The Hard Aches: Go Hard Or Go Home (p2)
Your new favourite band to get drunk, cry a lot and them scream along to indecipherably is here: they’re called The Hard Aches, they’re a two-piece emo punk unit from Adelaide, and they’re – amongst other regionally apt descriptors – fucking grouse. Melbourne posi-punks Foley in tow, the duo are currently underway on their biggest national headline run thus far, going door to door (metaphorically, unfortunately) with the riffs and rasp of their new EP in pretty much every city you could want them to.
Speaking of that EP, I Freak Out is twenty minutes of pure, unadulterated fire. Think your average ’00s pop-punk opus: massive hooks, tense verses and enough emotional ravaging to leave you with guyliner running down your cheeks (your mate told you to buy the waterproof type!) as you sob in the fetal position on your childhood bedroom floor. Add to it, though, a healthy dose of Aussie flair, some lowkey production as crisp as it is raw, a handful of solid riffs and some classic house show vibes – the kind where there’s always a game of Goon Of Fortune going – and you’ve got the six-track set we’re currently abusing the other mags in the office with.
At the very start of their tour, BLUNT met vocalist/guitarist Ben David and drummer Alex Upton in Sydney’s sunny Central Park (sidenote – if you’re ever there, the gelato at Anita across the street is fuckin’ baller, mate) to vibe on all things touring, what comes next, DIY ethics and silent torture porn played on repeat in a studio David describes as an “LSD tab’s wet dream”…
So you guys actually fell into being a two-piece a few years back, having lost members. Is it a possibility that you’d ever bring other musicians back into the fold, or is this the perfect dynamic for The Hard Aches indefinitely?
Ben: [To Alex] Should we tell them the recent development in this story?
Alex: [Laughs] Ah…
Ben: Well, we’ve actually been telling everybody that we’ve got a bass player that’s been hiding in the wings this whole time: Craig from The Bennies has been playing bass for us, actually, since day dot – since the dawn of time. He got up and did a cheeky cameo at a festival that we played in Adelaide with those guys called Stonecutters, and little did we know that he was going to unveil himself. But y’know, now we’ve gotta tell people the truth. We actually have a secret bass player, and he’s Craig from The Bennies. He was meant to stay hidden – not allowed to come out and bask in the spotlight – but he’s put our whole act at stake.
Alex: He ruined our image.
Ben: He fucked it. And y’know, we don’t want to lie to anyone – we’ve gotta tell the truth [laughs].
Stylistically, this EP definitely keeps in line with your debut album, Pheromones, but it also sounds a lot… Bigger, I guess? From a behind-the-scenes perspective, where did you want to go on the EP that you couldn’t with that album?
Ben: We got to work in a really fucking nice studio, so that was a big thing.
Alex: I don’t know… The songs definitely needed more distortion – they needed to be heavier – Pheromones was pretty light. We’d written that album with our old bass player, Bri, and we were all into that softer pop-punk style at the time.
Ben: That was intentional, though. It’s just what we were doing at the time. We wanted to go a bit more balls-to-the-wall [on I Freak Out], and it was a conscious decision to make this one a little tougher as well – we’ve always avoided being a noisy band, but now we only want to be a noisy band [laughs].
Would you say that I Freak Out is the bridge between Pheromones and the next full-length?
Ben: I hope so! We’re putting the pieces for our next album together now, which we’re going to record at the start of next year. I feel like the next album will be a good mix of these two records.
“I don’t know the words to hardly any other bands’ music – I can’t fucking remember a song to save my life – but when people go out of their way to learn my songs, it’s such a cool feeling.”
Alex: I feel like the EP and the first album are both extremes, and the next album will probably fall somewhere in the middle.
Ben: Yeah. It’ll be more of a rock album, but obviously it’ll be an album, so there’ll be a lot more dynamic to it; with an EP, you’ve gotta be in and out, and it needs to be balls-to-the-wall the whole time, whereas with an album, you can experiment more and take your time to get your point across. And that’s exciting – we’re going to turn up the musical wank a little bit.
Topically, what stands out the most with Hard Aches songs in general is how honest and relatable they all are. Mixing these huge chant-along hooks with such raw and personal lyrics – is it a method of catharsis?
