Grateful Dead

The Dead Covers Project Profiles - I See Hawks In LA

This month on the Dead Covers Project profiles, we're getting to know I See Hawks In LA who lit out on three very different (and very Dead) paths before meeting up in Los Angeles over a decade ago. Learn more about them an exclusive interview with singer and guitarist Rob Waller and catch their original tune "I Fell In Love With The Grateful Dead," it's sure to make you smile, smile, smile…

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Introduce us to I See Hawks In L.A.

I'm Rob Waller. I sing and play guitar. Then we have Paul Lacques who plays guitar and sings back up vocals and Paul Marshall who plays bass and sings back up vocals. For our video, we had Shawn Nourse on drums. And then there is a varying cast that come in and out but that's the main core.

How did you get started as a musician?

I played in bands in college. The first band that I played in, everyone had been in a Grateful Dead cover band in high school. They were called Crazy Fingers. We didn't do Dead covers in our band, but it certainly was the foundation. Around that time, I went to my first Dead show which was in Hampton Virgina in March of 1992, 21 years ago. Later on, I came out to California. I've been playing music and in bands ever since that time. I've been with this particular band, The Hawks, for going on 13 years.

I actually sang before I ever played an instrument. I was always a singer. I sang in church. My first instrument was piano. I didn't get a guitar until I was around 21 or 22 years old.

And the Pauls?

Paul Lacques grew up in California and he's been playing in bands since the late 1970s. He was in a band called The Bonedaddys. He still plays around in guitar instrumental band Double Naught Spy Car. He also had this crazy polka band, Rotondi, that he created. It actually started as a play. He wrote a play about an ego-maniacal polka band leader. Then the band actually became quite successful which is sort of surprising. They were on the Joan Rivers show. There are funny YouTube videos of Rotondi that you can discover.

Paul Marshall sort of had the most famous music career. He was the lead singer of the Strawberry Alarm Clock. He's played with a lot of different people over the years - Willie Nelson for one. He actually played on Brent Myland's solo record in the '80s. It was never released. So that was sort of his experience hanging out with the Dead, in the Bay Area in the '80s.

How would you describe your band for folks that are interested in learning more?

I guess the genre that fits us the best is Alt-Country. I think that's kind of what we were thinking when we started the band thirteen years ago. It's that plus a little folk, a little country rock.

We just finished a new record that we recorded and wrote very quickly. It's called Mystery Drug. We started writing it after Christmas. We wrote, recorded, and mixed the whole thing in about six weeks, by far the fastest we've ever done. The reason we did it so fast is because we're going to Germany to tour in May. Our last record came out over there on a German record label and they said why not do a new record before you come? And we were like, well, we don't really have much time but then we said o.k. let's do it. Our last record was all acoustic so we wanted to do something different. There's some acoustic stuff on it, but it's mostly electric. Anthony Lacques, Paul's brother who was the original drummer of the band and a songwriter, came back. He worked with us on the songwriting so it kind of has that early Hawks flavor to it. There was something cool about not having any time to rework things and revise - it's sort of first thought, best thought so it's got a certain spontaneity to it. I'm really happy with how it turned out. It will be released in Germany on May 25th. Then it will probably come out over here later this summer or beginning of fall. So we're touring Germany in May and then we're gonna be in England and Scotland in June and the beginning of July.

What are some of your early influences?

For me, I guess a lot of country - straight forward country, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Buck Owens but also folkier singer-songwriter stuff, Bob Dylan - that era of singers. As a band, that's what's similar. That's what we share, particularly the California country stuff like Haggard and Buck Owens. Paul Marshall's favorite performer of all time is Merle Haggard. Paul Lacques is the biggest Dead Head in the band. He loves Jerry and you can hear Jerry in his guitar playing I think. It's in his style of solo'ing even though he's been in all these different kinds of bands. The Bonedaddys' play world beat and Rotondi is polka. He actually played drums in Rotondi. I hear Jerry in his solos. I know that's what started him off on this path as a 17-year-old in 1971.

Let's get a into your relationship with the Grateful Dead and how you came to discover them.

There were Dead Heads in my high school but I didn't really hang out with them so I never went to any Dead shows in high school. When I was in college, I started playing in this band with the Crazy Fingers guys and they said "hey, let's go." So I went to Hampton, Virginia to the Coliseum. It's a circular civic center that holds like 17,000 people. It had that '50s optimistic space-hip design. Lots of different colored lights. The night that we went, it was kind of foggy and it looked like a giant spaceship. We had really good seats, looking down from the wings on the side. You could see the oriental rugs on the stage. Most of the guys in the band were barefoot. I just had an awesome time. The whole carnival experience was happening too and that was pretty amazing. So then that summer, I went to some other shows in the Midwest - Solider Field, Alpine Valley. The shows were what I really connected to, more than the records with the exception of American Beauty and Workingman's Dead, which had more acoustic stuff.

Later on, when I was living in San Francisco, Jerry died. And the night that Jerry, I went down to Golden Gate Park. There were all these people singing the songs of the Dead and playing in drums circles. Thousands of people. That was pretty amazing. So basically my experience with the Dead, at its most intense, was sort of the early '90s and that was the end of the whole thing.

Paul Lacques' first Dead show was at the Hollywood Palladium in 1971. He took the bus to the Hollywood with his sister. We all had these different Grateful Dead experiences and we wrote them up in this song called "I Fell In Love With The Grateful Dead." We each have verses about going to our first Grateful Dead shows. Mine is about going in Virginia. Paul's is about going in Hollywood. He also rode his motorcycle to see them in Santa Barbara. Paul Marshall got to hang out backstage with them because he was working on Brent's solo record. So the stories start in 1971 and go through to the '90s. We put 20 years of Dead show experiences in the song. Experiences that were separated by several decades but were fairly similar.

Check out the video for "I Fell In Love With The Grateful Dead" here:

Paul Marshall's Grateful Dead