An Interview with J. Loren and Victor Ribas of Hurt

Selective Memory interviews Hurt and recaps their gig in Dayton, Ohio.

Venue: McGuffys (now Oddbodys)

Playing a fantastic balance between older and newer material, Hurt gave the Dayton crowd at McGuffy’s a show to remember. The set from beginning to end was all about making sure everyone in attendance had a good time. From the blazing guitar of Michael Roberts, the pulse-pounding rhythm section of Victor Ribas and Rek Mohr and intense vocals (and some kick ass violin playing) of J Loren, Hurt gave an energetic, enthusiastic performance.

During the set, J continually interacted with the audience. Stepping across the security void in front of the stage, he rode on top of the crowd from the front to the back of the venue ending up on the bar insuring everyone had a front row vantage point. Another instance found J observing a fan video taping the performance, something that a lot of other artists would frown upon. He promptly took the camera and proceeded to film each of the other band members as well as himself and the crowd for the duration of the song before giving the camera back.

Prior to the end of the set, J told everyone he would be at the back of the venue after the show to sign anything they wanted, take pictures and most importantly the opportunity to thank everyone individually for coming. The band then launched into an unforgettable rendition of “Rapture.” No encore was necessary as there was no doubt that J, Michael, Rek and Victor gave their heart and soul to every note, every lyric and every beat played that night.

I had the opportunity to sit down with J and Victor prior to the show to talk about their fan interaction, new album, recent acoustic tour and the violin.

Interview with J. Loren and Victor Ribas

Hurt on selective memory

J, can you give us a brief history of the band up to the current lineup?

J: We started off in around 2000 in my home state of Virginia. Kind of went through the rigors and toils and played, oh god, thousands of shows, before we recorded the CD that was picked up by Capital Records, which was Vol. 1, and then we became more of a national act. I guess the story just kept on spreading from there, but through the years, since it’s been running about 12 years now, I’ve lost members, gained members and that’s pretty much it rolled up in a nutshell.

You guys have a pretty loyal fan base

J: I would say, yeah.

Do you think it’s helped with today’s social media? Do you think that has helped keep that or is there anything specific you do to keep that?

J: I’m glad you asked that because I’m so inept at keeping up with things like that. Victor takes care of that mainly and I just chime in every once in a while when it’s something important that someone is asking

Victor: I’d say absolutely. It’s a tool at anybody’s disposal. You can choose to use it or not, and we choose to on a very personal level. We don’t let anybody else run the Facebook or anything like that. We’re in control of everything. So when somebody messages us on Facebook you’re actually getting an answer from a band member. So I just kind of, I’m not really the voice of it, I just speak for these guys when they say something or a question comes up. So absolutely social media is a huge outlet for us.

J: And by that same thing, if someone wants to reach me directly, after a little bit of digging they find out if they go on our message board and they write me, they’re talking to me and I’ll write you back.

Hurt – How We End Up Alone Video

You are one of the few bands I’ve seen that has a forum on your website.

J: You know, it’s been alive for how many years now, so might as well keep on going with it. That’s how I check in on things.

Victor already covered this, I was gonna ask how often you interact with fans through that, sounds like a lot.

J: I’m face to face…

Victor: I think it’s like J was saying, face to face is probably the most important, but sometimes not possible if you’re a national act and your fan base is potentially across a country or larger than that. A good way of remaining in contact with these people and getting information out about the band and reminding people that we care that they’re there is the internet. Being in contact with people is really important.

J: (laughing) You know, you talk to somebody in Fairbanks (Alaska) and they’re like, “When are you coming here?” and I’m like, “Isn’t it -12 right now? Not anytime soon man!”

What brought about the break with Capital?

J: Simply, basically the whole music industry was collapsing and they had to be selective about the artists they were working with. They tried to pressure us into basically signing a 360 deal so we could be some little pop slave artist, and that didn’t really fit into what we were doing. It wasn’t a typical relationship to start with. Basically we did what we wanted, we made what we wanted and they picked it up. And if they wanted to sell it and make money off it, which they did, good for them. They wanted more of a, I guess, more of a controllable situation and I just didn’t think that was a good mix between commerce and art.

So with the independent label now…

J: Actually, we went into that thinking that we could find that perfect balance between commerce and art, but unfortunately the independent label, because of some political issues within the label, stopped doing some things that they had originally promised that they would do. So, we said goodbye to each other, respectfully, and we keep on moving.

Hurt Performing Rapture Live

With the new album The Crux, I’ve read a lot of reviews and listened to it, it’s a great album…

J: Thank you.

A lot of reviews say it’s a return to the Vol. 1 sound. Is that something that was intentional on your part or did it just happen?

J: Not so much intentional.

Victor: Ultimately it’s on the listener. Do you think it sounds like the Volumes? Do you think it’s a return?

I think it has that sound, but at the same time it’s different.

Victor: Yeah, that’s what we were going for.

J: That’s exactly what we were going for.

