The first thing I noticed about the new Hussy LP, Cement Tomb Mind Control, before I even began listening was the length of the songs. Just two tracks reach the 2 minute mark, leaving the rest somewhere between 49 seconds and 1:59. “When we started as a band,” says Bobby Hussy, who plays guitar and sings on a large portion of the LP, “we wrote songs that came naturally and they’ve always been short bursts of pop mixed in with garage/punk/noise, and we sorta found our sound through that structure.” “I would rather have someone wanting more of something than getting too much and bored with a song,” adds Heather Sawyer, drummer and 2nd singer of the Madison duo.
Perhaps there’s something in Sawyer’s statement. The first song I heard off of Cement Tomb Mind Control was “Sexi Ladi,” a quick burst of 60s energetic pop equipped with summer sun and holding hands. The song could not be contained to just one listen, not even two or three. With each repeated listen, I found myself falling more and more in love with it. Had it been three or four minutes, I doubt I would have had the stamina, nor the desire to stick with it for so long.
The LP starts off with the angry Stooges-style rant, “I’m Me.” “Go fuck yourself,” sings the duo in unison, not even giving the detestable subject of the song the satisfaction of a full 2 minutes of their attention, cutting out at 1:58. There’s an urgency, not just musically in this LP. There’s not much The Hussy care to have you hear lyrically, drowning the words out in a whirl of fuzz. But when they have something to say, they make sure you hear it. “Let’s get it on,” Sawyer yells in “Baby Child.” Similarly, the whistles come in crystal clearly in an otherwise distortion-drenched “Wrong/Right.”
“Demon Claus” breaks the Hussy mold set in the first four songs of Cement Tomb. A bit lighter on the fuzz and not quite as into the red, this song ditches the fast-paced, upbeat pop of “Sexi Ladi,” and welcomes all things dark, both in the subject matter and the Jay Reatard by way of Electric Prunes approach to garage.
Both members of this Madison duo bring equally powerful vocals and song writing chops to this LP. Though Cement Tomb Mind Control lags a bit near the middle with songs like “Pavement” and “Oh No” not quite carrying as much weight as songs like “Have a Say” or “I’m Me,” it’s definitely one of the best releases so far this year.
I recently talked to Bobby and Heather of the Hussy about the new LP, the Wisconsin music scene, and mistaken lyrics. Read on for the full interview, and be sure to check them out Saturday, May 14th at WHPK’s Summer Breeze Festival held at the University of Chicago Commons. The Hussy will also be playing with The Growlers at the Empty Bottle on May 26th.
1. When I interviewed Slushy, we talked about walking that line between pop music and being sloppy, which you guys seem to take even further (that’s a good thing). Why do you think that formula works so well?
Bobby: Yeah I think pop music that’s played live doesn’t have to have perfection to be relate-able, I don’t necessarily think we purposefully try to sound sloppy, but that happens sometimes. When we play live we tend to try to keep it pretty tight since there’s only two people on stage and when a two-piece get’s outta sync it’s a bit harder to handle than a 4 piece getting real loose. But yeah I agree, some of my favorite shows I’ve seen have been sloppier/messier shows.
Heather: i think it works cause sloppy=fun. and i like having fun.
2. The new LP doesn’t have a single song that reaches 3 minutes. Was it intentional that these songs sort of get in and get out, or is that just how it happened?
Bobby: When we started as a band we wrote songs that came naturally and they’ve always been short bursts of pop mixed in with garage/punk/noise, and we sorta found our sound through that structure. I’ll let Heather elaborate on that…
Heather: it wasn’t intentional on my part at all. it’s just what happens when we write songs. i would rather have someone wanting more of something than getting too much and bored with a song. we just write short songs.
3. I noticed you both sing. What’s the songwriting process like? Do you both write songs separately? Do you collaborate? Or is it just one of you?
Bobby: We both write songs. Sometimes I’ll bring a riff in with a certain melody, and Heather will play off the melody with her own, and then we’ll just see what we can put together for a chorus that brings the level up and really just what comes naturally or spontaneously. And other times, Heather or I will bring a song in that’s complete and we’ll just perfect the way it works between the two of us. Heather, how do you see it?
Heather: pretty much what bobby said. we write seperately and together. some songs are all one persons and sometimes the verses will be bobby’s and the choruses mine or vice versa.
4. What’s the recording process like? Has it changed for this new LP?
Bobby: The recording process for this LP HAS changed drastically. Previously we worked in real studios with engineers and under tight time restraints, and we typically finished anywhere from 6 to 9 songs in 8 to 12 hours (from the point of recording to mixing, everything). For this LP I did the recording over the course of 4 months in a basement in Madison and in my apartment there. We then mixed it with our friend from Madison, Todd Ostertag and then Justin Perkins mastered it like he does for everything we do.
Heather: i like that we record everything ourselves now. we do what we want and i can’t wait to record new stuff. like bobby said, the old stuff was recorded in studios and it was such a rush to get stuff done cause that just gets really expensive.
5. Do you think being a 2-piece limits you or gives you more freedom?
Bobby: Yeah. Can’t get too drunk before shows or things get a little too loose for my liking, Right heather?
Heather: yeah. i like the freedom of only having 2 people on stage gives you. i don’t find it limiting really.
6. What’s the story about the message in “Peace, Bro?”
Bobby: HA! Well I was at a friend of mine’s apartment, Matt from the Midwest Beat, and he got a call but he doesn’t like to answer calls without seeing who they are first, so he just let it go to the answering machine. And then Chris also from the Midwest Beat just started rambling about an e-mail that Matt wanted to send to someone that they were discussing (because it dealt with the Midwest Beat). But the whole time Chris was just acting like he was totally baked, so at the end he said “Peace, Bro” and I instantly told Matt he had to save that message for me for something. And then we created a song around it.
Heather: it’s our friend chris leaving messages on our friend matt’s answering machine. it was a funny message so we had to use it.
7. Who are some of your influences?
Bobby: Current and Semi-Current influences for me include Sex Church, Black Time, Jay Reatard, most of the other shit In The Red puts out, The Catholic Boys…I really like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall (especially what they bring to the table live). As for old influences….The Beatles, The Stones, BOC, Love Battery, Verbena, etc…
Heather: i love catholic boys, ty segall, thee oh sees, jay reatard, beatles, so on and so forth.
8. What’s the garage scene like in Wisconsin?
Bobby: I think it’s pretty healthy. There’s a lot more garage going on in Milwaukee than in Madison, that’s for sure. I dig on Head on Electric, The Midwest Beat, Trent Fox and the Tenants, and the now defunct Goodnight Loving, all from Milwaukee. In Madison I dig on what Dead Luke, The Midwest Beat (half from Madison, Half from Milwaukee) and the Honey Slides are doing. There’s a really good venue/scene up in Appleton that deserves more attention to. It’s all based around this one house show venue, the Vault.
Heather: Yeah, Milwaukee is a great scene! Lots of good bands and always good ones starting up too. It’s always fun to play there.
9. When CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising” came out, the lyric, “There’s a bad moon on the rise” was mistaken for “There’s a bathroom on the right,” which leads me to a question I have to ask: Are you saying, “Sodomy” in “I’m me?”
Bobby: I wish. That’s more absurd and honestly better. I guess the lyric insert in the Hussy LP will put that to rest once and for all! I think the lyric yr thinking of is probably “Silently…” but I’m not sure….haha.
Heather: it’s not. but i can guarantee you that it will be from now on.