August 5, 2009

The Hard Lessons: Making More With Less

By Nic Cole-Klaes; photo by Doug Coombe

For years, The Hard Lessons have been a staple in Detroit rock- ’n’roll. Their sound combines face-melting rock with intricate vocal harmonies and unique instrumentation to create a sound that is both nostalgic and revolutionary. Keeping with their garage-rock influences, The Hard Lessons’ live show seems to epitomize the grit, the raucousness, the raunchiness and the common connection of people that make up rock. This Detroit-based husband/wife duo are currently touring in support of their latest effort,
Arms Forest, an album full of fist-pumping anthems, hook-laden melodies and playful boy/girl vocal harmonies. We had the opportunity to catch up with them for an interview at the Rothbury Music Festival in their native Michigan.

PM: Your stage performance seems very real and uncontrived. Is that something that developed over time, as you got more comfortable on the stage, or did it just come naturally?
Augie Visocchi: No. I mean I think it’s hard to develop that, you just have to have it. I grew up, we both did, watching tons of bands. So it’s natural, it’s what comes out. We had no setlist planned for today’s performance, my cord shorted out at one point, so we just played a different song. You just go for it. I love that about playing in this band, it’s totally uncontrived. It’s just the two of us and our drummer letting loose up there and seeing what happens, rolling the dice. Sometimes it backfires, but the majority of the time it’s pretty awesome, what happens, and it keeps it interesting.
PM: How did the bass on piano thing develop? It’s a really unique sound.
Korin Louise Visocchi: I played piano my whole life. I taught myself by ear, I can’t read music. I bought this old Yamaha Electone and it had a manual bass switch. I brought it into one rehearsal, the next rehearsal we fired our bass player. That was five years ago.
PM: Is that something that you had to work to develop? Watching you perform, it seems like you have really good rhythmic separation between your hands.
KV: Yeah, it is like trying to pat your head and rub your belly; then singing and hitting a pedal every now and again, so definitely
AV: I think that’s why we can sound as big as we do onstage, because we’re both doing a ton of different stuff. It’s not just a three-piece, it’s a five-piece even though there’s only three of us because were each doing multiple jobs.
PM: And it’s largely because of your different sound that you guys have been able to make it. What advice would you have for other bands, other musicians trying to break into the scene?
AV: Get out there as much as you can.
KV: If you can’t play a show, go to a show. Be out there, be a part of your community.
AV: Being a part of your music community in your town is crucial. This is advice for anybody, whether you’re in Rothbury, Mich., Detroit, Mich., or Des Moines, Iowa, get to know some like-minded people and cultivate a scene. If there’s not a scene, start one. But get people together that can support each other. That’s what helps you get off the ground – to have a supportive community around you. There wasn’t a venue in Detroit that we played that we hadn’t been to before. You have to know the scene that you’re joining. I get really turned off when a band will email us and they’ll say, “Hey, I heard you’re playing the Magic Stick in Detroit, pretty legendary venue, can we open for you there? I’ve always wanted to go to that place.” You’ve never been there? If you’ve never been there then what are you doing? Are you a music fan? If you’re a music fan then you would have been there.
KV: Sometimes we’ll also get, “Hey the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor has April 12 available. How ‘bout we open and you headline?” It’s like wait a minute ... So just be a part of the scene you want to be in.
AV: It goes back to our stage presence. You were asking how it appears so uncontrived. It’s hard to give this type of advice because you can’t fake it. I want to say go support your scene, but I think for most bands and for most music fans it comes natural. If you’re starting a band, you love music and you’re already downtown, at the venues, and it’s just going to happen naturally. So you’ll know if you’re on the right track. Just tap into what you love and follow it. Believe in it.

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