With no agenda, expectations, or even intention to release music, guitarists Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson began getting together as a way of letting the sounds inside of them find their way out into the open. Byrd describes it this way: "There are times when the need to create a thing begins to interrupt your life. And if you don't give in to it, everything else starts to suffer."
After about a year of sporadic sessions, Byrd and Thompson began to gather up all of the recordings - which were strewn about on everything from cassette recorders to hard drives to half-inch tape - and were surprised to discover that they had around forty pieces of music. Out of this pool of songs came their 2005 debut Kenotic, which introduced audiences to their densely textured aesthetic and shimmering guitar-driven compositions. Theirs is a unique sound - it is “sleepier” than the often-brash crescendos of their post-rocker cousins, drawing from the ethereal minimalism of Stars of the Lid and reminiscent of 80's Brian Eno and Nick McCabe of the band The Verve. Byrd and Thompson describe it simply as "Southern Ambient", citing the wide-open spaces of the South's rural landscape as an all-pervading influence in their music (Byrd's nickname in Arkansas was "Marc Marc Marc" because of his delay-drenched guitar sounds).
Hailed as a classic in the Shoegaze genre, Kenotic revealed a band inspired by many different musical styles, such as Electronic, Ambient, Drone and Post-Rock. Byrd and Thompson expanded on their unique amalgam of these sounds on their next release, the July 2005 EP Stranded Under Endless Sky, which was hailed by NPR's Bob Boilen as being "music in the spirit of Japanese art - simple by form, but full of complexity in its tones and its timbres." What followed eight months later was somewhat of a stylistic turn for the band, the heavily conceptual long form, drone-influenced album The Sleepover Series, Vol. 1. November 2006 saw the release of the band's proper sophomore LP, Raising Your Voice…Trying to Stop an Echo, an album frequently hailed for its canny fusion of melodic accessibility and intrepid experimentalism. The band was attracting consistent acclaim from influential media such as Pitchfork, BBC, and The Wire, but most meaningfully to Byrd and Thompson, also from artists they greatly admire like Mark Eitzel (solo and AMC), Brian McBride and Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid), Steve Kilbey and Tim Powles (The Church), The Antlers, and Jonsi and Alex.
In Fall 2007, Hammock was invited by Jonsi Birgisson (Sigur Ros/solo artist/Jonsi & Alex) and Alex Somers (Parachutes/Jonsi & Alex) to perform at the overseas debut of their art collaboration, Riceboy Sleeps. This created confluence of firsts for all four artists, as it was to be Hammock's first-ever live show. Byrd and Thompson wrote new music especially for the occasion, and these songs would eventually become Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow, a "studio performance" album of the music they played at the Riceboy Sleeps premiere. Birgisson and Somers as Riceboy Sleeps created the artwork for the release.
Chasing After Shadows…Living with the Ghosts followed in May 2010, along with a freestanding four-song Outtakes EP. Darker, heavier, and more massive sonically than Hammock's previous releases, the album was mixed by Tim Powles of The Church and features the duo's first usage of a horn section, string quartet, and live drums. David Altobelli's influential video for “Breathturn” was released in late March 2010. Chasing... was praised by BBC as "one of the most beautiful albums of the year" and received accolades from Pitchfork and PRI-syndicated show "Echoes", where it was named #1 in its "Best Albums of the Year" list.
On December 14, the duo released the EP Longest Year, a beat-less and wordless "mini-album" held for release until the dead of winter and whose title referenced the band's difficult 2010 (which included the near-total destruction of Byrd's home by an epic flood the likes of which had not been seen in Nashville in over 100 years).
The aforementioned digital-only EP of outtakes from the May 2010 LP, Chasing After Shadows...Living with the Ghosts, contained four songs, two of which were tagged with "instrumental" in the titles even though no other versions existed. That changed on October 25, 2011 with the release of the EP Asleep in the Downlights, which features vocals and lyrics from Steve Kilbey and Tim Powles of The Church and two new songs from Hammock.
Departure Songs, the band's first double album and fifth LP, was announced with the release of "Tape Recorder", a video from David Altobelli, which premiered at PAPERMAG on July 9, 2012. Officially released on October 2, the album was mixed by Tim Powles (The Church), mastered by Taylor Deupree (solo artist, 12K label), and features contributions from Keith Kenniff (Helios, Goldmund). Not as fragile as previous efforts, Departure Songs shows Hammock going massive as they meditate on grand themes of death and loss, retaining their signature approach to music-making, but this time out, heralding their muse in all capital letters. The album was frequently mentioned in 2012 "best-of" lists and held the top slot at Sputnik Music (across all genres) and was named as the #1 album of the year by the PRI-syndicated show "Echoes", Hammock's second such honor in the last three years.
