Interview: Hazzard’s Cure
The phrase “super group” is a funny one. It implies that the members of a band have served in world-class acts, or are notably stellar musicians. Outside of their home region of the Bay Area, Hazzard’s Cure are virtual unknowns. Small fish in a giant pond. When you find yourself within the twin metropolitan powerhouses of Oakland and San Francisco, Hazzard’s Cure are a truly mighty force to be reckoned with, made up of some of the most skilled and experienced musicians that the bay has to offer. These guys have served (or continue to serve) stints in local standouts such as Floating Goat, Badr Vogu, Walken and Ovvl. Now, Hazzard’s Cure is another notch on their hacked-up belts.
On Saturday, September 29, I caught up with drummer Clint Baechle, bassist Shane Bergman, guitarist Chris Corona and his co-axeman Leo Buckley for a quick chat about their genre-defying style of metal, their histories in the local scene and their two excellent releases: their self-titled full-length and The Ugly, a knockout EP that is bolstered by a stunning guest performance from ex-Ludicra vocalist Laurie Sue Shanaman.
The EP features thrashier material than the first album I think.
Chris: We chose the songs for that reason. We have all kinds of material, but those were the three songs that fit together really well.
Clint: We wanted people to stop thinking that we were a stoner rock band, so we put all of our fastest stuff on that release.
Was that something that you disliked about the first record, supposed "stoner rock" elements?
Clint: We thought that people thinking that the first record was a stoner album were incorrect. We thought that people were really ignoring many facets of that record, and focusing on like . . . I think a lot of people listen to only the first song.
Chris: If you listen to the first two songs on the first album, you'll think it's like stoner doom shit or something.
Clint: You got to look at the whole picture.
Chris: It's a roller coaster ride, you know? It can start out one way, then end up somewhere else.
Shane: We cover all kinds of metal genres, I don't think there's any reason why we should just stick to one.
On the first record, Shane, Chris and Leo share vocals while The Ugly was mainly Chris and Laurie Sue. Will newer material have Leo and Shane back singing again?
Chris: On everything we're working on now, we're all doing vocals.
Leo: It's about whatever works.
Clint: We've got a really cool song that showcases Leo's vocals that we've been playing live for years. We're going to record that.
Chris: We don't really have a name for that one, but we call it "Monkey Dick" for now.
Clint: Shane's been doing a lot of bad-ass vocals on the new material. It's awesome, we have three great, distinctive lead singers and that's really cool. That adds more color to the palette.
How much new material did you show off on the recent tour?
Chris: The set we did tonight was more or less what we played on tour. We did a good mix of stuff, and it was nice for me to not have to sing the entire time. We've been sharing it pretty good where we each do a couple songs.
Shane: It shows the full range of what we can do.
Chris: And then there are the shows where Laurie Sue comes out, so we can all take a break and it's fun to let her do her thing.
Have you guys written any more songs with Laurie Sue in mind?
Chris: Yeah, there's one more in the pipe that we haven't gotten . . .
Clint: We haven't played it live yet, we're working on it though.
Chris: It's a killer song, I think it's perfect for her to take on. It'll happen eventually.
Clint: We're definitely into working with her more in the future.
More than many other bands, I think Hazzard's Cure are especially DIY when it comes to the way you operate: merch, releasing the music, etc. Has that been a positive experience? Would you ever outsource some of the logistics?
Chris: We don't really have any other choice.
Clint: Nobody has ever offered to do anything for us.
Shane: It's either do it ourselves, or do nothing. I print the shirts myself.
Clint: I manage putting out the releases, we all book our own shows.
Chris: Leo gives us all handjobs.
Clint: It's a pretty good circular arrangement that we have going on amongst ourselves. I, all of us really, learned all how to do that stuff from spending years in DIY bands. We've been in punk bands, hardcore bands where you're supposed to do yourself. It's a good way to work because then you keep all the money and you have complete control over every artistic aspect. You don't have to answer to anybody. If some cool label wanted to put our shit out, fuck yeah we'd say yes. In the meantime, we're not going to wait around for it, we're just going to do it ourselves and keep pushing.
Considering how expensive the bay is to just live here, let alone play in a band, what motivates you to stay?
Leo: This is still an awesome place I think.
