Henry the Archer Releases His New Album on Vinyl This Weekend
Indie-punk-rock artist Henry the Archer released his latest album Zero is a Number earlier this summer, but this weekend he will be celebrating again as his album is being released on vinyl. Henry the Archer was signed to North Texas artist-centric record label Hand Drawn Records this past spring and pressed his new album onto vinyl at their record pressing plant. This new album from Henry the Archer has been one of our favorite local albums of the summer and really a type of music that has been missing in the Dallas music scene. Zero is a Number tackles topics of love, loss, and life, melding the edgy side of post-punk with a refreshing groove-pop melody. We recently sat down with Richard Hennessy, the man behind Henry the Archer, to talk about his musical upbringing and of course his new album Zero is a Number.
Tell us a bit of your musical background leading up to this album. Your first album was in 2011, but talk about what you were doing musically even before that first album.
I wrote my first song when I was 16 years old. I started playing guitar to basically impress this chick, ya know I traded my roller skates for that and I never put the guitar down since. I never really took any formal lessons of any kind, I just kept to myself and just tried to write songs and became really obsessed with just being able to play the guitar at all. I was surrounded by friends who were much better at playing instruments than I was and I think being in that environment for more than 10-15 years was kind of an asset in the long run.
How did you go from that to wanting to record and put out an album?
So I was the lead singer of a few different bands in New Jersey and we recorded and released a few albums, and the style I was singing really wasn’t my thing. I kind of wanted to pan off of that and write my own music because I was writing lyrics to other people’s songs. So I really wanted to write my own music, but a lot of people didn’t get my genre — it was a little more obscure than most. A lot of people didn't really want to jam with me, so that's why I released the first album as an acoustic.
So who are some of your musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Well, I don’t listen to a lot of music, but there are certain sounds and elements I like. I dig Interpol, but I don’t listen to them regularly. I just dig the vibe of that sound, and that sound inspires me. I know it sounds silly, but growing up — my dad was a pastor — so I listed to Christian punk-rock. I was really into Slick Shoes. And that turned into secular mainstream punk-rock like Rancid, The Misfits, and Motown is a big influence of mine.
I know you’ve probably told this story quite a few times but could you tell us about how you got the name Henry the Archer.
I was going through a really bad depression and I kind of stopped playing music live for a little bit, but I would still play music at home. I had this time at home and I kind of wanted to get into this new venture. I really liked writing lyrics, so I said “Fuck it, let me try and write a book.” So I made an attempt at writing a book kind of in the way of an autobiography in a fictional setting. So it’s about this dude named Henry who wanted to be an archer and it was really just a fictional representation of my life growing up. I never finished the book, and really just was dying to get on stage and play live because that’s way more therapeutic to me. So I said I’ll just use the name and continue it because even though it’s a fictional book, it was based on me, so why not try naming my music project, Henry the Archer. That’s really when I started playing again, and since I couldn't get anyone to play with me I did this acoustic thing and titled it “Henry the Archer”.
I got two really good friends of mine to throw down some beats and some bass for my second album The Castle’s on Fire. They were too busy in their lives to play shows all the time and dedicate themselves but they were kind of enough to throw down other instruments so I could put the music out there and look for musicians who wanted to play that type of music. Because they did that, when I moved down to Texas I had something to put online and that’s how I found my drummer Kevin Geist because I had a sample of what I potentially could sound like. Ever since then, Kevin’s been in the band and now I’ve got Charles on this new record playing bass.
The thing that really sucks right now is, I kinda was hoping to do a two-song release by mid-November, but I’ve seemed to have overbooked myself and there’s just no time to record (laughs). I just want to put new stuff out there. The album is a brand new album, but I’ve been playing those songs for two years. So finally we’re able to put down on vinyl, but there’s other songs I really want to get out there.
So this the first album you’ve released on vinyl, and I’m sure Hand Drawn Records plays a big role in that. Can you talk about why you decided to sign with them?
Yeah, they’re an artist-centric label so it’s like being apart of their roster is more like being apart of the team. Everyone just helps each other out. So a good example would be Sean Russell from the Cut Throat Finches. He’s now a part of the operational team at Hand Drawn. And you know, he’ll reach out from time-to-time and shoot me advice, and help me from making decisions that I shouldn’t. Hand Drawn’s founders, and a couple of the guys that work there, have been around in the music scene since you and I were born. And their whole idea is to share their experiences so that younger artists don’t make bad decisions, guard them from mistakes. Since they came from that background they get the concept of what an artist needs, instead of financially ripping them off. They’re super supportive and that’s what I want to be apart of. To me you can’t fail at being a part of a good thing. And since then things have gotten even better, so it was a good decision.
What was it like to see your first album being pressed to vinyl?
Honestly, I hadn’t had a record player since I lived with my mom as a little kid. Now this album has gotten me to get a record player, you know, to listen to the samples and what not. Holy shit man, I hear it at my house on vinyl and I’m like man that’s good. Then I got to my drummer’s house and listen and he has his own player with his own set up and now I’m all like Hi-Fi the fuck out. I don’t know man. To be honest I feel like putting my music on vinyl has opened up a whole new spectrum of sound to me — like a new way to listen to something I haven’t been paying attention to ‘cause I haven’t been privy to it until now. It’s opened up my perspective, if anything I record in the future does end up on vinyl, I think I will approach it a little differently during the editing process. Not that it came out bad, it came out excellent, but when I hear it on vinyl I think there’s a lot more space that I can play with and much more I can do. I might use that to my advantage in the future.
So you’re on your fourth album as Henry the Archer. Since that first album came out, how do you feel that you’ve grown as an artist and musician to now?
I think that I challenge myself more now. I used to just kind of put down as much as possible — sit down and record 16 songs and try to get them all done. If you noticed, every album has gone down 1 track. As time goes on, I just give more intimate attention to each song so meticulously more than I used to.
It used to be that I had a lot to say, I’ve got a lot of different things I want to play — a lot of different ideas and those ideas wouldn’t mesh together — so I made a lot of different songs. And now, I think I’ve matured. I just care and pay a lot more attention to absolutely every nook and cranny. I’m horrible to work with (laughs). I’m really not, but I think I am because I’m just so fucking meticulous in that mindset.