State College-based metal band It is Written has traveled across the country over the past few years, and at one recent gig, the band’s new music video began to take shape.
“It was directed by a company called Live Vibes Entertainment,” It is Written singer and guitarist Ken Hawkins said. “They’re out of Tampa, Florida. The director was at a show back in April in Tampa and he liked our music so much he came up and offered to shoot us a video.”
The video, available on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, features “The Hunt,” an original song that was, unfortunately, inspired by tragedy.
“About two years ago, our bass player passed away on tour,” Hawkins said. “The song was written right after Colin (McAtee) had passed and we were hunting for something, kind of like people do in life. They hunt, trying to find that career or it could be touring in a band, like we do.”
Admirably, the band — which includes Hawkins, Darl Johnstonbaugh on drums, and (more recently) Joe Lorenzo on bass — pushed on despite the tragedy, continuing the tour.
“We actually went right back out on the road two weeks later,” Hawkins said. “We have a couple of hired guns.”
In the video, the three members of It is Written perform the song on a beach somewhere and there are close-ups galore of each member playing his respective instrument. Hawkins gets a lot of face time as the guitarist and lead singer, and it was instructive to see how he approaches the riffs on his guitar.
Metal is its own, complex genre, and to study something as simple as Hawkins’ right hand while he is playing the guitar gives a glimpse into what it takes to pull it off. When flatpicking an acoustic instrument, there is a fundamental skill is the ability to alternate up and down strokes with the pick, and that’s what Hawkins is doing in the video, only throughout the entire song as the underlying riff is dependent on it.
“The point of making a video is you want people to see faces or pictures that relate to the song,” Hawkins said. “Sometimes people listen to a song and have one opinion of it and others could have a completely different opinion. But when you watch it on a video you might correlate it with the same opinion or something different.”
The band has gigged in 40 states the last three years and is also working on a new album.
“Our touring experience hasn’t been like you hear when people are starving,” Hawkins said. “We at least prepare and make sure we’re going to get paid. We sleep in hotels. Touring can be make it or break it. It depends what you do with the money. You could drink it away or you could put it away.”
The band’s ability to survive the road and to thrive even in the face of adversity goes back its origins.
“Darl and I started this band, gosh, it’s gonna be 12 years in April next year,” Hawkins said. “We write music about politics, religion, and we want to get out there. It’s not about making money for us.”
From the start, the band has maintained a vision, even a mission of sorts which goes deeper than just a bunch of guys getting together to play music. There’s a unifying theme, or, better yet, a point to all of it.
“A lot of people in the metal scene are really there to relieve stress,” Hawkins said. “You go to a show, it makes you so much happier the next day, how you relieve stress and get some endorphins rollin’.”
It’s also about educating listeners, Hawkins said.
“I don’t lean toward anything to push anyone toward, say, God or the devil,” he said. “I more along the lines want you to think of the possibility of there being one or the other. Pick up a book. Plus, it’s cool to sing about.”