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Interview: The Hard Aches

Ahead of their new album ‘Mess’ releasing on April 13, and a national tour throughout April, we had a chat with Ben from The Hard Aches. He filled us in on what the band have been up to for the past twelve months, what we can expect from the upcoming tour and the importance of breaking down the stigma and talking openly and positively about mental health, which is a major theme throughout this album.

How are you?

Ben: Yeah good, just enjoying the sun with my dogs.

What kind of dogs do you have?

Ben: I’ve got a Staffy cross Ridgeback and a Huntaway cross Border Collie. I think they want to be involved in the interview.

I mean they’re more than welcome to join in.

Ben: I don’t think they’re the biggest fans of the band though because it always takes me away from them. So I think they’d prefer that the band didn’t exist.

Yeah that makes sense. Where do they dogs stay while you’re on tour?

Ben: They normally stay at home and either my partner will look after them, or someone is normally happy to come and house/puppy sit. There’s not a lot of people that knock back looking after two beautiful dogs.

That’s very true. I suppose we should actually talk about music now. Congratulations on the album, it’s getting super close to the release now!

Ben: Yeah three weeks to go, which is very exciting. This is where it all starts to feel real. Until now it’s felt like a bit of a pipe dream I guess because it’s like ok we made this thing and we’ll pick a date in the future to make it come out by; and now it’s finally happening. We’re so pumped to share it with everyone. It’s definitely the best record we’ve ever made and the best representation of the band. I feel like we’ve really come into where we want to be; song writing, content and production wise. Everything that we planned worked out the way we wanted to, which is such a nice feeling. And now we get to share that with everyone else.

That’s really nice to hear that it all worked out so well for you guys. How long did you actually work on the record for?

Ben: Well we’re kind of always writing and demoing, and just working on stuff in general, but most of these songs were written over the 12 months before we went into the studio in September. I guess realistically we’ve been working towards this since we started as a band. It’s the sound we’ve been hoping to achieve, and all the records up until now, we’ve really been experimenting with stuff. This was the first album we’ve come into knowing what we wanted to do with it and knowing exactly how we wanted it to sound, and we managed to pull it off.

What else did you get up to over the past year, or was it all just writing?

Ben: We actually pretty much spent last year, the year before that and the year before that on the road, so at the moment this is the longest time we’ve had without being on the road. Though even saying that we still did a run of four shows at the start of the year. So the last six months we’ve really just been enjoying not being tour. It’s nice to be able to get back into a somewhat normal life; just being able to sit at home and play guitar is so nice. And not being away all the time is such a nice feeling too, because you don’t really get enough of an opportunity to sit down for a period of time to work on new material.

Alex still lives in Adelaide and I live in Melbourne now, so we don’t get as much tie to actually sit down together and work on material as much as we used to, but that’s actually worked out really well. It’s a different dynamic now. I’ll write and send Alex what I’ve done, and we’ll catch up every so often when we get the chance to work on those ideas.

I didn’t realise you were living in Melbourne, I thought you were still both Adelaide based. So how did that work when it actually came time to record and go into the studio?

Ben: From the productive side of things I actually think this has worked out better, because you have a certain block of time to get things done. It’s kind of like, we’ll have a certain block of time together to finish something, or then we’d have studio time booked for a block amount of time, so there was no fucking around with ideas or anything, which worked really well for us. Deadlines are a good thing to have I think, and that’s what we tried to give ourselves when we were recording the album.

But we spend a bit over a month recording and mixing the record in Melbourne at a studio called Holes and Corners, which was so much fun. Everything about the process felt right and really organic.

The album has quite a strong focus on mental health doesn’t it?

Ben: It does. It’s something that we’ve always touched on in our music, and for me personally, my songs are reflections of my own experiences. Up until this point they’ve very heavily been based on my own experiences; wherever I am in my own little world when I’m writing. This was the first album where I wanted to go past the theme of me being ‘woe is me ‘and writing about my own bullshit, and take it to a new level and write about the same stuff but in more of a positive light. It’s something that’s been really important to us; mental health is just something that is so prominent and it will always be there. I probably couldn’t think of anyone I know that hasn’t been affected by it either personally or by someone close to them. It’s something that is really real, and there is still this unnecessary stigma behind it. I wanted to do a record where I could take inspiration from the people around me and what they were facing in their own lives. I wanted to take that and put into a tiny package that says “sometimes things can be pretty shitty, but things can be better and things can be ok”. There doesn’t need to be a negative stigma surrounding mental health and it doesn’t need to be seen as a weakness. We’re trying to take a step in the direction of breaking that stigma, and letting people know that it’s ok to feel shit and it’s definitely ok to ask for help. I feel like Australia has this “you’ll be right” attitude, which is essentially sweeping things under the rug. I think the conversation is there ready to be had, and from my own experience I think people are becoming a lot more comfortable with the topic and I think the stigma is slowly being broken. But in this album we’re trying to make it more of a positive than a negative.

That’s such an interesting way to go about it. It’s really nice to hear that you’re trying to shine light on such an important issue in a positive way like that. And you guys have a tour coming up too, are you mostly going to be playing new stuff or will it be more of a mix of everything?

Ben: It’s probably going to be about 40% new songs, 60% older stuff. We’ve done a fair few releases now, so we have quite a big back catalogue of songs to choose from. The record comes out on the day of the first show, so we didn’t just want to play all twelve songs from the record; no one really wants to hear that. We want to give a bit of everything, so we’ll play some songs that we haven’t put in a live set before, along with some new ones.

The Hard Aches Live Dates

Corner Hotel, Melbourne
The Gov, Adelaide
Transit Bar, Canberra
The Cambridge, Newcastle
Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney
The Zoo, Brisbane
Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth

Written by Emily Mathison