Victor: We were going for something that reminds you of what Hurt is but at the same time is new. One of the first questions you asked was about the lineup changes, so obviously Hurt is going to progress from record to record, or at least has been because of the lineup changes and because people getting better at their craft, you know, things like that. But, yeah, that’s what we were going for.

J: And you’re talking about the same band that has Ten Ton Brick and Alone With The Sea, so you can’t really say this album sounds just like this album because it’s a pretty broad spectrum going on with each album and this one is no different in that respect.

You did an acoustic tour…

J: Yes.

Was it specifically to promote this album or did you just feel like going out and stripping it down?

J: No, we just felt like doing it. We reserve the right to just play music for people. We just came out and played. Victor had joined the band and I wanted to get to know him musically a little bit better. The way to do it is not to make some choreographed thing where you do a rock show and get everybody to cheer at this time and all that. It’s too easy to fall into all that if people are worried about doing a good job right off the bat. So we just said hey, let’s go out grab our instruments and play, and we’ll figure it out. We’ll do whatever we feel like doing and I got to know his intuition a little bit better and I think he got to know ours.

Victor: We didn’t set out to do this, but I think what it did was, it made us listen more to each other. When you’re in this big rock band and you play these stages with all these lights and smoke machines and stuff like that and over blaring speakers and alcohol that can just filter what’s actually happening. I think people can lose sight of the original goal, which was just to play good music. So when we did the acoustic tour I think it inadvertently reminded us that’s what it’s all about. It made us listen to each other more, there’s no lights to hide behind, there’s no smoke, just us sitting down playing music trying to connect with fans.

J: We were talking about quality artists and people that can do what you’re paying money to see them do. It was like Alison Kraus and Tom Petty and all these folks that have been together for years and I said gentlemen that’s where the bar is for us as far as our live playing. We might not do the same kind of music as either one of those artists, but it’s the same thing, they’re all listening to each other, they’re all playing off of each other.

Victor: I remember that conversation because it made me go home and go on YouTube and say “OK, what does Tom Petty do at his acoustic, or what does Pearl Jam do at their acoustic?” These people that I respect and that have done this for a long time, that was the bar we were going for. On a mutual level we all felt that way, which was really cool.

J: It’s still always a learning process, but at least when you come see us live, we are playing live, we’re playing together and a lot of people are really blown away because they come in after the first show thinking we’re doing what other bands are doing, which is just to play a bunch of tracks and music and kind of pantomime their way through it. Then they come see us another night and they notice I’m singing different notes and playing different things, there’s a different guitar solo going on, we change the chords in the middle of a song and then they’re like, “Oh wow, it’s not even possible.” And we’re like, “No, we wouldn’t do that to you.” (laughing)

Did the acoustic shows get good reception?

J: Very.

Victor: It’s probably my favorite tour I’ve ever done.

Hurt – Caught in the Rain Video

So any plans of releasing any material on an acoustic album?

J: We will release acoustic material eventually…

Victor: The question is when.

J: The problem again is with the industry. So if it’s something that we have to end up just having to do on our own, someday we’ll do that. Right now we still have a lot to do. We’re still working on The Crux and a lot of people are coming out to see representations of those songs.

Victor: There’s definitely something about the acoustic side of Hurt that I wouldn’t want to rush when it comes to a recording. I would want to take time with it. I would want to make sure not just that it’s going to get proper exposure, but as something that I’m so proud of and happy for, and I’d like to take time with it. It’s not something that I’m going to rush right into because people are demanding that we do it.

So when it comes to songwriting, J do you primarily take care of that or is it a collaboration?

J: On The Crux it was very much more of a collaboration than before. I always take care of the melody and the lyrics, honestly, because if I took somebody else’s lyrics I couldn’t remember them. But we took everybody’s idea in any form, nothing really was off limits. Even though I said I don’t use other peoples lyrics I’d call to take his suggestions (motioning to Victor). But people kind of just said hey, your good at this you do this, and you ask someone else for their specialty. After working together you kind of get a grasp and you go with the Henry Ford motto which is maybe I don’t know everything but I know people who can.

A lot of your lyrics come out kind of dark, but the song itself is not a gloomy song, it is a good hard-hitting song. Does this come from experience?

J: Yes. If I’m to look at people in the eye and say life is all gloom and doom and it’s not worth living, I shouldn’t be alive to talk about it. So, life’s not that way. I can talk about hardships, I can talk about just the shear fact that I’m there talking to somebody means that I believe it’s worth overcoming and even though there’s not a positive outlook on a particular song I think that overall it’s one of my prerogatives to have an album have uplifting notes so that you know that there is something beautiful, something to live for, definitely something to live for, even when you don’t see it.

Something else I’ve noticed when reading different reviews over the albums or interviews with you, it seems like everybody is always trying to put a label on your sound. I’ve heard heavy metal, hard rock, alternative rock, does it bother you that people try to label you?

J: No, I mean I think it’s human nature to see a thing and want to give it a name. So that’s fine.

