Haters Club on hating, the Beatles, and surfing
Photo by Rob Sidenberg
In a music scene built around Minnesota nice, it's risky to name your band Haters Club, but the Minneapolis group is spreading their "hate" all over town. The Golden Age of Haters Club is a collection of songs that sit comfortably together, even when they shouldn't. With dynamic beats and abysmal hums, the album is brilliant, supple, and sharp.
Gimme Noise spoke with lead singer DJ Kukielka on the making of the album and band member's many projects outside of Haters Club.
Band Members: DJ Kukielka (guitar, vocals), Ted Held (guitar, vocals), Amy Bukstein (bass, vocals), Erik Siljander (drums)
What's the meaning behind the band name?
The meaning, I suppose, is pretty literal. Ted and I had known each other for a while, and we started hanging out at Bryant Lake Bowl on Sunday nights, basically drinking cheap beer and hating on stuff. At some point, Ted started calling it Haters Club. Later on, when I asked Ted and Amy if we could record a song or two together, it was the obvious choice for the new band name. Actually, I had a name in mind, but they were like, "Duh, we're Haters Club."
You say you like a "small sound." Why do you mean by this, and why do you feel this is?
I think people tend to overdo production and neglect working out parts and arranging. When I say "small," I mean that we're just a four-piece rock band. That's what you're going to hear on the recording, four people playing their parts. I didn't want to overdub keyboards, loops, synths, percussion, or get crazy with guitars. If everyone writes interesting parts instead of just doing the same thing, you can do a lot with just a few instruments.
The band has a lot of projects outside of Haters Club. How has this benefited the group, and what does each member bring musically to the table?
Everyone has a lot of experience with a lot of different projects so we're pretty versatile. I think we're able to transition from a song in 6/8 to country-punk to '60s pop pretty smoothly. Amy and Ted have a ton of experience playing together in bands, Big Ditch Road and Inwood Radio, to name a couple. I think Wizards Are Real is the first band Ted's been in that Amy isn't in, so they have a long experience of singing and playing together. Erik's got a pretty crazy musical resume. He's toured Japan with Off with Their Heads, co-founded Devil's Workshop studio, and played drums is just about every type of band. I met Erik when we both played with a country-yodeling band called Rope Trick. I met (producer) Brett Bullion recording a song for the Vic Chesnutt benefit album with Minor Kingdom. I've been really lucky to be a total knucklehead and still meet some amazing people and make music with them. I've been working really hard at writing songs for over ten years and playing with Amy, Erik and Ted has just been a really positive experience. Except for that one day Ted yelled at me.
When I first read the title "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This," I thought it was a cover of the Eurythmics. Why do you describe it as a Beatles song as if written by Lewis Carroll?
As far as the Eurythmics go, I just wanted to give the song a dumb, wordy title. When we were recording the song, Brett Bullion said something about it reminding him of Alice in Wonderland. I tried to be slightly lyrically subversive because the song sounds so sweet. There's a little dark side to it, depending on your perspective. To me, it always felt kind of Rubber Soul-era Beatles, in the nerdy Paul sort of way.
Why do you feel you identify musically so much with the Beatles?
What I've really come to love about the Beatles, and the Beach Boys for that matter, are the harmonies and the musical complexity. Nobody in popular music, other than maybe Radiohead, changes keys or jumps from major to minor like those guys. In the early sixties they were using crazy seventh chords that you don't really hear anymore. The Beatles were doing weird stuff, like covering showtunes ("Till There Was You") on early records. I hate that people are so scared to play covers. Covers are fun. Not everybody needs to be the most serious artist of all time. As far as musicianship and writing, look at the complexity of the seemingly simple Beach Boys' "Warmth of the Sun," which has around 20 different chords and an amazing melody. More chords doesn't equal a better song, necessarily, but when I listen to something as boring as any Mumford and Sons song, I get frustrated about the level of musicianship in modern pop. For the record, I'm a Paul guy.
What does "Mal Pais" mean, and what went into the writing of this song?
Mal Pais is a small surfing town on the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica. It means "bad country" because it was difficult to access and for a long time it was pretty remote. I was doing some teaching and traveling with my wife and we ended up staying there for five days or so. It's a little surfing mecca, but a hurricane was coming through and the waves were terrible, so I put up some post on Facebook about it. Adam Svec, a friend with whom we share a rehearsal space, posted a comment and said I should write a song about it, so I did. So the first verse is about surfing (something I'm absolutely in love with). The second verse is about the Romeria that takes place near San Jose, where two million people walk from San Jose to Cartago over a few days time, day and night, to pray at this particular church to a 400 year old Virgin Mary (a doll, of sorts). It's a pretty wild scene.
Any favorite tracks off the new album?
I can't say I have a favorite, but I don't think we sound any better than we do on "Serious Boy," which I would have chosen to be the single, but it's over five minutes, so I thought "Mal Pais" would be better. I wrote "Serious" when I was totally nuts for Panda Bear's "Person Pitch." The outro really shows that, I think.
Any plans for a full-length soon?
There is a lot of crazy life stuff happening in Haters right now, so we're going to take a little time away from the project. Three members each have a kid on the way. Crazy, but I do hope to record a single later this year that I think people will go wild for. I would love to do a video with the single too, so be on the lookout for that this winter.
What can we expect at the CD release show?
There's going to be a great community of people playing, everybody's connected somehow. Inwood Radio is a band that Ted, Amy, and Ben (Amy's husband) have played in, off and on, for years with, and they're a great modern rock group. Aldine is a new folk project that my friend and former bandmate, Chris Tures (formerly with Dragons Power Up!) formed with some of his friends. They've got some great songs to sing along to. National Bird is going to round out the night with their pretty epic rock tunes. I met them through Ted and Brian from Wizards Are Real. Kris used to even be around at the old pre-band Haters Club nights. Should be a real fun time. No serious people, please.
Haters Club will release The Golden Age of Haters Club with Inwood Radio, Aldine, and National Bird at the Kitty Cat Klub on Saturday, October 6, 2012.
21+, $5, 9 pm
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