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Story: Madisyn Siebert

Photos: Cory Weaver

I try to play as many local shows as I can, and I reach out to bands who I think are doing something really cool or interesting.   I think it is important to play with bands whose music you admire.

If you don’t know how to pronounce or even begin to explain the name Saint Zosima, don’t worry, Josh Hawkins immediately will jump to your defense and say, “It’s definitely weird,” just like he did with me. “My favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, a Russian guy who has been dead a very long time,” he starts off. Then he quickly asks if he could spoil a plotline in the book, and I eagerly nodded my head, “Well, he dies.” He then delves into further character development of Father Zosima and explains how to be given the title of saint in the book —when you die, a miracle must occur. The character of Father Zosima has an “anti-miracle” and rots quickly, not doing it for show, just doing it because he had a pure heart. “So, I decided to give him sainthood with my band name.”

This one short story underlines who Josh Hawkins is, someone caring who puts in effort to the things he knows deserves it. Hawkins is active in the St. Louis music scene; if you are ever looking for a local band to dive into, Hawkins is your guy. In fact, he even has a playlist of his favorites on his personal Spotify that he is more than willing to share. He is always working on setting up new gigs, meeting other musicians in the area and exploring all that St. Louis truly has to offer music-wise. When he’s not doing all of that, he is working his full-time gig, writing music, recording it and mastering it all.

“I’m a goal setter. I don’t dreamboard for anything crazy. I set it up like this month is this goal and then I break it down by week,” Hawkins tells me. “It minimizes my mental effort later, so that I can just go with the flow. Well, really not go with the flow, but flow through all my stuff.” His organized goals help him figure out what is achievable and how he can incorporate the things he loves into his daily life, without the adult job taking all of his energy. Right now, his goals are focused on a new EP and then after that an album.

The EP right now is currently set up to have three to five songs, with a mixture of revamped old music and some “fresh” pieces. “There’s no theme to it, it will be a part of a larger album that I want to call Youth and Where You Take It, but for now the EP will probably just be called Content,” Hawkins stated with a slight laugh. You can expect to hear rawer indie rock, straying away from the reverb-soaked sounds. He switches up beats by replacing a typical drum set to an all electronic drum set in one song for the fun of it—really just bringing to life what he had written over the height of the pandemic.


Hawkins at the Heavy Anchor

With a Spotify bio that says, “the indie rock outfit was started on the idea that music should be made to both move and ponder,” it makes you wonder if Hawkins is working on filling this gap with his band Saint Zosima or if he believes some bands already exemplify this ideal. “Of course, I’m attempting to fill the gap,” Hawkins agreed, “but, the music that shaped me in that vein was Frightened Rabbit, Manchester Orchestra and some other bands. I got so burned out on turning on the radio and being like, I could build an algorithm that could pull random words from a dictionary and it could make these same songs. And then the same progression and the same key was being used and it was just repetitive. You knew exactly what was going to come out of the speakers,” Hawkins sighed. His goal is to make you think and listen more in-depth to the music and really keep you intrigued and listening for more.

This all leads up to the question of how did Hawkins really get into music and have this need to create music that would make people feel this way? “I’ve been in and out of bands for awhile, but I was teaching English abroad in Shanghai, China,” he said. “I just sort of ended up on my laptop with my guitar starting out all of these songs, and I really didn’t know what I was going to do with them when I got back. I called back on my friends from the bands I used to be in and started putting one together so that we could put these new songs out.”

Ever since then, Saint Zosima was created and has been going strong for three years.

With all of Hawkins’ energy being pulled in different directions throughout the day, he explains how easy it is to get comfortable. “I have to kill that guy daily, the laziness. I think it is just default,” Hawkins relays to me. “If you want to accomplish anything on your own you have to be willing to work. It is sort of like a job, ya know?” Hawkins says with a slight chuckle. “As mundane and awful as that sounds, you have to put in the work.”

He did offer a piece of advice when bracing for the day: “You tend to get drained more thinking about stuff than actually doing it.” Meaning, just start and don’t get too intimidated.

All of this patience and effort throughout the pandemic has paid off for Saint Zosima, the band being able to perform shows here and there as the world is slowly reopening. They started off with a virtual concert with the St. Louis Public Library at the end of June. Ever since then he has been putting shows together with some of his favorite St. Louis bands to continue to chase the high of performing. “Concerts are like a ritual, you have an X on your hand, music plays over speakers, you observe it and then you hang out and then leave,” Hawkins details to me. He elaborates how there really is no experience like live music and how having it back again is a feeling like no other.

This all leads back to Hawkins’ excitement for the upcoming show at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room with Vesperteen and Jesus Christ Supercar. You can see this trio of bands take the stage September 18. “All of the songs off of the EP are going to be there,” Hawkins teased. This will be a great way to hear the EP before it finally drops, Hawkins blaming his inner perfectionist as the reason it will not be released before the show. “I try to play as many local shows as I can, and I reach out to bands who I think are doing something really cool or interesting,” Hawkins added. “I think it is important to play with bands whose music you admire.” This statement being something you hope other artists take into consideration when playing festivals, or when choosing an opener. Hawkins truly embraces it for his shows.

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