Smile Politely

Ax and the Hatchetmen bring their eclectic sound to PYGMALION

This is a photo of a group of people standing close together in a studio setting with a white background. They are wearing casual clothing, including t-shirts, sweaters, and jackets. The photo appears to be taken from a slightly elevated angle.
JP Calubaquib

Those looking to catch a fun and musically diverse indie rock band that mixes elements of pop, jazz, and surf rock, with an undeniable undertone of The Strokes in there, should head to the Canopy Club on September 21st.

Ax and the Hatchetmen have never played in Champaign-Urbana before, but they’ve heard good things about the Canopy Club and can’t wait to be a part of PYGMALION, according to Axel Ellis, who sings and plays guitar in the band.

“We’re also looking forward to seeing if there’s any nightlife going on in the area after the show,” said Ellis.

AATH’s show will end at around midnight, so these guys must really like to party.

The seven-member band of longtime friends formed in 2018 and have a solid nationwide following, according to the AATH bio on Spotify. In 2022 the group went on two headlining tours and released four singles, which racked up streams in the millions. Band instrumentation includes three guitars, a trumpet, and a saxophone.

When asked about how his unique band might evolve musically, Ellis said there’s no intended direction at this point.

“We’re just going to continue to try and make music we like to play and are inspired to make, wherever that winds up,” Ellis said. “Personally, I’ve just been trying to write stories that are meaningful to me in the best way I can.”

The Spotify bio ends with these immortal rock ‘n’ roll words: “They also will party.”

Here’s more from Ellis:

Smile Politely: How did you guys form?

Axel Ellis: I reached out to Sal (guitarist) on Instagram after seeing a video of him playing guitar. He happened to go to school with Hunter (bassist), Kenny (guitar and co-vocals), Nick (drums), and Quinn (saxophone). After playing acoustic stuff with Sal for a while, he asked the rest of the dudes at school if they wanted to start a band. I met Phil, our trumpet player, at a jazz conservatory called the Midwest Young Artists Conservatory, in which we were both playing in the same jazz band. Slowly the group compiled, over a period of a couple years, to where it is now.

This is a black and white photo of a group of people in a room with posters and other decorations on the walls. The people are sitting and standing around a table with a lamp on it. The posters on the walls are of bands and musicians, including “Nashville Pussy” and “The Fastbacks”. There is a guitar hanging on the wall in the background. The room appears to be a music or band practice space.
Kory Thibeault

SP: What do you like about touring?

Ellis: One of the many things I love about touring is meeting the people who are kind enough to come to our shows. Having conversations with the people in each city and hearing their stories is such a motivating part of touring.

Along with that, traveling is definitely another aspect we love. The opportunity to see new landscapes and cities and to explore nature in different areas is an incredible thing we try to appreciate as much as possible. As we are all avid fans of hiking and camping, we try to fit in as much of that as possible along the way.

SP: Musical influences?

Ellis: Our musical influences include Hippo Campus, The Strokes, Cage the Elephant, The Beatles, Dominic Fike, the Grateful Dead, and plenty more.

SP: You have plenty of singles on Spotify. Is there a new album in the future?

Ellis: As of not long ago, there were no plans to record an album. However, we’ve realized we have more than enough music to put an album together and are currently hoping to record this winter.

SP: I have to ask this because your music has such a breezy and fun sound: What are your thoughts on the recent passing of Jimmy Buffett?

Ellis: Although Jimmy Buffett might not be in our main list of musical influences, we were all incredibly saddened by his death. He brought so much joy to so many people with his music. He was an incredible songwriter, and his energy was so positive and fun, which is something we strive for in our music and hope to convey at our live events. Buffett was an incredible role model in popular music and an amazing songwriter. On a trip to Nick’s lake house on the weekend of his passing, we had the songs “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” on repeat. He will be missed.

Ax and the Hatchetmen
Canopy Club
Th September 21, 10:45 p.m.
$10 – $130

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