[INTERVIEW] Ben of The Hard Aches

Off the back of a fantastic new album and a national tour, we sat down with Ben from The Hard Aches to talk the album, the tour, and what bands can be doing to make safer spaces at gigs.

Firsts things first, is your dog on the cover art?
It is. Yeah it’s my dog Tunes. His names Neptune but we call him Tunes for short. He’s a year and a half old Huntaway x Border Collie. And he’s the perfect angel from hell. *laughs* 

I think I would be buying the album even if I hadn’t heard of the band just for the dogs on the cover art. 
He’s a very handsome dog. He’s also on the Camp Cope album cover. There’s a fun fact for ya. He’s a great dog, he’s a beautiful dog, he’s my number two dog. My number one dog is past his days of caring enough to be in front of a camera. *laughs*

I guess into the serious questions, this is the first full length in a while, how does it feel different to stuff that’s come before? 
We definitely feel like we knew what we wanted to sound like, how we wanted to make this record, what we wanted to say with this record; and we felt better than we’ve ever fall as a band coming into the studio making this record. So I think up until this point we’ve kinda just been, kinda playing around and experimenting with a few different things, especially sonically. For a two piece band it’s taken a lot of experimenting to get to the point where we’re feeling stoked with our sound and how we’re gunna replicate that sound on a record or how we’re gunna replicate a record live. This has been the first time that we’ve felt really, really, really, bloody good about it. So I guess going into the studio this time we knew how to get to the sounds and how to get to the place we wanted to get to. Which was really nice, but simply came from experimenting with all the other records we’ve done up until this point.

Yeah, I’ve seen you guys live and it’s definitely a really full sound considering that there’s only two of you on stage. Especially with the guitar tone, it’s impressive how many amps you feed one guitar into.
*laughs* Yeah look, you’ve got to do it.

So I’ve seen you talk about that before, that this album is where the bands been wanting to head for a long time. Now that it’s out is there a sense of relief or are you just gearing up for the next thing?
Ah, I don’t think it’s relief. I guess it’s relief in the way that, have we done everything right, especially leading up to a record, is the record going to come out when we want it to come out. But you know we’ve kinda just been hanging out, waiting, wanting to share this with everyone. So it’s really rad, it hasn’t really been a relief, it’s been a ‘fuck yeah’, now everyone else can share this thing that we’re so proud of. Which has been really nice, and it’s all been really positive so far which is really cool.

I’ve been listening to the album pretty much non-stop since it came out, and some of the lyrics are really amazing. Outline has some personal favourites, but a lot of the album is super personal and you talk about mental health a lot. Is it difficult to be that open publicly?
Definitely. I’m still trying to figure out how to do it and be more comfortable with it. But it’s something I’ve wanted to become more comfortable talking about it. And us as a band have wanted to champion it more than we have in the past. We’ve always talked about it in our music, but we’ve never talked about it in a way that we want to make some sort of positive change and start some sort of conversation around it. And I think we’ve managed to put this record out in a way that it still touches on all these topics but where we’re doing it in a more positive, hopeful way. We want people to start their own conversations, and break this stigma that still surrounds, especially, things like depression. And that’s something that rings really close to home for us. So that’s something that we’ve wanted to do, be able to use our music for something better than just putting out music.

