Smile Politely

Hank-y Panky

While Hank.’s loud, but tastefully intricate, tunes function as an integral part of Champaign-Urbana’s musiculture, the band is surprisingly only two years old, a mere infant in the Midwest emo scene. Since its emergence from the womb of skramz, the band has released three EPs, the most recent being September 2012’s The Chinaski Demos. But members Teddy Lerch (lead vocals/guitar), Darwin Keup (bass/vocals), Nelson Cowan (drums), and new member Ryan Brewer (guitar) are readying Hank.’s debut LP, Pinched, to be released this July on Woodbridge, VA label Globe Garage. Much like its members at one point or another, Hank. is blossoming into adulthood.  “It’s like a half-polished diamond,” said Keup.

Recorded in the basement of the Dirty Feathers and Elsinore drummer James Treichler, Hank. completed Pinched on a tight timetable. Lerch explained:

The only reason everything is so rushed is because we are going on a three week tour, August 1 to the 21st, and we would really like to have our album completely done by then and ready to take on the road. And for that to be done, it needs to be done by a certain time… But I’m very satisfied with the way everything turned out… We still had enough time to record parts again and make them sound better and more defined.

In addition to time constraints, Brewer (of the recently defunct Good Night and Good Morning) had only joined the band one month before Hank’s first day in the studio:

James took care of recording the foundation of the drums, bass, and Ted’s guitar because they’ve been playing the songs together for over a year. But, after they were finished with their things, I sat down in my room for about a week, like, not leaving the room, just working on guitar parts day and night, just to get everything to where it was right. And, I’m a lot happier with it now.

It’s been a cool learning experience for me, though, because in my last band I wrote the songs, recorded, and mixed everything we ever did, and I was an incredible perfectionist about everything… And, when playing with Hank., it’s not always about that. And I kind of had to let go a little bit and go with it. If it’s not perfect, then it’s okay.

“Also,” Lerch added, “the difference between this band and [Brewer’s] last band are like the difference between a good night and a good morning.”

While Pinched admittedly isn’t based on any sort of overarching theme other than “a lot of the songs hav[ing] to do with a self-hating sort of outlook,” a sans-concept LP might work out for the better, at least for Hank. Lerch said:

I personally don’t like repetition too much. I think it’s sort of a cop out when bands have one sound, and they stick with it, and that’s all they know, and that’s all they’re good for. So, I try to make things as varying and as widespread as possible.

Hank’s subtle, but apparent, “genre-hopping” is one of the reasons for the recent addition to the band’s lineup. Brewer stated:

What was a really interesting thing that made me interested in playing guitar with Hank., was that it was so diverse and schizophrenic sounding, but now that I’m understanding more of what Ted is going for and why he’s playing the things he’s playing, it’s making it really interesting, because when I was writing songs in Good Night and Good Morning, it was very methodical. I always used very logical progressions or progressions that were very logical in my mind… I wanted to do something that was completely different from what I had done before, and you can’t get much different than this.

“With this,” Lerch added, “we sit for a very long time trying to figure out the right chord and different chord structures that go well with each other.”

Part of this musical complexity and diversity also lends itself to the varied musical tastes of each member. “I grew up listening to classic rock,” Keup said. “So, I just play classic rock on top of whatever they’re doing.”

Sometimes, however, this openness to other genres produces consequences. “I wish Nelson could be here so we could talk about his days of being a metalcore drummer,” Lerch said on Nelson’s absence from the interview. “He used to have a double bass pedal that he played with us, actually. We grounded him.”

Pinched will be available digitally, on vinyl, CD, and cassette. Hank. revealed a handful the LP’s many secrets, listed here:

  • “Played backwards, Pinched sounds just like Led Zeppelin. It’s actually recorded over old Led Zeppelin III copies.”
  • “The music perfectly syncs up to A Beautiful Mind. Actually, if you play it twice through, it works the second time, too. You need to press ‘play’ the minute you see Russell Crowe’s face.”
  • “It’s matched up to the last 33 minutes of Old School (though, the record is longer than 33 minutes).
  • “You actually need to have a record player that turns at thirty-five rpm, but then you have to put five Canadian Buffalo nickels on it to slow it down to thirty-four and a quarter.”

