Local Artist Spotlight and Album Premiere: Hardly Boys Embrace Friendship Punk with Dear Diarrhea

Local Artist Spotlight, Local Music, KEXP Premiere
Dusty Henry

Every week, KEXP features a new local artist with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. This week, we’re featuring punk outfit Hardly Boys, who release their latest record Dear Diarrhea this Friday on Make Fart Records. You can stream the whole album in full ahead of its release at the bottom of this article.

If you can't already tell, Hardly Boys are hardly without their sense of humor. Beginning with their Hot Mullet demos through Hardly Boys II Men and Tit Punch, the Seattle quartet has always embraced comedy with their music. On Dear Diarrhea, they're both at their funniest and pull off some of their sharpest songwriting yet. The songs on the record veer from daydreams of getting high on a house boat ("House Boat") to anti-fascist anthems ("(((Alt-Right))) Punks Fuck Off"). It zips by under 20 minutes, each song feeling like a rapid-fire stand-up set with bright, undeniable hooks. We caught up with members Miranda Hardy and Zeke Bender to learn about the band's origins, their relationship with comedy, and the punkest qualities of friendship.How did Hardly Boys start out? From what I understand, you all go to college locally? Where did you meet?

Miranda Hardy: We all went to the high school together (except Zeke). We started Hardly Boys at Holy Names, an all girls Catholic high school, and then senior and junior year just kind of picked up Zeke along the way. We actually spend most of the year in different places – I go to college in Boston, Emma and Zeke are in Seattle, and Anna goes to school in Chicago.

When did you start working on the songs that would end up on your new album, Dear Diarrhea?

Hardy: So, some of these songs came from when we were still in high school. Like "Antoinette" is based off of a book that Emma read senior year called Wide Sargasso Sea. "House Boat" is the most recent song. It was written, as we like to say, in the studio (even though we didn't record in a studio, we recorded in a practice space and it was actually written at Zeke’s – we just wrote it while recording). We didn't really write specifically for the album, it's kind of just a compilation of songs that came together because we felt like we wanted to make an album and we had all these songs. They go together because they're all Hardly Boys songs but we didn't like plan it for the record.

I'd love to hear about the title Dear Diarrhea. You always have such great album titles, from Tit Punch to Hardly Boys II Men. What led to you choosing Dear Diarrhea to enter that pantheon of great names?

Zeek Bender: We thought it was funny – we love body humor.

Hardy: We really just thought of a lot of stupid puns and that one stood out to us. Emma and I had like a huge list and that one just really stood out to us, it really boils our essence down to two words. When Emma and I thought of it, we called Zeke. [We] didn’t even put it up to a vote,  it was really an executive decision

You've previously described yourselves as being a "friendship punk" band. What are some of the most punk qualities of friendship and how do you translate them to your music?

Hardy: Robin Edwards (Lisa Prank) actually dubbed us “friendship punk” in a write up for The Stranger and it just kind of stuck. It's funny and like it. Doesn't mean anything, but it also makes sense. The most punk aspect of friendship is accountability! Support and respect are also really important. We work these aspect into our music because everyone in the band has their own voice. We all write and bring songs to the band, then work on them together so there is a real aspect of autonomy but also cooperation.

One of the things that's so great about this new record is your wit, but also how it digs into a lot of modern day anxieties like on "Low Power Mode" where you're hoping to become friend with someone "not just on the Internet." Was humor always a foundation for the band? Do you find it ever helps you process real life #feelings in your music?

Hardy: So first off yes, humor is like everything in our music. We like to say that we're 90% comedy 10% music because that's just like how we write. I definitely think that it helps us process things and discuss things/issues that it can be hard to talk about. Like "Low Power Mode" is a great example of that because it's about feeling alienated by technology but it’s also this ridiculous '80s bop.

Bender: My only goal in life is to be funny.

Hardy: Yeah, Zeke really likes Weird Al/has had us listen to a bit of Weird of Al’s music. Comedy and music are really one in the same for us. On this record, I think we definitely talk more about #real feelings than we have in our past. I'm pretty excited about that because it reflects our growth as writers and people. Like we’re growing up but also not at all.

Your new record has a track called "(((Alt-Right))) Punks Fuck Off" that doesn't mince words. Taking on anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, and calls out Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon by name, among others. It also has a great rallying anthem. As the political climate continues down the path it's on, do you think you'll continue bringing in more political elements? What led to this particular song making it on the record?

Bender: I was really annoyed with politics and politics are dumb so I wrote a dumb song about politics.

Hardy: And then we heard it and we were like this HAS to be on the album because it's just like a sick song and Zeke’s a great writer. And also it’s just, like, true. I don't think we necessarily were like this album has to be political but it's such like a part of who we are and especially now, like it's just part of our everyday lives and this album is very much based on our everyday lives so politics are just a pretty necessary part of who we are.

You've mentioned before having a drive to create a space for young people and young bands. What's instilled you with this passion and why do you think it's so important? What do you hope young people take away from your record?

Hardy: All ages spaces are super important because they are why we started a band! We were going to shows/working at the Vera Project and that's like where we realized we could totally do this, like we could be in a band. So I guess we just want young people to be able to have that experience, especially teen girls because it's so important to feel like you can be heard. I think that's what this band gave us as teens and continues to give us. So I guess I hope that teens can take away a sense of like empowerment and like the sense that like they can do it. You don't have to be good at your instrument, like I'm not an amazing guitar player but I just love to play guitar and being in a band has made me so much better. Just do it and be authentic, people will probably listen to you and even if they don’t you should just do it.

Bender: Just do it – this is now a Nike ad.

Hardly Boys will host their album release party on July 7 at The Vera Project with DoNormaal and Lisa Prank. They'll also play later this month on July 20 opening for T-Rextasy and label mates Emma Lee Toyoda at Chop Suey. In the meantime, stream Dear Diarrhea in its entirety below.

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