Talking to Seattle’s Hardly Boys about their new EP and why they love Hot Mullets

Arielle Gordon

tit punch

Photo by: Eden Garcia

When Mirandy Hardy sings, “Your hot mullet does it for me,” on the second track of Tit Punch, you can hear the teenaged longing dripping from her voice. That’s not an affectation – the four members of Seattle’s Hardly Boys are barely out of high school. Yet their latest release is filled with wry wit and a critical sense of self that belies their age.

Tit Punch moves at a breakneck pace, beckoning repeat listens to parse out its narratives. “All I Want,” the frenzied opening track, hits you hard and fast, like a firm punch to the, uh, tit. Only upon second and third listens do the cheer squad refrains give way to the verses’ maudlin lyrics, a series of gruesome portraits of posh girls dying in horrific accidents.

The EP also features two previously released tracks, “Hot Mullet” and “Juno Rose.” But fans of Hardly Boys’ earlier releases will notice seismic changes from prior versions of the songs, thanks to the masterful work of producer Nik Moeller. Moeller’s background in indie electronica bleeds into the EP on “Goodwill,” a hazy love song punctuated by prog rock synths and a spacey drum machine. The titular character in “Juno Rose” is late-blooming Riot Grrrl, a caricature of the way critics may view a female-fronted, Seattle punk band like the Hardly Boys. When the Kenny G-esque saxophone kicks in at the end, however, it’s almost as if the band is winking at their naysayers – the Hardly Boys are necessarily indebted to their female forebearers, and they’re not afraid to wear that history on their sleeves.

I spoke with the band about their new EP, the Seattle music scene, and upcoming plans for a West Coast tour.

What was the recording and production process like for the Tit Punch EP?

Miranda Hardy: The recording process was pretty varied for the EP. Our friend, the genius Nik Moeller, recorded and mixed everything. Nik is amazingly talented and came in with a real vision for the EP. Nik’s vision definitely helped create cohesiveness in the EP with things like the guitar tone and the mixing of our vocals. [Bassist] Anna [White] and I are both in school out of state so we recorded when we were both back for spring break. Because we recorded in a hurry we did everything individually, but it worked out well because Nik was able to  put so much care into each part. “Juno Rose” was a little bit different though because Zeke, Emma, and I were all together to record the screaming and yelling in the background of the song and we got to sit in while Nik recorded our friend Emerson Rowe lay down that sick saxophone part. Zeke is good friends with Emerson and so he really came up with the idea to have that saxophone solo which is totally one of my favorite parts of the EP.  

Emma Roffey: Yeah, recording was fun even though it was separate. We all recorded our lil’ do-si-dos with Nik and then he brought them all together so nicely.

“All I Want” is a dizzying mix of sentiments, ranging from being overwhelmed by daily responsibilities to demanding equal pay for women. Was the intention to be political? Or personal, in the second wave feminist tradition that “the personal is political”?

Hardy:All I Want” was definitely written from a personal frustrations and feelings. However, I agree completely that the personal is political. There is no universal experience of womanhood, so I feel like one of the greatest ways to gain perspective is through the sharing of personal experiences, feelings, etc. “All I Want” came out of a frustration I have of constantly being surrounded by privilege in my educational environment and having others assume I share that privilege. The verses in “All I Want” create caricatures of really privileged girls dying in ridiculous ways, and that, for me, was a way of asking people to look at how ridiculous the assumptions they make about me and some of my friends are. I certainly am not saying that I don’t benefit from privilege, I do, but not in the way people generally assume. “All I Want” is a way for me to say “fuck you” to the stereotypes and assumptions people put on me. At the end of the day I’m just trying to embrace my womanhood and be defined by the hard work I do, and not by stereotypes people place on me.

“Juno Rose” describes a wannabe “rebel grrrl” who “belongs in 1995.” Was the song based on anyone specific? Being a female-fronted punk band from Seattle, do you feel any pressure to carry on the legacy of these highly political, “girls to the front” groups?

