Latest release: So I Could Have Them Destroyed (Music Farmers)Website: www.facebook.com/hardons/
Five years ago, the Hard-Ons released their final album as a three-piece band. The wonderfully-titled Peel Me Like an Egg was a transition for the band in other ways too: it was the first with drummer Murray Ruse and the last with Blackie on lead vocals. Its release also co-incided with the band celebrating their 30th anniversary, something that worked to sweep the album aside before it gained much attention.
“We thought it was a really good album, Peel Me Like an Egg, but it kind of got lost in the 30th anniversary tour,” bass player Ray Ahn admits, on the phone from his home in Sydney. “A lot of people were interested in the tour, and the album wasn’t gathering as much momentum as we would have liked it to. We really like the album, but unfortunately, it just got lost.”
Fortunately for the now-four piece punk-metal-surf-pop powerhouse, it seems plenty are taking notice of their latest work, the equally-impressively named So I Could Have Them Destroyed. The long-time champions of the Australian musical underground have even attracted mainstream attention for their latest full-length album. Ray isn’t quite sure what they did right this time.
“We didn’t do anything different!” he says. “Last time, we did exactly the same thing: hire a publicist, and said, ‘Here’s our new album, go and get us some interviews and stuff’. I don’t know what happened! But interest in the band at the moment is high, for some reason. It’s good.”
Upon further analysis, the surge in interest could be due to several factors. Earlier this year they were on a high-profile national tour with Rose Tattoo, and there has been a very recent underground resurgence of garage punk.
“You know that garage punk that’s really guitar-driven and it’s not played by a bunch of metrosexual guys in skinny jeans,” he begins, “but by a bunch of rougher looking people, like Amyl & the Sniffers and the Chats, and that kind of stuff? That’s created interest in very Australian sounding punk rock. We’ve had a few people who’ve said they discovered us through the Dune Rats!”
There is also the heritage factor, to which Ray thoughtfully alludes.
“I think at some point, a band gets that old they become what they call veterans. It works in our favour, because the older we get, the more in our favour we become. We’re no longer competing with younger bands, and when you’re considered veterans, there’s a lot of historical stuff around. When you go to record shops, there’s a lot of reissued vinyls and shit like that. People are just interested in that. So there’s a lot of interest in a band like us.”
He points out that other veteran rock bands like Radio Birdman and Cosmic Psychos have been the subject of documentaries lately, “so there’s a lot of stepping back and having a look at a veteran band… when a band’s got a long history, people find that fascinating. It’s like, ‘This band was formed before I was born. This band was around when my parents were young. I want to know about it’.”
So I Could Have Them Destroyed is the Hard-Ons’ twelfth album, and the first to be recorded as a four piece. Original vocalist Keish de Silva, who left the band in 2002 but continued to appear with them on stage from time to time, rejoined on a permanent basis in 2016, happy for Ruse to continue with the drumming role that he also once occupied. While they hadn’t recorded together for sixteen years, the three founding members knew each other so well there were no dramas getting into the studio once again.
“I’ve known Keish since 1976,” Ray explains, “so I’ve known him most of my life. I’m comfortable in knowing what he can and what he can’t do in the studio, and Blackie’s the same, so it’s all about using all of our skills to our strengths, and hiding our weaknesses. Because we’ve got lots and lots of weaknesses! With the Hard Ons, we try and play to our strengths and come up with something we’re all really good at.”
What they’re good at is being a “dog’s breakfast” with loose ties to various genres and a solid attachment to none. They’ve been referred to as pop-punk, metal and power pop, among other things, and they’ve indulged all of those traits and more, without sticking to any of them for long. Ray admits they’ve lost fans in the past due to their penchant for musical direction changes, but reasons that is part of what has kept them going for so long.
“I remember when we started putting out songs that were a little bit heavier, like the Suck N Swallow single back in 87, people were saying we’d betrayed our fans. And we were like, ‘We haven’t betrayed anybody!’ You betray your fans when you somehow rip them off. When you turn up to a gig drunk and play really badly. We’ve never done that. We’ve just made the records that we wanted to do.”