The first time I saw The Hussy was in a tiny basement club/bar in my town of Bloomington, Indiana. It’s actually the basement of a fancy restaurant. You have to go down an alley to the rear of the building and down a small flight of stairs. Unless you know where you’re going, it’s easy to miss the entrance. The bar lends itself to an atmosphere of quiet drinking and conversation; you wouldn’t think it could double as a rock club. Since the space is so tight, I was crowded into the corner the band plays in. As the set ended, guitarist Bobby Hussy was making a great hellacious feedback racket. In what seemed like seconds, he was shirtless, licking my face and lighting his guitar on fire. All the while, drummer Heather Sawyer was pounding just as noisily on her drums, but the beat didn’t waver.
The Hussy, hailing from Madison, Wisconsin, epitomizes the reckless abandon of underground Midwest rock’n’roll. The Hussy needs to be experienced live. Watch as Bobby and Heather play off each other, making joyful noise but staying true to the songs’ hooks. I’d say no other contemporary garage-rock-noisy-psych-what-have-you band can better capture the chaos of their live set on record. This interview was conducted in Bloomington April 2012.
The Hussy are Bobby and Heather.
Sal: Bobby, how’s that Jaguar still working, because I remember last year you told me about all these electronic problems you were having and you’re still lighting it on fire a year later.
Bobby: Yes, it still works. It has only missed one Hussy show, ever. I think it was in Chicago that it broke. All the switches are broken on that guitar. I broke a nut before we left for tour. Somehow the string doesn’t pop out of it, so that’s fine. I have to get that fixed. Other than that, everything works.
Sal: Do you bring an extra with you?
Bobby: I have a Jazzmaster that I bring as well. I try not to use it as much. I use that guitar (the Jaguar) at every show.
Sal: Awesome. How do you guys get the energy to play like that every night? ‘Cause you play pretty balls out…
Bobby: I don’t know. I wanna put out records, wanna play shows.
Heather: Wanna play a good show, I guess.
Bobby: Every night, no matter how many people are there, we wanna be consistent. It’s important to be… consistent bands are good.
Bobby: Sometimes it’s fun to see a band have a train wreck every now and again. I try not to drink too much before we play.
Sal: I’ve found that’s the key.So, let me ask about the picture of the cover for the Eradicator Records 7”. Are you allowed to talk about that? Because I recognize that man, even though it’s blurry in that picture…
Heather: That was after a show in Lafayette (Indiana) at The Black Sparrow. Bobby was up for most of that… it’s Zech. (Zech is a musician who’s been in too many Indiana bands to mention.)
Bobby: Yeah, Zech, he had a fun time with a girl… let’s leave it at that! The next morning I woke up and she was gone and I saw Zech naked and thought “Whoa, what’s going on?” I woke Heather up and she was like “What’s going on?”
Heather: We gotta get a picture of that!
Bobby: I was like, “We’re gonna take a picture of this and then we’re gonna leave.” And then we took two pictures of him and then left. And we kinda waited on what we were gonna do with it and we’re like “I guess we gotta ask him” because he would know it’s him. The floor in this place is covered in photos—like old school ‘70s photos—and in the picture you can see the floor, this unique floor, he was gonna know it was him. So we asked him and he was super cool with it.
Sal: Zech’s pretty easy going. He and I are in a band together. He plays drums. He was temporarily banned from some places in Bloomington and we had a replacement drummer when you guys were here last year.
Heather: Yeah, I heard that.
Sal: He’s a good kid. What is he like, twenty-one, twenty-two years old? He has a good sense of music history.
Bobby: We were bummed. He’s got a good ear. He likes good music. He just likes fun! That’s cool. Indiana is fun!
Sal: A little bit of history—how long have you guys known each other? Not just playing music, but as friends.
Heather: Six years?
Bobby: More than that. Seven years? 2005, I think.
Sal: How long has The Hussy been together?
Both: Four years? 2008.
Bobby: June 2008 was when we played our first show. We were in another band before that.
Sal: That was gonna be my next question! Didn’t you guys tell me you were the rhythm section of another band before that?
