All The HITS You Can Handle
If there's one recent (i.e. it came out in late 2009 and is still being spun) Australian album that merits robbing a bank, mugging your neighbour or running down to Cash Converters and pawning your partner so you can purchase a copy, it's "Living With You Is Killing Me" by Brisbane band HITS.
First published May 29, 2010
A more unruly, snarling slice of uncouth gutter elegance you won't hear - at least until Ian Rilen's posthumous long-player finally sees the light of day. If you figure that comparison is overwrought, consider what I-94 reviewer Andrew Stafford says in his review of the record:
"This is an album in a distinctive Australian tradition – it nods to the classic 1970s Alberts sound as much as it does to the Saints (as well as the Pistols and the Dolls). The influence of Ian Rilen, not just in X mode but also early Rose Tattoo and the later Love Addicts, looms especially large..."
HITS sound fearsome and tough in lots of places and melodic in others. Hard to peg musically, they revolve around the vocal gymnastics and stage antics of EVIL DICK, once frontman for Strutter and subsequently guitarist with next-big-Brisbane-things The Aampirellas. The one compelling thing they have that most bands lack is personality. Dysfunctional rogue personality, just that side of out-of-control. Trust me on this. They have it in bucketloads.
They're also the sum of all their parts with a killer engine room and dual-girl guitar pairing that does justice to their grimy, street-level songs. But we'll let Richard do the rest of the band introductions, because he's finally been cornered, tied to a bar-stool and force-fed dark spirits by THE BARMAN for this I-94 Bar interview. Read it and then catch them live or buy their record - better still take both options. HITS are The Shit.
How long have HITS been a going concern? Tell us about the line-up and who has other bands on the go.
I think we are almost topping five years now, which is a bit of a mind-blower to me. It's gone pretty fast, but then I guess I've been drunk most of that time so who knows??
Uhm... line up? It's all the fault of Gregor from the ShrewmS. When I was in the Aampers we used to play with the ShrewmS sometimes and even in the early days you couldn't help but notice that Gregor was one of the best drummers in town. A singin' drummin' wild man who used to nude up and cover himself in shit (not actual shit). We used to get sloshed and talk about having a jam sometime. Just piss talk. I never thought it'd actually happen. Then the Aampers kicked me out of the band. (Strutter kicked me out too).. Gregor heard about it and started calling me up. It snowballed from there.
Gazoonga Attack broke up (see a thread here?) so Tammy joined us after a couple of rehearsals. Gregor moved into our house after his divorce (see another thread here?) and we sat around off our heads playin' and writing songs and drunkenly reading the Bible to each other. He used to get arrested a lot and get himself into all manner of interesting situations. Me and Tam became his parents. It was a great time actually. A lot of fond memories.
Eddie joined on bass. I used to know him from his time in The Disables (he got kicked out - see a thread here?) and we were friends from way back. We are both big Gun Club fans. He left the band this year to pursue a career in art, whatever that means. Andy B stepped up to take his place. He's from The New Jack Rubys. We had two jams and played three gigs in a week.
Stackers (or Stax or Stace or Stacey) from The Butcher Birds joined us after I drunkenly broke my arm on someone's face trying to do some Jacky Chan shit, and couldn't play guitar anymore. That was a few years ago now. I've been the frontman ever since. I hadn't done it since the Strutter daze and I forgot how much fun it is to stand in front of a pumpin' band.....
Speaking about band members, are the ShrewmS still around? What actually happened to the Aampirellas? What's the status of Gazoonga Attack?
Yeah the Shrewms are still around. In fact I saw them just this weekend with The Prehistorics. They are Brisbane's most under-rated band. They seriously kick arse and deserve much more attention me thinks. They are recording an album as we speak and the bits and pieces I've heard are fucking fabulous.
Gazoonga Attack played two scorching shows last year as a three-piece. Elea lives in America now so it's a bit difficult for them to do anything. Serinda plays in the rad Legions Of Mary, and recently was added to the lineup of the White Mansions (also rad). Renae (drums) went overseas too and ended up playing in Robots in Disguise, she's currently playing drums for Seja (sekiden, Regurgitator) and still occasionally plays in Front End Loader when they need her.
The Aampirellas? Dunno. We had it good for a while and then we broke up.
The album's a killer but why did it take so long to happen? How have the reviews been?
From Day One our motto has been 'This is not a race'. We knew we had some great songs but we needed to have more in order to make a strong album. So we plodded away at it and just played gigs in Brisbane.
Songs came and went and the gigs got better and better. Everyone else has other shit to do. We got full time students and other bands and parents in our ranks, and then people go overseas, family members die, friends die...... all these things tend to hold you up.
Then of course there's the money issue, or lack of it issue.
From the moment we started recording it took a year for us to reach the end. A lot of that was mixing. We just did it on weekends. You know, play a gig, grab the cash and book another day in the studio. If we did it any quicker it wouldn't have turned out as good, and if we tried to do it earlier it would have had slacker songs on it. I'm really pleased with it. I'm glad we took our time.
Reviews??? It's been received really well actually. By that I mean here. It's like dropping a penny in an ocean. It's still spreading it's way out there. It comes out on vinyl next month so hopefully we score a little more mileage out of it.
