Building on the success of the release of last year’s standalone single ‘Brain Drain’ and a sold-out tour, Adelaide’ indie-punk duo The Hard Aches are heading back out on the road with their sophomore album Mess.
The album dropped yesterday and the boys (Alex Upton and Ben David) will be hitting The Gov tonight supported by Stabbitha and the Knifey Wifeys.
A strong theme behind Ben’s music is mental health – Mess being no exception – and behind this motif is a message of hope.
Ben took some time to chat with Kay Cann from The Upside News about breaking the stigma of mental health and the “she’ll be right attitude”, as well as the new album and upcoming national tour.
Speaking to us from Melbourne, Ben said the long distance working relationship between he and Alex doesn’t hinder the music they make together.
“I live in Melbourne at the moment, but we are an Adelaide band, that’s where we cut our teeth and it’s where we still rehearse,” he said. “It’s been really cool to have that new challenge of distance, but actually not much has really changed.
“I still write songs and send them to Alex and then we demo them together. We get together when we can to brainstorm new ideas like we did when we were writing Mess; we would spend a couple of weeks on and off over a period of a few months working on stuff together.”
In fact, Ben says the distance makes The Hard Aches fonder, and stops them getting apathetic, which keeps their star on the rise.
“It means that you don’t be lazy,” he laughs. “The times we have to jam and catch up are usually very minimal, so we can’t fuck around. We have to get shit done.
“In that regard, there is no putting it on the to-do-later list. We live in a world where everything is done via the internet anyway so it’s not like we need to be in a room together; we can have phone calls every day and still catch up in a million ways if we want.”
Since first album Pheromones in 2015 to the brand new Mess, Ben feels the duo has now graduated to the sound and outfit they want to be.
“We’ve gone through a lot of variations of this band to get to where we are. I think we’ve been doing the duo thing about three years now. That was something that was a little bit odd at first maybe, but since then it’s just felt more and more right, and more and more comfortable than what we’ve done with Pheromones to now Mess,” he says.
“Because we are a band with a non-conventional set up, there’s been a lot of experimenting, especially when it comes to recording and filling those spaces live. There’s been a lot of experimenting with different techniques and ideas, and road testing. It’s been really lucky that we have been able to tour so much so we’ve been able to do lots and lots of shows together to become the band we wanted to become.
“I feel like going into making Mess we were 100% stoked on where we were at as a band. With this record we knew how we wanted it to sound and what we wanted to do and how we wanted to achieve these certain goals we had for this record. We managed to go in and pull it off and it’s a good feeling.
“It’s definitely the best representation of us as a band from a sonic point of view, from the songs, just everything to do with this record is where we wanted to be and we got there, which is rad.”
And with the band comfortable with where it wants to be, Ben wants people to feel the same in their own skins, which is why his lyrics are centred on mental health.
“I’ve sung and talked about mental health since day one. My coping mechanism is putting that all into songs. There were a few things that kind of pricked or changed the way I kind of looked at it in-between and during the process of Mess,” he says.
“A few things happened to make me sit back a realise it’s a bigger problem. I didn’t want to write another woe is me, I’m so fucking hard done by kind of bullshit album because it’s so easy to fall into that trap. Instead I wanted to write songs that talked about a lot of people’s experiences and bring them together in a more positive light. So it’s not a ‘life sucks’, whatever… it’s more of a life can suck and life can also be rad. We need to fucking all be there together and get through this together.
“We’ve got this beautiful community around us now and the conversation is happening, and conversation is becoming less and less taboo, but there’s still this fucked stigma of ‘Oh, you’ll be right’. People are still a bit pushed back on the idea of talking about mental health, especially on sharing personal experiences or saying, ‘Hey, actually I’m not doing so well’. We wanted to put together a record that talked about these things in a different light.
“I want people to know it’s ok to talk and to ask and support each other. I want them to know they’re not alone.“
Mess, with its songs connected by theme and purpose, fervently shares Ben’s message of reaching out to people.
“We definitely set out to achieve that and I am really stoked that the few people who have heard it so far are getting that from it. They are picking up on those things I wanted people to pay attention to and it’s been really, really nice,” he says.
“I have never written an album with a goal in mind – with a bigger message behind it. It’s always been, ‘Alright here are some songs that work good together’. But now it’s, ‘I want to put an album together that is actually more than that, that has some meaning behind it’.”
As well as a solid message, Mess, features guest vocal parts from Camp Cope’s Georgia Maq, The Bennies’ Craig Selak, and Long Island’s own Jeff Rosenstock (who just happened to be in the country at the time!).
With the national tour kicking off yesterday in Melbourne, The Hard Aches are showing off the latest additions to their repertoire, playing their biggest venues to date.
And while the same guests on the album might not be around to share the stage, Ben says there are plenty of other treats in store for fans.
“We are lucky enough to have lots of talented friends around us and having these guests was never something we set out to do on the record, it kind of just happened organically, which is really nice. It was just a spur of the moment thing, or someone would pop into the studio. We never set out to make a record with a whole bunch of guests, but it’s really cool it happened in the way that it did,” he says.
“On this tour coming up, Antonia from Antonia and the Lazy Susans is going to get up a play guitar and sing on ‘Happy’. We will do certain things like that and I hope we can manage to pull that off forever. There is always someone we know and or really admire that hopefully would be able to come and join us on stage. It is really cool for us; obviously it is really just me and Alex on stage all the time, so it’s going to be fun to have someone else up there too.”
Supported by Antonia and the Lazy Susans, and Sincerely Grizzly (as well as a different local band in each city), The Hard Aches, who have played some pretty impressive support slots themselves, want to pay it forward to their opening acts.
“We picked bands that we really fucking love and admire, and that we want to have the opportunity to play to a whole bunch of people they have never played to before. We were lucky enough to be that band for a few tours and it really helped us get out and find our feet in this big wild messy word of music. To be in that position where you can do that for someone else is really nice,” he says.
“I love the idea of taking a band out and people being blown away by them. Not only are they relatively unknown bands, they just so happen to be some of our favourite bands, so it makes a lot of sense. We wanted bands that were really going to add to the whole vibe of the tour and these two have really beautiful people in them. Even all the local supports are people we admire and we really love what they do as people, as well as musicians. To put all of us in a room together is going to be really cool.”
And you can join the beautiful vibe of The Hard Aches by grabbing your tickets HERE.
THE HARD ACHES TOUR DATES
April 13th // The Corner Hotel, Melbourne w/ Face Face
April 14th // The Gov, Adelaide w/ Stabbitha & The Knifey Wifeys
April 18th // Transit Bar, Canberra w Azim Zain & His Lonely Bones
April 19th // The Cambridge, Newcastle w/ Hey Lady!
April 20th // Oxford Art Factory, Sydney w/ Nothing Rhymes With David
April 21st // The Zoo, Brisbane w/ Emmy Hour
April 24th // Jack Rabbit Slim’s, Perth w/ Joys
By Kay Cann