Bobby: It was just a band we didn’t really care about.
Sal: Did it have a name?
Bobby: It was called Cats Not Dogs, but it doesn’t really matter. Nobody is gonna know.
Heather: The guy was a jerk, then we broke up, and me Bobby were like, “Let’s just me and you start a band.”
Bobby: I actually joined that other band playing bass. I was a guitar player before that. I never played bass before that. [To Heather] I helped you guys sell stuff ‘cause I couldn’t get into shows. I was like, “If I sell your merch, I could get into shows ‘cause I’m underage.” Then they were like, “You wanna play bass?” and I was like, “Eh…” Then I went back to playing guitar.
Bobby: It was always from the get-go, you could always tell it was me and Heather. That guy didn’t bond and over time the bond got really ugly.
Sal: How come no bass player or third person in The Hussy? There’s a song on the Winter Daze 7” and you have a bass player. I forget the name of the song…
Bobby: It’s “Turkey.” That was the bass player of Heather’s other band.
Heather: And we thought it’d be fun.
Bobby: We thought, “Just play on a record!” We thought it would be cool. We were really excited to have a record.
Sal: Is that your first record?
Heather: No, our second.
Bobby: We went back into the studio to record more songs for that label. Because they liked some other songs and we were like, “Let’s make it a six song EP.” So we went in and recorded nine more songs so they could pick more songs out that they really liked. I don’t know why we did that. He played on that song at a couple shows, and we had Logan from The Midwest Beat play at two shows with us. Other than that, we’ve never had a bass player in this band. We just like it as a two piece, really.
Sal: It’s easier to travel, I assume.
Heather: Easier to travel, write songs.
Bobby: It’s easier to bounce ideas, book shows with two people.
Heather: Everything’s just easier.
Bobby: We’re both being utilized as much as we can at any given time. Heather’s singing fifty percent of the time; I’m singing fifty percent of the time. We’re always doing something. It seems like sometimes you have a bass player who might not do something or a drummer who might not sing. If we need the extra person, we just do it together.
Sal: It sounds full enough.
Bobby: Thank you.
Sal: Who put out that Winter Daze 7” and then the first 7”? Was it…
Heather: Fist Full Of Records did Winter Daze and Science Of Sound did the first, the split.
Sal: How’d you hook up with them if this was your first couple of recordings as The Hussy?
Heather: I just emailed Science Of Sound, asked if they would do a 7”, and they said, “We won’t do a full one because nobody really knows about you guys and you don’t tour enough.”
Bobby: We had existed for maybe three months and were still working on songs.
Heather: We hadn’t been around for that long, so they said, “Let’s do the split with our flagship band who tours all the time,” thus guaranteeing to sell.
Sal: Who was that other band?
Heather: That’s Sleeping In The Aviary.
Sal: That sounds familiar.
Bobby: They tour all the time. They’re just on Science Of Sound. They have four LPs. That label just always puts their records out.
Sal: Were they based out of Madison like you guys?
Bobby: They were from Madison. Then they moved to Minneapolis. They’re a Minneapolis band now.
Sal: Right now, do you guys have any other bands or is it just The Hussy?
Bobby: We have another band…
Heather: Called Bad Omens, with John from The Catholic Boys and Todd Trick Knee.
Bobby: He ran that label, Trick Knee Productions, with The Catholic Boys and Mystery Girls. All around, he’s a really cool dude. Todd’s always helped The Hussy since day one, gave us advice. He kinda knew the industry more than a lot of our other friends; he knew how it worked. It’s a fun band. It’s weird being in a four piece after being in a two piece for so long. Heather’s done it way more than me; she’s been in more four pieces than me.
Sal: How long have you guys been playing music? Heather, how long have you been playing music?
Heather: Maybe like ten years.
Sal: Always drums?
Bobby: Well, you play guitar…
Heather: I played guitar when I was in middle school because that was the cheapest instrument to rent.
Bobby: And you play guitar now.
Heather: Yeah, I play and write on guitar now.
