To some, it might seem odd that a band on a mission to remove all concrete themes and
perspectives from its music would make a pointed political statement by playing a Voters
For Choice abortion-rights benefit.
Seattle-based Hovercraft are a group so hell-bent on ambiguity that they shun not only
lyrics, but also their real names, and only begrudgingly title their own songs, such as
those on their upcoming second release, Experiment Below (Sept. 22).
But the Voters For Choice event -- a theater gig with Pearl Jam in Washington, D.C.,
planned for Saturday (Sept. 19) -- is actually complementary to the Hovercraft mission,
guitarist Campbell2000 said. Both the pro-choice stance of the concert and the group's
music are grounded in a refusal to compromise values, be they political or musical.
"I think everyone should stick to their guns," said Campbell, who, when pressed, reveals
his given name only as Ryan. "If they have something they believe in, they should fight
With Experiment Below, Hovercraft fight to present the listener with a soundscape
utterly devoid of sloganeering, symbolism or characters. It's a battle they win, hands
down. The album's seven tracks primarily serve as jumping-off points, sonic stimuli that
are only truly whole when the listener completes them with his or her own interpretations
In that way, songs such as
"Endoradiosonde"(RealAudio excerpt) are invitations to escape -- not in the
sense of flight, but of discovery.
"It's about exploring the unconscious mind," said bassist Sadie7, also known as Beth
Liebling, the wife of Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder. "I think there's a lot of
overstimulation every day; things coming at you that you have no control over. We can
be in your unconscious mind. We're trying to get closer to what a dream-like state could
The 5-year-old Hovercraft, which also include new drummer dash11, attempt to create
the same ethereal atmosphere in their live shows by incorporating film collages into their
performances. Their upcoming U.S. tour will feature three montages, including one new
film and reworked versions of the pieces they brought out in support of their first album,
Akathisia (1997). The films are part of a total package that also features a sound
system cranked well beyond the limit in order to bounce physical vibrations throughout
"Live, it's the culmination of all that: physical, visual, aural," Campbell said. "We feel most
comfortable on that aesthetic. When you're recording, you have to figure out a way to
translate it to a hundred different settings."
On Experiment Below, an integral part of the translation involves using sounds to
create a range of sensations.
(RealAudio excerpt), for example, is nearly tangible. Tinkling guitars prick at the listener's
skin and waves of distortion envelope him or her in a warm blanket. Other effects are so
fluid that the listener can almost feel them washing over the tongue, while others are so
scratchy as to scrape the flesh abrasively.
"We get inspired by sounds that come from the things that are around you, not
necessarily just traditional chord progressions," Sadie said. "There's always planes
going over your head, or trains going by. They're tactile things that make you feel things
when you experience them in daily life."
Like standard chord progressions, traditional spoken language is also seen by
Hovercraft as a confining element. While Campbell says it would be possible for the
group to even eschew titles for its songs, tracks such as "Benzedrine" and "Epoxy" have
handles for reasons other than the words' literal meanings.
"The same way we like certain sounds, we like [the sound of] certain words," Sadie said.
"The titles don't necessarily have anything to do with interpreting the music."
The bassist cautioned fans against interpreting the Voters For Choice gig in relation to
Hovercraft's music as well, other than in terms of the members' unflinching support for
"Our music isn't tied to that cause in any way," she said. "It's more that we're going to
play the show and donate money to something that we personally believe in ourselves.
But it doesn't have anything to do with what we do creatively. More than anything else,
it's a tribute financially to other people who are doing things for that cause."