Ben: It just is what it is. I don’t know; nothing is ever done intentionally, which I think is cool – going back to the EP and the album, we didn’t intentionally make the records sound those ways, it was just what groove we were sitting on at the time, and they just kind of turned out like that. Lyrics-wise, I don’t know, it’s weird that people want to relate to them because they’re so fucking depressing. The next album will hopefully be a little bit more uplifting and positive… Not exactly Foley posi, but somewhere in-between [laughs].
Just as a fan, though, that’s something that makes the live show a little more special – it’s not just a room of people that are digging the music, they’re connecting with it on a personal level as well.
Is that what you’re aiming for?
Ben: 100 percent. Like, there’s no better feeling than having people sing along to your music. To me, that’s just the coolest feeling, when there’s a room full of people that have learned your songs in and out. I don’t know the words to hardly any other bands’ music – I can’t fucking remember a song to save my life – but when people go out of their way to learn my songs, it’s such a cool feeling. And y’know, people covering your songs… It’s hard to explain that feeling, apart from, “Fucking awesome!”
So you guys started off in that underground DIY scene, playing shows at Black Wire with bands like Hannahband… As the band grows and the fanbase expands, do you see yourselves separating from that to embark on bigger journeys?
Ben: We’re actually signed to Warner for this EP. Alex has his own label – Anchorhead – so we’re still signed to Anchorhead, but we’ve got the backing of a major label now. That said, though, the DIY stuff is so important to us. Y’know, we’ve always booked our own shows and our own tours – always made and put out our own records – and we’ll stay as true to that as we can. It wouldn’t be as interesting otherwise; I wouldn’t be interested in it. That’s half of the fun of it – driving the fucking ship, y’know? We obviously have other people involved now, but it’s still predominantly the same as it’s always be.
“That’s my dog! His name is Arrow, and he’s a fucking star!”
We put on our own festivals and do that kind of stuff, and we’ll always try to play Black Wire… Why would we ever not want to play Black Wire? It’s the greatest venue in the whole entire world! Unfortunately, it only holds 80 people [laughs]. But y’know, that stuff is so close to our musical and personal hearts. It’s super important – staying close with bands in the scene and making those connections – all that kind of stuff. Booking your own supports for a tour: I feel like that’s where bands sort of start to lose touch a little bit. We have an agent now, but that was our one condition, that we get to book the supports and choose what venues we play. That’s kind of how you kill a band, I think, when you play in places that you shouldn’t play.
Where do you see The Hard Aches going from here, then? Do you have a goal in mind, or are you just taking it one shoey at a time?
Ben: [Laughs] We’re ridin’ the lightning, baby! Nah, no plans. We want to be a band that’s always putting out music and always playing shows – that’s as far as our hopes and dreams go. We don’t have any aspirations to be the biggest band in the world, because that’s way too much fucking pressure. Imagine doing that! That’d be fucked! Our dream is just to be able to keep doing what we’re doing now, and doing it.
Going back to I Freak Out – you’ve released two killer music videos from the record thus far, and both of them are just total works of art. I feel like the most important thing to ask about is the recurring character… That of the dog.
Ben: That’s my dog! His name is Arrow, and he’s a fucking star! But if you go back further than those two videos, to the very first videos we’ve done – we’ve done five clips in the last twelve months, and they’ve all got reoccurring themes. The guy that plays the character in the “Glad That You’re Gone” video is a recurring character in all of the videos before that.
Alex: [Skeptically] I’m not sure in what ways, though…
Ben: He’s just there [laughs]. But yeah, we try to keep themes – or little throwback bits – in all of the videos, so they’re all kind of linked together. It’s a Hard Aches universe.
Alex: We’re still kind of finding our feet with it [laughs]. We don’t know where we’re going to take it yet, but we talk about it a lot.
Just so we can clear it up, though – Arrow is the official Hard Aches mascot, right?
Ben: [Laughs] Actually, Hughey is the official Hard Aches mascot – the guy on the cover of I Freak Out – we’re going to make him a star. Actually, yeah, let’s go back to the question before about what our dreams are – our dream is to make Hughey a fucking star! We’ve got him on shirts, we’ve got him on records, we’ve got him on a poster… He’s our unofficial third member.
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The Hard Aches / Foley
Thursday October 27th – Prince Of Wales, Bunbury
Friday October 28th – Jimmy’s Den, Perth
Saturday October 29th – Jive, Adelaide
Friday November 4th – Newtown Social Club, Sydney