Additionally, Hank. has yet to decide on artwork for Pinched, so they are currently accepting serious submissions for consideration.

In the meantime, these four men embark on a five-day tour around the Midwest titled “The Pinched. Prequel Summer Tour.” As its name implies, the tour is meant to present a pre-Pinched Hank. to show-goers before the band goes on a “massive” tour across the U.S. later in the summer, when the band hits everywhere from Austin to Florida to New York. Lerch discussed the Pinched. Prequel Tour:

It’s our only tour before the album’s released, and we usually try to tour as much as possible. And, we decided that we definitely have time to do two tours. So, we’re doing this one smaller one and then a really big one later. And we have two months in between to really get as tight as possible. Maybe write a few new songs and finish learning all the other songs, a few covers.


The band is especially excited to return to Carbondale, IL where, according to Keup, fans unexpectedly sang along and crowdsurfing and destruction ran rampant in someone’s basement.

“The night legitimately ended in an orgy,” Lerch said. “We left early and just got Snapchats and texts of an ensuing orgy. So, we’re excited to play Carbondale.”

Hank. also just finished recording a cover of “London” for a full compilation and cover album of Third Eye Blind’s self-titled LP, featuring several other Midwest emo bands like Dowsing and Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate).

“The master for that is all done,” Lerch said. “We Hank’d it up a lot.”

“We delve into black metal,” added Brewer. “Blackened Third Eye Blind.”

Sadly, with so much to pay attention to with regards to Hank’s music, people often overlook the individuals behind the music.

“I was a boy,” Keup recalled. “Been raised up and down I-57 my whole life. Nestled into Champaign. I play bass. I like Rush… I ‘schmime’ a lot.”

While Darwin refers to himself as the “kale chips” of Hank., Brewer is the self-proclaimed “Sriracha.”

“I’m a guitar player,” Brewer said. “I’m also from the land of 57, within a thirty-mile radius of Champaign… I hang out in a warehouse all day for my job with audio gear cleaning cables and pieces of equipment.”

As for Lerch:

I was born and raised in Champaign. Lived here my entire life. Was in orchestra for a very long time. I pull a lot of my music knowledge from that… I utilize my time playing a bunch of different instruments, working at a café and monitoring my health.

“You also forgot about gettin’ buckwild,” Keup interjected.

“I like to do that,” Lerch admitted.

Although Cowan slumbered in his home during the interview, Lerch described Cowan as one who likes to “fidget” before moving on to the band members’ love lives.

Arguably art, specifically music, goes hand-in-hand with romance. Coincidentally, Keup and Brewer both date baristas who happen to work at the same café. Lerch, however, remains a bachelor. But, according to Lerch, Keup’s girlfriend is in the process of getting Lerch a job: “I’m gonna be working with both of their girlfriends.”

Romance aside, though, this isn’t the band’s first run-in with coffee. “Pretty much all of us work or have worked at an Espresso Royale,” Lerch said. “We’re a band that runs on coffee, except I don’t drink coffee at all.”

“I’m also a baker,” added Keup. “I bake bread … Artisan breads. The secret ingredient is art. I add a Picasso to every batch.”

In the end, though, Hank. wouldn’t be anything without the help of their dear friends Limp Bizkit. Lerch said:

We were at a guitar center in Texas, I showed Darwin how to play “Rearrange” by Limp Bizkit. He’s been playing it every day, ever since… And, we didn’t have a place to stay in Texas. And, he’s playing it at a guitar center in Texas. And, the guy working there comes over, and we start talking to him. And, it comes up that we’re a touring band and we didn’t have a place to stay that night, and he said we could sleep at his house. Later that night, we show up at his house, and it’s raining, and we actually didn’t play a show that night because of unfortunate circumstances… Limp Bizkit saved our schlongs.


Hank. is set to perform tonight at Error Records with Enta, Strangers Now, Cage Match, Gula Gila, and Woodie. Cover is $5, show starts at 7:30 p.m.

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