Twenty-four-year-old singer Annie Hardy could be the cute little unassuming waif next door … that is, if that cute little unassuming waif next door chain-smoked, dished out sarcastic comments at all turns and cursed like a crass sailor.
Case in point, on the fairly innocuous topic of songwriting: “Songwriting is like going to the bathroom,” the Giant Drag frontwoman said. “Sometimes I get backed up and I need a little soul bran to get it flowing again.”
Having released their noise-rock debut earlier this fall, the sardonically titled Hearts & Unicorns (cutesy little-girl topics are an anathema to Hardy), the songs — a mix of alt-pop, swirling dirty distortion, thunderous drums and dreamy guitars — have definitely been flowing.
But the here and now are foremost on the bandmembers’ minds, especially the soul-crushing nature of touring, as something always seems to go wrong. “This has been the disaster tour,” Hardy said. “We lost a bunch of stuff, a microphone got lost, a guitar strap, we broke a snare. There’s so many things that have gone wrong.”
While things might be difficult at the moment, Giant Drag began auspiciously with a residency at the Silverlake Lounge — a Los Angeles hipster hot spot proven to be highly valuable to Angelinos looking to further their indie-rock careers (Elliott Smith would play unannounced shows there before his death). The group was formed in 2002 by singer/guitarist Hardy and keyboardist/drummer Micah Calabrese, who were urged to meet by Hardy’s mom, Calabrese’s co-worker. Annie, however, didn’t take her mother’s suggestion seriously. “I thought, ‘Oh god, I hope I don’t meet him,’ ” Hardy said. “I just pictured him to be a member of Creed with leather pants and chest hair. And he thought that I was like Jewel or something.”
The twosome finally met through mutual acquaintances, became friends and eventually started jamming. Calabrese had learned so many of Hardy’s songs for her demos that she finally just convinced him to join her full time. A month later they were playing their first shows at the Silverlake Lounge.
But the duo never envisioned themselves as a White Stripes-like two-piece. Calabrese came upon their sound by joking around and trying to play drums and synthesizer at the same time — but somehow he succeeded. “I was like, ‘Wait, keep going, that works!’ And he developed a formula for playing both at the same time. He’s kinda like a robot,” Hardy said.
Though it wasn’t the game plan, a duo proved to be advantageous, both practically and musically. “We were gonna get a bass player, but after that we were like, ‘F— it, this is way easier.’ There’s only two people to call to practice and to write the songs. We write songs at an extremely rapid pace. I bring [a new song] to practice and it’s finished in like 20 minutes and ready to play at a show the next day.”
Sporting a confluence of classic ’90s indie-rock hallmarks — the guitar fuzz of My Bloody Valentine, the reedy, girly vocals of Juliana Hatfield and the anthemic rock hooks of the Breeders and Liz Phair — Giant Drag have been hailed by the British press as one of the year’s best new bands. Hardy and Calabrese, though, aren’t exactly pleased. “They’re calling us ‘nü-grunge,’ ” Hardy moaned incredulously. “I think that’s the stupidest new genre that anyone could come up with. It’s embarrassing because it reminds me of ‘nü-metal,’ and that’s not good.”
But there’s at least one Brit Hardy is happy with: Daniel Radcliffe, the teen who plays Harry Potter. The actor has heard so much about Giant Drag that he personally asked to get a copy of their album from an MTV News staff writer who was interviewing him about “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (see “Harry Potter: No More Child’s Play” ).
“I think that’s awesome. F—ing Harry Potter, dude!” Hardy exclaimed. “I hear there’s a Web site for the countdown till he’s 18, like the Olsen twins site. It sounds fairly disturbing. I hope Harry Potter digs us. That rules.”
Apart from railing against the glut of “sh—y disco post-punk bands” and whatever else crosses her mind, Hardy realizes holding her tongue has never been a strong suit for her. “I’ve had that problem all my life, but I also like joking around,” she said. Her twisted sense of humor has also cropped up in many of Giant Drag’s songs, including “Kevin Is Gay” and “YFLMD” — a title seemingly taken from Sarah Silverman’s act and which stands for “you f— like my dad.”
“The song titles were just created to make Micah laugh at band practice and they’d stick. I told Micah about ‘YFLMD’ and he was like, ‘Oh god!’ My dad gave me a ride to the airport the other day and he said, ‘Every article mentions “YFLMD,” thanks a lot.’ “