Sal: How about you, Bobby? How long have you been playing music?
Bobby: I’ve been playing music since I was fifteen, so ten years. I was just in some cover band in high school. I work really hard in this band. It’s so much easier to work for a band you really like. I love Bad Omens and stuff—I like working on it—but it just doesn’t feel the same as this band.
Sal: This is your baby.
Bobby: This is both of ours, both of our things.
Sal: Bobby, Kind Turkey, is that your label or do you guys share?
Bobby: Yeah, it’s my label. I used to run it with a friend but I just run it by myself now. I put out 7”s and tapes.
Sal: How many releases do you have so far?
Bobby: Ten releases. Five tapes, five 7”s.
Sal: What are you putting out?
Bobby: A Natural Child 7”.
Sal: Oh yeah? Seth from Natural Child used to live here in Bloomington.
Bobby: That’s awesome! They’re nice people. I think I’m going to do a Night Beats 7” later on.
Sal: They just played here.
Bobby: They’re doing a great tour. We got to play with them in Fort Wayne and they were really nice. I was going to do a Bare Wires record but I don’t know what’s going on with them. They had to cancel their tour. We were going to play with them on the East Coast. I just recently put out The Pharmacy and The Lonesome Savages.
Sal: Bobby, did you tell me you used to live, maybe not in San Francisco, just California?
Bobby: I lived in the Bay Area, San Jose. I fucking love San Francisco. Just for about eight months. It was right before the Cement Tomb Mind Control LP came out and I wanted to live out there, wanted to not have another winter in Wisconsin! I had a really good time out there. When the LP started to come about, for a while it was just being pushed back and pushed back, and when it started to come out, I moved back and started working on the next record immediately.
Sal: Heather, have you always lived in Wisconsin?
Heather: No, I’ve lived in Minneapolis a little bit, worked for this computer company.
Bobby: It’s cold in Minneapolis, even colder than Madison!
Sal: So what do you guys do when you’re not on tour? How do you pay the bills and what do you do to entertain yourselves?
Heather: I work in a dog grooming salon/doggie day care. Lori’s Pet Agree…
Sal: I think all those places have to have pun-y names.
Bobby: We always talk about that. It’s so great!
Heather: I just work there, Monday through Friday. Sometimes I’ll pick up a dog sitting job. I’ll do that to make some extra cash.
Sal: Is it easy to get off for tour?
Heather: Oh yeah, my boss is cool about all that.
Sal: How about you, Bobby?
Bobby: I work at a record store right now. I was unemployed during the first tour and then when I got home we started to work on the new record. A friend of ours happened to move to New York and a job opened up at the best record store in town. I knew the owner for years and Dave lets me leave whenever. He hired me and the first thing he said was, “I know you tour, so whenever need to go, two months ahead…”
Sal: I wish all bosses were like that!
Both: Yeah, right!
Bobby: Dave is great, I really appreciate him. He’s the nicest guy.
Sal: What about booking the tours and the business end of the tour? You seem pretty business-minded without being… an asshole about it! You’ve got good sense because you know that it takes something to keep the band going, keep the band on tour. Is there stress from that?
Bobby: A little bit. Now there’s a network of friends…
Bobby: That’s a really loud phone!
Sal: Let’s pause for a second.
Bobb Easterbrook (of Eradicator Records): Landline!
Bobby: Landline! Yeah, there is a little stress with booking a tour but I’m really happy. This tour came together really easily. After doing a couple tours you meet bands that you like and friends that you really like. First thing, you get the dates figured out and you’re like, “I’m going to email my friend’s band in this city!” and it just kinda goes from there. There’s always those couple of straggler cities where you can’t find a date, until you meet a band from there that you become friends with and you can trade shows with. We’re all about trading shows, That’s our thing. Who helps us on tour, we’re absolutely helping them in Madison or Milwaukee.
Sal: How do you record? Do you do all the recordings yourselves or do you use a studio?
Bobby: We have a practice space that we rent together…
Heather: Bobby and his friend Bert Roberts sometimes helps out.
