When I received an email describing Charlotte band Hungry Girl's new EP Cool Shots as "the kind of music that inspires you to bust out your sleeveless Van Halen t-shirt and American flag bandana from the back of the dresser, as you dream of surfing the hood of a cherry red Ferrari Daytona that's driving away from an explosion while catching and chugging Miller High Life cans shot at you from a helicopter's mounted machine gun," I wasn't particularly excited.
The run-on sentence didn't just give me anxiety as a professional editor, but as a music fan who's never been big on headbanging and thinks of Metallica as one of the more overrated bands in recent history, I wasn't expecting to be impressed.
I was pleasantly surprised while streaming through the six-song EP, however.Hungry Girl weaves enough post-punk melodies into their thrashing riffs on Cool Shots to keep things modern — think Megadeath meets Wolfmother.
I met with Jason Skipper (guitarist, singer and songwriter who goes by Dede Skip) and Jimmy Lail (drummer Jimmy Blaze) in the lead-up to this Saturday's release party at Snug Harbor to talk about why keeping the energy levels high is the most important focus for a hard rock band and why they recently decided to bring on bassist Jake Wade after six years of playing as a two-piece.
Creative Loafing: How did the band start?
Jimmy Blaze: When we started playing songs together, Jason and I, we just needed something to do. We were living together. It was fun and we were kind of building a studio together and recording stuff in the basement and we needed a reason to utilize the studio. We both wanted to get better at recording and Jason was wanting to get better as a songwriter and step outside of the metal world — instead of being the drummer who was helping arrange songs for a metal band, kind of stepping into that primary songwriter role. We started hanging out and jamming together. We both worked the same job, so it was easy, we were working second shift, so we would wake up 10 or 11 a.m. and just play for a couple hours and go to work.
Dede Skip: It started as a studio project. We built a studio in our house. We were like, "Man it's so expensive to record with other people. We've had terrible experiences with it. We don't have enough money to pay somebody hourly to go in there. We don't have enough time to rehearse enough to make sure it's super tight and ready to go." We started recording ourselves. The whole thing started as I just wanted to get to songwriting. So we were all on the same page and we had a common goal of, "Let's go down here and sound like shit." We sounded like shit for months. We didn't want to be a band. Then we got booked. Then it was like, "OK well, I guess we've got to play the show."
Why the decision to finally bring on a bassist?
Jimmy: We were writing as a two piece early on, then we started saying, "Fuck that, we're going to write as a studio project and use whatever instruments and whatever arrangements we want and then we'll figure out how to play it live." We kind of got to that point where now there's a bunch of songs we're not playing live because we can't make them sound as good with a two piece as we want to.
He's played about four shows with you now. How has it changed the energy?
Dede: It's been great. It takes so much pressure off me and Jimmy. Playing for five solid years as a two-piece, you get some rooms where it works and the energy and the sound is there and it's like, "Fuck yeah, this rules. We can do this as a two-piece." Then you'll play another place and it's just like, "Wow. This is really harsh." You use that as a learning experience, but really we just needed a change. The music had progressed more and more. There were more guitar overdubs, more solos, more challenging vocal parts. It was time. And Jake's been the perfect fit. He's absolutely killed it. I think he's messed up less over the past four shows than I have.
Your live shows are known for that energy you mentioned. How important is that in what you do?
Dede: We always want something that's instantly gratifying enough to have the energy right in your face. That's definitely a goal of every live show. Even when we try to hold back it never happens. It's just balls to the wall. We play everything a little faster with a little more energy and aggression. That's what we are. Any time we try to not do that is when we're just like, "God this sounds boring." Maybe it sounds the same, I have no idea, but for us it feels boring and it feels slow and if the energy is not right then nothing's going to be right. You can play the right notes but if it doesn't have the energy behind it, it's going to sound like shit.
Cool Shots features a good balance of headbangers and melodic, slower songs. Was that purposeful?
Dede: It's always a conscious decision to be a dynamic songwriter. I'll get so bored if I am writing the same song over and over. I'm always playing guitar, though. I love just sitting around playing guitar, fiddling around with riffs. That's my favorite part of the whole process I think is to take something, you start fiddling with it and you build it up to this big thing and the whole process in between is my favorite. But writing songs, one day I'm in a mood to write a song with just your basic chords and no riffs and see where I can take that.
How has your experience with recording and mixing your own music helped your progression as a band?
Jimmy: Just like with our music, we try to constantly get better at recording. We now know that we have a specific sound that comes out of our studio, which early on it was a little bit more of a guessing game. We know what we're going for a little bit more. So there is more confidence there knowing that this is what we're going to do with drums to get a good drum sound this way and we're going to go on to the guitars and the bass and we kind of just go from there. It is something that we pride ourselves on.