Each year, autumn ushers in the Greater Gulf State Fair. In addition to the rides and funnel cake, the festive event usually brings in some great musical entertainment and this year will be no different. Many were introduced to Pensacola’s “southern pop” sensations The Real Hooks when they opened for Aaron Carter at the Soul Kitchen. Now, the family band is returning with cuts off their 2013 debut “Everybody Up!” as well as previews from their upcoming album, which has been getting a lot of attention on the industry level.
The Real Hooks is characterized by their synth-infused mainstream pop, highlighted by the Hooks siblings’ impressive harmonies and fun delivery. Through vocalist/guitarist Kyle Hooks, Lagniappe was able to get an inside look into this band as well as their future endeavors.
SC: Y’all are obviously a musical family. What was it like growing up in the Hooks household?
KH: Growing up, we all did music and different musical things, but we didn’t think anything of it. Because we grew up with it, it seemed normal. The girls took piano lessons. Nick took piano lessons as a kid, and he did drama and stuff like that. I got my first drum set when I was 5, and I got a guitar when I was 13. My dad used to be in his own band and occasionally managed different people. So, we had all kinds of different artists around the house.
SC: Was it expected for you and your siblings to become musicians?
KH: No, my parents never pushed it on us at all. I guess just because we were around it, it was something that we wanted to do. My sisters wanted to take piano lessons, and I asked for a drum set. I started playing guitar not because of my dad, but because one of my friends started playing guitar. You do what your friends do, you know what I mean?
SC: When did you decide to make it more of a professional thing?
KH: Officially, we started the band in November of 2009. I was hanging out with a buddy of mine that went to college, and we decided that we wanted to start a band. We were looking at our different friends who were musicians. We tried out some different drummers, and none of them were any good. I was like, “You know, my youngest sister is a really good drummer. Let’s use her.” We needed some keyboards, and I was like, “Guess what, my sister plays keyboards.” Then, we needed somebody to do background vocals, and I was like, “How bout my brother? He does background vocals, and he’s charismatic.” Eventually, it ended up being just the family.
SC: A band full of siblings has to be something else, especially when you hear all these industry stories about siblings not getting along. What’s it like in The Real Hooks?
KH: Just like any family, everybody’s got their personality roles. Some people tend to start the fights more, and others of us keep the peace. I’m definitely the peacekeeper of the family.
SC: What’s the best part of performing with your dad, brother and sisters?
KH: I’m the lead singer, so whenever I’m up there singing and playing guitar, there’s a lot of focus on me, but my favorite part is when we do a song called “So Long to Sammy.” Maggie sings lead on that, and Raleigh sings the main harmony. So, I get to step back a minute and enjoy the show, rather than have the attention on me. My favorite part is getting to see my family doing their thing.
SC: How would you describe a live show from The Real Hooks?
KH: It’s definitely wild! Every show we do, there always ends up being a frenzied attitude in the crowd, but not in a bad way. There’s an excitement and electricity. From the moment we step out, we put on a show the best we know how. We all just really love being on stage and playing together. I think the crowd can always sense the joy we take in it.
SC: You guys have been traveling back and forth between New York and Los Angeles recording your new album. Tell me what’s been going on with that.
KH: We’ve been working for a while putting together an album and working with some Grammy award-winning writers and producers, up in New York most notably. We’ve been writing songs, and we’ve been writing some songs by ourselves. Other songs, we’ve co-written with people, but every song on there has been by us. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s always a process. People don’t realize how much work and effort gets put into an album, but we’re just about there, I think.
SC: Who are some of the notable people you have been working with?
KH: It’s Peter Zizzo (Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne) and Mike Mangini (Joss Stone, David Byrne). When we walked into the studio, they were like, “OK, let’s write a song.” I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, I see that plaque on the wall. Does that say Celine Dion?” They were like, “Yeah, that’s nothing. You want to hold our Grammy?” We have also been working with Jojo Gator, who was with New Kids on the Block and helped get them going. We worked with Rob Hoffman and Heather Holley, who have done extensive work with Christina Aguilera.
SC: What was it like working with these folks?
KH: For the first couple of years, we wrote all of our songs all by ourselves. We had no kind of guidance on how to do it. A guy named Jason Jordan, who used to work with Hollywood Records, kind of discovered us and helped hook us up with all these writers and producers. Once we started to work with him, we learned how to put a song together the right way. I think about in a sport analogy. If you’re playing basketball with a bunch of kids, you’re not going to get any better. If you play with folks who are better than you, then you improve, because you learn how to do things.
SC: How does it feel to have the new single out?
KH: It feels really good. I figured out that the best songs we do are always written in under an hour. That song is no different. With “Just How I Am,” we had the idea at the house. Once we started, we had it written in less than an hour. With that one, it was just me and my dad who wrote it. We recorded it at the house, instead of going to the big studio. We had one microphone and one guitar jack. It came out really well.
SC: When can we expect to hear more of the new album?
KH: To be honest, the first quarter of next year. Generally speaking, record companies shut down in the fourth quarter for Christmas and stuff. With our closer fans, we usually let them get a peek at a song. One that we wrote a couple of weeks ago is “Rollercoaster.” I was asleep, and it hit me like lightning. I jumped out of bed and thought, “Oh my gosh! That’s the coolest.” A lot of our fans have heard that one. We’ve played it at our last couple of shows. It’s been getting a lot of attention from record label people and producers and writers.
SC: Is there a title yet?
KH: We don’t have one yet. We still have one or two more songs to add to it. Once we put it all together, that’s usually when we figure out the album name. Personally, I think “Rollercoaster” is a perfect title for an album. It perfectly describes being in the music business. One day, it’s up, and you’re on top of the world. The next day, it’s over. Then, the next day, you’re up again.
The Real Hooks
Date: Saturday, Nov. 1 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Venue: The Grounds, 1035 Cody Road N., www.thegroundsmobile.com
Tickets: $8 for adults/$4 for children at the gate and The Grounds website