San Jose three-piece Hard Girls are breathing life into a genre that in my mind, is timeless. Their latest LP A Thousand Surfaces comes out tomorrow on Asian Man Records — it’s a punk record injected with indie rock hooks and memorable lyrics. The album leader “Plan” was shared with the world this past spring, and it was featured on our punk, hardcore, and post-punk mixtape shortly after.
In celebration of its release, we talked to singer/guitarist Mike Huguenor about the creation of A Thousand Surfaces, which was recorded by local punk/hardcore engineer Jack Shirley. Hard Girls will play at Bottom of the Hill this Saturday with Winter Break (newly formed with members of Summer Vacation), Huguenor’s other band Shinobu, and Leer.
The Bay Bridged: A Thousand Surfaces is your latest LP and it’s coming out on Asian Man Records on June 24. It’s a punk record, but it covers a lot of ground, musically. Tell me about how it was conceived.
Mike Huguenor: When we first started the band one of the guiding principles was that we would give any idea a shot. Just because an idea doesn’t sound punk or doesn’t have distortion or whatever doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good idea. We all probably listen to more non-punk music than we do punk, and then the songs just turn out the way they do when we put the pieces together.
This record was really collaborative. We wrote almost all of it together, and would just take what seemed to work and run with it. Stereolab was a pretty heavy influence in the background.
TBB: Tracks 4-5-6 is by far my favorite segment of the record. I am almost too afraid to ask: what is the song “Screw” about?
MH: I think Morgan said that was about the last time he had to work with a really annoying coworker. To me, it just sounds like an attempt to get into the space of frustration and anxiety, and then explore it from the inside instead of commenting on it from a safe distance.
TBB: There are some really memorable lines, especially in the album opener. Full disclosure: I’ve found myself screaming some of them while blasting the record in my car. How do crowds generally respond to your sets?
MH: We get some really awesome responses, particularly in the south bay where we’re from. I get the sense that the kids there know us as part of the area, and really like us for it. Truthfully, now is one of the first time’s I’ve ever felt like music I made has been accepted at home, and it is a great feeling. For a long time all there was in San Jose was either suburban metal, pop-punk, and the occasional (generally understated) indie band. None of it seemed to have any sense of urgency or purpose. Now it really seems like there’s a bit of a renaissance happening and bands are taking in more varied influences, and trying out more creative ideas. It’s great to see. Indie rock used to be dangerous, and I think the only way it will ever be relevant again is if it goes back to being dangerous.
TBB: Hard Girls’ members all play in a few other bands. What purpose does this band serve for you (or any other members) musically that the others don’t?
MH: Right now this is the main squeeze for us all. I also play in Shinobu, but our fourth member is currently roving the world and the rest of the band is slowing down a little bit. We also all play in Classics of Love, but the fourth member of that band is currently living in LA and focusing on school. To be honest, this was the band that started when all our other collaborators left and it was just us. I think it was hard to go through, but it formed a really strong bond between us. I think we’re playing together in this band better now than any of us have in any others previously.
TBB: How did you decide to go with “Hard Girls” for the name? Do you have any regrets?
MH: It is an inversion of the Soft Boys, a really great band and big influence. They rule. Fuck regrets.
TBB: For instance, your Twitter account (@hardgirlsband) lately has been predominantly RTs of random references to “hard girls.” I also noticed that you’re fighting off porn spam on your Facebook page.
MH: It’s funny how pornography has become almost the exemplary case of advertising online: it is automated, ruthlessly insistent, and completely idiotic in its attempts to reach a market. Just like targeted advertisements are attempting to crunch a bunch of data to reach the “right” people, and then waging a calculated war on the potential buyers, these porno ads just see the words “hard” and “girls” in the same general space online and just unleash thousands of bullshit ads that are supposed to look remotely human. The internet is a gross place, especially once advertising is involved.
TBB: You guys live in San Jose. What’s the scene like there?
MH: San Jose has gone through some real low points in the past decade or two but it is really swinging back right now. The scene now is better than it has been in a long time. There are both legitimate places to play, as well as a continuous flow of DIY and house spaces coming in and out of existence. There’s also the whole bar scene that does its thing kind of autonomously from either of the other two. Those shows tend to side more on the metal/reggae/hip hop kind of thing that for whatever reason people in San Jose love.
TBB: What’s your favorite thing about living in San Jose? Do you feel like it gets a bad rep?
MH: There’s a lot to love about San Jose. I’ve personally had a really combative relationship with it for years, but I think I’m finally coming to terms with my hometown. My favorite thing about the south bay in general is KFJC, but there’s also a lot of counterculture under the surface. It does get a bad rep, but probably nowhere near as bad a rep as San Francisco is getting now, somewhat deservedly. After living in SF for a year (and working in it for 4), I am amazed at how few people I’ve met there who were legitimately into anything countercultural without trying to turn it into some stupid company. SF is bizarrely corporate. And bizarrely proud of how corporate it is. All creativity eventually just gets funneled into a business.
TBB: If I were to spend an entire day there, where would you recommend I go?
MH: It’s more about the people than the places. There’s no shortage of great local businesses that people here love, but I think any place worth its salt has to be first about the people there. Barbecuing is big during the summer, there are a ton of available public baseball diamonds for a casual game of soft/slosh ball. Lots of leafy trees, which I love. I really like walking in the area just north of downtown. There’s a lot of really cool architecture, lots of little buddhist shrines and gardens. There’s local movie theaters that have a decent amount of small run art/documentary/indie films, a great used book store, more burrito and Vietnamese sandwich places than you can imagine, Cafe Strich is a great place to see a free show, etc. There’s a lot you can do, depending on what sounds good.
I would recommend that you do not go to Santana Row.
TBB: What plans does the band have for the summer, fall and beyond?
MH: In July we’ll be on tour with Andrew Jackson Jihad, then in August we’ll be on the East Coast with Broadcaster. After that, we’re heading out to Fest in October and will probably tour more extensively in November. Hopefully we’ll be touring on this album a lot and starting to work on the next one. I’m excited about the new ideas we’ve been working on.
Hard Girls, Winter Break, Shinobu, Leer
Bottom of the Hill
Saturday, June 28