Best Radio Icon indeed. You don’t need us to tell you how cool Pierre Robert is. Anyone who’s ever encountered this remarkable WMMR mainstay knows he’s the man — a man of the people. On and off the air, Robert is all about the listeners, which translates directly to his passion for music.
And when it comes to local music, the Hooters have always been one of Robert’s favorite local bands. Headed by Wayne’s Eric Bazilian and Ardmore’s Rob Hyman, the seasoned rock quintet is a uniquely Main Line success story, cultivating its core early-’80s fan base at high school auditoriums and clubs throughout the western suburbs before exploding nationally with hits such as “And We Danced” and “All You Zombies.” Last year’s Time Stand Still, the Hooters’ first studio album in 14 years, cements the band’s “Best Comeback” status, as they continue to play to enthusiastic fans in the U.S. and Europe.
Robert recently sat down with Bazilian and Hyman at WMMR headquarters to resurrect old memories and, hopefully, make a few new ones.
Pierre Robert: So how long have the Hooters been together?
Rob Hyman: Our first official gig was in 1980, so just do the math. It’s 28 years.
PR: With a little time off for good behavior, which everybody needs. Your last studio album was in 1993, so it’s been 15 years-give or take-between albums. That’s a nice space of time.
Eric Bazilian: It was enough time for hell to freeze over and melt.
PR: To quote Don Henley. Time Stand Still is the new record. Getting back into record world-what was it like? Was it easy getting back together to make this?
EB: This was, actually. There were several false starts in between where, for whatever reason, the planets didn’t line up just right.
PR: What happens when the two of you start to write? Is it fluid-in that one sparks an idea and the fire starts going? Do you just say, “Poor cold water on that and start all over again?”
EB: It’s all of the above. I mean, I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. [Laughs]
RH: I don’t think any two songs have the same genesis. A spark does start, and it could be a title or a fully realized piece. The other one chimes in, chipping away at it as a piece of clay to be molded. No matter how much time we have, it’s always the last two or three weeks when the heavy lifting gets done.
PR: What’s heavy lifting?
RH: Finishing the song to our satisfaction. We might live with it, and then there’s a deadline of mixing and mastering-or our manager screaming, “Where is the stupid record already?” That’s the heavy lifting; that’s the hard part.
PR: The first single, “I’m Alive,” is such a magnificent song on so many levels. Every time I play it, somebody calls in and says, “Yeah, this is a great song. It speaks to the value of loving where you are in your life right now.”
RH: “I’m Alive” and “Time Stand Still” just seem like companions, and they definitely open the album in a great way. Their themes coexist well together, and the rhythms just feel like we’re back to the kind of music we play.
PR: You guys have gotten some nice national press. You were written up in People and USA Today. Any chance for some more U.S. tour dates.
EB: Got any?
RH: Please call our manager. [Laughs] Well, we’re going back to Europe several times this summer, which has really been keeping the band alive. Now, with the new album, we’ve played New York; we just did a show down in D.C. and Virginia, and we’re spreading out a little. It’s funny because we have to reacquaint ourselves with the U.S. marketplace.
PR: I was at a show in New York City, and you played to a sold-out house at B.B. King Blues Club. It was so cool to see the New York audience come out and support you guys. And you did two sold-out nights at the Electric Factory last Thanksgiving, which was great. There’s another song on Time Stand Still that jumps out at me — “Until You Dare.”
EB: That one goes back awhile. Actually, I wrote the original version in 2000. Rob had always liked that one, and he had some ideas about making it better. I think we really took it up a major notch.
PR: It’s just magnificent-the message of it.
EB: Yeah, well, you know, until you dare to go where no man has ever been before … At this point, that’s what we’ve always been doing-now more than ever.
PR: Do you have a favorite song on this record, Rob?
RH: For me, the ones we’re playing live tend to really rise up. Every night, it’s a little bit different.
PR: Well, you generally open up the set with “I’m Alive.”
RH: It’s a perfect opener. “Time Stand Still” is another favorite to play live, too. Another is “Free Again,” which closes the record-and Eric had this idea of doing some extended jamming. It’s one of the things the band does really well, but it’s hard to capture on record. In the studio, everything gets down to a three- or four-minute song. “All You Zombies,” at six minutes, was a stretch.
PR: When I started listening to this record, I thought, “What would this band be like if they just opened it up and let it wail? And “Free Again” does just that-another great message about being alive and being vibrant. I heard that you went to see Lynyrd Skynyrd, and that was a part of the inspiration.
EB: Yeah, I went to Atlantic City to see them, and I’d never seen them live. I was absolutely blown away. Rob and I got together, and we had a very concentrated period of a couple of weeks where we really did a lot of writing for this record. I said, “You know, I saw Skynyrd last night. We’ve got to write a song like that.” Go figure — and we did
PR: There’s a bonus track on the CD called “White Jeans.” That goes back to your early days, does it not?
RH: It does. It’s like the ultimate garage-band song. We all grew up playing in garages or rec rooms. We were allowed to make noise in our house-my parents were good that way. We had a little scene going on, and we all did wear white jeans. Back then, the band uniform was important. We wore white jeans; we knew three chords; nobody owned a car — you borrowed your ma’s. It was kind of my story — but it’s our story.