Gauntlet Hair
Brushes with Ubiquity
by Luke Winkie

Editor’s note: As we’ve done in the past, for the month of January, our features will be focusing on up-and-coming artists, what we call “rated rookies.” These musicians are making what we feel is the cream of a new crop, and we think you will (sooner or later) agree. Enjoy!

Colorado’s Gauntlet Hair is a prime example of a 21st century buzz-band. Plucked from the masses by a few notable blogs for a couple stellar mp3s, they’ve been launched into a minor ubiquity despite having only four tracks to their release history. Talking to the duo cracks the mystery entirely—they come off as two normal, ambitious dudes in the pre-natal stages of success. As the blogosphere continually expels shadowy band names, cryptic album art and gonzo live features, it’s sometimes hard to remember that behind all of these songs and projects are real people with real stories. The guys in Gauntlet Hair aren’t exactly sure where their jumpstart is headed yet, but as they work on their debut album for Dead Oceans, they’re nobly trying to create something great in the face of stiff competition from every other band both blessed and doomed to be christened with buzz. I talked with both Andy R. and Craig Nice on the phone back in December.

You guys have been making music together since you were 15. How did that collaboration start?

Andy R: We were both freshmen in high school, and I think because of punk rock we singled each other out as the only option for starting a band.

Craig Nice: For about two years, we had a punk rock band and then a grindcore band, and I think we were about 17 when we started getting serious about music.

So there wasn’t a big hardcore scene in your high school?

AR: Well, all of our friends were into it, but it was the suburbs.

When did you start calling yourselves Gauntlet Hair?

AR: That was in Chicago, when we were about 19 and we were jamming in a studio. We actually recorded a whole album in Chicago that nobody has ever heard as Gauntlet Hair.

I was going to ask you about recording an album for the first time, but you’ve already had an album recording experience.

CN: Yeah, but that was pretty amateur. We kind of threw it together. It was all minute-and-a-half to two-minute songs, not really epic or thought out or anything.

When did you move to Denver?

AR: We moved to Lafayette first and lived there for about two years. We always went to shows in Denver, but we only started living here a couple months ago. I totaled my car and we had no way of getting out.

Gauntlet Hair has become fairly integral to the Denver scene. It’s a city that doesn’t get written about too much, but it seems to have a lot of good things going for it musically. Do you have any thoughts on the city?

CN: It’s a hard thing to talk about because we’ve only become a staple to the scene within the past few months, and we’ve only played a dozen shows ever. Rhinoceropolis (a DIY space) is a big part of the city, but it’s sort of not what it used to be honestly.

What do you think has changed?

CN: Basically I feel like a lot of important people that lived there for a very long time don’t live there anymore. Travis (Egedy of Pictureplane) lives there, but he’s never home. The people that are still around are lovely, but it’s not as it was when we started coming and definitely not as it was five years ago.

Has it been a negative change?

AR: No, it’s just before it was like a second home to us, with all of our friends coming, and it’s not like that anymore.

CN: But all that stuff comes in waves. Nothing that perfect and beautiful is going to last forever, but it’s still the most important thing in Denver.

Do you guys know in your head what you want a Gauntlet Hair album to sound like?

AR: I think we’re still working that out. We always have ideas, but they change very rapidly. We never really stick with a sound very long. It’s a struggle. We keep pulling in opposite directions when we write a new jam, and we can’t say “Yes, this is what the direction is going to be.”

Do you want to stick to the lo-fi aesthetic?

AR: I don’t even know where that descriptor came from. Yeah, we totally record in our basement, but I never really thought we sounded like we recorded to tape. I don’t want it to be a lo-fi record. I want good production, and I want to stay away from that title. We’re not a lo-fi band. People really want to label it right off the bat, and there’s not enough out there to be labeled. It could be totally different on this album sonically.

Would you like to see Gauntlet Hair be your main project, your band per se?

AR: Yeah, this is our band. There are no other projects right now.

“I Was Thinking” got a lot of attention, do you think that will make it on the album?

AR: No. There was talk of putting it on, but too much new stuff got in the way. Always new stuff.

How often would you like to be releasing new music?

AR: All we can say at this point is that we want this full-length out in 2011 and to tour as much as possible.

How much time would you like to be recording new music versus touring?

CN: Well, we’ve never toured, so I’m sure afterwards we’ll want to come back and record. But we don’t really know yet. I think we’ll keep doing 7-inches just to keep it rolling and keep it exciting.

What’s it like being in band with someone you’ve known for so long? Does it make the chemistry more natural?

CN: We’ve been playing with our friend Doran live, and he’s working out great. He doesn’t record with us or anything, but it’s really hard for us to throw in new people. We don’t even talk on stage. We have this way of communicating through music, like a conversation without words. That’s why we’ve always had the ability to pick new jams for every live show. We’ll just be playing for a few minutes and it just happens. But it’s nice with Doran because he just breaks up the tension. Sometimes it gets frustrating being just the two of us because we know each other so well. He’s like a buffer, he’s always upbeat, and you need that guy in a band.