Hey Champ’s roots can be traced outside of Chicago in nearby Rockford, where band members Saam Hagshenas and Jonathan Marks discovered their love of music at a young age. After Saam’s graduation from law school, Jon’s fellow Princeton chum Pete Dougherty set sail for Chicago, cementing the line-up of the group. They were discovered by Lupe Fiasco in the fall of 2008, who took them on a nation-wide tour.
Their music incorporates influences from disco, house and indie rock to the power-pop of Rockford’s hometown heroes Cheap Trick and the synth-heavy productions of Giorgio Moroder and Trevor Horn. Their infectious sound has garnered fans and made them blog and radio darlings from Portland to Paris to Porto Alegre.
Hey Champ released its « Anything At All EP » on May 10th, 2011. The EP was produced by Eliot James (Two Door Cinema Club, Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs). The band kicked off 2012 with two successful remixes for Housse de Racket and Sebastien Tellier, and is finishing its new EP due out this year.
How would you describe the ‘Hey Champ’ sound?
We try not to, because it always changes.
How did the group get together?
Jonathan and Saam were in a band together when they were kids. Jonathan then met Pete in college, and talked him into moving to Chicago to be in a band with them.
What makes you different from other synth-pop groups around at the moment?
Well, we’re not really consciously trying to make synth pop, we just make songs with the instruments we have in front of us. If we owned a cajon, a harmonium, and a banjo, we’d sound much different. Another difference is we’re a band that’s also serious about producing, and that’s why there are some fans who just know us for our remixes and production while others just know us as a live act.
You have a Facebook Band Fan Page – how has this helped you? Are you a fan of using websites like Facebook to promote less well known bands?
Most people only know about Hey Champ through social media and blogs. That’s how Lupe Fiasco found us and took us on tour. We were even asked to do Lollapalooza through a MySpace message, because we didn’t have an agent yet. Facebook gives us a direct link to over 7000 people who are into our music. Its really cool to get to joke with them and share what we’re working on.
What do you think about the state of the music industry in the US right now?
It’s pretty terrible, no one buys music unless you’re more of a brand than a band. It’s becoming more difficult for an artist to take risks ….but we find a way to survive.
Do you therefore think it will be easier to get a foothold in the UK rather than the US?
We hope so. Many American acts have hits in the UK before anyone has heard of them here.
Are you a fan of shows like American Idol? Do you think they help or hinder the music business?
The show is entertaining, I don’t think any of us really watched it beyond the first season. It definitely helps the music BUSINESS, because it gets viewers excited to buy albums…but let’s be honest, the music mostly stinks.
Is there anyone you’d like to work with – producer, singer, etc?
It would be great to work with Phillipe Zdar one day.
Where are you answering our interview questions from?
Truthfully, we’re at a bar called The Bedford in Chicago drinking beer and St. Germain.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
A lot of old Disco and Plastic Plates remixes.
The biggest chart act of the year is probably Katy Perry. Are you a fan?
The people who write her songs do a good job. They’re very catchy. But it sometimes feels like it’s just a product for which a company did market research, put together in a nice package and sold to their target audience.
Any closing words for TEEZ’FM listeners?
A serious thanks to all of you who listen to our songs. Cheers!
Thanks to Hey Champ and Brandon
Interview by Thierry Jaussaud