INTERVIEW: Ana Veira (HURST)
Charisma gets a sassy sucker punch courtesy of magnetic Sydney quartet Hurst and their upbeat take on some nostalgic alt rock. Drawing from the wells of The Pixies, Paramore as well as more modern territories, Hurst find a balance between sneering apathy and coquettish grit that has caught eyes and ears all over the industry, while also snagging them live spots alongside the likes of Kingswood and American rockers Fuel.
Now armed with the recent release of their sophomore EP 'sadface.' and in the midst of the launch tour, there's no signs of slowing down from this polished powerhouse from deep Sydney suburbia. But just before the tour wraps up, The Soundcheck took some time with dynamic frontwoman Ana Veira to chat concepts, creativity and recording in pantries. Interview below
TIANA SPETER: Hey Ana! Very excited to chat with you, especially amongst the massive year you and Hurst seem to be having at the moment, particularly with the recent release of ‘sadface.’ and an epic run of shows so far….how’s it feel now that ‘sadface.’ is out in the world finally?
ANA VEIRA: Yeah, it’s really good actually, we’ve been waiting for ages and we’d been coming up with excuses for years as to why we shouldn’t release music. And, you know, money was always an issue for us and then it just got to a point where we were like…well actually it was our drummer who got to the point and he was like “guys, we’ve just gotta do it ourselves, who cares, let’s just see what happens!”. And, I’m actually really proud of what we’ve created! I’m so proud of the boys, they really picked up their game, cos I can admit I was like “nope, this is not gonna work, we’re not gonna pull this off”. But I think this has been the most authentic we’ve been since we started releasing music, so it feels really good having something out!
TIANA: IThat’s so awesome to hear! And as you mentioned there was a bit of a DIY approach this time round, and what I love about you guys is you always have this amazing energy, a bit of grunt and a real rawness to the Hurst sound…but it’s also very, very polished. Was it totally different recording-wise this time round compared to your previous releases?
ANA: Yes, 100%! With our first EP, we worked with a producer, we paid money to be in the studio. But this time round we honestly spent no money on recording (laughs). Which is kinda cool, considering the kind of sound we got. And we capitalised on the grunginess and being raw, we recorded in a church that our friends let us use, we recorded in my pantry, we recorded in our bedrooms, we recorded in our mum’s bedrooms – literally space we could occupy, we just went and recorded in them (laughs).
PURPLE & GREEN (HURST)
TIANA: Coincidentally I was talking to my housemate thismorning about how it can really suck when you're up against a wall financially with a creative project, but I love how it can make you way more resourceful and can push and broaden you creatively. And side note, I love that you were recording in the pantry!
ANA: (laughs) Right where I wanna be, it’s where the food is!
TIANA: Absolute genius! And with some of these tracks, they obviously have a great energy, but to sound like a bit of a wanker…from a conceptual and thematic standpoint, they do seem quite universal in terms of content. Was there a lot of personal experience bleeding into the writing process?
ANA: Yes, the songs lyrically tend to start with me and things that I’ve gone through or the things that people close to me have gone through. And I’ve tried really hard not to…I don’t know why, but I always have written songs as if there’s a moral to it. So I tried to challenge myself a bit more, and try to write stories. So ‘ which I think is the last track on the EP was one of the first songs I’ve ever written that was literally just a story about a night that the four of us just went out and had fun! (laughs). But other than that I’m really inspired by personal experiences, like my family. I grew up with an alcoholic dad, and the dramas behind that, and dealing with that. And mental health things, I’ve just grown to be really compassionate for people who have had mental health issues, either currently or in the past. And so I really wanted to make something that would be tangible for people that are going through those kind of experiences, and give them something that can just make them feel like they’re not alone.
RATTLE KIDS (HURST)
TIANA: There is a definite cathartic sense coming through in a lot of the tracks. But interestingly also with an uplifting and authentic tinge, it’s a nice sensation that you don’t always find these days. On a slightly different note, Hurst seem to get a lot of “sounds like” bands thrown at you, I keep reading The Pixies and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and you obviously may get the early No Doubt kind of thing thrown at you as well…and being a four person band you’re all going to have your different influences, but did you guys have a mission statement from day one about what kind of band you wanted to be?
ANA: (laughs) It’s been pretty funny, The Pixies have always been an influence, but it wasn’t until now that we kind of really channelled it. But I think in the early days, we didn’t know what we wanted to do. I think we were kind of more bluesy when we started, which is pretty funny! A bit bluesy and a little bit more arrogant (laughs). It’s funny because we listened back to our first EP and we were like “oh man, it feels different”. So it’s kinda cool to hear the progression. Or not even the progression! I feel like they’re so different, our first and our second EP. But, our influences were definitely different. For me personally, I was running away from the whole 90s thing, I was kind of in denial and didn’t want people to say “oooo, they’re like No Doubt!”, but now I’m like – no, I frigging love them! Yes!!
TIANA: Yeah, you gotta own it!! As we touched on earlier, you guys have lately had a run of shows, some in NSW for your sadface. tour with a few more to go this month and November. How have the shows been so far?
