Birth of a Taos band

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For two guys, known for their work in Vanilla Pop and The Monkey Feeders, Greg Thum and Norm Cutliff III are morphing into something strange, slightly scary and maybe even sexy.

That thing is Gigantic Hawk and it’s about to take Taos and the world by storm. Emboldened by a remarkably dark art-rock look designed by local photographer-graphic designer Heather Sparrow, Gigantic Hawk will debut with an all ages album release party Aug. 10 at the KTAOS Solar Center, 9 State Road 150 north of El Prado. Cover is $10. Music starts at 8 p.m.

You’ve probably seen hints of Gigantic Hawk’s signature look on Sparrow’s Facebook postings and a video on YouTube. The PR machine is continuing to roll as Sparrow organized a video shoot last Saturday (July 21) at her studio on the mesa west of Taos.

Invited were a variety of attractive young women, skimpily dressed in black and one man who played the role of a “flasher.” The production, whipped into shape by Sparrow as ringmaster, had the feel of a goth-like circus complete with sci-fi makeup and slinky masquerade. The whole thing was shot on iPads and iPhones on a tiny stage set up in an Earthship.

Right before the shooting began, we had a chance to talk with Thum and Cutliff about how Gigantic Hawk was, er, hatched:

Greg Thum: It kinda morphed out of, we were recording together, and just recording together without any idea of really being in a band together and we just started to make this group of songs that eventually kind of became a record. And that translated at the very end of it into an idea we started to think about, like ‘Wow, we should actually consider playing this.’ And trying to make something conceptual out of it.

That’s where that was kind of born. And Norm came up with the name, and has had it for a while. It just seemed to fit perfectly. As soon as I heard him say that name, it was like — there’s all this, there’s so much that can be done with that name because it can be really silly. You know what I mean: The enunciation of it can be ridiculous, however, my take on it was very much like ‘Hey man, I really like the idea of taking it literally.’ Taking it literally. Like throat coat tea, being exactly what you say you are, being the Gigantic Hawk. That’s where that came from.

Tempo: And the theatricality?

Norm Cutliff III: We have the most amazing art direction. I’ll say this: Any band I’ve ever been in — as professional as being in a band with the drummer from Limp Bizkit who hired me to be his drummer — this is probably the most prepared band out of the gates, from A to Z, that I’ve ever been involved with. I’ve been blessed to play in so many good bands from Tabularasa to Monkey Feeders to Stereo Chemix and I’ve just had an amazing shot that I feel like this is going to be the situation that takes it over the top, to that next level that never was really quite reached in other situations — that could have been, very very easily could’ve been reached — but this is the one that’s gonna do it. I can say that with total confidence.

Tempo: Are you glad to be back in Taos?

Cutliff: I am so glad to be back in Taos. I’m telling you it was like a hot-warm bath for my feet, on a soulful level. Coming back from L.A. and being here and being able to just be. And, not having to worry about ‘the scene’ or the business for a while, I was blessed to be with a wonderful group of musicians with The Monkey Feeders — Omar Rane, Giles Sheldon, Katy Palmier — we got a great four years and we all have incredible chemistry.

Tempo: So, you’re still playing with them?

Cutliff: I’m playing with them now. I think I feel confident to say that as of Oct. 20 I’ll be stepping away from that project and put my full energy into this project, which my heart is fully into and I feel it’s going to take me to the next level. It’s like getting my Ph.d. I feel like I got my Ph.d in music and now I’m ready to use it. And, I’m blessed by the art direction from Heather Sparrow. She’s got such an incredible vision for the sound, because she’s been such an intimate part of hearing the creation of the sound since the beginning. She’s got such an amazing visual concept that just makes this project the cream of the crop, to me and my career. Not only will I continue to represent Taos, but this is the project that’s gonna go beyond Taos.

Tempo: Greg, going from Vanilla Pop to Gigantic Hawk, what’s that like?

Thum: It’s a natural progression, man. I mean, really, the thing I like for me is, I’ve always been interested in rock and roll as theater and taking to that place where it’s a little bit more ‘artful.’ That’s what really get’s me going. It when something really sounds cool but also has this like visual thing about it that is kind of striking at first. To me, with Vanilla Pop, that was kind of how we came out the gate, was it just kinda — I think it took people off guard to a point where they were just ‘Ah, whatever, this is fun!’ You know what I mean? And this kind of whole things is a little bit different with the approach, however it’s still the same kind of like (designed) to take people off-guard. I think when you do that it just, it allows people to be a little more open to something a little surreal.

Tempo: If Vanilla Pop was satirical, what is Gigantic Hawk?

Thum: Gigantic Hawk is, there’s always some satire, it’s always kind of comical to me. I love dressing up and being ridiculous. That’s fun, but at the same time the record that we made and the way we came at the record was very much like a serious place. What we’re after is this edgy sophistication, where it like becomes, I don’t know, I think the songs speak for themselves and they have kind of dictated all of this. The songs come from a very honest, truthful, soulful place. It’s something that’s going to sound really familiar to you but you’re going to go ‘Why haven’t I ever heard this before?’ at the same time.

For more information on Gigantic Hawk’s KTAOS show, call (575) 758-5826 or visit www.ktao.com. Also check out gigantichawk.tv.

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