Shifting Gears: An Interview with Hescher
As the latest project from Cory Sinclair, Hescher brings something new to the table. Formerly the vocalist for The Manichean, Sinclair has moved from working with a rock n’ roll sound to a truly cinematic one through his work with sound design. Sinclair intimates that Hescher will vary depending on the situation; one sound for live club shows, another for sound design. Prior to Hescher’s debut performance at The Nightingale Room on Thursday, Free Press Houston caught up with Sinclair to discuss what he has in store with his latest project.
Free Press Houston: Is Hescher a solo project?
Cory Sinclair: I’ll be performing live with Chris Landry and Thomas Bowman, but it’s technically a solo project, and I’ll be frank, there’s a lot of ego behind it and whatnot. So much of what my role was in The Manichean was about conceptualizing things. [Guitarist for The Manichean] Justice [Tirapeli-Jamail] and I would talk about things, but I would really try to play director, and that’s what I’m doing with this, but I’m also trying to create as much content as possible since I didn’t write any of the music; Justice wrote all the music for The Manichean.
FPH: The overall sound is quite a departure from The Manichean. How did Hescher evolve into your new project?
Sinclair: Actually, it was a somewhat painful process for a period of time because Justice and I came to a point with The Manichean where we were actually starting to get the kind of attention that we wanted and we were starting to play on the kinds of terms that we wanted to establish for ourselves. We played something like three shows in 2013, which was our last year, and one of them was at the Alley Theatre, one of them was a collaboration with DiverseWorks, and the other was a festival that we played in Beaumont. We were actually really happy with where things were going, but it was kind of a situation where people have been playing the same songs for seven or eight years and they get really tired of it. So, Justice needed to take a step away and I needed to take a step away and we really needed to figure things out. Our last show was at DiverseWorks in October of 2013 and I was engaged at that point. 2014 was big year for both of us because we spent so much time apart. He’s my fucking soulmate, I mean, him and my wife are it. So that was the first year that we really spent time apart and it was tough. I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t know music theory. I’m learning it now because I have to.
FPH: Are you self-taught?
Sinclair: Everything is self-taught. I wouldn’t say I play any instruments, but I compose on my computer and I’ve been singing for 15 years.
FPH: How exactly did you start making the music you’re creating as Hescher?
Sinclair: The desire was there, had been there, even before I met Justice when I was still acting, I had been singing for a long time. I was in a band in high school with my friends. So I had these ideas and turned them into this kind of poetry, spoken word, performance art thing, but I luckily found Justice who was able to facilitate this whole aspect of it that I wasn’t familiar with, which was the music part. So with Justice gone in 2014, and he came back in 2015, we were working again, but his focus ended up being that he wanted to go [to California] to explore this other aspect. So that was difficult. But the separation happened and sometime later in 2015 I got my hands on a copy of Ableton Live and signed up for some online classes and started to learn the digital audio workstation and using my intuition to make sounds. Of those initial songs that I wrote, one of them survived and is one of the songs I’ll be performing on Thursday. It’s one that I haven’t recorded or released yet. It’s not [“Scarlet Shell“], that’s not really a live song, that’s more like a film score song. That was the idea behind writing and releasing [“Scarlet Shell”] because it was in line with the production, the play A Steady Rain. When I started writing stuff, a lot that turned into what I used for the score for A Steady Rain. Being approached by them, I decided I wanted to craft sound design as well. The play took place in Chicago, there were actually multiple car chases and this really dramatic script, a very dramatic script, that only had two men on stage. It ended up being a different approach with us [Thomas and I] on stage during the performances.
FPH: How did you get involved in A Steady Rain?
Sinclair: When we did the performances at the Alley Theatre — we performed Lovers in 2012 and 2013 — and in 2013 the lighting guy that the Alley introduced us to, John Baker, well, him and two of his associates started Dirt Dogs Theatre Company and this was their inaugural show and they wanted to have a unique take with music as a part of it. Now Melinda [Beckham], who’s a board member along with her husband Trevor [Cone] and John Baker — Melinda was the director and she had something specific in mind. John had contacted Justice and I and he was already in Los Angeles. So it was like, “Well, I’m here. I’ve never done anything like this before and I would love to do it.” They said, “Well, this is our first show and we are a nonprofit theatre organization and we don’t have any money to pay you right now.” I was like, “Listen, rather than money I would like to indulge in fostering a relationship with your company.” I actually just did sound design for Glengarry Glen Ross, which just went up and down at MATCH [this month]. It was a great experience. It was mostly curating songs from the late ’70s and early ’80s and I also wrote some string parts for the transitions between scenes. I’m going to continue to do this kind of work with them and hopefully other people, too. So that kind of theatrical, film aspect of what I’m doing and creating is there. But that’s not so much what live Hescher shows are like. I started focusing last year, after the play, on creating tracks for a live set. I want to make people dance, so that’s the stuff I’ve been working on for the past half of a year. That’s kind of the path I’m on now in terms of debuting myself as an artist and the stuff I plan on releasing this year and next. I want to release an EP later this year and an EP next year. I know what they’re going to be called and they have this story behind them. There’s a lot about story to me. That being said, there’s a difference between the club show of Hescher and what I want to be the theatre show, and while I’m working towards that, I have to start here.
FPH: Is there a preference?
Sinclair: You know, with The Manichean, we were basically a young Houston band and that’s how we approached things because we were kids. I mean, I was 22 when we started the band and Justice was 17. We met in the middle there, as we always have. Those two shows at the Alley Theatre, especially the one in 2013, that’s probably the thing I’m proudest of in my life thus far. It was just the level of professionalism involved in the whole performance that the Alley provided and whatnot. So do I have a preference? They’re totally different shows. That’s the idea. If it’s in the theatre, it’s going to have a whisper of that rock show energy, but it’s going to be a theatrical production. If it’s a rock show, a club show, then it’s going to have a little bit of that gravitas that comes from the theatrical performance, as opposed to going to a club and watching a band. There’s a time to have fun and there’s a time to rock out and dance, and there’s a time to be focused and put on a proper show that’s meant to have an emotional impact. With Hescher, I want to take risks as an artist and getting started, there’s going to be the club show. It gets people paying attention.
It’s working out better than I’d anticipated. A lot of times — and I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this — trying to put something together, especially if it’s the first time that you’ve done it, can be very taxing. This is alarmingly stress-free and I know what I have to do the next few days until Thursday, and I do have work to do and the guys and I have several long practices over the next several days, but it’s all coming together the way that I envisioned it. I’m confident and comfortable, which is kind of strange.
Hescher performs with Night Drive at The Nightingale Room on Thursday, March 30. Doors open at 8 pm and tickets are $10 at the door.