It’s amazing stuff. Really amazing to see. So you’ve also just had a tour with Antonia and the Lazy Susans and Sincerely Grizzly. What’s it like touring the new stuff and working with those bands?
It’s been really fun being able to play these new songs live. It’s the first record that we’ve done that we haven’t had the chance to really road test all of them. The last couple of years we’ve played a couple of them in our sets every now and then but we haven’t been able to go out and play all of these songs in the way that most bands would work on tracks by just going out and playing gigs with them. We didn’t get the opportunity to really do that this time. So it’s really rad to be finally putting these songs together in a jam space, and then straight into a studio, into a live setting. And they’re all going down really well and it’s obviously really fun to be able to freshen up the set. And not do a whole new set of songs, but a whole new set for us. It’s been really rad to be able to play these new songs, and considering the record came out just before the tour it was so surreal how many people were giving on the new stuff already. It’s been really really rad. To able to tour with bands like Antonia and Grizzly is probably our most favourite thing about being in the weird position that we are, of being able to take bands we love on tour with us. And show them to people who have maybe never been exposed to them before. It’s been really rad to watch those bands just win over rooms every night, and Antonia has been getting up and doing a song with us. It’s just been really really beautiful. Everyone’s just been received well. I think, I mean I know I did, have the sickest time ever. I think it’s up hill from here. I think uphills good, or maybe downhill is good. I’m not sure, which ever way is good, we’re going that way.

I’ve also seen that you played with Nothing Rhymes With David in Sydney, but you’ve skipped over Wollongong?
Look it’s one of those things, we are going to be doing Wollongong, just not this tour unfortunately. When you’ve only got a small window to put shows together you kinda have to weigh up whether you wanna do Canberra, or Newcastle, or Wollongong. We haven’t forgotten about you! We really really love Wollongong, and every show we’ve done down there has been amazing. We unfortunately couldn’t squeeze it in this run, but it will happen.

We’ll hold you to that!
Awesome, I really want to tick off Rad Bar before it disappears. Not only are they great people they also have a room full of pinball machines, so you gotta do it.

Kind of a serious question, but you’ve got Georgia Maq from Camp Cope on a couple of songs on the new album, and they’ve been at the centre of a lot of awful abuse online in regards to the gender imbalance in the music industry. As an all-male band how do you go about addressing that without talking over the top of women and non-binary musicians?
Look it’s really important for an all male band, and I know it took us being educated on it, to realise that we’ve got to be better at advocating for these things. For us, putting on shows that are as diverse as we possibly can and doing everything we can to support the people around us. And listening to what these people are saying, I think that’s the most important thing. You know we are all male band, and we haven’t been subject to the fucking horrible things I know other people are. And I see it every day, being so close to Camp Cope, we see all the bullshit that gets said about them on the internet. And they’re so much stronger than I could ever imagine having to be for having to endure this bullshit because they know what they’re fighting for is the right fucking thing. Just listening, and calling out bullshit when you see it. I think a big part of it is a lot of, I’m gunna say all male bands, and people out there feel like it’s someone else’s problem to make this better, and to make this go away. And I know this through simply getting in an argument with someone on Twitter, who’s in a high profile band, who openly said to me “It’s not my problem what am I meant to do about it.” When the reality is this person is in a position where they could support non-male musicians, they could support bands that don’t identify as just four fucking dumb arse white dudes, just playing boring arse metalcore music. You know I got into this like big argument with him because he openly felt like, it’s not his problem and what is he meant to do about it. And I feel like that attitude is shitty, and guys are allowed to talk up about this stuff and guys are allowed to call this shit out. We have to. If we want to be a part of this positive that is going to happen whether we all like it or not. And obviously it’s something we feel so strongly about. Just listening, and talking about it amongst ourselves, and doing everything we can as a band to make sure that we’re not perpetuating that same stereotype of music and culture that surrounds music. And try doing everything that we can to ensure that the spaces we occupy as a band are as safe and welcoming for everyone. Because we want everyone to feel like they can go not only to our shows and feel safe and feel at home, but anyone’s shows. Because it’s so heartbreaking to hear stories from people that aren’t nice, that bad things have happened to them at shows, that they’ve experienced bad things or heard bad things, and it’s put them off wanting to have the experience all together. It’s so heart breaking because music for me has been such a saviour and such an important thing in my life. We want everybody to feel like they deserve to have that same experience or they deserve to have that space.

Yeah definitely. And I think that’s some great advice to some of the all male, white guy bands out there that kind of don’t consider it their issue. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to me, and Volume Media today, we really appreciate it.

Interview – Josh Mills