Ex Hex, the uncompromising rockers proving guitar music is doing just fine
Ex Hex are BACK, it’s been a long five years since the experienced three-piece shared their first release with the world and as they get ready to unleash their hook filled, anthemic follow-up to 2014’s old school rock debut Rips, Betsy Wright from the group spoke with Far Out and let us know what the last five years has been like in camp Ex Hex.
The band, made up of Betsy Wright, Mary Timony and Laura Harris, have all ‘been around the block’, so to speak, working with a world of cult acts with vocalist Mary Timony making her breakthrough all the way back in 1990 with Autoclave before fronting Helium and has been a huge part of the D.C. scene for the last thirty years.
This idea of community and mixing up who you work with is an integral part of what makes Ex Hex, what they are today and how you can learn from fraying outside of your comfort zone, Betsy explains: “To stay inspired and keep growing as a musician you have to play with new people and always be trying new things – new instruments, new approaches to song-writing, new covers, new ways of singing and thinking about music,” she told Far Out Magazine. “It’s great to play with different musicians – you can learn so much – especially playing with people who have different skills than you.”
One collaborator who they’ve gone back to work with Jonah Takagi who, coincidentally, is Timony’s partner. Takagi also helped produce the band’s debut and Wright was full of admiration for the designer turned producer: “Jonah is a really great arranger of songs – especially the drum parts. He helped make really detailed demos of the songs and mapped everything else before we actually went in the studio.”
The seismic rock that Ex Hex beautifully cook up, she says, is influenced by the likes of Def Leppard’s Hysteria, YES, 80s Heart and even Toto… and explained to me that the band consciously wanted “to write songs that were more expansive for this record”. These may seem like rather left-field or ‘un-cool’ influences but that huge 80s feelgood sound is one thing that you can clearly hear on a track like ‘Tough Enough’ which feels like it’s straight from the soundtrack of a classic coming of age flick from that era.
It’s Real was clearly an effort that required a lot of time and heart poured into it, a factor that certainly which comes across from listening to the record. Betsy opened up to us about what the last five years have been like for the three-piece since their last full-length release and they’ve kept themselves busy, to say the least: “We worked for a long time on writing and arranging songs for the new record,” she said. “We’ve all been working on various musical projects on our own as well.”
“Mary toured in the US around Matador’s reissue of the Helium records. I made a record with Drummer Laura King (Bat Fangs) on Don Giovanni records and toured a lot last year around that release. Laura toured a lot with the LA band the Death Valley Girls as their drummer.”
Touring, you can tell, is embedded in the DNA of all three members of this unique band and that is just judging by how they spent their time off away from the group. But make no mistake about it, touring relentlessly is a tough gig, it does take its toll despite decades of doing so: “Life on tour can be pretty exhausting,” Betsy explains with a moment of reflection. “You definitely do get used to the sleep deprivation as the weeks go on and learn how to function in that state. The hour onstage every night makes all the traveling and uncomfortable conditions worth it somehow.”
If you’ve got a ticket for their tour around the British Isles this May, it’s time to get even more excited because their show has got even bigger ahead as Betsy excitedly exclaims in genuine excitement: “We now have dual guitar action! I’ve moved to guitar and we have added a bass player. Expect more fire and more rock power!”
The guitar is integral to their sound, which has become a rarer thing to type nowadays with it no longer being the behemoth in popular culture that it once was but that has seen the growth of underground DIY artists and Betsy doesn’t think it’s going anywhere: “People are still playing tons of guitar even if it might be under the radar.”
“Playing the guitar is so immediate, you don’t need lots of guitar or computer stuff so hopefully, it’ll continue to be a good outlet for people to express themselves. It’s an awesome way to tap into the infinite power of the universe!“
She’s absolutely right, of course, and if you think guitar music is up shit creek at the minute then stop what you’re doing and give It’s Real a listen right this moment as Ex Hex are here to show rock is still alive and firmly kicking, as strong as ever.
Don’t forget to catch one of their show’s this April if you like what you hear, check out their dates below:
May 24 – Brudenell Social Club, LEEDS May 25 – Deaf Institute, MANCHESTER May 27 – The Exchange, BRISTOL May 28 – Village Underground, LONDON
It’s Real has been released today and available to stream, here: