Hill & The Sky Heroes

Singer-songwriter Hill Kourkoutis has a few tricks up her sleeve that she's about to reveal on June 12th, 2012.  She is a filmmaker and producer (she has directed music videos for Serena Ryder, Sass Jordan, and Mother Mother) but this time, it is not a movie that we should expect from her but rather a new album; it's called 11:11.  Hill 's friends from The Sky Heroes play for her back-up on it.  Eclectic, seductive, haunting, whimsical and multi-dimensional rock and roll come to mind when describing her music but Hill has herself also used the terms sci-fi and alien-surf-rock to qualify some of her songs!  For more info on this artist and tour dates, visit: www.HillAndTheSkyHeroes.com

Interview by: Valerie Bastien
Valerie: Please introduce yourself!

Hill: I am Hill Kourkoutis, an alien/surf/rocker who fronts Hill & The Sky Heroes!

Valerie: You are a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, filmmaker and producer; which one of these skills are you the most passionate about?

Hill: For me, music and film exist symbiotically.  I cannot create in either medium without the influence of the other.  When I write, play or produce a song, I always see a scene or a picture unraveling in my mind and when I’m working on a script or storyline, there is always a song accompanying the scene that is being written.  The two ultimately unite when I direct music videos!  I am hoping as The Sky Heroes project develops, that I can further amalgamate the two.  Music and film coexist and are codependent in my world.

Valerie: Tell us about your back-up band The Sky Heroes; how do you bring out the best out of each other in a writing or live context?

Hill: The Sky Heroes are the integral facet of what this project embodies.  I made the decision to become a solo artist after not being able to maintain a band dynamic that was truly synergistic.  I wanted to find a way to collaborate as a solo artist but still maintain that band dynamic I longed for.  There is an energy present in a band dynamic that strengthens what you are trying to convey when that message is delivered collectively within a community.  The Sky Heroes consist of my dearest friends and collaborators.  Artists I have played for, produced or written with.  We have toured together and grown together musically and personally throughout various projects.  I think our history together, our mutual passion for art, our respect for each other and a shared outlook on life contributes to bringing out the magic of what The Sky Heroes are developing into.  A few of the current reoccurring members include Saidah Baba Talibah, Lucas Silveira of The Cliks and Donna Grantis but there are dozens of us coming together to play!

Valerie: Your new album 11:11 will be coming out on June12th, 2012. Why is this album special to you?

Hill: This is probably the first album out of all my projects that I am truly proud of.  11:11 was a concept seven years in the making. It is a reflection of coming to terms with being true…with being human.  In essence it is a coming of age record, the closing of a chapter before I dive into this next phase in my life. The wonder behind it came through collaborations with my fellow Sky Heroes, who were a major part of my personal journey of discovery.  To have the people I love, respect and collaborate with come together to help make this concept a reality makes it truly special to me.

Valerie: Explain how you chose the title 11:11.

Hill: 11:11 is often referred to as the divine number of synchronicity. When we see 11:11 anywhere, we are forced to pay attention and go with the flow of what is being presented to us.  Around the time that I started thinking about what this project would be, I began to see the number 11 more often. As I came closer to completing this record, I was seeing it everywhere from clocks, to receipts, to addresses, etcetera.  The title of the record is an homage to trusting your path and a reminder to live freely in a moment.

Valerie: The first video for this album is "Doctor, Doctor" which display some sci-fi sounds and exemplifies the term alien-rock that you have used to describe your music before. What is this song about?

Hill: "Doctor, Doctor" is the oldest song in sequence that ended up on the record.  I wrote it when I was 17 and at the time I was going through my first real heartbreak.  Not a romantic heartbreak.  I’m talking about the heartbreak and disappointment that comes along when an ugly truth is revealed and you become less nave about the world around you.  It was the first time I really let myself fall apart over something that emotionally hit me like a ton of bricks.  Someone said something to me and their words caused a physical pain within me because the conversation made me realize that no matter how hard you try, you can’t fix everything, you can’t please everyone, you can never do right for certain people.  This kinesthetic reaction led to the content of the song.  It’s a desperate plea to be saved from the pain inflicted by this truth of reality that I discovered.

Valerie: Tell me about two songs that are contrasting in styles on this album.

Hill: I think most of the songs will appear to be contrasting on this album because it is a retrospective of the last seven years of my life! “The Better Way” which is more of a ‘light’ pop song contrasts with something moody and alternative like “Doctor, Doctor” although don’t be fooled by the sounds of them!  They both deal with the sometimes ‘dark side of The Force’.

Valerie: I like the song title "Rent An Ocean", it's a beautiful metaphor. What does it mean to you?

Hill: I wrote “Rent An Ocean” with Serena Ryder and Damhnait Doyle.  I asked them to write it with me because they are two of the people in my life that have seen me grow and know me best.  On the day we wrote this song I was telling them that one of the greatest lessons I have learned in life so far is that you cannot intervene with One’s path.  You cannot help someone see something they aren’t ready to see and you can’t save someone from entering an unfavorable situation, especially when they have not asked for your opinion in the first place.  Overall, the song is a reflection of that journey and the title is a nod to the initial desire to intervene: the things you would do for a person you care about, despite knowing that even in warning them about a potential hurt, it will inevitably occur if they are not ready to acknowledge it.

Valerie: You sing "Love Isn't Safe"; how do you protect yourself from becoming vulnerable in love? In what ways does music help you channel your emotions?

Hill: HA!  I think it is absolutely impossible to completely and wholeheartedly fall into love and not become vulnerable within it!  “Love Isn’t Safe” was actually a commentary on this notion. Love is our Universal principle (without sounding like too much of a hippie)!  You think about all of the forms of love we experience throughout our lives.  There is romantic love, the love you have for your friends, the love for your family, the love a Mother has for her child, the love someone has for their country, their history, their vocation…  it goes on.  It is the one thing that binds us all.  Love involves risks and true love is unconditional and forces us to strip ourselves from our egos, leaving us completely naked.  If you believe that everything has a duality, the opposite of love is hurt and hate but all of these sensations are essentially the same thing, just a different angle of it.  Love is the most marvelous thing, but even the things that bring us the most euphoria cause us the greatest pain.  I am lucky that I have an outlet in songwriting for my emotions.  This was the challenge for me on this record.  To begin to open up more and speak truly through my songs.  Essentially since beginning this record, music has made me become more openly emotional.  Most importantly, it allows me to channel what I’m feeling in an honest way but still allow some ambiguity for others to relate as well.  We all feel the same things.  We’re all human, after all.

Valerie: Is there a song on the album that always puts you in a good place and makes you smile?

Hill: I  am going to say “The Better Way”.  The subject matter isn’t very light but instrumentally, it is a song of the jovial variety. How could you not smile when you hear a kazoochestra and sousaphone musically duking it out?

Valerie: What are you touring plans for this summer?
Hill: After we release the record on June 12th, we’ll will be starting a residency at The Drake in Toronto every Tuesday throughout July and August.  After that, we’ll be focusing on some smaller, stripped down, more intimate dates in Ontario and Quebec.  Hope to hit up the rest of Canada with the full band in late 2012/early 2013!


Valerie Bastien is a vocal coach, teacher, musician and freelance journalist.
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