Much like water itself, the band H2O is everywhere. This American band has been around the world and back, quenching their fans’ thirsts for solid tracks and fun riffs. For 21 years, these rockers have been slowly adding new albums to their list—jotting down notes and lyrics for their next record to bring their loyal fans perfection. And who can resist their skater, punk, rock grooves, wrapped carefully in ribbons of plays on the band’s name? With albums called H2O (1996) and Thicker Than Water (1997), it just goes to show that on top of owning the title of “musicians,” they prove to be partial punsters.
Although the band has seen a few members come and go, they continue to create and perform as a close-knit family. Now that summer is coming to a close, these rockers have set out on another tour to celebrate their newest album, Use Your Voice, which is due out in October. With a fun bunch like this, it’s almost impossible to not want to celebrate the final days of summer singing along with them live. And before they took off for the road, I was able to ask Adam Blake about the quickly approaching tour and get the low-down on their upcoming album.
Have you guys started prepping for the tour?
Ah, I don’t think we’ve ever stopped preparing for the tour. We’ve been consistently playing live shows for close to 20 years, but we never really wrap up any specific tour. We just kind of stay in this state of preparedness.
That’s a good way to put it.
Yeah, we don’t have an on or off season. We’re always in-season.
Yeah. I saw that you guys basically perform about five shows a month?
Yeah, I mean, we’ll occasionally take breaks, but usually the first show is our opportunity to dust off. But we’ve got a new record coming out, so we’re obviously gonna ramp up our tour schedule quite considerably.
Right—will you be playing any new songs from the album?
I think the next time we step on stage, which is in Southern California in a few weeks will be the first time we play some new songs. If not then, definitely on the shows we play on the East Coast.
About how many are you considering?
I’d say one, possibly two… We have a seven-inch coming out, and the seven-inch has a couple of those. So those songs will be out, so we’ll probably play those. We have a music video that came out, so that’s definitely going to get played. Other than that, I’m not quite sure. I think we’ll wait till the record comes out. We don’t want to burn out all the songs too early, you know?
Yeah, and you also want the audience to sing along and they can’t really do that without knowing the newer songs too well.
Yeah! Exactly—we want you to be excited! We want to give them what they want.
Yes! I love going to shows and being able to sing along.
Totally! Yeah. It takes a while for a record to kind of sink in. And it’s the 21st century, so I think the record’s gonna stream. Kids will hear it a lot before we release it. Or the record labels do it this day and age—I dunno.
Did I see that you guys were just in Europe in July?
Yeah! It was last month [July], actually… Yeah. We were over there playing shows and it was great. Europe is always great. It’s actually way better than we were expecting. We’ve been touring Europe for about seven years on the same album because that’s just how things kind of work out. So it’s really surprising that we still seem to be picking up momentum over there. It’s completely unexpected and completely appreciated. So the shows were great. And we’ll definitely be getting back over there I think in October for more shows.
Wow. So would you say that you have a bigger fanbase over there, or is it still growing compared to here?
I’d say for our kind of music, Europe is better. I think the kind of band we are, or our genre of music, does better traditionally in Europe in general, but we really… You know, the U.S. has been good to us, too. But the U.S. isn’t quite the scale of Europe.
Huh. Why’s that?
Man, that’s the million-dollar question. I feel that Europe has a lot more home-grown bands. And because Europe—and this is just the truth—is more profitable for bands to play, American bands get to play Europe more anyway. It kind of makes sense to do Europe more because it keeps the momentum going more, you get to keep in touch with your fanbase more…
That’s funny—there are so many bands who’ve left Europe for America because they felt that Europe wasn’t that into rock, or genres like that.
That’s tricky. I think everything is big everywhere. I mean, Europe has these giant festivals and so does America. But I think, if anything, rock seems to be bigger in Europe. I mean, Foo Fighters play stadiums in Europe. They did two nights in Wembley Stadium in London. That’s ridiculous. So, I’d say rock is bigger in Europe.
That’s insane! But I see your point. Country seems to be slowly taking over the States.
You know, country music is apparently the highest-selling music in the United States? But I don’t think I’ve met anyone that listens to it. I dunno. Yeah. Country’s really big. But all that I know is that country has been big on The Voice (laughs).
Fair enough! So, do you have a favorite memory of playing in Europe?
Well, we did this festival where one of the stages has no barricades and it’s really small. The kids get up on stage and dive. And you have this kind of connection with this audience, but it’s mad. It’s the weirdest thing. But no one ever seems to get hurt, and the shows are always utterly, utterly memorable. I’d say Groezrock Festival in Belgium was the most memorable show. It’s pretty amazing because on paper, it should be a disaster waiting to happen, but it just always seems to go well.
Wow. If only we could try that here! But H2O has been together since ’94.
Yeah, I joined in ’95. I’m the new guy, but I’ve been in the band for 20 years.
I saw you joined a year later. How’d that come about?
Well, I was in a band called Shelter and they were a fairly popular band back in the day. We toured and H2O were the opening band. And I just kind of felt more connected to the H2O guys than to the Shelter guys and then H2O’s bass player [Eric Rice] left and then I was no longer playing with Shelter. Then Rusty [Pistachio; guitar/vocals] called me up and asked if I wanted to join H2O. I was like, “F***, yeah!” So then I flew out to America and that was’95 and I’m still in the band.
20 years later.
Yeah, I mean, either I’m in the band, or it’s the world’s longest audition. I dunno.
I’d say you’re in the band… But looking back at those 20 years, obviously your original fans have grown with you. Do you have a broad age-range in the audiences?
