Singer who ‘wasn’t allowed to listen to music’ or watch TV as a child joins Pistols At Dawn after contributing to Top Gun: Maverick

Pistols At Dawn’s latest album ‘Ascension’ is now available in the UK after release on 19 August

A singer whose strict upbringing meant he was unable to listen to music or watch TV as a child, has joined an American hard rock band.

Cris Hodges has contributed to big blockbuster movies including Baywatch and Top Gun: Maverick, using his voice-mimicking skills.

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The singer from Dallas, Texas, has now become the lead frontman of Pistols At Dawn, a hard rock group which focused on making new music during the pandemic. They have amassed over six million streams since putting out their first EP on streaming and video platforms.

Cris joined drummer Adam Jaffe, from Atlanta, in talking to National World about the inspiration behind their music, hopes of performing in the UK and aim to empower women with their new album.

American Hard Rock Band Pistols At Dawn (Pic: Pistols at Dawn)American Hard Rock Band Pistols At Dawn (Pic: Pistols at Dawn)
American Hard Rock Band Pistols At Dawn (Pic: Pistols at Dawn) | Pistols at Dawn

The US-based band has recently released their album Ascension worldwide with plans to tour.

Adam said: “Europe and the UK are at the top of our list. The passion from music fans and music lovers in the UK specifically, is just unlike anywhere in the world.

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“Some of the biggest bands in the United States go over to the UK and that’s where it really hits, you watch the shows [and] it’s just a visceral experience. People just lose themselves [in the music] and you see waves of people moving - it’s crazy and it’s absolutely fantastic, and we can’t wait to get over there.

“We are talking to the bookers in the UK and the agents, it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. The most important thing to us is to go play. Our mantra right now is to play everywhere. We just want to get this album out and then just go play.”

Cris added: “Because the world shut down for two years, I now never take this creative environment where you get together and experience live music, for granted.

“Now that live music is back, I feel everybody is coming back full force and is appreciating it a lot more. That’s all we care about is getting out and performing, creating that friend and family experience with everybody.

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“I now never take this creative environment where you experience live music for granted” (Pic:Getty) “I now never take this creative environment where you experience live music for granted” (Pic:Getty)
“I now never take this creative environment where you experience live music for granted” (Pic:Getty) | AFP via Getty Images

“[We want to] take them out of their environment and put them in this environment that is safe and fun - we are going out there looking for people to just shake their heads and be at a true rock show. We are looking to bring them into our worlds because we are true rock fans.”

Pistols At Dawn was created in 2015 and released a number of songs, however they went on a hiatus before reuniting as a group in 2019 following the tragic passing of their inital lead guitarist.

The hard rock band released their first EP Nocturnal Youth in 2021, then turned to their latest endeavour Ascension.

Pistols At Dawn’s latest album Ascension is out now (Pic: Pistols at Dawn)Pistols At Dawn’s latest album Ascension is out now (Pic: Pistols at Dawn)
Pistols At Dawn’s latest album Ascension is out now (Pic: Pistols at Dawn) | Pistols at Dawn

“We wrote the new album in 12 weeks a year ago, so it’s been a long time coming for us - we have bled for this in more ways than one…but that’s a conversation for another time,” said Adam.

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“It just feels good that the whole world is finally going to hear this. My wife Ally, who is like the sixth member of our band, came up with the name Ascension after Devin, our lead guitarist, was talking about how he wanted it all to be positive.

“I think that the pandemic sent everybody inside, and for a while made us think too much, so I think for people to use music as a way to escape is the most important thing on Earth.”

Adam added: “We are musicians, and we want to play to everyone possible around the world but the reality is connecting to music, especially now, and finding those other places we can go where music takes us - disappearing into that world and forgetting about real life for a while. I think it is paramount.”

Cris, who is currently based in Los Angeles, became the band’s newest frontman when the group’s audience started to grow and has credited the pandemic for “enhancing” the emotion of their music.

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He said: “The whole intention was to raise people’s vibrations instead of lower them like all other media does as there is so much noise in everybody’s ears these days. We wanted to transport people out into a different world, to a different universe, for a period of time even if it is for three and a half minutes.

“I’m very picky about the music and projects that I take on these days and when the band got in touch with me, it didn’t feel like work and that’s what I liked about it.

