Friday, September 2, 2011


Back at it, y'all, with some weird stream-of-consciousness nonsense.

On Wednesday the big Facebook linkfest was all about the news that Jack White has produced/collaborated on a single with Insane Clown Posse for his Third Man Records label. Weird as hell, but anyone who's done more than the cursory research that i have into what Jack White's been doing with the label (read: Everything I Know About Third Man Records I've Heard From The Wizard) knows that Mr. RaconteurWeatherStripe is essentially running his label as a crazy-ass doing-it-because-he-can vinyl nerd boutique (just check out the catalog and dig all the crazy two- and tri-color vinyl runs, as well as some of the other less-than-conventional choices: a Conan O'Brien 7-inch? Pairing the Black Belles with Stephen Colbert and using them to record Elvira's Movie Macabre theme song? Apparently one of the Dead Weather singles comes inside a 12-inch, and then the 7-inch detaches from the inside of it or something. I dunno, sounds like some crazy rock-n-roll warlock shit). So, Jack White working with Insane Clown Posse? Hey, sure.

My not-at-all-scientific take on the whole thing was that maybe this stunt will call enough attention to Third Man that my pals We Are Hex will sell a few more copies of the single they just released on the label, "Twist the Witch's Titty." I'm all for anything that will cast a light on pals of mine, not that it's all that likely. (How many music fans are there these days that pull the old Sub Pop allegiance trip and swear fealty to record labels as eagerly as they do to bands? Yeah, not many.)

Of course, that was before Chris from Police Teeth alerted me to a cryptic breakup notice on Hex's Facebook page, which...well, shit. Now i have to post a eulogy for this fantastic, urgent band.

So. We Are Hex.

My band's known their singer Jilly for ten years in October. We met her in Muncie, IN on our very first multi-day road trip out of Wisconsin, and ever since, we've been hooking up shows in the Dairy State for her bands, many of which she would prefer us to wipe from our brains. (I can say that because she told me that personally. "Dear god, forget any of those bands ever existed.") She started to hit her stride, though, with a band called Ari. Ari. that she formed with future Hex drummer Brandon. A swirling melange of Sonic Youth-y feedback walls over post-punk, gothy synth waves, Jilly swirled around the eye of the Ari. Ari. hurricane, stabbing the occasional black keys while wailing about god knows what, a blur of black hair and tattoos. They were loud, crazy, driving, and thrilling as hell, but as is the case with many a band that shines too brightly too quickly, they burned out in a matter of months.

Enter We Are Hex, Jilly and Brandon's next step in refining the Ari. Ari. cyclone into a more focused weapon of mass destruction. The synth-and-feedback carpet bombing approach was replaced with stabby guitar licks and precision drumming, a post-millennial Siouxie and the Banshees filtered through Touch & Go's back catalog, their makeup washed off with lighter fluid. Their sophomore release, Hail the Goer, will stand as their definitive mission statement--a deliberate tension-and-release exercise that, of course, should have been on every goth bar DJ's playlist for the past year. I'm pretty sure i've seen gamer nerds, metalheads and science fair enthusiasts unscrewing imaginary light bulbs while dancing to this record, but don't quote me on that.

Then again, "should have" will now be used quite a bit when discussing this band. I have no idea why they're calling it quits, but i know this--with a charismatic lead vocalist, tightly-wound, killer songs, and a record on Jake White's label, We Are Hex should have been on the verge of blowing the fuck up instead of imploding. But if there was ever a band that matched my band's ability to hatefuck Murphy's Law, it was We Are Hex. Every time we got together with these guys, the stories would flow about canceled shows, shady clubs ripping them off, and all sorts of random drama. Heck, very few of their Milwaukee shows were without some incident or another.

In Spring 2009 they played Frank's Power Plant with The New Loud and us during that period where the club's owner was getting noise complaints from some asshat neighbors. Soon, the owner was yelling at Hex and telling them they couldn't use their full stacks and would have to borrow gear or not play the show. The band was ready to say "fuck it" and bail before we calmed the owner down enough to remind her that amps have these things called "volume knobs" that can turn the loud boom sounds down if necessary. They, of course, went on to stomp everyone's teeth in that night.

November of last year we brought them to town at Stonefly with our labelmates Trophy Wives. In classic HiFi hometown fashion, no one came to the show save about 15 of our best friends, who can now rub it in to everyone else in Milwaukee that they saw one of the most exciting sets to be played in our city last year, and everyone else missed it, so screw y'all. On top of the low attendance, the "sound guy" took all the money from the door for his "fee," a fitting reward for the bang-up job he did setting up barely audible vocal mics and one kick drum mic.

So if We Are Hex finally ran into one obstacle too many, i suppose i can't blame them for packing it in, although part of me hopes that they looked at the news articles about Jack White working with ICP and thought, "wait, we're gonna be labelmates with Insane Clown Posse? Fuck this, we're done."

In any event, if i know Jilly just a little bit after ten years, i know she'll be back at it with something new and perhaps even more exciting than We Are Hex, and honestly, i'm a little scared of what that could entail.

In the meantime, let's have a wake. Go to the We Are Hex Bandcamp site and listen to their debut, Gloom Bloom, the aforementioned Hail the Goer, and a few other choice treats. Chances are you screwed up and missed seeing them live; make up for it by at least discovering them posthumously, since that's apparently all we've got left.

1 comment:

  1. The reasons behind a band breaking up can be many fold, and not all of them for public consumption. Or even understood to the world at large.

    That said, it's a total and complete drag, and I was looking forward to bringing some folks to their SF shows. :(