When it comes to blistering indie rock with fuzzy, punky, and brilliant edges, Washington, D.C., has given birth to many a great band. Whether you're a fan of the Dischord Records sound — Fugazi, Bluetip, Minor Threat, et al. — there's no denying that some of the most interesting guitar sounds have come from our nation’s capital, and Ex Hex, visiting Phoenix on Saturday, April 27, is no exception.
Led by guitarists Mary Timony and Betsy Wright (who also plays quite a bit of bass on the band’s recordings) and drummer Laura Harris, Ex Hex absolutely delivers the goods on their latest record, It’s Real, released by Merge Records last month. Timony is best known for her work with early band Helium and more recently Wild Flag, which featured Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Portlandia fame.
After three weeks on the road, Phoenix New Times caught up with Timony by phone before Ex Hex’s April 18 show in Portland.
New Times: Tell me about your band mates.
Mary Timony: We have a lot of fun. We have pretty similar personalities and we laugh a lot. We worked really hard on these songs. It’s fun to play them, and the way we're touring now, we’re not burning ourselves out. Things are a little bit easier this record cycle. With the last record cycle, we worked harder and toured a little bit too much and we got a little burned out. Everything's pretty good right now.
You’ve been doing this for almost 30 years now, so what do you wish you knew then that you know now?
I was never bad at taking care of myself. I was thinking more about how to put on a rock show or about being in a band. I think I was actually better at taking care of myself when I was younger. I've learned to have fun I guess, and not be so miserable all the time. My 20s were not the most fun, really; I was always depressed and anxious. Now, I've just figured that part of life out a little bit more.
Your guitar tone is very different with Ex Hex. How much of that was a conscious decision about figuring out a sound for a new band?
I think when I got to be like in my mid-30s, I just got kind of tired of making music from all of my angst and I felt less angry. When I came back to music, I was approaching it more as just a craft, rather than a diary entry for something and just trying to write songs that I thought were catchy.
I started playing guitar with standard tuning and playing power cords. I never did that in my 20s because I just had a different ... my own style, which is good, too. I mean, maybe that's better. I don't know. It's just different. I'm just doing a different thing now. It's a lot more normal.
Was it a difficult transition to change things up?
Yeah, it was very weird at first. It took a lot of getting used to. Now it feels more normal, but with the first Ex Hex record, I never played that many power chords before. Helium was always kind of noodly stuff. My right hand was always stiff.
So, what’s next for Ex Hex?
We’re going to Europe for a couple of weeks, then we have various small tours over the summer. I’m sure we will do another U.S. tour and hopefully we’ll make it Australia. I did it one time before when I was in Wild Flag, but hopefully we’ll get Ex Hex over there this year.