Gloom rock duo Hoaxed unveil their captivating debut full-length, Two Shadows, on Relapse Records. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Kat Keo and drummer Kim Coffel, Hoaxed’s superlative blend of styles—rock, gothic, Americana, and metal—paves the way for a singular expression that's entirely their own. Two Shadows thrusts, retreats, and beguiles across its melody-powered and song-driven expanse, with focus tracks “The Call,” “Guilty Ones,” and “The Knowing” functioning as the album’s lighthouses. As a duo, Keo and Coffel carry the torch of two-person artists like The White Stripes, The Carpenters, and Tears for Fears into the darker recesses of musicland.
“The duo concept is more noticeable to people outside Hoaxed," says Coffel. “We’ve always written and jammed together, the two of us. That’s our process. We're on the same page musically, and we both agree on our sound. The only thing that’s really changed in Hoaxed is how we’ve taken on other songwriting or musical responsibilities. Like the synth and bass, for example. We've been in bands before, and having five people working on music seems crazy to me now. So, being a duo comes naturally to us."
Formed in Portland, Oregon, in 2020, Hoaxed's initial songwriting plan cast a wide net by combining heavy metal (Metallica) with electronic rock (The Prodigy). The breach opened up considerably as Coffel and Keo explored the outer edges of their musical influences and artistic aspirations. No limits were placed on what could inform their music. The twosome self-released their eponymous four-song EP in February 2021. Signaled by the whirring, diaphanous spell of video single "Candle Master," Hoaxed's all-in collaborations concluded in a sound unlike any other. Comparisons from The Pixies and Heart to Alcest and The Bangles have troubled to exact a sonic equivalent. Indeed, new full-length Two Shadows continues to make analogies tricky.
"I'll tell you our influences, but it'll not help define how we arrived at our sound," Keo says. "We have a huge pool of music that we pull from. Not just consciously but subconsciously. When we first started writing, we thought of techno but heavy—synth with a heavy, driving sound. As we started writing, that idea diluted as we pulled in other influences. We wanted more of a feel than anything. Too often, music isn't emotionally powerful. It's just music. We wanted our music on Two Shadows to get a reaction.”
Written by Keo and Coffel over a fit of creative outbursts throughout 2021, Hoaxed’s nine-song spooky firstling is a panacea for the emotionally bereft. Starting with the intro "Two Shadows," Hoaxed's mojo is vocals and drums first, the kind that hits hard like an unthinkable marriage of Susanna Hoffs and Lars Ulrich. Yet, the plangent movements, siren calls, and chorus of romance, horror, and mystery persist. Whether it’s the wondrous haunt of “The Call,” the tenderhearted tumult of “The Knowing,” or the smoky menace of “Where Good Won't Go,” Two Shadows vessels solemnly into Hoaxed’s shrouded domain.
“The songs on the EP were planned out,” says Keo. “We knew what we wanted each song to sound like. For Two Shadows, most of the songs just happened. OK, ‘The Call’ was written to be intentionally anthemic. ‘Guilty Ones’ was also intentionally not in 4/4. But the rest were spontaneous. They have the same tone and feel. ‘Forsaken,’ for example, is totally different from the rest of the songs on Two Shadows, but it’s obvious that it belongs there.”
Lyrically, Two Shadows is a journey of carefully placed vignettes. Spun by storytellers into the rim of night and the things that occupy the tenuous spaces between, the missives of “The Call,” “For Love,” and “High Seas” are cloaked in awe. The quiescent allure of the American South, stalker folklore, and the willful complicity are imbued into the binate pitch of Two Shadows. Every song is different but connected, and some are darker than others. The overarching theme pools into the duality of who we are, supporting and mocking with equal fervor.
“Two Shadows is about the shadow you're comfortable with and know really well and the shadow you don't know or aren't comfortable with," Coffel says. “Kat explores themes inside of that. ‘Guilty Ones’ dances around the topic of witch persecution. ‘High Seas’ is pretty obvious, I think. There’s an uneasy Deep South feeling in ‘Where Good Won’t Go.’ The heat, humidity, and magic down there. Something’s forbidden out there. ‘The Call’ is about stalker folklore. When you're outside the fire or flames, some creatures call to you and kill you. We wanted something that felt Western American. There's a bit of twang to it."
Hoaxed recorded Two Shadows at Falcon Recording Studios in Portland. The group recorded pre-production demos in GarageBand to get a good feel for the songs before entering the studio proper with engineer and mixing guru Gabe Johnston (Unto Others, Silver Talon). Coffel's larger-than-life drums were recorded first. After which, Keo laid down guitars. Bass, vocals, and synth were the final layers of the tracking sessions. Johnston handed off the mix to mastering ace Brad Boatright (Author & Punisher, Netflix's Stranger Things) at Audiosiege Engineering. Hoaxed’s goal: a “feel something”-type production, with big vocals and drums and a lot of sibylline nuance.
“I love recording at Falcon Recording Studios,” Keo says. “Gabe understands how we want to record. We’ve been asking engineers for years to get the [drum] sound that Kim wants, and they’ve not been able to get it until we met Gabe. He figured it out. He records her how she wants to be recorded. He gets my vocals, too. Airy with lots of harmony layering. He’s down to get weird with us when we’re describing to him what we want to do and how it should sound. Gabe’s awesome!”
After gigs with Unto Others and Blackwater Holylight, as well as a high-profile U.S. tour with Amorphis and Sylvaine, Hoaxed are off to an auspicious start. While the group’s self-titled EP has earned rave reviews, Two Shadows ups the ante considerably. Not only is it formidable musically and sonically, but Hoaxed have channeled a rare combination of anxiety, nostalgia, and darkness into Two Shadows. Welcome to the gloom!