Roffey: “Juno Rose” is a made up character that I thought of when we were all in high school first getting into Bikini Kill. She is pretty much the song “Rebel Girl” personified. She doesn’t take shit. I definitely do not go into songwriting with the purpose of being political, but it often just naturally comes out because feminism and other political issues are so prevalent in our lives. Most of my songs just kind of come out of what we talk about.

Hardy: Yeah, I don’t think we feel pressure to carry on the legacy. For me, it’s something that I willingly carry on because what those women worked for with their art is still so relevant. Obviously the Riot Grrrl movement was flawed, but its reverberations in the Seattle music scene are hard to ignore. As a woman of color in a punk band I feel like it’s impossible to not be political; we have a platform to be heard so I feel a responsibility to use it in a constructive way.

How did you decide which songs from prior EPs to re-record for Tit Punch?

Hardy: We chose to re-record “Juno Rose” and “Hot Mullet” mainly because they are our favorite songs to play and they are our best known songs. Also going into recording, Nik was pretty adamant about recording “Hot Mullet.” I think it’s also pretty fun/weird to look back and see how much we have changed the songs and reinvented the way we play them. I like that our Bandcamp is kind of like a time capsule that shows our growth as a band.

What’s the songwriting process like with Hardly Boys? Was there any effort to have a consistent message through the EP?

Hardy: We definitely don’t strive for consistency, but I feel like we are generally able to create cohesiveness in our music because we are all close friends, and we all write about our lives and experiences. Emma, Anna and I all write the songs we sing which is definitely different, but it is just something that came about organically for us. We come to practice with ideas, chord progressions, or whole songs, and just kind of roll from there shaping them and arranging them with each other band. It’s really fun to come together and play new songs especially because Zeke generally just kind of goes HAM on the drums and makes the songs feel totally different in the best way.  

Roffey: I generally come up with chords to a song first, and then a lot of the times I just babble and play around with lyrics until finding something I like. Sometimes I start with a central lyrical idea, or a quote that I know I want to incorporate in the song, and then riff off of that.

Anna White: Yeah, I think the most important part is definitely fleshing out the songs together because that’s when they really take shape.

How does social context – your ages, Seattle’s music scene, the length of time you’ve been playing together – factor into this EP?

Hardy: Context is everything for us! We would be nothing without the Seattle music scene and all of our awesome artistic and musical friends. Emma, Anna, and I became friends in high school because of our common love of music. We started going to shows together seeing bands like Tacocat and Chastity Belt which was, for me, totally revolutionary. I just kind of had this realization that musicians are just regular people, and that includes women. Even though the popular alt station in Seattle only plays dude rock, that’s not everything! My sixteen-year-old mind exploded when I realized I could be in a band, and that it wasn’t just something to dream about. It’s not about being the best musician ever, it’s just having something to say, having friends who also want to play music, and getting out there and doing it.

Roffey: Music is the foundation of our friendship since we went from seeing shows together to playing shows together. We all wanted to be in a band before we realized that it was something we could actually do. This EP totally wouldn’t be here without the Seattle music scene because everyone, fellow bands, venue, and fans totally embraced us in a way we didn’t really expect. The positive reception of our band totally encouraged us to keep going and keep making music.

White: Also, we are totally a part of a larger movement of femme punk in Seattle that is encouraging and awesome. We have such a wealth of fellow femme punk bands surrounding us like Lisa Prank, Boyfriends, and Mommy Long Legs and that’s really special to get to watch and be apart of.  

Hardy: Yeah, and the closeness of the Seattle scene also allowed us to meet Zeke, which was definitely the catalyst for us becoming more serious about being a band, because we had a complete line up.

Do you guys have any plans for the immediate future?

Hardy: We are planning on touring down the West Coast at the end of July which is super exciting, but also a little bit daunting because it’s the first tour for all of us. But mainly we are hella excited about it, even if it does end up a mess! Catch us in Oregon and California! Ideally we are going to have a full length album out in the next year. More recordings are definitely on the way, especially because we had such a great experience recording Tit Punch and it feels so damn good to have music out in the world that we are super proud of.  

Tit Punch is available now.

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