ANA: I think my favourite show so far has been Dubbo. I’ve never played in Dubbo before and it was actually really cool because the people there…obviously, they don’t have a lot of night life, not really spoilt for choice. So it was just really great to hang out with people that….they literally just came because they were curious! Like “oh, something’s on, let’s hang out!”. The crowd were really, really cool, and really receptive. So that’s been my favourite show so far, and just being out there! I’ve never been that far west before!
TIANA: Hurst seem to be becoming more and more infamous for your explosive on-stage performances….aside from the recent Dubbo show, has there been a particular standout live show so far, whether it’s been memorable for a good or even possibly a bad reason?
ANA: Ohhh…..some of the best ones I’ve had, we did an under 18s youth festival out in the suburbs and it was actually really cool to play for people that weren’t afraid to look like idiots. Because sometimes when you play on the regular gig circuit where it’s just in bars and that kind of thing, people can act quite tight and they’re just kinda there for a sway. And for us as a band – we don’t even care if you heckle us!! We want you to engage with us. You can talk crap to my face, you can do or say whatever you want, just let me know you’re alive and you’re actually present! Don’t just stand there and stare! I get really turned off when I play to a crowd and they’re not engaging. I really have to watch myself when I do that cos at the same time I say to myself “well, they haven’t walked out?”.
pic by Atalie Altman
TIANA: That’s a win! But also, I’ve heard most of your songs by now, and I don’t know how anyone could sit still at one of your gigs?! Even against my will my foot was tapping and I got worried I was gonna accidentally hit the car in front of me from excessive accelerator tapping.
ANA: (laughs) Well, you’ll have to definitely be at the front at the next one! Just help get the crowd going, please!!
TIANA: My next question is….well, I don’t want to say it’s inevitable, but I don’t often get to interview women, it’s so often men and I want to ask you this: as a female-fronted band, especially in a town quite notoriously difficult as Sydney…have you encountered blatant disadvantages, or perhaps even advantages, being a female frontwoman?
ANA: I think the main one that I have countlessly experienced, especially earlier in our band…I get it sometimes now, but it’s kinda cool now that people know us and know I’m in the band. But before, people would treat me as if I was just the girlfriend of the boys. And I was just rocking up to the gig, and it was so funny, they’d chat to them like “ok, what’s your set-up” and everything, and suddenly I’m onstage! (laughs) And I thought it was hilarious because we’d play and then they’d come up to me after the gig and be like “OH MY GOD, THAT WAS SOOOO SICK” and I’m like “you’re a dickhead!!” (laughs). You know? You couldn’t say hello to me and treat me like a human being? I think that’s kind of the worst I’ve ever experienced. Other than that, I don’t think I have? Unless I have, and I’m just oblivious to it?
pic by Gwyndolyn Lee
TIANA: Hilarious how swiftly people can change when they see you as having value to them! Now to briefly delve into your own backstory a bit more – when you were growing up, what actually got you interested in music in the first place, was there a defining moment, or did it just happen naturally over time?
ANA: I grew up in a very musical house, my family weren’t musicians, but my parents loved to sing. And my dad, he was obsessed with opera and classical music, so he’d get drunk and he’d honestly be crying listening to this music. It was pretty amazing, and as a kid, I hated it, but he’d force me to sit with him, and he’s a Spanish man so he’d be like “(Spanish accent) Listen to the music!”. But it was kinda cool because he exposed me to how emotional and captivating music could be. And my mum, she’s quite religious, and deep in her faith, so I was exposed to a lot of gospel stuff from her. And my brother, he was kid of the rebel, he was into rock music, and he introduced me to stuff like Audioslave and Led Zeppelin, and I was like “OH MY GOD, THIS IS AMAAAZING!!!”.
TIANA: They covered all of your bases!
ANA: Honestly, they really did, and I’m very grateful for my eclectic taste in music because of my family.
TIANA: Hurst have already played some huge shows already, but do you guys have a bucket list band you’d love to go on tour with in the future?
ANA: I think in terms of Australian bands, we’d love to play with Tired Lion. WAAX are really cool too, I froth over them. I think for every single Australian band they’d love to do a set with Gang of Youths. They’re just killing it!
TIANA: They’re touring for like the next two years straight it seems by the looks of their schedule?!
ANA: Oh man, it’s insane. It’s weird because I just feel so much pride for them, good on you boys! It’s very refreshing.
TIANA: Lastly, your new EP is obviously titled ‘sadface.’. What’s one thing guaranteed to put a smile on your face?
ANA: Oooh……food. (laughs).
TIANA: A girl after my own heart! Let’s go hang out in your pantry after this.
ANA: (laughs) Yeah, done! See you there!
TIANA: Well, hope the rest of the tour is incredible, thank you so much for your time and hoping to catch you guys live soon!
ANA: Awesome, thank you for chatting! Seeya!
HURST'S BRAND NEW EP 'SADFACE.' IS OUT AND ABOUT IN THE WORLD NOW, PLUS IF YOU'RE IN LENNOX HEAD THEY'LL BE JUMPING UP ONSTAGE AT LENNOX GROOVE THIS FRIDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER.
FOR TOUR INFO AND MORE, CHECK OUT:
BY TIANA SPETER