HHRRIISSTT is punk rock gone wrong in all the right ways. The recently born fivesome completed a blistering eight-song set earlier this month at the Triple Rock Social Club, and afterward we're standing in a circle behind the club enjoying some post-show cigarettes underneath a threatening sky.
Vocalist Jacob Laqua seems relatively calm now after spilling his guts all over the stage, but the confrontational energy of his live performance still hangs in the air. At times he stood with his back to the audience, then -- without warning -- he'd spin around and approach crowd members individually, screaming menacingly into the mic and directly into their faces.
That's apropos of a band calling itself HHRRIISST, a word related to Old Norse "hrista," meaning "shake, quake," and pronounced like Stewie Griffin saying "wrist." The newish group -- which counts a hardcore lifer, a lapsed Christian rocker, and a former band geek among its members -- will celebrate the release of their eponymous debut album May 31 at the Triple Rock.
"Most of the songs are about breakdowns in communication that happen between people who don't know how to be rational about conflicts in their lives," Laqua says. Though his voice is mostly drowned and distorted by effects, the message is palpable. In "Love Is a Weak Word," it only takes three lines to convey the song's whole message: "Love is the weakest word/It's like a prayer/It's fucking useless."
"It's not about the idea of love itself, it's about the word 'love,' and how you can use it to take the place of the action," he explains.
HHRRIISSTT was formed last fall by lead guitarist Jeffrey Truckenmiller and drummer Brendt Dondero, his rommate. The two recorded some iPhone demos they sent over to Laqua, who agreed to do vocals and add electronics. Then Truckenmiller invited Ex Nuns bandmate Joram Livengood into the mix. When Greg Baker joined in on bass, the lineup was complete.
"When we started this band we all kind of liked the same type of music but had different backgrounds, and every individual member brings their certain background of what music they like to play," Dondero says. "It makes it something unique."
He's right about that. At times during their Triple Rock gig it felt like listening to some kind of thrash/hardcore video game, as Laqua seamlessly blended elements of harsh noise into the live instrumentation. The songs were driving, dystopian. There were celestial breaks in the onslaught of sound, in which the vocals became more melodic. Every dark space was filled entirely.
"I'm excited for the live energy and the noise and the dissonance, and I hope it sounds really angry and very scary," says Truckenmiller, who has played in hardcore bands since his teenage years in South Dakota. "I mean, I try to make our music as angry as possible, because that's just how I feel. This world is a very scary, angry place."
In contrast, Dondero hadn't even been to a hardcore show until his bandmates took him to see California band Retox at the Hexagon Bar last year. "It blew my mind," he recalls. "I was like, what the fuck did I just see? That was amazing!" As a teen, Dondero was inspired to begin drumming by Dave Grohl's performance on Queens of the Stone Age's 2002 classic Songs for the Deaf, which the band vehemently agrees is one of the best albums ever made.
Livengood started his guitar career in a Christian rock band. "It was bad," he says. "We did what we could." He's spent the past three years playing bass in Ex Nuns, and hadn't played guitar for some time before joining HHRRIISSTT.
"When we started doing this, the idea for my parts that I had in my head were to be reminiscent of this hardcore band called the Banner," Livengood says. "They're a really dark punk-hardcore band, and they have these lead parts that are really slow and ethereal." He applied those ideas to writing the new album.
Baker began playing bass in his school's jazz program. "Once you get older, and go to respectable cities, you actually have to be really good at jazz," he says, laughing ruefully. He played in various punk and metal bands during high school, then found hardcore and noise music. Baker was a fan of Laqua's band Wage Theft and asked him to record his black metal band's demo. Thus, their friendship was born.
"It's a very small community," Baker says of the Minneapolis experimental music scene. "But there's very many different small cliques of people that integrate from realm to realm. There's a great noise community, but it's like 20 of us. And then there's, like, the metal dudes, and then there's all the crusty punk rockers who like either shitty crust bands or for some reason really love pop punk. Minneapolis punks love pop punk."
HHRRIISSTT is a breath of fresh air to the local punk scene, and an apparent bridge between several communities because of their inclusion of so many musical influences. Maybe they can scream the scene toward continuity.
HHRRIISSTT play an album-release show at the Triple Rock Social Club on Sunday, May 31; 612-333-7399