Monday, 15 August 2011

WE MADE A MESS AND WE'RE NOT SORRY - An art lesson with brother and sister duo Hysterical Injury

It’s a rainy day. The music journalist is listening to Mambo Taxi, Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth on U Tube; remembers Huggy Bear, reads some reviews; hears about Never Mind the Bollocks: Women Rewrite Rock by Amy Raphael (published in the U.S. as Grrrls: Viva Rock Divas) and the book Frock Rock: Women Performing Popular Music, a sociological study of women musicians in British popular music. Eventually the name of Delia Sparrow (Mambo Taxi, Ye Nuns, with the notable female guitarist Debbie Smith ) crops up, which leads to the mention of one ANNI GARDINER, singer/songwriter and bass player of brother and sister duo Hysterical Injury.

Music journalist locates “Three” by Hysterical Injury ON U TUBE. Presses play. Press play now:

Oh yes! High energy, noisy bass, driving drums and slick and clever video -  no satisfaction of “the gaze” ( only singer/songwriter and bass player Anni's legs and feet tap, tap, tapping. Listen to this or the bass in “Labyrinth”, BEFORE you ask the question, “How can it be a proper band with just a bass player and drummer?”

Music Journalist meets Hysterical Injury. (How could she not.)

Anni Gardiner: singer, songwriter, bass player of Hysterical Injury, artist, mother. Open, active, intelligent, beautiful, a prodigious laugh; can say words like “fuck” and it doesn’t sound gratuitous, lazy or coarse.
Tom Gardiner: drummer, runner, adapting fast to the intensity that has to be maintained when playing for Hysterical Injury; a subtle laid back man, who makes his sister laugh.
Music journalist: excitable, loud mouthed, determined, mother.

It goes something like this: Note it is meant to be fast and slows down after four minutes - not to be missed!

And ends up like this:

Anni has a big stack! She likes lots of amps, power. Once it took a small village hall in Wales sixteen seconds of “Snow” to realise that they didn’t think Hysterical Injury was for them.
   “Can you turn it down, dear?” the promoter asked. Anni was happier to pack up, turn around and go home rather than turn down her bass.

Anni and Tom were raised in a tiny village in Wales. One day she was moaning about being bored and her Dad gave her a bass. Musical influences came from their parent’s record collection. Later Anni’s own preferences, which are on going: the layers and language of Throwing Muses; the noise and rhythms of Sonic Youth and in particular Kim Gordon; the depth and drive of Fugazi (even) have been dragged in to the sibling’s own time and place, own ideas and emotions. The reason Hysterical Injury are going to be massive is because people are more open to bands like HI, because of those “who went before”.
   Anni Gardener’s clear, pop vocal melodies rise about the beautiful bass noise in the way I always wanted it to happen for The Faith Healers.  There is an edge and humour, which P. J. Harvey promises in her images and song titles, but not the sound…

Speaking of Influences
There is a tradition in alternative indie/rock/dance music to be proud of right now: the drive to record and distribute music yourself, nowadays via the Internet, gig regularly, as a means of a living; stay sober (except for the parties); there is also a Riot Grrrl legacy, I am finding: you don’t have to piss in people’s suitcases or drink more than the boyz to get noticed anymore, it’s OK if there is more than one of you (writer, musician, sound engineer and so on).

Anni likes these punk inclinations, our culutural inheritence, but does not approve of reproducing tradition, in the rock and roll sense, either in terms of its swagger and and sound, or its hedonism.

   “To repeat what The Stones did, like for example The Libertines, is completely uninteresting to me,” she explains, matter of factly.

Delightful in its ambiguity and jaggedness, both funny and a nod to hysteria and manic depression, engendered by psychoanalyst Freud; and clearly so not a purely female trait.

The band has just received a generous bursary from this fantastic charity. Anyone can apply for a grant. To find out how to apply or to donate click on the following link:
   Be warned there are a lot of forms to fill out and a lot to organise before you can send it back. Anni remembers the process with horror yet in the end, the next contact from them was a request for bank account details so they could give them some money!

Anni and Tom have been working on an LP, as yet untitled, at Jim Barr’s studio, who is a regular bass player in Portishead. Expect a recorded sound with the same high energy, a bass with enormous personality, urged by Tom’s drumming – a fabulous momentum, bearing teeth, but never alienating, angry or mean.
   Tom and Anni share glances: the way siblings do when they remember arguments, disasters, exciting days out with mum and dad – or without the parents, for that matter.
   “It hasn’t been easy, for me in particular,” says Tom, grinning. “ I’ve had to get used to it. There’s an intensity that has to be maintained which can leave you quite… “(clenches teeth, growls).

Last night Anni tried out new song “Into the Cabin”. She wasn’t sure how well it would work. She produces it from her bag, screwed up. Whole lines of phrases are scrawled out, words run right to the very edge of the paper in joined-up handwriting.

“Rosetta’s Waves” is the celebration of black female blues guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe; pre Hendrix, Muddy Walters - practically pre Jesus - another, truly brilliant invisible link to female artists heritage. I love it before I’ve even heard it.

Kristen Hersh
Kristen Hersh (Throwing Muses) has unknowingly become a role model for women in the alternative, creative field, particularly musicians. Anni has read her latest book, Pardoxical Undressing ( ) and managed to talk to her for ten minutes at a book signing. It is the logistics of parenting, writing/composing and performing which drove her to overcome the embarrassment of demanding a one-to-one. There are other similarities: the understanding that language is man-made; of songs having their own sense, rather than story or meaning; of layers in every song.

The Tour
Hysterical Injury are touring this October but play random gigs all over the place all of the time anyway. See their web site for up to date details through this link:

For Anni’s top tips on other bands to see in Bristol see the opening of the video clip under the 2. BAND NAME.  She also recommends this:

The name of the second EP, which includes “Labyrinth”, “Three” and “Snow”; not difficult to understand why this was the EP which got them noticed.!/thehystericalinjury/musicAvailable on I tunes.

No doubt in my mind.

1 comment:

ngaireruth said...

Apologies to members for the three trivia edits after initial publish - do they tell you each time? Shit! And when someone posts a comment? Shit! Sorry about that. Don't withdraw your membership, please. Getting in the swing. Also wish I could make clips of the clips ... but essentially, it was a very fine, messy evening.