On November 26, Hammock released Oblivion Hymns, their most ambitious recording to date. Hammock reaches as far as they ever have, adding a string quartet, children’s choir, accordion, French horn, glockenspiel, and more to their growing arsenal of instrumentation. Coupled with their familiar bank of guitars and effects, the end result is a special kind of magic waiting to be experienced, not simply listened to. Oblivion Hymns redefines what listeners have come to expect from a Hammock record, leaving all traces of traditional rock or pop far behind and introducing the band’s unique take on neoclassical music. Bathed in intricate layers of sweeping strings, strident horns, and delicately pressed keys, Oblivion Hymns rides a cascade of sound to the farthest-reaching corners of your heart and delivers a deep emotional connection, capable of ferreting out the most precious of memories. Oblivion Hymns is best described as an expedition across sight and sound. You won’t know where you’re headed, and you’re bound to feel drained by the end, but wherever you arrive, the journey will have been unforgettable.
Kenotic (2005) : Hammock Music (Label)
Stranded Under Endless Sky EP (2005) : Hammock Music
The Sleepover Series, Vol. 1 (2006) : Hammock Music
Raising Your Voice...Trying to Stop an Echo (2006) : Hammock Music
Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow (2008) : Hammock Music
Chasing After Shadows...Living with the Ghosts (2010) : Hammock Music
Outtakes : Chasing After Shadows...Living with the Ghosts (2010): Hammock Music
North West East South EP (2010) : Hammock Music
Longest Year EP (2010) : Hammock Music
Asleep in the Downlights EP (2011) : Hammock Music
Departure Songs (October 2, 2012) : Hammock Music
Oblivion Hymns (November 26, 2013) : Hammock Music
Remix of "The Obeisant Vine": Helios - Remixed album, released December 1, 2012.
"The More You Drink from the Well...The Higher the Waters Will Rise": ...and darkness came is a Headphone Commute-curated compliation album to benefit those affected by Hurricane Sandy. All of the proceeds were donated to Doctors Without Borders and the Humane Society. This is a colossal compilation of 87 tracks and features Clint Mansell, Max Richter, Helios, Johann Johannsson, Olafur Arnalds, and many more.
Josh Varnedore with Hammock: 186,000 endings per second from the album Sun Chapter (released June 2012).
Remix of "Borrowing the Past" by Rhian Sheehan: released February 23, 2012.
Marc Byrd of Hammock and Brooke Waggoner: "Parkers Chapel"
For Nihon : Charity album to benefit victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami through the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund set up by New York's Japan Society. Released April 2011.
Matthew Ryan & Hammock: Like New Year's Day (single with alternate mixes released 1/1/11)
BT Featuring Jes: Every Other Way: Hammock Reinterpretation (Remix).
Amman Josh Featuring Hammock (Places album) and a new track with Josh featuring Hammock coming in 2012.
Never Lose that Feeling (cover of Catherine Wheel's Black Metallic).
Licensing (partial list) :
Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland: "Time and Sport" Exhibition
W Magazine: 2013 Fashion Video
Nowness: Rene Redzepi, "Inner Workings"
"Lord Montagu": BBC documentary
"Nine for IX": ESPN documentary "Runner" about Mary Decker
"Think Again": short film by David Altobelli that opened and closed the TED conference; narrated by Rutger Hauer
Super Bowl 2013 Pregame: "Losing You to You" and "The Whole Catastrophe" in a pregame story about concussions and safety in the NFL
"Breathturn" video featured by Coldplay on its "Hypnofeed" channel
Tom's Shoes: Video about a giving project in Cambodia
Every Mother Counts (Christy Turlington Burns's organization): "The Walk" PSA (ABC)
Radiolab - WNYC Radio Show
ESPN: "Tape Recorder"
Californication, Showtime (Season 4)
The Gulf Project Narrated by Robert Redford, Discovery Channel
At the End of the Day: Feature Film
Californication, Showtime (Season 3)
Dirty Sexy Money, ABC
Winter Olympic Games, NBC
The Human Experience: Feature Film
Nike, Kobe Bryant Documentary