Chris: It's not even cool to say that you're a "San Francisco band" anymore, it's like a fucking unicorn now. It's so rare to be a San Francisco metal band anymore.
Leo: You're still part of the history, and you do it anyway just in spite of how shitty it's become. You don't give a shit about what changes negatively, you only care that the art is still there.
Clint: There's still a great scene and a lot of good bands. I'm definitely not ready to give up on the Bay Area. I've lived here for 14 years, and I'm not ready to go anywhere.
Shane: We're too dumb to leave!
Clint: Too dumb to leave, too dumb not to leave . . . There's still no place that compares to the Bay Area. What am I gonna do, move to Sacramento for the cheap rent?
Hazzard's Cure is interesting to me because you've got half Oakland residents and half San Francisco residents in the band.
Chris: It keeps changing. Who knows, I might be in Oakland in a week. It depends on how things go. Shane was living in San Francisco, and now he's in Oakland.
Leo: It don't fuckin' matter if you have to take the BART home, we do this because we want to.
Does the new material follow a similar direction to The Ugly? Kind of more straight-ahead in style, but more technical?
Leo: It's always different, we don't like to repeat ourselves.
Chris: There's lots of different elements going on. There's lots of weird hardcore parts, and then it gets all thrashy, and then there's black metal parts . . .
Clint: Basically, we're just doing what we've always done, which is whatever we want. Whatever we think of, whatever we feel like. Trying to make it heavy as fuck, and not genre specific. We don't think in terms of genres, because genres are just limitations. Everyone contributes riffs . . .
Chris: We use our drum sticks and guitar picks to toss our salads.
Leo: We try to make it interesting for us to play. We don't want to get bored having to stick to some sound.
Clint: We're very masturbatory in that sense, we like to please ourselves first and foremost and foreskin.
You all came from pretty disparate musical backgrounds, but you formed a cohesive whole in spite of that.
Clint: Me and Leo had been in bands together since 2002. First we had Hotblack Desiato and then we got Orb of Confusion, which was how we met Chris. Me and Leo have been trying to do the same band for years.
Leo: I wouldn't call it the same band though. It's just the music we like and think is interesting, just trying not to do the same thing all the time.
Clint: I think we finally got the ultimate lineup together for our third band.
Chris: I found out that their old band was breaking up, so I made sure that they jammed with me for their next project. That's how we got Orb of Confusion together. That went for a while, we got one album out of it, then we got Shane and we just started writing in the same kind of style, but in a more focused way I think.
Leo: Me and Clint saw Chris and Shane jam with other bands for years.
Clint: They were our favorite guys from the scene. I never thought we'd be able to steal dudes from Floating Goat and Walken for our own band, but somehow we did it.
Leo: We've all known each other since at least 2003.
Clint: We'd go out and just hang out and see each others' bands. We'd be like, "Fuck. Walken's fuckin' badass. Fuck, fuckin' Floating Goat's badass."
Chris: The scene over the years has been so funny, at some point these guys have all lived together. We've all lived in the same houses, fucked the same chicks, done the same drugs, whatever.
Leo: That's the best part about the Bay Area, there are so many good musicians.
Clint: It's not Hollywood though, they're not all concerned about getting famous.
Chris: Nobody makes it or anything, everyone just does it because they love it.
Clint: You move to LA to get famous, you move to the bay to get good.
That raises the question though, say you were offered a lengthy tour that may or may not be a huge success. Would you take it?
Clint: It depends on the terms, what's always under review are the business conditions.
Leo: We all still have to make rent.
Clint: If it was a package tour where we had to play at 7 PM every night when the doors just open and we play to five people and the only reason to be on the tour is to get our name out there, I would decline. I can book us a better DIY tour myself where we get to play for lots more people and maybe break even.
Are you satisfied with having the band as a hobby then? Having to still work a day job?
Leo: Having bands after work makes life interesting for me. You don't want to get burned out on what you like to do.
Clint: If you started doing what you love as a job, would you start hating it? We like doing this for fun, because it is fun.
Chris: I'm sure that no one who tends bar wants to go home and make drinks for their friends. No one who bags groceries goes home and fuckin' stocks their cupboards.
Leo: You've got to keep it interesting. If playing in a band becomes work, then what's the point?