not consider what anyone else wanted to hear but satisfy ourselves, first and foremost. On past albums we’ve rushed the recording process and then found ourselves making concessions and just like, settling – trying to convince ourselves we liked something because it was emotionally easier or financially cheaper that way. With Spiritus we challenged ourselves to prioritize our joy – a task easier said than done for me. Vocals are such a personal thing, and in the past I’ve always sort of cringed at how my voice sounded on recordings. But through the past few years of slowing down to focus on my heart and spirit, learning to take more space, and standing in my own power I find my voice has grown stronger and more nimble, and I love it now.
AF: Are you both yourselves on stage? Or do you have a personae of sorts?
EH: We definitely have a ritual before we go on stage where we transition from Haley and Eric into Home Body. On stage we try to embody the energy of the song and take on the vibe of the room, maintaining focus. Being witnessed and having the privilege of people’s attention is something we do not take lightly. We believe in the magic that is created through being together and sharing a moment. We see ourselves as facilitators, channels, or conductors of that experience. It’s a heady responsibility for sure! We feel we have a job to do when we are on stage, and we want to do it as best as we can.
AF: Tell us about the music video for “DNA.” What’s the concept here?
HM: Writing this song, we had been thinking a lot about inherited and chosen identities, and how ritual can initiate personal evolution and generational healing. We had wanted to work with Patty Gone after seeing their video series, “Painted Dreams,” which playfully explored the cliches and contradictions of gender as told through soap operas and the soft language of cultural objects. Incorporating actual meaningful objects from our personal lives into this sort of absurd display of luxuriant domesticity was a way for us to subvert our own shifting heteronormative narrative.
AF: You’ve done some fundraising as a band. What advice do you have for a young band whose planning their first tour?
HM: Capitalism isn’t structured to value music or music makers. Yet embodied creativity is essential in building an empathetic, resilient, and vibrant society. So it’s up to each of us, as artists, to continuously advocate for our vision and craft. Perspective is priceless. Find little ways to keep pushing to expand and share yours. We’ve learned a lot from self-booking over 400 shows over the years… a lot of it comes down to the art of the follow-up email, the importance of stretching and eating real food on the road, having a solid merch set up, and being conscious of what drains and refills your energetic reserves.
EH: Go where you don’t know anybody. Yes, play with bands you know, have your friends at shows, but also embrace the mystery of an unknown scene.
AF: Y’all have a tour coming up and it is packed! What can folks expect from a Home Body show? I read fake blood may be on the menu…
EH: Ha, no fake blood this tour! Haley operates a light show while she sings and dances, so you can expect to see what it might look like should lightning become human form. We’ll be playing songs off the new album as well as our other material. If you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of me squirming on the filthy ground, hopefully not from food poisoning.
Spiritus is out April 26 via via Feeding Tube Records and Peace & Rhythm (preorder here). Dying to see Home Body LIVE? Check out their tour dates below!