“I’ve worked my entire life and it’s enjoyable just to have a conversation and to really enjoy the music and it took me back to my roots.”

Adam and Cris first spoke to each other over the phone for an hour before teaming up for the Ascension project, after Adam’s wife Ally found the singer online.

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Adam said: “Ultimately, when we saw the band was blowing up a bit and knew we were going to be touring a great deal, we wanted to be with one of the best frontmen on Earth.

“Cris is a singer who has been touched by the Gods, we want to take him and this amazing thing that we have going, this unique family atmosphere when we are all together, and we want to impart that on to as many people as possible.

“You can become a good singer, but there are those who are born to be great singers and Cris was born that way, and he did the work in addition to having this natural talent, he works left from right. Cris’ work ethic is second to none. He’s the full package.

“When we got on the phone together, I don’t want to call it a bromance, but I’ll call it a bromance.”

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Adam first got into music and drumming at age six after his parents divorced and he received a drum set.

The hard rocker learned to play the drums by playing along to his favourite artists such as Australian rock band AC/DC, while Cris grew up in the Bible belt of the USA.

Cris said: “I was very sheltered, I wasn’t allowed to listen to music, watch TV, do anything, so I had to sneak all of my music in. Whatever I could get my hands on - Michael Jackson and Boyz to Men, Madonna. All this pop and then I started bringing in all of this Alice to Chains etc.

“So my influences were this weird conglomerate of pop and nineties metal grunge and that is basically how I grew up. It was inevitable that I was going to grow up and be a musician because I wasn’t supposed to listen to music or be a part of pop culture.”

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Tom Cruise and Miles Teller starred in the latest blockbuster smash Top Gun:Maverick which Cris Hodges has contributed for (Pic:Getty)Tom Cruise and Miles Teller starred in the latest blockbuster smash Top Gun:Maverick which Cris Hodges has contributed for (Pic:Getty)
Tom Cruise and Miles Teller starred in the latest blockbuster smash Top Gun:Maverick which Cris Hodges has contributed for (Pic:Getty) | Getty Images for Paramount Pictu

For Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick, Cris was asked to mimic the bar scene of Miles Teller singing in Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls of Fire.

He said: “I found I could manipulate my voice to sound like other people and so Paramount caught wind of it and I started to do some work with them. Then Top Gun comes around and Randy (President of Paramount Music) called me at midnight and was in a panic.

“He said, ‘we are on set with Tom Cruise and Miles Teller and we are doing this shot where we are trying to do Great Balls of Fire and Miles doesn’t really want to sing the song, can you get in your studio and sing it real quick?’”

Much like the fighter jets in the movie, one of the songs on Pistols at Dawn’s latest album is called ‘Fly’ which is about empowering women.

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The song brings the band full circle as their name references the idea that if a woman’s dignity was called into question in the 1800s, men would say ‘pistols at dawn’.

Adam added: “We are all about girl power - I just loved the idea of a duel for the dignity of a woman. It is kind of why a woman is on our logo, it’s not to objectify women in any way, shape or form - it’s like the Fly video [which is dedicated to f***ing girl power.”

As well as Cris and Adam’s respective wives, who they praise highly, another leading lady in relation to the album is Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer Sylvia Massy who helped to produce Ascension.

Massy worked with bands including Johnny Cash, System of a Down and Tool, before helping Pistols At Dawn while working remotely in her studio located on the Oregon/California border.

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Sylvia Massy is a Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer (Pic:Getty)Sylvia Massy is a Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer (Pic:Getty)
Sylvia Massy is a Grammy Award-winning producer and engineer (Pic:Getty) | Getty Images for NAMM

Adam explained that it was a “dream to work with her” on their latest EP.

He said: “We were very fortunate - the band were doing well, and we did really well with Natural Youth and the question when we did Ascension was we wanted to work with one of the best producers in the world.

“That’s very important to us and that’s the key to being in the industry. We surround ourselves with great people, we work with great people and Sylvia had made some of the biggest albums of all time that we actually loved.

“It was a dream of ours to work with her, we contacted her, sent her some tracks and she loved it and that was the most humbling and coolest thing ever. She’s just this cool person - nice as you could ever ask for. We are blessed to have worked with her.”

You can listen to Pistol At Dawn’s latest album Ascension on Spotify, iTunes or Apple Music.

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