(photo: Collin Morrow)
Any musician who’s been in bands for a while will tell you why they’re still in the game: It’s really just an excuse to hang out with your friends.
But the members of Hose Rips don’t really need an excuse to hang out. The Sonoma County quintet have already been channeling artistic expression through various avenues with each other for more than a decade, whether in their previous band Secret Cat, in their local theater group the Imaginists, and across every visual medium available. It’s what they do.
As I make my way through the downtown Santa Rosa home of drummer Fifi and keyboardist GP (short for Gel Pen), I discover them with the rest of the band in the backyard chilling on a sunny Friday afternoon. These are the best moments of being in a band: the afternoon before the show, when everyone is hanging out and there’s a quiet energy in the room, an unspoken anticipation of the night to come. Vocalist/guitarist Ingrid Houghton and bassist Melati Citrewireja fill page after page of portrait books with characters composed of colorful line work as guitarist Charlie Davenport pokes out melodies on a weathered piano. Even if they weren’t in Hose Rips, I’m sure the five of of them would be right here, doing this exact same thing together.
Upon hitting the mid-20s, one tends to reevaluate things. Having already spent over a decade under the name Secret Cat, the group was ready for a something new. Houghton explains: “As I was thinking about changing the name, there were a lot of things I wanted to put behind me, and a lot of things I wanted to look forward to. And with this name I wanted to jump into this she-devil character.”
The name immediately resonated with Davenport. “When she brought that name to the band, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that name existed.” Mashing together images of feminine grace with scars from a cruel, jagged, and violent world, the new name introduced a world of juxtaposition Houghton was excited to explore. It was also a chance for the group to change their approach to songwriting and performing.
“Secret Cat embodied this goofy cartoon on the surface; almost as a trick since our music was kind of poppy but with aggression and scary themes underneath,” Houghton explains. “I like playing with that counterpoint, but with this band I wanted to turn it around. I wanted to be externally fierce and protective, like when a tiger makes that scary face when it’s telling you to fuck off. Cause then you let the sweetness and the love we have for each other be the underlying thing you get to discover.”
Their self-titled debut drops on Saturday at a secret location in Oakland (the address of which you can obtain by messaging anyone on the event page). The six songs are loose, jammy, and cacophonic — they often use chords that don’t agree with each other. Houghton, who up to that point had juggled guitar and synthesizer, decided to focus the increasingly complex guitar parts, leading to the decision to recruit GP on synth. Citrewireja’s walking bass lines and Fifi’s heavy accents provide solid foundations to arrangements that often skirt on the fringes of math rock. But Hose Rips would never consider themselves as such.
“Personally, I don’t even identify as a musician,” explains Houghton. “We like putting other things besides the music up front. To me, the idea of having an emotional reaction is more important than the music. That and friendship.” Fifi elaborates on this: “We mostly do this because we’re friends and we wanna chill. Grabbing some drum sticks and guitars is just a way of amplifying that friendship.”
As the band gets ready to pack their gear and make their way to the venue, Davenport stretches his arms out in the summer sun. His straggly hair and Punch T-shirt show set him apart visually from the rest of group, displaying his roots in punk/hardcore. “Its trippy to think we can still do this,” his brown eyes magnified by crooked glasses.
“I think that’s magical when you get to be an older person, like in your late 20s or beyond and still do bands, because I feel like the approach that you have to your entire life kind of plays out in your band. If you can make it work, then I don’t know. It just gets more fun.”