Bobby: He’s a dude in Madison. He doesn’t really do many records but sometimes he helps—I don’t know—it’s not often. Sometimes he helps.
Heather: He’s got a weird schedule.
Bobby: I do the engineering, for the most part. Heather has a lot of knowledge about recording and we kinda just do what we want! There was a time when we went in studios and it was all about money. It wasn’t like you were going there to finish something; it was like you were going there to spend the least amount of money. That’s literally how it felt. You practice the songs… so then there’s the feeling they’re so perfect. And we were doing raw stuff. We weren’t getting to overdub stuff. Both of us like kinda spacey music. We want our band to be spacey in a way. I’m sure Heather does, too. Weird, right?
Sal: It sounds like that more on Weed Seizure than on Cement Tomb—more space, reverb-y, ethereal…
Bobby: That first record, it was the first real record that I’ve ever recorded. I’ve recorded bands for years but nothing that really mattered. Never anything that got put out. We always went to studios even though we had the gear. I had gear forever.
Heather: One day it was like, “Why aren’t we doing this?”
Bobby: We just learned as we went along. Eventually, I got a computer that could mix stuff. That first record was mixed by a friend who worked at Smart Studios, so he knew what he was doing. I recorded it super lo-fi…
Bobby: And I didn’t know what I was doing. We didn’t really spend much time on it. We were like, “Let’s just get these songs done, do ‘em!” We were really gung-ho on trying to shop an LP and a friend was like, “I’ll help mix it,” and he mixed it. We were there when he mixed the whole thing. It wasn’t like he took it over. He definitely had an idea of how he wanted it to sound and we did too. We just didn’t put the time into the record like we do now.
Heather: We take a lot more time.
Sal: How long did it take to do Weed Seizure altogether?
Bobby: July, right? August till…
Heather: December, maybe even early January?
Both: Six months.
Bobby: I was recording a whole lot. We did thirty-five songs in that time period and weeded ‘em down. The other good remaining stuff, got shopped for 7”s. We just took more time. I learned how to record better. I’m really happy with being able to actually mix the records ourselves. I’m really happy being able to make a record we’re really proud of.
Sal: Do you do multiple guitar tracks or do you try to get everything live?
Bobby: We do drum tracks live and usually a scratch guitar live that I keep in the mix and overdub from there. It depends on the song. The hidden track on Weed Seizure was done live with me and Heather. It’s a more blown-out acoustic-y song, so we did that shit live. It depends on the song. We love to overdub. We love to throw weird stuff on. I like to take time on vocals. Now that we have our own gear, we’re not paying somebody, so why not be really happy with it?
Sal: Makes sense. Are you guys still active in the Madison scene? You talked about bands coming through, trading shows. Are you a big part of the scene there?
Heather: I think so, somewhat. We try to get our friends’ bands from other cities to come through, bands that normally won’t come through, get them to come through. We’ll play with them or get our friends’ bands to play with them.
Bobby: We’ll make sure they’re treated right. Madison on a weekend is good. Madison on a weekend is great! You just have to book it far in advance. I would say we’re a part of the scene. There’s only a few good rock’n’roll punk bands in Madison. It’s a small, tight-knit scene. There are honestly not many bands bringing out-of-town bands through anymore. Like it’s either the big promoter or a few underground bands. We’re one of those underground bands. Not to say we’re the only underground band!
Heather: The Midwest Beat…
Bobby: Yeah, The Midwest Beat, Zebras do it, Dharma Dogs, Lonesome Savages, Dead Luke will bring some stuff through that are his friends. Then there’s a whole house show scene that we’re a little out of touch with now. It moves so fast. Everything in Madison comes and goes…
Heather: From the students.
Bobby: The students. People come, people go, new scene starts up. Peaking Lights are from Madison and they would bring a ton of bands through. There’s a healthy scene of different genres in town and I think the scene is stronger than it has ever been now, than I’ve seen it. Shows are good. Mickey’s Tavern is having…
Heather: Everybody’s good friends.
Bobby: It seems like there’s little drama and that’s fun about the scene.
