“Hooka hey,” as history, or legend, would have it, was a Native American war cry that has several possible interpretations: “it’s a good day to die,” “let’s do this,” “no guts, no glory.” The band who bears that battle cry as their name makes music with an attitude that mixes a bit of each slogan, creating strange, exciting new sounds that are hard to categorize, but addicting to listen to.
Though a native of Paris (he’s since relocated to Austin), Hooka Hey singer, songwriter, guitarist and driving force Hugo de Saint Quentin will be the first to tell you that he always sought out American music, the kind that informs his current sound: blues, rock and roots with a little hint of swampiness and a dash of voodoo.
“It’s about having your own sound and your own path. You’re compiling different sorts of influences,” de Saint Quentin said. “You digest them and then you spit it out into something that’s yours. I’ve been in bands before where you couldn’t really identify the influences. Now I’m trying to go for something that’s more personal.”
And what exactly is personal to a young boy living in Paris? American rock gods, of course. “I grew up in the ’80s, but I wasn’t really close to the music,” de Saint Quentin confessed. “I really turned on to the music of the ’70s. I really dug into the catalogue. All the classics: Zeppelin, Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Pink Floyd.”
“Untamed,” the title track off of Hooka Hey’s upcoming sophomore EP, is a vampy, slow-burning track, oozing with a dark and seductive charm. But the dangerous woman that drives Saint Quentin so crazy may not be a woman at all. “[“Untamed”] is about inspiration, about chasing a muse. When you struggle for inspiration, it’s like that wild, untamed lady,” Saint Quentin said. “Sometimes you struggle to find her.”
De Saint Quentin may still struggle for inspiration, but at least his quest to find a home for his music is finally over. “I felt like I didn’t belong to any scene in Paris. I felt like I was the odd one out. I needed to go to a place where I could belong, where rock ‘n’ roll is the main act. I feel more at home in Austin, musically speaking, than in Paris, where it was always so hard even just to play. In Austin, it’s so easy—people really connect to the music.”
Austin may love rock ‘n’ roll, but as far as the warm welcome goes, for that he has only himself and his band to thank. Hopefully, as long as they keep following the muse and keep producing heavy, entrancing rock with a slight European flair, it’ll stay just as easy.
After you check out “Untamed” below, be sure to look out for their EP (due out February 10), and catch them on the road.