As a part of the media getting to chat with artists is probably one the perks of the job. Don’t get me wrong, there are other benefits like previewing new music, but getting to know people on a personal level and chatting with them about their music is awesome. Well, we had the opportunity to chat with Peter Manhart of Molehill about their history, their new EP, Hearts On Fire, and more! I hope you enjoy it as much as I had chatting with Mr. Manhart.
Peter Manhart: Thanks for having us! Molehill basically started as me writing song and booking shows and playing live with a rotating cast of musicians around me. Eventually, through word of mouth and some luck, I was able to find Trevor [Jones] and Greg [Van Zuiden], and then Trevor found Devin [Staples], and since 2010 we’ve been a consistent and solid unit of 4 people working, writing, and fighting together.
LM: Sounds like your chosen family! Your EP, Hearts On Fire, is political and emotionally charged, especially “Old Soldier”. What was the inspiration for this track?
PM: Trevor wrote the music to “Old Soldier” after finding out that his grandfather’s health had taken a turn for the worse in late 2014. His grandfather was a very religious, hardworking man and a veteran of World War II. It was heartbreaking the way he lived out his final years in a nursing home, all the while maintaining his positive attitude about people and life. Trevor told me all about his grandfather over the phone and I must have filled a good 6 pages of just notes about his story. I did the best job I could to honor this story and paint a picture of this great man approaching the end of his life.
LM: That is an amazing story and an outstanding song. Sometimes we don’t honor our veterans in the way they deserve. The lead single and title track is about the civil and political uprising in the Ukraine. It is, in a way, is similar to the situation in the US and around the world. How does this affect your songwriting process?
PM: In my songs, I’m always trying to tell a story with a strong emotional component. So a lot of the stories I try to tell are things I’ve seen or heard that affected me on an emotional level. Also, I tend to write a lot about the perils of greed and money, corruption, abuses of power, and the “rat race” of modern society. A lot of what’s happening in the world today politically fits a couple of these categories – there are people around the world who are suffering and being oppressed, and that certainly affects me on a deep emotional level.
Also, it seems like people in power are almost always abusing it somehow and using that power to prey on those without. So there’s plenty to talk and write and fight about. I think we’re heading into a period of quite a few protest songs from around the world, similar to what happened in the US in the 1960s. At this point, as it relates to our music, my big fear is writing something that somehow trivializes any of these big issues. So it helps if I can write about something with which I have a personal relationship – such as the people of Ukraine – so I’m not getting too out of my depth.
LM: That is a fantastic way to think and write about it. You had a chance to hit up SXSW again this year. What are your impressions of the festival this year compared to previous years?
PM: SXSW is a pretty crazy event and we are always honored to be a part of the insanity. It did strike me this year how we don’t approach it with the same wide-eyed awe that we did a couple years ago when we were there for our first time. When we first played down there, in 2015, it was this amazing, brand new thing. It was this goal that we had always had as a band and we were finally achieving it. Also, we knew a ton of bands both from Chicago and from other cities around the country whom we’d met in our years of touring, and it was like a big reunion in Austin where everyone supported each other.
This time, we only knew 2 or 3 other bands down there, which was a major difference for us. Also, it was a lot more of a “back to work” mentality for us. We knew what to expect, we knew to pack lightly and what streets to avoid, we put a lot more thought into how to get ourselves and our gear to each venue. We’re a very business-minded band and I think now in our third year playing during SXSW we approached it with the same all-business mentality that we approach most everything else.
LM: Now with the EP out, is there going to be a big push for live shows and a tour?
PM: We’ve been slowly releasing the EP, one song at a time, since February of this year. So we’ve already been touring behind some of the new songs. We were down in Austin as mentioned previously and also played in Toronto for Canadian Music Week. We also had a handful of Midwestern shows mixed in there as well. We will be playing in Chicago at Martyrs on June 3rd and then the House of Blues on July 19th. There’s also a lot going on behind the scenes right now with us which we can’t make public quite yet. Suffice to say that we are hard at work and should have some more shows booked soon!
LM: We can’t wait to see the live performances and wish you luck with the behind the scenes efforts! Thank you for taking the time! We really appreciate it.
PM: Thank you very much!
You can now pick up Hearts On Fire EP by Molehill on their website: HERE. And check out the video for their title track below!