Embarking on their musical odyssey in 2015 amidst the vibrant city of Groningen in the North of the Netherlands, the progressive rock ensemble Hackberry first crossed paths through a serendipitous encounter spurred by an advertisement. Originating as an instrumental trio, the band’s sonic landscape experienced a natural expansion with the addition of a second guitarist and a keyboardist, weaving a tapestry of sound that seamlessly blends influences from classic prog, metal, and stoner genres. The shared love for heavy music among the members became the catalyst for a creative synergy, allowing them to draw inspiration from a diverse range of musical realms. Opting to forgo the traditional path of incorporating vocals, Hackberry found solace in the realm of instrumental composition, fostering a unique and dynamic musical identity. As they embarked on their journey, the decision to remain instrumental became a defining element, shaping the band’s trajectory as a distinctive force in the realm of Dutch progressive rock.
Prog Sphere: Walk us through your creative process. How do you typically approach writing and composing music? What was your creative process like for your recent release “Breathing Space” in comparison to your previous efforts? Who or what are your major influences in progressive rock? How do they impact your own musical style?
Hackbery: All individual members create musical ‘packages’, and bring these to the rehearsal room. There we start to jam on it, feeling where the musical story should evolve to, and continue to write with that premise. Every idea is scrutinized collectively, meaning that as a group we explore every corner of an idea to unlock its full potential. Oftentimes, the end result differs quite strongly from its initial form. That is a great process! It also often happens that ideas get changed or even deleted at a later moment for the good of the full song. We also like to go on writing weekends, where we indulge ourselves in our ‘riffvaults’, and work on pieces of music for a longer consecutive time period.
For “Breathing Space”, we approached the writing more professionally than our debut album, taking even more time until we were completely satisfied with the end result. That’s also why it took some years before we released our next album.
A common denominator in our prog influence is Opeth. Also classic prog acts like Yes and Genesis, well known bands like Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree, and modern prog acts such as Plini influence us. But we also love the metal classics: Pantera, Metallica, Black Sabbath, just to name a few. Through years of listening (and in some cases, visiting their concerts), we are influenced by their sounds and emotions when writing our own music.
Let’s dive into the featured track on the compilation. Can you share the inspiration or story behind “Lunares”?
When we played the release show for our self-titled debut album “Hackberry” back in 2018, we actually already wrote the first 3 minutes of “Lunares”. In the years that followed new ideas were added, an ending riff was put in place, and a combination of the endriff and the mellow middle section was created. When we felt we were 95% done, one of the members proposed to turn around the order. Kind of like how Bob Ross paints over a more than decent landscape painting, only to turn it to something even better. The same goes for “Lunares”. No compromises were made, we are done with a song only when every band member is musically satisfied.
What challenges have you faced as an artist in the scene, and how have you overcome them? How do you see the scene evolving, and what role do you believe your music plays in that evolution?
The prog scene globally is pretty big, but locally it usually is not sufficient to draw enough crowd to organize a tour for a relatively unknown instrumental progband like ourselves. The way we overcome this is by staying true to ourselves, keep writing and producing music wé think is good, and making sure people who have a bigger network get the chance to listen to it as well. Two years ago the new Dutch progressive-sympho rock-metal label Construction Records noticed us, and decided to release “Breathing Space”. This led to a lot of attention and positive reviews in the progscene, and as a result, we got to play some really cool shows for fans who really appreciate prog.
We see the already varied prog scene branch out even more in terms of sounds, techniques, etc. We believe our music stays pretty true to ‘classic’ prog, whilst also being interesting for those who are more into modern and heavy prog.
Share with us some of the most memorable moments in your musical journey so far. Do you have a personal favorite among your own compositions? If so, which one and why?
Very memorable was our album release show for “Breathing Space”, in the legendary VERA venue in our hometown. Even more so was the show we played on ProgPower Europe in October last year. Playing for so many prog aficionados with so many different nationalities was definitely a show to remember!
Besides “Lunares”, we also really like playing “Desert Orchid”. This was our first song we released in 2016, and to this day is still one of our most popular songs. The last act is also a blast to play live.
Can you give us a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or collaborations you’re working on?
We are currently in the process of writing music for our next album. We are 95% done with another 10+ minutes track and have blueprints ready for other tracks. But it is pretty likely that – as was the case with “Lunares” – one of the band members will suggest a major overhaul of the song structure. We have learned to be prepared for this. No further collaborations are planned, but we might want to work with an orchestra in the future.
What does it mean to you to be a part of our compilation? How has the experience been for you? Is there a message you’d like to convey to your fans who will be discovering your music through this compilation?
We think it is a great way to reach new listeners who otherwise might have never heard about us, so thanks a lot for incorporating us, Prog Sphere. It means a lot!
To all new Hackberry listeners we would like to thank them for taking the time to discover new unknown music, and we hope they enjoy our lengthy instrumental prog songs. If you do, ánd like collecting vinyls or CD’s, we also sell our album via our website: https://www.hackberryband.com/store/
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or not, who would it be?
We like to keep our music instrumental, but if Dio descended from the metal heavens and proposed to sing on one of our tracks we would definitely make an exception!
If you had to pick one instrument (besides your primary one) to master, what would it be?
Marijn (Guitars): Definitely drums!
Francesco (Guitars): Piano.
Chris (Drums): Guitar.
Simon (Bass): Piano is already chosen by Francesco, so I’ll pick a cello.
Tim (Keys): I love a good melodic bass line, so for me it would be bass guitar!
What’s your all-time favorite progressive rock album, and why?
As we are with 5 bandmembers with a wide range of musical interests, we take the liberty to name you 5 albums:
- Marijn: Opeth – Blackwater Park. The sound, the mix of heaviness and melody, and “The Drapery Falls” as one of the first prog-epics I fully indulged in (and learned to play).
- Francesco: Dream Theater – Scenes from a Memory. Very solid sound and a great compositional effort overall. I still go back to it after 25 years.
- Chris: Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. Steven’s best work so far in my opinion, it has some very original compositions and great storytelling.
- Simon: Metallica – …And Justice for All. It is on Prog Archives. I checked. So it counts as prog.
- Tim: Although I have to say the aforementioned albums by Opeth and Steven Wilson are very strong contenders, for me prog never got more epic than on Yes’ masterpiece Close to the Edge.
Are there non-musical influences that find their way into your music? (e.g., literature, art, science)
No tracks were written specifically with a piece of art/book/movie in mind, but all encounters with a good story or other impactful experiences in our everyday lives influence our collective musical storytelling.
Any final thoughts or reflections you’d like to share with our audience?
Once again, thanks for taking the time to take an interest in us and our music. We’d love to hear your thoughts so don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
Where can our audience find more about you and your music?