The Hard Aches: Go Hard Or Go Home
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 are two dates into this massive national tour with Foley – how has it all been so far?
Ben: Fucking awesome so far, man! It was a weird two shows to start a tour on: we started in a place called Mount Gambier, which is five-and-a-half, maybe six hours out from Adelaide – the middle of nowhere – and then Wollongong, so it was a very weird way to start a tour, but it’s been fucking awesome. We just played the Yours & Owls festival in Wollongong, and we couldn’t have asked for a better start to the tour, really! Both shows were really cool in their own little way, which was awesome. Yours & Owls is a cool little big-little festival, and they’re the best kind of festivals; nobody wants to go to another fucking Soundwave, or any of those other shitty big festivals. These have all the same good parts of them, but it’s smaller.
Did you chuck much of a boogie at Yours & Owls when you weren’t crushing it onstage?
Alex: I ripped the heads off a few of shags, that’s for sure! They were very generous with their beverages, and, ah… I’d like to think I took full advantage of that [laughs].
Ben: I was the designated driver! I feel like I was the only person at the whole festival that didn’t take advantage of that.
You guys do play your fair share of festies in-between the usual club circuit. Is the vibe a little more vibe-ier there?
Ben: They’re so different, man. The festivals we’re doing at the minute are still pretty lowkey and pretty intimate anyway. We’ve done Laneway, and we’ve done the Big Day Out and a couple of other things over the years – those are just a little bit strange, y’know, it’s a different show. I feel like with club shows, you do a hundred of them and you can kind of get your head around it; we’re still kind of finding our feet in the festival world – it’s a different kind of atmosphere and a different kind of show that you’ve got to bring, but I think our music seems to resonate well at them anyway, so we must be doing something right!
So you’re hitting everywhere from Bendigo to Bunbury on this tour – what are you blokes most looking forward to?
Ben: Well, we’ve sold out our biggest Melbourne headline show to date, which is fucking awesome! It sold out a month away, too, which is awesome – we’re looking forward to that. Obviously, our hometown show as well. because these are the launch shows, they’re a lot more special to us than just a normal show, so getting to launch our new record in Adelaide is going to be quite a highlight… And we’ve got a day off the next day! A few shags shall be ripped!
Alex: I think I actually told my boss that I could work that day…
“We could have put on four or five songs of just weird noise wank and feedback,
called it an album, and boom!”
I heard you guys were good mates with Foley. Was it just a no-brainer to bring them along for this tour?
Alex: Totally, they’re the best! Their record is great, and I think they’re just about to pop another one out soon. Posi dudes. Just really easy to be around, really fun… It was a total no-brainer!
Ben: Musically and personally, you can’t fault the guys. Why would you not want them on a tour!?
Of course, this tour is in support of the fuckoff massive froth-fest that is the I Freak Out EP. The record has been out for a little over a month now – how have people been responding to these new tunes?
Ben: So far, so good! I don’t think I’ve heard anyone rag on it, so y’know, that’s always a fucking positive [laughs]. People seem to be really stoked on the record, and we’re obviously really stoked, so it’s nice that other people are sharing in on the stoke!
Alex: Someone said it was “too short”, but I think that’s a compliment…
Bun: What’s “too short” though? I mean, PUP just put out a whole album that only goes for twenty minutes – this EP goes for 19, so I think we’re pretty close. We were talking about it last night: we could have put on four or five songs of just weird noise wank and feedback, called it an album, and boom! But we fucked it though, didn’t we? [Laughs].
Yeah, sorry mate. You guys worked with Lindsay Gravina on the EP, who’s definitely no stranger to the art of laying down a fucking classic rock album… What was that experience like?
Alex: It was certainly different for us. It was the first time we’ve worked with a producer as a designated person of the team, which was interesting. It was good, though – I think the songs are definitely better for it! It was a bit of shock though, really.
Ben: It was. It was definitely a learning curve for both of us: we’d just made records very differently until that point, which was rad, and that’s kind of why we did it – we wanted to push ourselves and try something different. The opportunity had come up to work with Lindsay, who’s responsible for almost every great Aussie rock album in the last twenty years, and, like, we’re not going to turn that down! He was hyped, we were hyped, and it was just good vibes the whole time. His whole studio is decked out like a space odyssey, so hanging out in there was a bit of a mind fuck for two weeks [laughs]. There’s no windows or anything, so it’s just this dark, dank maze of rooms, and it was all decked out to look very trippy. It was an LSD tab’s wet dream.
Alex: That definitely made it fun. It was a cool experience… I think we watched more movies in that time than we have in our whole lives combined.
Ben: But without sound! Just the subtitles.
“We’re a live band, first and foremost, so it was cool that we made a record that’s
pretty much true to how we do it live.”
Alex: He has a screen right above the console, where he just puts on these very obscure movies with no sound.
Like, while you’re recording?
Alex: Yeah! It’s a very easy way to get distracted [laughs].
Ben: What was it that played, like, two or three times in a row? It was something really twisted, too. Something you kind of only want to watch once in your life, and it just played on repeat in different languages. It was something that made your stomach turn… But apart from that, recording with Lindsay was awesome! We learned more than we ever have, and y’know, we’ll take everything we learned into whatever we do next. He really pushed us to just be a two-piece, which was cool – up until that point, we’d always kind of adhered to the generic rock recording methods, whereas with this EP, he was like, “Fuck that! We’re not going to do that, let’s make a record that sounds like you guys,” which were pretty much the first words he said once we got to the studio.
Yeah, this is the first Hard Aches release that doesn’t have any bass guitar on it!
Ben: No bass, and no bass amp! Up until now, we’d always have some bass and some bass amp on there; this has got fucking nothing!
I’m kind of surprised at how dense the mix still sounds without it. Were there ever any moments where you had to sort of fill in the blanks?
Ben: [Lindsay] sort of ensured us that he could make it work from the get-go, because a lot of it has to do with how you record the drums and where you place things in the mix, and when you’re just laying down the beds and everything, it didn’t sound like it does now with the final product. It was 100 percent putting our trust into Lindsay, that he was going to be able to make it sound fucking huge.
Alex: It only really came together when he mixed it, basically, and we weren’t there for that. We came back, like, a week later, and [the EP] just sounded massive.
I guess, too, recording it like that would make it a little easier to translate to the live environment.
Ben: Yeah! That’s what we wanted it to be like – we’re a live band, first and foremost, so it was cool that we made a record that’s pretty much true to how we do it live. There’s always going to be differences: how we do it live and how we do it in the studio is a little bit different, still, but that’s cool because it’s two different versions of the band, and that’s kind of how a band should be, I think. If you spend too much time trying to make a record that sounds exactly like you do live, you’re going to lose the songs, but if you spend too much time trying to make your band sound like your record when you play it live, you’re just going to be shit.
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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