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The Hussy hammers out compact garage rock

The Hussy_photo by Tom Tian.jpg The record-label concept might seem antiquated to a lot of people in this era of digital downloads, but not to singer/guitarist Bobby Hussy, the leader of the Wisconsin-bred garage-rock duo The Hussy. Hussy the man runs his own label, Kind Turkey, and Hussy the band has released a lot of music in a physical format over a short period of time through a variety of imprints, the latest being Weed Seizure, The Hussy's second album, which arrived earlier this month on Tic Tac Totally Records. The group's namesake found some time just prior to hitting the road with drummer Heather Sawyer to talk about the new album, song length, the video for the tune "Undefined" and the labels he feels are carrying the torch for garage rock. Weed Seizure arrives less than a year after Cement Tomb Mind Control, which took four months to record, then saw its release postponed at least twice over several more months. When did you and Heather start recording Weed Seizure, how long did it take to finish and what lessons, if any, did you learn from the last album’s unforeseen delays?
Bobby Hussy: “We started recording almost immediately after returning home from the U.S. tour back in June 2011. We were doing a series of tours for the Cement Tomb album, and a few labels had expressed interest in the band while on those tours, so we figured we should start recording tracks for the [seven-inch singles] those labels wanted as soon as we got home. I had lived in the Bay Area for like eight months prior to the tour, and it served as a good rest from playing shows, so that Heather and I could each focus on writing songs; she still lived back in Wisconsin with her husband.

“I wrote a lot of songs during that time period, but really, when we got back, the first priority was promoting Cement Tomb by playing shows —not recording — even though much of that record was two years old in terms of when the songs were written. Once we started tracking stuff, we realized we had a mountain of stuff. … We realized we could easily fill the commitments of the four labels — Evil Weevil, Eradicator, Black Gladiator and Goodbye Boozy — that wanted to do singles, as well as carve out a solid LP that we liked.

“So that’s what we did. We whittled it down that everything would be exclusive and a unique purchase, so that each release is special. I think that’s really important.”

How did you hook up with Chicago’s Tic Tac Totally Records to release Weed Seizure? And how come you didn’t choose to put the album out on your own Kind Turkey label?
Hussy: “I shopped the LP to Matt [Clark] at Tic Tac via e-mail, and he heard we had a bunch of seven-inches coming out. He liked our previous output, and I know Heather had been shopping demos to him since the beginning of the band. It’s a label we really trusted. We had really only shopped the tracks to two other labels that shall remain nameless. So really, Tic Tac was a top pick for us, and we were so ecstatic when he decided he wanted to do it. Matt was involved with the whole process of putting it all together — title, sequence, release date.

“We picked the album title after a friend of ours actually had a weed seizure at a show, and then we had our friend Ben Lyon design the cover art. Once Matt and the band had agreed on a track sequence, we went ahead and had Justin Perkins master it. I’ve worked with Justin on 10-plus records, both with The Hussy and Kind Turkey, the label I run. He’s a quality mastering engineer.

“I decided to sorta keep the Kind Turkey label about other bands more so than my own projects. I like to do fun one-off things like tapes for our [material], but the vinyl I like to let other labels handle. Essentially, all of the labels we’re working with for The Hussy have more experience than I do with record pressing/label operation, so I like to let those guys use their experience. I mean, why not? Someday I’d like to [release] a Hussy record, but it’d be some sorta special release. I want [my] label to represent scenes all over, bands from everywhere.

“I guess basically it just seemed like we should have a different label stamp its mark of approval on the record. [That] seemed to make the record a bit more credible, and honestly, Tic Tac is one of our favorite labels, so it was a no-brainer for us. We’re really happy to be a part of that label and all of the labels we’ve worked with — and are working with, Kind Turkey included.”

Many of the songs on Weed Seizure clock in at less than two minutes. What are the biggest challenges in writing tunes that are so compact?
Hussy: “I don’t really think there’s a challenge in short songs, and I think Heather would probably agree. For us, this is what we do. Ever since this band started, we’ve been about short songs with lots of hooks — simple, but [full of depth]. Basically, pop songs are typically short, and I think first and foremost, we’re sorta a pop band. We honestly never think about song length. We never cut stuff out for the sake of it being shorter, and we never add stuff if we think it should be longer. We just write a song, and we usually aren’t going to put more than two verses in a song, and that’s just our style.

“I just think we translate better as a simple and quick-song band, instead of a drawn-out, jammy band. Most of our songs don’t really lend themselves too much to extended jams — some do, but they’re few and far between. It’s basically just what this band does. We like short pop songs, and that’s just what we write. Maybe it’s because we’re lazy and just call a song finished before we should?” (laughs)

Talk about the concept behind the video for “Undefined” and some of the steps that were involved to make such a trippy-looking clip.
Hussy: “Well, first of all, huge thanks have to be given to High Frequency Media. They’ve been friends for quite some time and have done a lot of live footage of us. They also did a documentary about us and our friends The Midwest Beat, one of the best Wisconsin bands around.

“Essentially we let them run with whatever they wanted. I trust those guys completely. We honestly just told them we wanted the video to look like a [messed-up] acid trip. We wanted reverse stuff and dark stuff. And we wanted it to be really psychedelic. And then they said, ‘Sure, we can do something like that — can you come and shoot at our place for like 30 minutes?’ So we went there, and I did the smoke shot, and Heather and I both sang the song once into the camera, and that was it. Those guys took care of the rest.

“I know that’s not the most artistic answer to the question, but at the time we were so busy getting ready for the three records coming out, and getting the records in order, as well as booking the two tours, that we just didn’t have time for a huge concept session. We’ve got plans for four more videos, two of which have been started. So the record will have five videos for it, which is pretty exciting. They will come out over the course of the next year.”

Describe a typical Hussy concert in five words.
Hussy: “Loud, fast, short, fun, stoned.”

What’s the state of garage rock around the country? Are you hearing the same thing everywhere you go? Or are there bands in certain regions that are experimenting and pushing boundaries?
Hussy: “Garage rock is doing really well right now, I think. I think punk and underground music will never go anywhere. There will always be the subculture, and now that the Internet has connected everything, that subculture is getting more and more exposure and becoming mainstream. [That’s] sorta scary, but if you’re an intelligent listener, you can pick out the phonies from the real deals.

“I think the San Francisco scene is setting the stage right now. Castle Face Records, Southpaw, 1234 Go! Records and Burger Records are all just cranking out the jams in that general area, and boy, those are all great labels. Goner’s obviously ruling a lot of the board in terms of the garage-punk market. And In the Red — as always — has its pulse right on the scene as well by promoting Thee Oh Sees and a new Ty Segall 12-inch.

“ITR is the be-all, end-all label in my opinion. … I have more love for that label than any other, and I honestly am happy that the label still exists after so many years of putting out records.”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

The Hussy’s March 2012 tour dates (schedule subject to change):

* March 23: Crown Tap — Chicago
* March 24: Locals Only — Indianapolis
* March 25: South Park Tavern — Dayton, Ohio
* March 26: Brass Rail — Fort Wayne, Ind.
* March 27: Trio’s — Cleveland
* March 29: First Cap — York, Pa.
* March 30: The Acheron — Brooklyn, N.Y.
* March 31: Emoda Gallery — Philadelphia

Photo by Tom Tian