Is there any place besides 4ZZZ in Brisbane to get your stuff played?
Nope. They've been great supporters of us and local bands in general. I love 'em. And I thank them from the bottom of my black heart for lifting my lifetime ban.
You wrote the bulk of the songs, I believe. There's some dark stuff on there. Is that the way it was all meant to come out?
Yep. Dark. I like it.
What about the collaborative process of bringing the songs to final form? Are you guys prolific writers? How autobiographical does it get?
Super autobiographical sometimes and sometimes not.. It's all about stuff that actually happened. I think we are prolific as well. If you look at what everyone else does in their own bands and add us onto it as well there's a lot of music being created. It can be a logistical nightmare sometimes.
Everyone is a great musician ('cept maybe me) and we've all got good ears for bullshit ('cept maybe me). If it doesn't cut it, it goes in the bin pretty quick.
Everyone is trusted to come up with their own parts and arranging is done as a group. Usually it's me with the initial riff and skeleton lyrics and I just hand it over to em... then they morph into HITS songs.
Sometimes Stacey or Tammy will have a riff and I just write the lyrics. We don't have any rules about it. It just happens.
I heard you were doing a Joy Division song in the live set. Are they much of an influence? Who else would you cite?
Yeah we do covers sometimes but we change em a bit. Like we do "Gates of Steel" by Devo sometimes or Stooges songs or Lee Hazelwood…… we even did fucking "By The Time I Get To Pheonix'"once… Jimmy Webb.
And yeah Joy Division were a big influence on me growing up. I really love all the live stuff. Ive got this bootleg and "Shadowplay", the song we cover, just kicks me. I love the song. But this week I wanna do a Roky song. Last week I wanted to do a Killing Joke song, then I wanna do a Yardbirds song or a Remains or Easybaats…it's never ending.
You have a rep for getting pretty stewed before a gig and you put in the big ones when on-stage. What's the most confrontational thing you've done in response to an audience?
Shit I dunno. Stop a fight? When the boofheads get too out of it and fuck shit up. Hmm....we tend to have a lot of beer thrown at our gigs but its all about love. Beer love. I usually throw most beer on myself anyway. Though we are trying to stop it cause it's got quite out of hand numerous times and it fucks with the guitars etc.....
In Adelaide just recently there was this punker dude up the front with a Pantera T shirt on. I took his beer out of his hand and threw it into his face. He wasn't very impressed and he looked at me different and didn't quite dance the same for the rest of the night. I do stupid shit all the time. Then, sometimes I don't
If you had to single out a front person who's inspired you the most, who would it be?
Man that question is hard. This week it's Roky. Iggy has always been a big one. I saw him on the Instinct tour when I was a lot younger and it just blew my head off. It was at Easts Leagues Club. I don't think I would be doing this if I didn't go there that night. About the same time I saw Proton Energy Pills and Mudhoney there. That was cool that night.
We get to play with The New Christs soon. Birdman and The New Christs and The Barracudas were a big part of my life growing up.... so y'know, that's pretty cool. First time I saw them woulda been around the same time at The Roxy with X. That was cool too.
But if you ask me tomorrow I might be wearing a mask and tell you I love the Pet shop boys or The Cure or something. I cooked vegetarian yesterday too. And the other day I watched a Blancmange video on Youtube.
I read a book on how to be a ninja too.
How did Tamara's switch to lead guitar come about?
Tam's always played guitar. It's just that she switched to lead guitar after I broke me arm. I showed her what I used to do do and she done it 10 times better anyway Last night at rehearsal she was playin' the best I ever heard her. I think she's poppin' through another ceiling again. It's cool to see.
Merenoise seems to be one of the few labels in Australia doing this sort of music (and with a couple of others) are a bit of an oasis in Brisbane. How did you end up hooking up with them?
Yeah Pete and Ben have done a great thing for Brisbane music. They release really good stuff. A lot of our friends bands etc. But there are others as well, Bob from Turkeyneck puts out great stuff and Simon Homer at Plus One does as well. We went with Merenoise cause they always said from the start that they wanted to do it. For years. They patiently waited till we were ready and they put it out. Simple really.
Pete and Ben are touring through Europe as we speak in The Vegas Kings. Lucky bastards. Hopefully we will be next year as well.
I was lucky enough to see you guys play in Sydney a few years ago but it seems like tours are few and far between for HITS. Is it the lack of places to play or are you guys just slack?
Nah it's all about timing and money. We're about to come back to Sydney so that's twice. We been to Melbourne twice. We've been to Adelaide. We are going back to Melbourne again soon too. Gimme a break Barman. It's a costly adventure
What's the game plan for Album Number Two? Any thoughts to taking the band overseas?
Jesus. Album number two?? We only just put out our first one and it took five years!! But, having said that we have a few new songs at the moment. One of which I think is the best song we got. It's working title is "G-Banger".
And yep, we are planning to go overseas. Next year hopefully.
We're in a Bar so what are you drinking?
HITS have been to Europe since this interview. HITS' second album "Hikikimori" is out now on Conquest of Noise and is reviewed here.