The Real Numbers' Eli Hansen: We didn't get any forms to play at SXSW
Shortly before the Real Numbers were heading in to record Only Two Can Play, original drummer Matt Allen moved to Memphis. Lesser acts would have called it a day or rescheduled, but the Real Numbers were ready to put their new songs down on wax anyway. They recruited Tony Milek to the band, but he was still learning the songs when they hit A Harder Commune Studio. As such, studio owner Matt Castore (Condominium) pulled double duty, both recording and playing skins on the record as Milek honed his chops at their live shows.
The group, rounded out by singer/guitarist Eli Hansen and bassist Johnny Eggerman, play oldies-inspired rock with a DIY punked-up feel that blends lush melodies, clean tones, and a subtle but evident nervous energy.
Gimme Noise caught up with Hansen in preparation for Friday's release show at the Hexagon to ask about his influences, his guitar, and what the band expects to happen when they hit SXSW later this month. The record is streaming now on their bandcamp page.
Real Numbers planning 7" release show
Gimme Noise: Given the choice, how do you describe the band's sound?
Eli Hansen: I suppose it depends on who's asking. Sometimes I describe us as sounding like the Times and the Television Personalities and other times I've been known to say we sound like the Ramones. To hardcore nerd folk I might go real deep and say Wasteland, the Wimps, and the Performing Ferret Band. But to avoid all that business I usually just say "punk" and then get them some of our recordings so they can judge for themselves.
There's definitely a classic sound at the heart of the band. Do you listen to much new music or do you prefer the oldies?
Definitely the oldies. In addition to the UK DIY stuff already mentioned, I also really enjoy '60s surf, psych and bubblegum, '70s glam, C86, as well as more actual oldies like the Five Discs and Bo Diddley. When the band first got together in '06 I listened to more new music but that's been gradually waning ever since.
Something I notice that separates Real Numbers from a lot of current bands playing in the garage/mod/pop arena is that you don't do nearly as much harmonizing or group vocals, really utilizing leads for the most part. It also gives the band a more minimal, softer sound. Is there a reason you chose this route?
Lack of ability, I guess. I really like harmonies and wish we could do more of it so we could sound more like the Who. The new 12" does have some harmonizing on "This Time He's Gone Too Far" and "Ordeal."
You get some really nice tones on the record (I'm especially referencing the surfy part in "Only Two Can Play"). What equipment do you use, and how long did you search for something to get this sound?
Thanks! While our sound has changed quite a bit since the early days, I've actually always used the same guitar and amp: A Hagstrom I and a '70s Music Man 112. For the surfy lead: reverb tank. I think it's an Ampeg but it doesn't have a logo so I'm not 100 percent sure. I guess I used a Kalamazoo for the rhythm parts on the "Tear It in Two" single but its single-coil jangle is probably indistinguishable from the Hagstrom.
The guitar tones just kind of evolved organically over the years, moving from a dirtier to a cleaner sound.
You're heading down to SXSW. Is this your first time there?
I used to go every year just to see friends and drink a ton of Lone Star but this'll be my first time performing. The last one I attended was when Guitar Wolf played Beerland and was one of Bass Wolf's last shows. Oh man...that was 2005.
Are you on an official show or party crashing?
I don't think any of our shows are official because there's some form you have to fill out or something, and we didn't get any forms. To us it doesn't really matter as long as people show up and there's beer to drink. Thinking back to 2005 I don't think any of the shows I went to were official.
The Sleaze are playing with you on Friday. How did you get them on the bill? What is their status these days?
They're playing SXSW too, so they were going to do one local show beforehand anyway. It was just a matter of making them play this show in particular. Their officially-broken-up status has remained unchanged since the last show in 2010 (coincidentally that was also our first 12" release show). Since then they've done two reunion shows -- well, actually three but we're not counting that one. This will supposedly be the last one. The remainder of their recorded material is coming out soon as a 12" on Total Punk Records. The Sleaze got pretty damn prolific after they broke up.
The Real Numbers. With the Sleaze, Is/Is, and Mystery Date at Hexagon Bar. Friday, March 8, 21+.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.