From Everywhere and Nowhere Print
Art - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 15 March 2005 18:00
Hella is a band from Sacramento, California. But Zach Hill wants you to know that Hella is also a person. Sort of. Hella is “a musical thing that became a person unto itself,” Hill said. “There’s such an evolution. It’s a life.” Some bands – Hill cited Sonic Youth, the Talking Heads, Captain Beefheart – have such distinct personalities and musical arcs that they should be considered separate beings. To remove a band member or an element is akin to removing a pancreas or other vital organ from a body.

So Hella is a person, and it has “a personality that is free to act out,” Hill said.

And act out it does. Hella is a guitar-and-drums outfit, but don’t think White Stripes or Black Keys. Think spastic, manic, lightning-speed instrumental racket, equal parts math rock and free jazz, calculation and improvisation, with a few electronics thrown in for good measure. It’s strange and arresting, and – shockingly – instantly accessible if you keep your mind and ears open.

Most articles about Hella stress that the band isn’t for everybody – what band is? – but if you have even a small interest in experimental rock music, you owe it to yourself to check this band out. Hella will be performing on Monday, March 21, at the Brew & View in Rock Island with Meth & Goats and 7 Inch Wave.

The band has an interesting duality, in that while it’s not quite like anything you’ve heard, it’s also vaguely familiar. Hill attributed that accessibility to a few things. The band “transfers life experiences to sound,” he said, but it also incorporates familiar elements – repeated motifs and hooks, bridges, etc. “They’re constructed just like an average rock or pop song would be,” Hill said. Both these statements stretch credulity, but there’s no denying that there’s something in the music that allows listeners to connect with it quickly.

“There are elements of everything,” Hill said, from pop music to obscurities. “We’re coming from everywhere, and we’re coming from nowhere.”

Hill is the band’s drummer, and with guitarist Spencer Seim the duo burst onto the scene in 2001. They’d been in another band together, so they already had an instrumental rapport. But when they started looking for bandmates, “we had a problem finding people who were on the same page.” In Sacramento, he said, “there’s a big talent pool, but there’s not a pool of new ideas.”

So a duo it was, one without boundaries. “There are no rules involved in anything we do,” Hill said.

Hella dumped its first release, Hold Your Horse Is (and that’s not a typo), on an unsuspecting world in 2002, and between then and early last year put another five releases on the market. Then … silence.

Now the world should prepare for a Hella onslaught. Next week, Hella unleashes Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard, a double-CD set, and later this year comes a full-length and DVD set, followed in early 2006 by a full-length on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label.

Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard is an extension of that band-as-human-being metaphor. Hill made Church Gone Wild, and Seim put together Chirpin Hard. They worked separately and played all the instruments on their respective discs. (And no, they didn’t take the idea from OutKast.) The set represents “both sides of the brain of this band,” Hill said. “Both me and Spencer think this is more of a Hella record than any other Hella record.”

Because of the nature of the project, Hella has added two new musicians for its upcoming tour. Hill promises “an hour medley of our whole existence so far.”

Hella, Meth & Goats, and 7 Inch Wave will perform at the Brew & View on Monday, March 21. The show starts at 8 p.m., and cover is $7. For more information on Hella, visit (http://www.hellaband.com).
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