A cornucopia of sounds resides in Henry the Archer’s latest effort, Zero is a Number. The core of the album can be classified as garage-rock, but there are undeniable hints of reggae, punk, prog, psychedelic, and every other combination that you could think of.
Guitarist and vocalist Richard Hennessy can be thanked for the group’s magnetic eclecticism, though it wouldn’t be possible without bandmates Kevin Geist (percussion) and Charles Marchbanks (bass guitar). Love, loss, and life swathe the 8-song ep, giving audiences a pure view into Hennessy’s life.
The Texas-based trio has inked a deal with label Hand Drawn Records who released the album on May 26. Hennessy has had success with past releases (Space Suits for the Modern Astronaut and When Something Means Nothing) and believes that this album is the definitive sound of Henry the Archer.
With tour dates (at bottom of article) and a luring album in hand, the group is destined for alt-rock greatness. While the trio certainly captures all emotions on record, it is an absolute must to experience all they have to offer through their live ventures.
Track Rambler had the opportunity to speak with Richard Hennessy about the making of Zero is a Number, and how everything he’s done and gone through has brought him and his band to this point. The full interview can be found underneath:
TR: I understand the band name originates from a book that you authored. Could you go into detail about the book and how it plays into Henry the Archer?
RH: It was basically like a therapeutic autobiography written in a fictional setting in medieval times. It was accurate to the point of just being about me, but at the same time, it wasn’t real because it was set in medieval times. The name comes from the character that represented me in the book. His name was Henry, and he came from a family filled with a bunch of masons. He would just look out the window at all the king’s archers and dream about becoming one. I eventually wanted to get back into music and I wanted to continue that story. I took it from the book and titled my stage name as Henry the Archer.
TR: I understand you were a solo artist at one point, but you put together a full band once you relocated to Texas. How has the transition to a full band affected the sound of the project, and has it changed the story that you first set out to tell?
RH: I’ve been in bands my whole life, even before my Henry the Archer career. The whole idea behind Henry the Archer was that it would be a fully-formed group and not just a solo act. It was actually not a problem because I like composing music, and it’s hard being one person and having to attempt it all. In order to do what I want, I have to rely on other people to join me in making my music. When you live in New Jersey, there just isn’t as many supportive people that want to help. It was all competition and no community there. It was very hard to find musicians to play drums and bass on my first album, which was acoustic. I couldn’t find anybody. So I just handed it out as a solo acoustic album. It really bugged me at the time because that was never the intention of the project. I reached out to my buddy Darrell in New York and my friend James in New Jersey, and we recorded the second album together. Some of the songs from the first album bled into the second album because the original intent was for them all to be presented with a full band. They weren’t exactly in the band due to their lives being so busy, but they were able to come in and record exactly as I had envisioned the songs in my mind. That album is what really defined the Henry the Archer sound. I was able to show musicians exactly what I wanted this project to sound like, and we were able to go from there. To answer your question, the band now is what it was always meant to be. I’m grateful because you know how hard it is to take the vision in your head and find the perfect thing or person to make it fit that exactly. I can’t draw for shit but I can have a perfect picture in my mind of what I want. When it comes to music I’m able to have that crystal clear vision, and with the help of others, I’m able to piece it together with the way I want.
TR: How would you describe the band’s sound? What genres would you put yourself in? How would you describe it to someone’s grandparents?
RH: Devil’s music! I would say the Animals and Dave Clark 5. I would try to break it to somebody’s grandma real easy like that. You know, the 50s and 60s edgy rock sound. Not like KISS though! It’s pop mixed with an alternative dark pop. As far as genre goes I would have to say alt-sex-rock-pop. It’s a bit hard to describe. It’s really funky, which throws it out of whack. It’s got some psychedelic stoner parts and some reggae parts. I would say that we fit in with bands like Interpol and bands like that. That’s the hardest question to answer for me.
TR: If you had to pick a favorite off the album, which song would it be, and why?
