Basement Manners: The Hard Aches

Words by Daniel Rourke

From Courtney Barnett to the formidable Camp Cope, the Australian alternative music scene has been relentless in consistently producing incredible acts over past several years. One of the bands within that scene who are starting to gain some traction internationally are Adelaide’s The Hard Aches

Fronted by Ben David and backed by Alex Upton, The Hard Aches are a two-piece that tread the line between punk and emotional rock. It was on the release of their sophomore album, 'Mess', in which the band came into their own and produced one of the records of the year. 

Off the back of 'Mess', The Hard Aches are set to embark on their first UK tour in support of Muncie Girls, as well as playing several headliners following the tour. We sat down with Ben David on the eve of the tour to discuss the band’s journey from high school friends to being in a full-time band, the Australian alternative music scene, and much more. 

Burn After Writing: How did The Hard Aches become The Hard Aches, what’s the story behind the band?

Ben David: Alex and I had been playing in bands together for a long long time since we were little high school grommets. It just came full circle and we ended up playing in a band together that became the roots of The Hard Aches.

We were a five-piece then, and we slowly came to where we wanted to be and now here we are as a two-piece. We’ve been doing this for about five years now. It took a long time of fucking around with different ideas and working on things, and this is how it’s all fallen into place, with Alex and I steering the ship. The two of us spent a little time trying to work out how to make it not sound like there was two of us, and then it was all systems go.

BAW: How did the first few years shape the band?

BD: We’ve pretty much been a full-time touring band from the start, even to this day we spend the whole-time touring, whether that be because we feel like we’re here to do it or we just decided to spend a shitload of time on the road.

Australia is a pretty tough place to try and find your feet touring, everything is so far away from each other. That forced us to get along really well and get to know each other really well, and that helped us work out if we were going to make it as a band internally. It all worked out pretty well, I’d been doing a fair bit of touring on my own before the band, then the band came together and we just kept at it. It took a long time to get to the point at which we were playing to an audience, it didn’t happen straight away. We definitely did what they’d call the hard yard, you know, our name says it all really.

But here we are in England, finally. We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and now we’re finally doing it with Muncies.

BAW: How did you come to know Muncie Girls?

BD: Good question, we found out about them through some mutual friends who had brought some of their mutual friends to Australia. I heard their split with Great Cynics, and yeah, that kind of started the conversation. We wanted to bring a band out from the UK and we really liked Muncies, so it kind of worked out really well.

We brought them out (to Australia) last year and we put a split out with them, and now we’ve finally made our way to the UK. It’s really nice to be rocking up for a tour and you’re already best friends with the people you’re about to share a van with, we don’t have to build that friendship from scratch. It’s a really special tour, we already know we like each other not only as musicians but as people, it’s nice to be stuck in a van with people you like.

BAW: When did you realise that The Hard Aches was something to take seriously, or was the intention in starting the band: ‘this is what I want to do, and I’m going to succeed'?

BD: I think it’s a bit of both, but also neither. This is what we’ve always wanted to do, travel and play music. Once we started to do it, and started to figure out that we could do it quite easily, we just didn’t have a choice but do it all the time.

When it started to become something more serious it wasn’t intentional, it was more something that happened organically, which was kind of cool. We never tried to force it, or tried to push ourselves in a certain way. We made music the way we wanted and how we wanted, and I guess we’ve been a bit lucky, but it’s nice that it’s paid off to some sort of degree. I mean, here we are on the other side of the world, so that’s pretty fucking cool.

BAW: You’re touring the UK off the back of your recent album, 'Mess'. When you were producing that record did you ever think it could be the record that took you international?

BD: It’s been something that we’ve wanted to tick off, so I think it’s something we would have done at some time, somehow. This feels the most right though, 'Mess' is our favourite album that we’ve written and our favourite piece of art that we’ve put out into the world, so we’re stoked that we can share that.

BAW: The album features several guests including Georgia Maq from Camp Cope and Jeff Rosenstock of Bomb The Music Industry!, how did those appearances come about?

BD: We’ve known Jeff for a while, we played some shows with him back in the original version of this band. We maintained some form of a relationship with him, and our guy Sam Johnson who produced our record did a few records with Jeff. Jeff was in Australia for Poison City Weekender, and he was coming in to hang out with Sam while we happened to be making the record, one thing lead to another and then he was singing on it.

Georgia and Camp Cope have been good friends of ours since they started, some of their first shows were with us, so it made so much sense for Georgia to be doing those parts on the record. I wouldn’t want anyone else to do it.

