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Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012

Heavy Hand’s Filthy Underground Rock

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“We’re a filthy, charming, lovable band,” Christopher Roberts, drummer for Milwaukee trio Heavy Hand, explains bluntly. “A lot of our lyrics are dirty as shit and we swear in our songs. They’re not radio-friendly, for the most part, and not really child-friendly.”

Roberts’ assessment is supported by song titles such as “Vagina Fucking Die” and “Shitty Teenager Store” from the trio’s debut EP, Confusion Is Body Parts. The songs are not only salty, but also snappy, both in tone and in length—a Minutemen-like structure with Sebadoh overtones, as they loosely describe it.

“[‘Vagina Fucking Die’] is our poppiest song,” singer-guitarist Anthony Weber says with a sheepish laugh. “[The title] is a Pixies reference. I like to reference other bands or other songs and sometimes blatantly take their lyrics. I view it as a form of appropriation … I find it amusing to slip other people’s lyrics into a song and have it make sense within a song—each has a bunch of stuff where it’s kind of a shout-out to a band I really like.”

Weber, along with Roberts and bassist Isa Carini, spent plenty of quality listening time with bands that include Pixies, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Nirvana and Liars, grabbing onto specific music for reference and “appropriation” and adding a goofy touch of inappropriateness through the less blatant influence of bands like the Silver Jews.

“They write really good songs and are just clever,” Weber says of the Silver Jews and aligning his music with that particular color of humor. “We’re not going for big laughs, but it is nice to be part of something that isn’t meant to be taken totally seriously. We’re not a joke band … we kind of teeter on it, but we’re definitely not Weird Al!”

Heavy Hand’s unified feeling of playfulness has not only sealed their sound, but also has sealed them as musical partners in crime and friends outside of the practice space. Carini, a newbie to the bass, says band mate (and husband) Weber was game to teach her anyway.

“Isa said she wanted to play bass guitar,” Weber says. “I knew she would never buy herself a bass guitar, so I got her one.”

“My biggest issue was how to plug all the stuff in,” Carini interjects. “I had to take a picture of it so I could remember. It’s mostly guessing now,” she says, laughing.

Roberts and Carini had previously logged time together in The Scarring Party, where Roberts played percussion and Carini tuba. Their comfortable working relationship, alongside like-minded musical tastes, made Heavy Hand a pretty quick project to roll out, landing them at Howl Street Recordings with engineer Shane Hochstetler to record a collection of relatively newly written songs.

Confusion Is Body Parts was nailed down in less than two days and is being released through the local label Latest Flame Records. Label owner Dan Hanke had seen the band play, and as Roberts tells it, “When he heard ‘Inspired By Haircuts,’ he told me, ‘The last time I heard a song and had to go out and buy it, it was the time I saw Soul Asylum!’ I think he was talking more so about the immediacy of wanting to hear a song again after hearing it for the first time.”

Weber returns the label’s affection. “The cool thing about Latest Flame is that it’s centered around people who are making really awesome music and nobody’s from nowhere,” he says of the local label’s penchant for that naturally hooky rock sound, regardless of whether it comes from Milwaukee or not.

“Predominantly guitar rock, too,” Weber adds. “It’s a nice thing to be a part of. We’re really excited to be a part of the Latest Flame galaxy of stars.”

Heavy Hand releases Confusion Is Body Parts at the Cactus Club on Saturday, Nov. 10. Also playing: Little Otik and Crappy Dracula.

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