RH: Ooh. Oh man. So a year-and-a-half ago I was up in Colorado and I got laid off, right? Well, that caused the wife to leave. So, I got the divorce and she got the kids. I had no place to live. I had to declare bankruptcy. I applied to 177 jobs and nothing. So I came back to Texas, which put me 800 miles away from my kids. I’m telling you this for a reason, and I’ll get to it. I was down here and I applied to more jobs and had no luck again, and at the same time both the rabbit and the cat that my kids got died. Everything was so bad. I lost my family, everything I owned, my job, the kids, my pets. It was so bad. To me, the album is about every one of those things, or coming out of one of those things, or meeting a person that made me so happy, like track number two (New Mexico). Every song is more of an emotion than a song to me, so I listen to them for different reasons. I listen to different songs on the album depending on what mood I’m in. Honestly, man, I think that all of those songs are really good. You could have asked me on my last album which song and I could have given one and it would have been way easier. The thing is that when we recorded this album, it was 12 songs long. Now, it’s only an 8 song EP, and the reason for that is that it is literally so real and important to me that I just trimmed those other four songs. I just cut them right off, even though they’re fully recorded I wanted this to be something and not just another CD. I don’t know. It’s too hard for me.
TR: Each individual instrument seems to play a very important part of the story, and they all have a unique life that they’re given. With such a high amount of involvement from all instruments, what was the process like writing this album? Was it a collective effort, or was it the masterpiece of one mind?
RH: Here’s the deal with that. It’s a little bit of both. At the end of the day, I write, compose and produce the songs. I write the songs depending on what instrument I have in my hand. I’ll just be in the zone, and I get things done. If I write a riff that I like then I don’t bring it to the guys immediately because I have a control issue. I want to make it perfect before I bring it to them. I have to get it completely right. The whole thing has to be perfect. I want the chorus, I want the loop. That’s the thing that is going to make the song worth working on anyway. Once I get that I’ll come up with some content for the verses. Then I’ll bring it to practice. The guys will hear the idea that I have with a full and complete chorus so that they will be able to vibe with what it is that I really want. During that practice, I listen to what they’re doing and figure out what works best. After that, I’ll take it home and hammer out the details for the next practice. It all goes like that. I don’t tell them what to play, but I do tell them when I do and don’t like it. I take no credit for their genius. I’m more of the gas and brake – the yes or no. It’s my song and my vision, but at the end of the day, it’s their song and vision too. The drums and bass are just as important as the guitar and vocals. Especially in a three-piece band. Every different part is essential. My bandmates are everything to me, and to this band. They work together to tell a story.
TR: With the few shows that Henry the Archer has coming up in the next month, would you say that this story is one best experienced in person or one that is best cataloged and listened to through the media of choice.
RH: This particular album is one that people should listen to before they come out to the show. We don’t play every song on the album identical live, and the reason for that is that we want to keep it fun and enjoyable. Let’s face it, we might even come up with a better part after the album’s release. If you just come to a show, you’ll just hear a random song and you might recognize it, but if you have the album and you listen to it first before you come out you become a part of the experience. You become a part of the changes and every little struggle that we go through. You appreciate the differences and the minute aspects that we changed. In the end, it gives you a complete experience and allows for the music to bring people together. You can always tell the people that have the records because they always react differently. On the other end, if you didn’t listen to the songs prior to the show, you’re missing out on it all. Either way, the live performance is a fragment of time that can never be altered, duplicated, or re-lived. It’s special, and all the Henry the Archer shows are special because of that.
Catch Henry the Archer at any of their dates below:
June 21st – The Door – Dallas, TX
June 23rd – Magnolia Motor Lounge – Fort Worth, TX
June 25th – Fort Worth Weekly Awards Festival – Fort Worth, TX
July 15th – Double Wide – Dallas, TX
Article by: Sawyer Click
Photo By: Dustin Schneider