BAW: From the outside looking in the Australian alternative/punk scene seems to be gaining more traction and constantly growing, to the point in which bands such as Camp Cope can come to the UK and sell out an entire tour…

BD: Yeah, it’s mental!

BAW: What’s the scene like from your perspective?

BD: It’s cool, we’re really lucky. We have a nationwide radio station that has started backing bands like us, Camp Cope and Violent Soho and all the bands you wouldn’t imagine hearing on the radio in the past few years. They started backing it really hard and it’s helped create this big massive scene that never existed before, this punk rock DIY scene now seems to be everywhere, it’s pushed it to a wider audience and in turn that’s caused the bands to step it up.

We’re really lucky, not everywhere has something to utilise and to help take what’s usually small and relies on word of mouth to people who aren’t associated with a certain scene or a certain band.

BAW: I’d say it’s something that’s starting to emerge here, seeing Camp Cope play the other week there was such a diverse range of people there, whether that be middle-aged and older people or kids experiencing this DIY scene for the first time. It’s something we haven’t really seen with UK bands, but it seems to be there when certain Australian bands come through.

BD: It’s something that’s invaluable, of course, it has its negatives as well as its positives, but it’s really cool that we have all these people who want to listen to bands like this. It’s really cool to see Australian bands tour overseas a lot because we’re really fucking far away from everything. [laughs]

BAW: What can people attending the Muncie Girls shows expect from your set?

BD: I think a lot of people don’t realise that we’re only two people, it’s a pretty obvious thing, but it’s something people always tend to comment on. If you listen to the records and don’t follow the band, just the songs, it’s not something that you really realise. We really pride ourselves on having a big sound for two people, it’s something we work really hard on.

I don’t know, I’d say we’ll probably talk funny, and we’re going to swear a lot more than Muncie Girls will. I don’t really know what else people can expect from out show, they’ll just have to come and experience it for themselves.

BAW: You mentioned earlier that you feel at home on this tour because you were already friends with Muncie Girls, so what are you expecting from your headline shows over here, in terms of the bands that are on your bill?

BD: We decided to leave it to the promoters, we trusted them to find people who would fit, and everyone we’ve checked out has been awesome. We’re really excited for all the shows, we get to announce our London show later this week, and the line-up for that is sick!

It’s cool to be able to do some headline shows at the end of our Muncie Girls run for our first time over here. It’s still a bit surreal, so we’ll see how they go, but I think they’re going to be great.

BAW: From a personal perspective, you cite The Clash and Billy Bragg as inspirations and influences. How do you feel about playing your first shows in the country they’re from?

BD: It’s really exciting, my dad is English, so I was brought up in a traditional English way, which included English music. It’s cool cruising around and recognising most of the towns and the landmarks from photos and songs that I’ve been seeing and listening to my entire life. It’s also cool to be hanging out in these places in which the music that influenced the world that we’re all in came from.

BAW: After this run of shows, what comes next for the band?

BD: We go back home and do a headline Australian tour pretty much straight away, I think we have a week at home and then we head off for a month. Then we fly to New Zealand and start a New Zealand and Australia tour with Frank Turner. After that, it’s pretty much the end of the year, so we’re going to take some time off before hopefully heading back over to the UK early next year.

We’re also going to focus on putting a new record together. We’re going to get back and start hitting the demos and writing pretty hard, so hopefully, we’ll have some new music and head out here with it sometime early next year.

BAW: Are you a band that prefers studio time over touring, or do you like to find a balance?

BD: Alex and I both produce and engineer records, so the studio is something that feels very comfortable for us. Unfortunately, the amount of touring we do means we don’t get to spend too much time sitting and fucking around in the studio together.

Until recently I was living in Melbourne and Alex was living in Adelaide, but I’ve moved back to Adelaide, so we can really knuckle down and work as a band to create things rather than cramming it in whenever we get a chance to jam or write. We can actually take our time with the next phase, whatever that may be, and that’s a nice feeling to have, there’s a lot less pressure.

Catch The Hard Aches on tour:

Supporting Muncie Girls -
26 The Deaf Institute, Manchester
27 The Cuban Embassy, Birmingham
28 Rock City Basement, Nottingham
29 The Think Tank – Underground, Newcastle
30 The Garage – Attic, Glasgow

01 Borderline, London
02 The Waterfront, Norwich
03 The Joiners, Southampton

Headline shows -
05 Le Pub, Newport
06 Slocken, Leeds
07 The Exchange (matinee show), Bristol
08 The Old Blue Last, London

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