Kati Claborn and Luke Ydstie talk about their sophomore album, A Dobritch Did as a Dobritch Should, and give an exclusive first look at their music video for "Peaches."
Two members of the popular indie-folk group Blind Pilot have created a new branch of roots-influenced music as The Hackles. The Astoria, Oregon-based husband-and-wife duo is releasing A Dobritch Did as A Dobritch Should on November 8.
Recently, we talked to them about the new record.
Cowboys & Indians: Congratulations on the new album, A Dobritch Did as a Dobritch Should. What’s most exciting about the release?
Kati Claborn: We started recording it about a year ago, so I think we’re just kind of excited for it to get out into the world and actually have people other than ourselves hear it.
Luke Ydstie: I’ve definitely gone through the cycle of getting really excited about it in the mixing process and then hearing it too much and then not listening to it for a while. Then we just got our vinyl copies last night and listened to it. And then I got excited all over again.
Ydstie: Yeah, this is going to be really fun to put this record out and have people listen to it.
C&I: What do you hope your fans will get out of it?
Ydstie: I just hope that it’ll be one of those records that becomes a friend. I guess you listen to it more than once, something that can be part of people’s lives. I hope that there’s stories and I hope that there’s melodies on there that people connect with.
Claborn: Like build a relationship.
Ydstie: Yeah. You know that song and those records where you feel like you do have a relationship with it. I feel like that’s the goal with anybody who’s putting out recorded music is to make something people can really connect to in their own personal life.
C&I: You’re both in the band Blind Pilot. How does this compilation of work as a duo feel different from your Blind Pilot music?
Claborn: The major difference is this was our project to work our songwriting muscles. Israel [Nebeker] of Blind Pilot is known as the songwriter, and then the rest of the band is arranging and figuring out our own parts. But as far as doing our own storytelling and creating that part of it, this was a project where we get to do that. It’s also really fun because we do a lot of co-writing, which is a really interesting adventure.
Ydstie: Yeah. To get into your own head and make songs bigger than you — bigger than you thought they were going to be. Blind Pilot, too — there’s six of us, and so everybody has got something to say musically, which makes it a really fun process. But it’s super fun to be able to, like, “Yeah, I think that I’m going to put a piano riff and I’m going to put a Dobro solo in a such-and-such.” Just kind of do whatever you want.
Claborn: Everyone has pretty specific roles in Blind Pilot because of the number of us. So it’s fun. Luke almost always has to play bass.
Ydstie: I love playing bass, but it’s fun to do other stuff.
C&I: I’ve seen Blind Pilot live three times, and every time I’m just blown away by the number of instruments each of you plays. What kind of instruments did you experiment with in the Hackles?
Claborn: On the album, we really went deep. How many did you play, Luke?
Ydstie: I played guitar — electric and acoustic — and I played bass. There’s some keys, piano, and Wurlitzer. I was by myself in the studio, fleshing out the song “The Empty Cups” and I was like, “I think I’m going to put some accordion in there,” so I put some accordion in there. Then, “You know what? I think it needs some harmonica on top of it”; that was a first for me. It’s my first foray into harmonica. That’s pretty thrilling for me.
Claborn: I got to do some vibraphone, which is really fun. I just get to watch Ian do it, generally. I played some clarinet. That was fun.
C&I: The album has such an interesting title. I was reading up about it, and it’s a nod to 20th-century Bulgarian circus impresario Al Dobritch. Why did you choose to allude to his legacy in your title?
Ydstie: That’s a very good question.
Claborn: Actually, the idea to use that as the title was Adam, who mixed the album and was also kind of our co-producer on it. He’s a real good friend of ours and a really amazing musician and engineer and mixer. I think the reason why we settled on that is there’s an underlining theme running throughout the album about inevitability and the challenges in our life that we can overcome. But there are also things you just can’t overcome. Themes of power imbalance and struggle.
Ydstie: I think Adam’s reason was mostly just like, “I really like that line. This should be the title of the record.” OK, but then —
Claborn: Then we kind of sat with it and we were like, “Oh yeah, that is one of the major themes of the album,” doing what you’re made to do but also doing what you have to do, and how those interact.
Ydstie: Also, I think with that whole story this record contains a lot more narratives from perspectives other than our own, like the idea of thinking about a character in a situation and writing a song from that place. So just right away, setting the whole album from someone else’s perspective and this very specific obscure situation. ...
Sometimes me and Kati do song challenges. Like, “OK, we need to write a song. What are we going to do?” And we’ll give each other, “Write a song on an instrument you’ve never written on before,” or I think for that one, “OK, write a song. The only rule is it’s got to be about the circus.” So I wrote “Empty Cups,” which is from the perspective of a circus lion.
Here's an exclusive first look at the official video for "Peaches"
C&I: How do you normally approach songwriting? Do you start with the lyrics or do you start with the melody first?
Claborn: I think I often start with a melody, with lyrics. Luke often starts with the guitar parts.
Ydstie: Yeah. I’ll just be playing something on the guitar that feels like a thing, feels like it wants to be something or it’s got a little bit more character than just noodling around on the guitar. It’s like, “Oh ...” and something that drives you to keep playing it. Then as I keep playing it over and over, usually a melody will come around, and then there’ll be maybe a couple of words and then I’ll hole up for a spell and try and get — by hole up, I mean just sit in the kitchen — and then I’m usually like, “Kati, help. I need words. I don’t know what this is about.” But yeah, that’s normally how it goes for me.
C&I: This is your first project together. Is there a song that you’re most proud of, that you’re most excited for the audience to hear?
Ydstie: Listening to the record last night for the first time in a while, I really like how it all hangs together. I like listening to it as an entity, but as far as individual songs ... “Dominoes” is fun. I really like “Peaches.” I really enjoy that one.
Claborn: I have new favorites all the time. It changes.
C&I: You’re based in Oregon. How did the state influence your music?
Claborn: The town we live in is called Astoria.
Ydstie: Oldest settlement west of the Rockies.
Claborn: And it’s also right on the Columbia River. It’s where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. That water is very ever-present.
Ydstie: Yeah. It’s gray and rainy here and that definitely influences our music.
Claborn: And pretty much everywhere you are in town, you can see this huge expanse of the Columbia River that’s about two miles across where we are. So I think water is ever-present, but I think it makes its way into a lot of our songs.
C&I: What are some of the must-visit places in the state that you would recommend?
Claborn: The Oregon coast is just really beautiful and wild.
Ydstie: That’s pretty spectacular. I think the Columbia River Gorge and the Oregon coast. Just come up anywhere in those spots. Just the landscape is pretty magnificent.
C&I: What can we expect next? Another album down the line?
Ydstie: For sure. There’s enough new material in the pipeline, and I’m sure we’ll do some more recording within the next few months.
C&I: How about plans for a tour?
Claborn: Yeah, we have a little tour coming up at the end of this month, regionally, so we’ll do Oregon/Washington/Idaho/Montana/Northern California. So that’s coming up in the next month.
Ydstie: Hopefully, yeah, we’ll start pushing further east and south.
Upcoming Tour Dates
Bar Budwig Fall Tour
SEP 27 FRI - Enterprise, OR @ The Range Rider
SEP 28 SAT - Moscow, ID @ Modest Music Fest (Tickets Here)
OCT 4 FRI - Olympia, WA @ Hobbit Hole
OCT 6 SUN - Seattle, WA @ Hotel Albatross
OCT 9 WED - Whitefish, MT @ The Great Northern Bar & Grill
OCT 10 THU - Sandpoint, ID @ Ultra
OCT 15 TUE - Pendleton, OR @ Great Pacific
OCT 17 THU - Coos Bay, OR @ 7 Devils Brewing Co.
OCT 18 FRI - Eugene, OR @ Sam Bond's Garage
OCT 19 SAT - Davis, CA @ Sophia's | Thai Bar & Kitchen
OCT 20 SUN - Knights Ferry, CA @ Knights Ferry General Store, Saloon & Grill
OCT 21 MON - Chico, CA @ Unwined Kitchen & Bar
The Hackles w/ Martha Scanlan & Jon Neufeld
For more information on the Hackles, visit their Facebook page.
Photography: Courtesy Hearth Music