Victor: It’s about comfort level too. Music is a very personal thing for just about everybody. So you have that in everybody’s mind even if you don’t realize it, you categorize what style of music, or musics, you like. So it’s easy for someone to say, “Oh, that’s alt rock, because I like alt rock” or “That’s heavy metal because I like heavy metal”. If they’re going to apply something to it because it’s comfortable for them. It’s not like what one person says is going to label the whole band and all of a sudden we are going to become a heavy metal band.

J: An illustration, one day a fan came up to me after hearing a show and said, “Man, I just love your guys’ music, it’s just amazing. You guys remind me of Nickelback.” And I was floored, I was like, “Oh, wow, I don’t see any similarity. Do you like Nickelback?” and he was like, “I love Nickelback” so I said “Well thank you very much”. You can’t know what’s in someone else’s mind.

Victor: Comfort level.

How often to you play venues the size of this place (McGuffys)?

J: We play venues of every size. Anywhere between arenas and something about the size of this dressing room itself. It all depends on the day, the season, what we can do, what we can pull off. We’d rather be playing than not, so we’ll pretty much play your back yard if you can get enough amps out there.

Having been to other shows here, I think the size of this place draws you more into the band and makes you feel like you are a part of the show. Do you feel that coming back from the crowd when you’re on stage here?

Simultaneously J: Yes Victor: Absolutely.

J: That intimate setting is really unique, also it’s exhilarating when you are playing something the size of a hockey arena when it’s packed out with cheering screaming people. It’s two different things. The only thing that really doesn’t change is as long as the musicians are doing their job and we’re listening to each other, we can get that same feedback from everybody. It gets a little harder to shake everybody’s hand at the end of the night when you’re playing the larger places, and I insist on having a little bit of personal contact with people. It’s just too important to go through life without knowing what it’s like to the other people.

This sounds great in all of the songs, and I’ve never seen you guys live which I am really looking forward to, but a violin is an odd instrument for a rock band. Did you initially know that was going to work or was it experimental at first?

J: No. I was trying to talk my band mates and my manager out of it. Growing up as a guy who plays the violin you get in a lot of fist fights, first of all. You know how people are. And I play rock music, sort of, and it’s mixed with folk, and there’s the other problem of there’s really not too many people who play violin while singing. Not successfully. So I was like, “Aren’t I doing enough here?” And they’re like, “C’mon man, I’ve seen you play, I think you can do it”. I’m always telling people you can do anything if you try, and you try, and you try. So I followed my own advice and eventually learned how to play while singing. It’s still difficult to this day.

Can’t wait to see that.

J: I hope I can hold it up.

Victor: The bar just got raised.

J: You see the sweat start pouring as soon as the violin comes up and my mouth opens.

Plans for the future?

Victor: It never stops.

J: Right now we’re on tour with Smile Empty Soul, and that’s working so fantastically well. We’re all getting along and getting great response from fans. We’re meeting their fans too, which is nice. I know their fans are quality people because they’ve been around a while and these are the kind of people you want to love your music because they don’t give up on you. So at the same time we’re both enjoying exposing each others fans to each other.

Victor: It’s really great that both bands, I love their music, Smile Empty Soul plays great live music. They follow a lot in Hurt’s footsteps, or I should say we kind of follow in each others footsteps, because we don’t use tracks, it’s just a band playing rock music for a crowd to be as personal as possible. And these guys are just great, they’re awesome.

J: So there’s a good possibility that we might continue and do another leg with these guys. We’ll see how it goes with their album plans because obviously when you get two different bands together they’ve got different schedules. So, we’ll see.

Who does the tour scheduling?

J: Tour Agents.

Victor: And Booking Agents.

With playing Dayton (OH) and then South Bend (IN), I was wondering why not Indianapolis?

J: I don’t know.

Victor: It could be venue availability, it’s the holiday season and there’s probably a lot of bands playing right now, so maybe the venues were just booked.

J: Obviously we haven’t lost any love for Indy, I mean, we’ll definitely be back.

I’m glad to be able to see you here, as a fan, because there is a better feel to see bands in a place like this.

J: Good. That’s what we all need.

Victor: Absolutely. This is a great venue. The owners, it’s all family. They’re great people. Every time we come here it’s an easier day than it could be. So this is a great place, I’d definitely recommend anybody come see a rock show here.

Anything else you want readers to know about what is going on with you guys?

J: I just want to thank people that have cared enough to tune in and watch and thank you guys for listening through the years and we’ll continue to make some music that hopefully you’ll continue to like.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Between our earlier conversation and what I watched transpire during the show, I can say that Hurt is a band that truly cares about their fans. And they deliver. If anyone left this show disappointed, it was not the fault of the band. If I had not already been a fan, I definitely would have left as one, and my respect for this band grew immensely. Artists of every type of music should take notice, Hurt is showing you how it’s done. Oh, and guys, my back yard can hold as many amps as you want, so stop by anytime.

Hurt at McGuffy’s

Hurt on selective memory

Hurt on selective memory

Hurt on selective memory

Hurt on selective memory

Hurt on selective memory

Hurt on selective memory

Hurt on selective memory

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