Hobosexual is a band living in its own world.
It’s a world housed inside massive walls of sound created by towers of tube amplifiers and vicious drum hits that pound away at the eardrums of the weak.
It’s a world populated by piles of body parts from destroyed G.I. Joes, wall-climbing, remote-controlled monster trucks and armies of transforming toy robots.
It’s a world where jokes about the Sumerian shape-shifting god Gozer are appreciated and getting out of your car while in traffic, Michael Douglas “Falling Down”style, to swim through the Montlake Cut in order to avoid gridlock is more a reality than a daydream.
It’s a raw, imperfect world filled with authenticity that was made for working class heroes and created by two guys who live out their rock ‘n’ roll fantasies every time they step foot on stage.
This world – inhabited by Hobsexual guitarist/vocalist Ben Harwood and drummer Jeff Silva – isn’t for the faint of heart and it is very much unlike the bearded and banjoed hipster-harmony scene reflected in most of today’s popular local music.
Put more succinctly, the world of Hobosexual is filled with nothing but balls-out rock.
“We both feel like there is some sort of return to the stacks of amplifiers, and just, you know, the heavy. It seems inevitable. We’re here waiting for it to happen,” Silva said over a glass of whiskey at a SoDo bar prior to band practice on a rainy Monday night.
Harwood agreed and said he isn’t too worried about whether Seattle’s music scene will once again become filled with guitar-wielding Neanderthals whose hairy manes fly through air while effortlessly ripping through solo after solo.
“I think primarily we live in our own world but I think if you look hard enough you always find people who are living in the same world with you who want the same things. It’s really only a matter of time for things to come around again since music is cyclical,” he said.
“The thing that really concerns me is authenticity because it seems like every time something recycles itself it seems to get more derivative. Right now I feel like a lot of what’s going on is pseudo-Americana. It’s not Neil Young. People aren’t saying anything new. It’s kids in their twenties dressed like people who are in the 1960s and 70s pretending they live in log cabins. That really isn’t something that’s floating my boat.”
“I worry about authenticity when it comes to everything. I worry about authenticity when it comes to government. I worry about it with music. It’s everything. Really it’s just my own personal hangup. It has nothing to do with what’s going on musically really, it’s just more about where my head is right now,” he said.
Perhaps that’s why Hobosexual’s self-titled debut album resonates so well with local hard rock fans, because authenticity isn’t something Harwood or Silva have to worry about with their music. Hobosexual’s brand of rock is the type of stuff Robert Plant declares it’s been a long time since, Joan Jett puts another dime in the jukebox for, Brian Johnson swears ain’t noise pollution and makes Rick Derringer go hoochie koo.
Hobosexual’s debut effort is a raucous mishmashing of styles that almost create a new subgenre of rock themselves. Want to hear some fuzzy stoner rock? It’s there (“Van Candy”). Interested in some slide-blues? Give “Penthouse Lover” a listen. How about a straightforward power rock song? Okay. “Good Times Baby” is the track for you. Or maybe you need a mellow vibe that will keep the party going without harshing your rock buzz? “Sonota for the Working Man” and “Dumpster Dreams of Stardom” have you covered. They even use the old trick of having a hidden track at the end of the record (“Traffic Jam”) .
“The record really is a lot of what I was listening to when I wrote these songs a few years ago. It’s everything from R&B to psychedelic rock. That’s just me. I mean, take a song on our record like ‘Chubby Bunny.’ It’s like MC5 meets Led Zeppelin and that’s just crazy,” said Harwood. “You can say the album is all over the place but really it’s just a collection of where I was at at the time and it all came together quite well.”
The diversity of styles on the album makes for an impressive approach to hard rock and it’s generated lots of positive reviews from local print and online publications.
“I’ve been in dozens of bands and this is the most fun I have had in years,” said Silva. ”The support locally and reception to our band has been amazing. The love we’ve been getting is addictive. It fuels the creativity and makes you want to keep pushing things in new directions. Things are going really well and we’re looking forward to finding out where it goes from here.”
Silva and Harwood started making music together back in 2005 when they were in the band Vindaloo. In 2008 they began playing shows as the two-piece Gozer. Two years later Hobosexual was officially born.
Their friendship extends on stage where the two effortlessly play off one another, be it when Silva rocks out on the drums and Harwood lays down the perfect impromptu licks to accompany the groove or when adding additional flourishes to songs they’ve perfected and performed hundreds of times.
“I can just watch and listen to him and know where he’s going,” Silva said about playing with Harwood. “It’s pretty easy and it comes natural. Plus it’s a whole lot of fun. We are comfortable getting together and just jamming and we’re comfortable crank out new songs at practice. It feels so natural.”
While Harwood and Silva both take the music they make seriously, you shouldn’t expect two guys in a band called Hobosexual to be without senses of humor. They know their name carries certain, possibly unpleasant preconceived notions and that doesn’t phase them one bit.
“If you have a band called Hobosexual there are really only two approaches you can take as a listener. There are going to be those types of people who see the name and say ‘Oh my fucking god. I want nothing to do with that.’ And the other half of the people are going to be the types of people that go ‘Yeah!,” said Harwood. “And the people that go ‘yeah’ are the same people that listen to the shit that we have been listening to for 10 or 15 years and want to know what we’re all about. There’s kind of a level of danger to the name and at the same time there’s this tongue-in-cheekness. We didn’t sit there with a slide rule and put words together to try to come up with something that sounded hilarious. It just sort of popped out there”
Like most self-supporting rock bands Hobosexual has taken a DIY approach to marketing. Both Silva and Harwood have a deep appreciation for the past, as evidenced by their genuine push for authenticity and Harwood’s borderline obsession with action figures and toys form the 1980s. However, the two Hobos know very well that music isn’t consumed like it used to be so the band is focusing its efforts on giving people something more than just the music with their music. Harwood and Silva just finished creating Hob-O-Sexual action figures and, as a nod to the 1970s and 1980s, they are releasing their Jan. 15, 2011 concert at the Columbia City Theatre on cassette tape.
Releasing a live album on a dead format may seem a bit strange, but if fits perfectly with the band’s personality and style. Harwood explained the decision to release something on cassette in an email.
“We realize that the market anymore for music, and in terms of even moderate success of a tangible sale, has to be based on originality (and these days, a bit of nostalgia). LP’s/Vinyl were out for us … it’s a minimum of $5,000 to get a decent pressing of a 33 1/3 disk from anyone with full artwork jackets done and out the door, so we said “fuck that shit.” Besides, what better way to invoke those days of old for us 20 and 30 somethings (you and I summarized over drinks last we spoke) than with a mother friggin’ release on cassette! Oh, and we’d have thought about 8-track, but Cheap Trick already did that a few years back. The download card is the real medium,” he wrote.
The final few sentences of his email hammer home the group’s constant attempts at authenticity and perfectly sum up the band and its humor.
“At least with the cassette, you can get something real, tangible, in limited quantity … and above all … in an almost completely pointless format! … which to us, seems kinda rad. Then again, we’re Hobos, so finding half full cans of Pabst in the alley behind the High Dive also seems kinda rad.”
Hobosexual performs tonight at the High Dive as part of Guerrilla Candy’s Launch Party ($10, 9 p.m.) which is hosted by Brent Amaker. Also scheduled to perform are My Goodness, Hot Bodies in Motion and Hounds of the Wild Hunt.by