BOSTON, Mass. (December 8, 2023) — At a time when most bands and artists are busy compiling their year-in-review reflections, looking back on the year that was and processing everything that happened, Girl with a Hawk have essentially put their 2023 on record for all to hear.
The Boston band led by indie scene veteran Linda S. Viens is set to release debut EP keep ‘er lit on Friday, December 8 via Rum Bar Records, with the CD release party going down later that night at The Burren in Somerville. The celebration will be bittersweet; for Girl with a Hawk, the past year has been one of change as well as persistence, and the five songs featured on keep ‘er lit document a timeline that traded off the good times and the bad. If 2023 was a journey, of peaks and valleys and detours and pitstops, then keep ‘er lit is the soundtrack driven towards a destination.
And through it all, Girl with a Hawk have finally arrived.
“I guess I would say that keep ‘er lit is exploring what it means to not just choose to go on, but to thrive and do right by those that depend on us,” Viens admits. “It’s about the sheer guts it takes to LIVE, and keep your heart open.”
The exuberance, humor, and pathos of Girl with a Hawk can be found across the EP’s five tracks, compiling four previous singles – last year’s debut effort “The Ones,” January’s “Same Stars,” May’s “The Romantic,” and last month’s “Feel Me” – with an unreleased, record-closing song titled “Good Enough.” And it all rises to the surface through the EP’s title, taken from an Irish expression Viens picked up from an old friend from Belfast.
“It means ‘Do not stop’ – do not give up, keep the fires burning; don’t let the light go out,” she notes. “It is often used as a phrase of encouragement to ‘continue on a course of action’… and is sometimes associated with drinking and/or fighting (Viens laughs). But it seemed to say it all – the many complex things involved in survival and ultimately, perseverance – in one short phrase.”
The journey that led Girl with a Hawk to this very specific point in time began in December of 2022, a few months after the release of debut single “The Ones,” when the late Justine Covault asked the band to join her emerging indie label Red on Red Records. Covault would release a new Girl with a Hawk single and video for the yearning “Same Stars” – a personal song about Viens’ brother who was incarcerated – a few short weeks later. Over the summer, Covault unexpectedly and tragically passed away, while Girl with a Hawk’s second single on the label, “The Romantic,” was enjoying success across the blogs and digital radio, helping to earn a New England Music Awards nomination in the “Rising Stars: Massachusetts” category.
Viens and Covault bonded over shared experiences, like being older in a city’s music scene, raising families alongside a life of rock and roll, and the weight and expectations of being a woman in a male dominated landscape. Their pain and heartbreak was shared by many in the Boston music community, losing a beacon, mentor, and friend – three of the players in Girl with a Hawk knew Covault since the ‘80s – who guided them through the treacherous waters of being an independent and upstart band navigating a crowded local scene.
But Covault also had already booked The Burren for Girl with a Hawk before she passed, and asked the band to deliver a record for the December 8 show. That inspired the band to finish the record and release it the night Covault had set up for them. They soon linked up with Rum Bar Records to see keep
‘er lit through, and not only fulfill their promise to Covault, but also use the night to celebrate a friend who was instrumental in seeing their debut EP come to light.
“All the songs on the EP are about surviving the vagaries of fate as well as taking responsibility for choices made, etc., about the search for identity and wholeness (and in some cases; sobriety), and about finding some kind of peace and comfort through knowing one is not actually alone, even though in tough times, we can feel alone,” Viens says. “It’s also about the many ways we are connected to our loved ones, and rooting for them, even if separated in physical time and space. There are a lot of parallel themes with keep ‘er lit and Justine and the Unclean’s record, The Signal Light – addiction, depression, and surviving life’s tough losses and challenges.”
The experience has brought the band even closer together. In Girl with a Hawk, the singer-and-guitarist Viens is joined by keyboardist Richard Lamphear, drummer Nancy Delaney, and guitarist Dan Coughlin. Original bassist Lee Harrington, who appears on the record, has since been smoothly replaced by Daniel Bernfeld. Their shared chemistry is evident across keep ‘er lit – from the emotive draw of “Same Stars” to the pop-rock buoyancy of “The Romantic” to the new wave flair of “Feel Me.” Viens says despite it all, the writing and recording process for this record has been joyous, with the band coming together for the music they’re creating.
“Even with the challenges we’ve faced – changes in personnel, profound personal and professional loss — I have always had faith that the right people would be there at the right time to play the songs I was writing,” Viens confesses. “I’ve found that one of the super cool things about being older is that the need to grasp or hold on too tightly to things – like people, or players, or even ideas – eventually fades, and there’s more patience regarding a song or melody or lyrics’ arrival as well as for what life and and experience bring.”
And that’s a mindset that may have led to Girl with a Hawk finding a new label home. Linking up with Rum Bar Records, under the guidance of Covault’s former partner-in-crime Lou Mansdorf, felt right in order to keep moving forward. Last month’s “Feel Me,” a song dedicated to Covault and released by Rum Bar, has experienced continued success, recently hitting Number 1 on Radio Indie Alliance’s Top 75 Songs of the Week (November 27). As the EP title suggests, Girl with a Hawk simply had to – and has to – keep going.
“It feels… it feels like a bear hug,” Viens says of joining Rum Bar. “Like the most tender, and comforting thing ever to have found safe haven. Being on Rum Bar Records is like being told: ‘it’s gonna be ok, we got you’. As many on the scene know, it is a huge blessing and help to have the support of someone as knowledgeable, experienced, hard working and kind as Lou Mansdorf. He brings a lot of gravitas and reach to our music and we are enormously grateful. As we felt about Justine – we hope to make Lou, the label, and our labelmates, proud.”
At this time of year, that’s worth reflecting on.