Yeah. We have a nice spread now. We have older people and their kids, which is awesome. It’s really, really cool. It makes you feel a little bit old, though. But it’s awesome when you see a father and a son at the show. Like, the father grew up liking us.
That’s good, though. It keeps you and your music young.
Yeah. You can say that. It makes people care more about the show.
Yeah. And, like your audiences, clearly your music grows, too. Would you say the newer tracks fit with today’s culture?
Yeah. Honestly for us, not that we’re some calculated band at all, but we do know what we’re good at. And we’re definitely not formulaic because we don’t make enough record to build one up. We made a record. Seven years later we made a record, and seven years later we made this one. So whatever the polar opposite of prolific is—that’s us. We’ve never designed a formula, but we know what we’re good at, so we try to stay in our lane. But for us? Yeah, there’s some kind of progression, but musical progression is not something that we’re especially about.
We wanna give kids the energy and the passion and the love for what we wanna do. Not that there’s anything wrong with musical progression, but if we were to make records every year, it would make sense to experiment, but we don’t make records that often, when we do, we tend to always feel like a new band. Which is why the music, I feel, has that youthful energy because whenever we make a new record, it feels like we’re a brand new band again. Like, “What? How do we do this? Huh? How do we write? Oh yeah!” It’s fun—it’s like rediscovering everything again, you know?
Yeah! And you don’t want to lose yourselves in musical progression and take on a completely different sound.
Yeah. I mean, I can’t speak for other bands who do this because I’m not in those bands, but when I listen to bands that make a lot of records, like a ton of records that are very consistent, I lose interest. It always doesn’t feel—and it might be because it loses its familiarity or it loses something, but I never get that excited. It’s when a band that makes a record every now and then—then I’m all ears. Then I’m all about it. Like, where have they been? What have they made?
And I hope that we’re one of those bands that when kids check us out seven years after our last record that they’re like, “Wow! This is awesome! This is exactly what I’d hoped they would do.” That’s who we are. We know what we do and we’re not under any illusions of trying to be something that we’re not and I think that comes with playing in the game for just ages. We’re all on the wrong side of 40 at this point and—one of us is actually on the wrong side of 50—so, you start to kind of as an individual, as a man, you know who you are, you’re confident, you’re comfortable.
Exactly. And you’ve all been together for so long, it’s like what you said—you do have a sense of self.
Yeah. Yeah—you’re not trying to be something you’re not, you’re not trying to be fake, by this stage of the game and if you’ve been doing it this long, you know who you are, you’re confident, you’re comfortable, maybe you want to experiment, but you know your identity. That’s important to us.
Alright—so when you do produce album, who does most of the writing?
This record, I wrote the music for nine of the songs, Rusty wrote the music for two of the songs, and Toby [Morse; drums] wrote every damn lyric. All of the lyrics on the album—that was Toby. And then Chad, our producer, he’s like our hero—our stuntman. He does a lot. He brings a lot to the table. Like, “That’s the chorus, that’s the verse, this is how the melody should go.” He’s very, very helpful in that department. Chad brings a lot to the table.
So it’s basically a group effort.
Yeah. This record was definitely a majority of Toby and myself, but the last was mostly Todd Morse [guitar/vocals; 1996-2015], Toby. The record before that was Rusty and Todd. So everyone has done things throughout the 20 years to tow the line.
That makes sense.
Yeah. This record came out of nowhere. We weren’t gonna make a record and then all of the sudden we were going into the studio. It was really like a rush. There wasn’t much time for us to get together as a band to do stuff, which is what we’ve done in the past. It was more like whoever had stuff ready—that was going on the record.
I get it. But, I guess you won’t be working on another album straight away?
What is it, 2015? So based on our schedule, I would say we’ll talk again in 2022? I don’t—we’ll see. I mean, as much as we’re not formulaic, I think we can figure out how to make a record sooner. Maybe we won’t wait as long.
Basically you’re touring in little chunks. Do you have any plans once you get a longer break?
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Nothing has really been announced yet. But we’re gonna do a tour in October, do the States in November, pretty much until the end of December and then back to Europe in January. When a new record comes out, it’s like hitting reset. Like, you can only play the same places so many times. And I feel like we’re right at that edge because when you put out a new record, it’s like a video game. You get another life. So when a new record comes out, we plan on touring a bunch.
We do like to tour in chunks for various reasons. We’re very happy off the road. We like our lives at home. We’re not a band who hates our lives and go on tour to escape. We love our lives at home. So we like to not burn out of touring. We wanna tour enough where we get good at it and we play a while so we’re excited, but not enough where it starts to feel like a job. So we take breaks so we can be excited and human. I wanna tour when it’s exciting, like, “Yeah! I can’t wait! This show’s gonna be awesome!”
Not to the point where I’m like, “F***! Damn it! Shit, we’ve got shows to play,” that’s not the attitude we wanna step on stage with. And the best way to keep it vibrant and exciting is to do it is small, pieces away.
Yeah! That way, you don’t have to go home to a huge “honey-do” list.
Oh. No. We still come home to a huge “honey-do” list. We’re away for a weekend and we’re still coming home to a “honey-do” list! But we’re all married. We’re all lucky enough to have ladies who are cool with what we do and you wanna make sure that you have time for family as well. And that’s a big part of what we are. We’re a family.
H2O will be playing at Terminal 5 on Sept. 17 and 18. Their new album, Use Your Voice, is set for release in early October. For more information, go to facebook.com/H2Ogo.