Sal: How does it compare to other places? I remember in the ‘90s Green Bay had a lot of stuff going on. Does Green Bay still have stuff going on? How’s Milwaukee?
Heather: No. All the kids from Green Bay moved to Milwaukee.
Bobby:Madison first, then Milwaukee. They’re pretty much all in Milwaukee.
Heather: A lot of them now, John (from Catholic Boys and Bad Omens) still plays. But even some of them now have stopped playing out and moved away. It’s what happens.
Bobby:Milwaukee is kind of the “it” scene in Wisconsin, if there’s an “it” scene in Wisconsin! That’s where all the new bands come out of, Milwaukee. Madison… every five years you’ll get a band that you really are excited about. In Milwaukee, that’s every year you’ll get a good band that you’re excited about. I’m jealous of that in some respects.
Sal: Were either of you around when Boris The Sprinkler played? That’s the first band I think about when I think about Wisconsin, especially Green Bay. I think Rev. Nørb gave Cement Tomb a really good review (in Razorcake.) He gave my band a good review, too!
Bobby: Yes he did! He’s a character.
Heather: I saw them one time when I was a teenager, at a club up in Green Bay. I don’t really remember much about the show, I’ll be honest.
Bobby: I’ve never seen them. I wish!
Sal: They were very energetic!
Sal: What labels do you like working with?
Bobby: Every one that we’ve worked with has been really good, but the standouts are: Slow Fizz, great people, Eradicator, great people, Tic Tac (Totally) has been great. Zabby from Big Action, Fist Full (Of Records) treated us right. Science Of Sound has been great. I’m not going to bad mouth anybody because… I’m not saying that’s what you’re trying to get me to do!
Heather: Yeah you are! [laughs]
Bobby: Everyone’s been great to us. I’ll give you dirt on Bobb (Easterbrook, from Eradicator Records). He made us chicken, so we can’t talk shit.
Heather: [points at Bobb] Gonna turn on you!
Bobb Easterbrook: Chris Mosson called and asked if you can play last.
Bobby: Do we wanna play last? Let’s try to play third.
Bobb Easterbrook: He has his pinball club, The Pin Pals…
Bobby: That’s really weird. We’re from out of town!
Sal: What’s the craziest town to play?
Heather:Lafayette, Indiana is pretty crazy?
Sal and Bobby: Oh yeah!
Heather: Indiana… Indianapolis…
Sal: Where in Indianapolis is crazy?
Bobby: We played the Vollrath.
Sal: I heard it closed!
Bobby: They sold it for a Super Bowl party! [Indianapolis was the site of the 2012 Super Bowl.]
Sal: Ah! That place was cool.
Bobby: It was a really good club. I was shocked. We played Locals Only. It was an awesome show, too. Everyone was kind of wary about it, but…
Sal: There was a really big crowd for that.
Heather: Just Indiana in general, people are really excited.
Bobby: They like good, sloppy pop, punk, rock’n’roll.
Sal: Do you think there’s something about the Midwest, just the energy of the Midwest?
Bobby: They’re excited about shows, absolutely. Athens, Georgia I think is really fun, like everyone there dances! It’s weird…
Heather: Athens, Ohio!
Bobby: Did I say Georgia? Not Athens, Georgia. We’ve never played there. Athens, Ohio! Yeah, all the kids dance there. When you come from a show where everyone just sits there stoically and watches you, even if you’re having the time of your life. Then you play Athens, Ohio and everybody in the basement is dancing. They’re just always around people dancing and it’s okay to dance! That’s great, because that’s what you want, right?
Sal: Last question that I’ve got: What bands out there today are kicking your ass? What bands do you really like today?
Heather: Ty Segall, Oh Sees.
Bobby:Midwest Beat, I like them. Great local band.
Heather: Dead Luke.
Bobby: He’s got another new record coming out, which is good. I like The Lonesome Savages. They’re really fun. They don’t play out of town too much. That’s okay. There’s a lotta great bands out there. Useless Eaters…
Heather: I know I’m forgetting some…