As long as you believe you won’t die, you come back to life.
The Hiss: invincible zombie rock warriors, good-time party dudes from beyond the grave. This shit could make the (un)dead dance.
First off, let’s drop some names. The Strokes. The Vines. The Datsuns. The Hiss sound like none of these bands, but as they play guitars, they do sound like them. Oh come on, you don’t want me to think of something original? Damn, this is a hard job.
The Hiss are from Atlanta, Georgia, the state home to Ludacris, OutKast and Bubba Sparxxx. That’s right homeboy, the dirty south. An American rock band not from Detroit or NYC? They must be pretty good if they can get themselves noticed when all the A&R men in the world are taking one-way flights to JFK. Well, yes. So pay attention.
The band are: frontman Adrian (who is soft of voice and even softer of manner), guitarist Ian (who says nothing but makes a lot of noise with his Gibson Firebird), bassist Mahjuala (who pulls a cool rock chick pose as well as anyone) and drummer Todd. The drummer wishes he had less musical responsibility: “I envy bassists. They can just get wasted and play swaying around, and people go, ‘hey, listen to the groove, man’. But when I get drunk I can’t play, something goes wrong with my arms – they really hurt. [Clutching pint]. So I have to wait until after the show. [Checks watch]. Shit, two hours ’til we go on…”
The seeds of the band were only sown in September 2001, when Adrian recorded some demos with Todd, so it’s been a brisk rise from Atlanta obscurity to hotly-tipped rock wunderkinder. As Adrian says, “It’s really encouraging! For a long time the music scene in Atlanta was a shambles, everyone was in their own world doing their own thing, but now it seems it’s coming together a lot more.”
No doubt the monthly club night the band organise has helped this, but a similar rock renaissance does seemed to have occurred independently all across the States, and Adrian cites Kings of Leon and The Warlocks as fellow Americans to look out for, as well as touring partners, bluesy rockers The Sights.
“Good music to me is when you can listen to something over and over and still find something new,” explains Adrian. “The whole thing about being in this band is to make something that wasn’t there before, surprise some people. It’s these surprises that make it interesting.” So what is it that The Hiss bring to our currently overstocked rock table?
Non-musical reference points seem to have pervaded their mentality to a large degree – like a lot of successful bands The Hiss have a certain knowing intelligence. Adrian admires both film-maker Alejandro Jorodowsky and writer George Pelecanos: “Personally, I’m really into surreal, psychedelic movies – they seem almost like music, there’s a kinda narrative to it, but really you’re not sure what’s going on! They take you into a new way of thinking about stuff- you could watch them a million times and get different ideas from them. And Pelecanos is a young writer from Washington, who writes really good crime novels, but the extra thing is that he links the DC underworld with time periods of important music in the city – soul, hardcore, punk.”
These influences lend a certain edge to The Hiss’ basically straightforward rock ‘n’ roll music. The seemingly fun-time choruses draw you in, and then you notice you’ve reached quite a strange place. It’s like watching an episode of Neighbours and suddenly being struck out of your lethargy by the realisation that Harold Bishop is rampaging through Ramsey Street with a bloody axe.
The movie theme is especially evident in the single “Triumph”, which is inspired by a cult zombie film in which a group of characters find nothing can kill them, so decide to go on a rampage through their town. “I love the whole idea of destroying these concepts, things which seem to be set in stone, like ‘when you die, you’re gone’. This movie says no, that’s not the way it works. Imagine…what would it actually be like to be able to go around doing whatever you want?”
Judging from recent photographic evidence, The Hiss’ idea of doing what they want is getting wasted with famous rock stars, and who can blame them? As soon as the tour’s over they’ll be holed up in a country studio recording their debut album, where their nearest town will be Milton Keynes. It’s only fair they enjoy themselves while they have the chance.