Hall & Oates is one of the best-selling duos in music history. They have created iconic songs and they were recently, and in many people’s eyes extremely belatedly, inducted to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame this year. They are a band beloved for by millions, but there’s this weird, newfound irony that surrounds the band. Today, many seem enjoy to enjoy H&O in a completely “they’re so bad they’re good” kinda way. To many their music is a guilty pleasure or a hip ironic thing to thumb your nose at.
The guys in HmfO, a tribute to Hall & Oates, don’t see an irony in the awesomeness that is Daryl Hall and John Oates. They go out on the road, tour across the nation and perform the band’s blue-eyed soul hits and hidden gems for crowds every week.
The band, formed by and consisting of members of our friends The Great White Caps and the Talking Heads tribute Start Making Sense, will roll into New Jersey this Saturday at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, New Jersey. We caught up with the Jon Braun, the band’s frontman, to talk about the men who inspired the band, sweet mustaches and hipster irony.
Pop-Break: Before we start, let’s start simple, does HmfO legitimately stand for Hall and “Mother Fuckin” Oates?
Jon Braun: ABSOLUTLEY. We figured we had to let people know we were serious about this. There are no tongues in any cheeks. Well at least not on stage.
PB: HmfO is an offshoot of Start Making Sense, a Tribute to The Talking Heads. Can you discuss the moment the idea came upon you guys to develop a tribute band based around one of the best-selling duos of all-time?
JB: I sure can. We spend a lot of time in the van. Driving. Up and down the East Coast. This leads to a lot of out there conversations and inside jokes. One day when we were driving home from upstate N.Y. and we were discussing doing another project for fun. Just for us. No worries of actually touring or having people come out to see it. Many bands and artists were being tossed around. From the back of the van after every suggestion was thrown out, Ian Hansson (Great White Caps, Fog Cult) our bass player at the time, would just say “Hall and Oates.” Every time. Eventually we realized he was right. So we dove in head first. But we immediately realized we needed another vocalist, i.e. someone who can actually sing soul music (unlike me). So we asked another local Bethlehem/Easton PA musician, Doug Hawk, if he would be interested. I knew he would be because he and I had already talked about putting a band together to play light FM and ’80s stuff of that nature. So here we are a year later with another accidentally successful tribute band on our hands!
PB: Was it a difficult sell getting audiences to get behind the band? It seems like with their mass appeal it wouldn’t be, but you know people they can be fickle as all hell.
JB: Well, we’re still growing and building both as a band and as a live draw/experience. But it seems like people are absolutely loving it at this point. We’ve started out by opening for Start Making Sense, which seems a bit strange at first, but it actually works perfectly. It’s a great warm up for Start Making Sense. Hall and Oates music can be danceable for sure, but their catalog also has lots of ballads and mid-tempo tunes so it kind of eases people into the evening in a way.
PB: I assume you’re playing all the big hits of Hall & Oates — but which one sends the crowd into a state of euphoria? Also, which hidden gems have you dusted off?
JB: Yep, the big ones get people every time. “You Make My Dreams Come True,” “Maneater,” “I Can’t Go For That” and “She’s Gone” are the big one’s every night. But, like we do with Start Making Sense, we feel part of our duty in these bands is to turn people on to some of the deeper cuts and obscure albums they may not be aware of. With Hall and Oates there is so much material. They started in the early ’70s! One of our favorite records is the Todd Rundgren produced War Babies album. We try to put as much of that in there as possible [like] “Beanie G and the Rose Tattoo” and “Can’t Stop the Music.” There’s one off of Abandon Luncheonette called “Lady Rain,” a seven-inure long prog epic with a mandolin! It’s just such an awesome body of work they’ve amassed. We keep adding songs as often as we can.
PB: The question has to be asked…does any member of this band rock a sweet, sweet mustache like Oates?
JB: In all seriousness, like I said before, we love this music. This isn’t some ironic hipster thing. That’s not us. Plus we can’t afford rent in those types of places. So unfortunately no Oates ‘stache. But, let me say, if I was able to (I have to keep my face clean shaven for Start Making Sense) I would be sporting a stache most of the time anyway. So it could be misconstrued as and Oates ‘stache .
PB: Hall & Oates were just inducted into the Rock Hall this year. What are your thoughts — it seems like this was way overdue.
JB: I have mixed feelings about that whole thing. I like Daryl’s response to it. They never really cared what people thought about their music. They made music they liked to make and left it at that. The world just happened to go for blue-eyed soul when they did it. So he kind of brushed it off as a bunch of industry hoopla he wasn’t really concerned with. I tend to agree with that. The mixed part comes because I’ve been to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame a few times and it is like Mecca for music nerds. The place is mind-blowing. I was like a kid in a candy store. So the hall of fame itself, I’m all about. I guess if they need to have these awards and inductions to keep it going, so be it. But myself, I’d rather listen to an album than watch and induction ceremony.
PB: Talk about the experience of a HmfO show. If someone who’s never seen you perform before wanders into Mexicali this month to see you, what can they expect?
JB: As HmfO we try our best to recreate the Hall and Oates thing. A large part of that is vocals and back-up vocals. We’ve worked really hard to get the studio arrangements ready for the stage. I’m really proud with what we’ve been able to do. We definitely throw on some ’80s duds just to give it an authentic cocaine 80’s feel. In fact Brad Murray (keys) just got this red leather suit that looks like the one Eddie Murphy wears in Delirious. So you can expect to see that and possibly a bit more of Brad than you bargained for. But he’s been working out a lot lately so the ladies may enjoy it.
PB: What does the rest of 2014 have in store for HmfO?
JB: Well we’ve got a bunch of shows on the schedule. And more solo HmfO shows popping up every day (as opposed to opening for Start Making Sense). Boston, Burlington VT, DC, Albany, Baltimore, Philly, Virginia etc. But the big one is our own Rock’s Off Boat Cruise on June 26th.That’s gonna be awesome. Hall and Oates music on a boat cruising around the East River in the middle of Summer?! Yacht Rock all the way.
HmfO: A Hall & Oates Tribute will be performing with Start Marking Sense (Talking Heads Tribute) on Saturday April 26 at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ. Click here for tickets.