MARY Timony, Betsy Wright, and Laura Harris have been around the block, each slaying in bands like Helium, Wild Flag, and the Fire Tapes over the past few decades. But their newest endeavor, Ex Hex, is a breath of fresh air that isn't afraid to hearken back to the glory days of rock 'n' roll.
They played Savannah Stopover 2014 in the band’s baby stage, days before dropping their first single, “Hot and Cold,” a toe-tapper of a pop cut toughed out by throwback distortion and vocals that manage to be simultaneously catchy and smoky-cool.
Their debut LP, Rips, set Timony, Wright, and Harris as one of the coolest bands on the summer circuit, and their live show confirmed it – Ex Hex visibly adore hitting splashy chords, digging into solos, and just playing fun rock music together.
We caught up with bassist Betsy Wright on Ex Hex’s huge year, their shared Pentagram fandom, and returning to Hang Fire.
A lot’s happened since y’all played Stopover! You were just about to release the Hot and Cold 7" last time you were here.
Betsy Wright: Yeah, that was our first little tour. A lot has happened! We made our record – it took a long time and a lot of work. And we just did a big tour, the biggest one that we've done. And we're starting off the year leaving for three weeks.
What's the writing process like for you guys? Is there a lot of collaboration?
We already had a few songs written a few before I started playing – [Mary Timony] sent me some demos that her and Laura did. So I when I joined, I sort of already knew some of the songs and we just started playing on those. That's how the album came together: someone would bring an idea and we'd arrange all the music. And then for the recording process, we went to North Carolina and recorded in the studio, and we actually pretty much just got the drum sounds the drum tracks. We recorded the rest of the album in Mary's basement for two or three weeks.
The songs are so much fun – and onstage, it looks like y'all are just having a blast.
That was the idea from the beginning to play more fun, upbeat guitar rock. [Timony] sent me three songs to start...immediately, I loved the songs. And I had been a fan of Mary's, and an acquaintance, but when I heard the songs, I just really wanted to play with them.
How's Ex Hex different from projects you've done in the past?
For all of us, it's been a little bit more fun than some of the other projects that we've done. The music lends itself to that atmosphere, and then playing these songs is fun also 'cause it's a challenge to be in a three-piece. Because you have you really gotta hold it down – you can't afford to make mistakes because everybody can hear everything you do. I think, because we practice so much, we now feel free with the material.
Bass was a new instrument for you, right? What was it like learning it for Ex Hex?
I play piano, so it's kind of a combination of the left hand of piano and the guitar. I've taken a few bass lessons from Carol Kaye from The Wrecking Crew – I took a lesson on Skype. She was really amazing – she pointed me in the right direction. There's some subtleties about playing bass that I didn't understand when I first started, so hopefully I'm getting better!
You've been touring so much – any highlights to share?
We've been playing with some good bands. We toured with Speedy Ortiz – that was fun – and we got to see a couple of really cool shows. We saw Pentagram in Minneapolis! They were playing down the street from us. People were going over there and they got us in the show, and it was such a total surprise. We just played our set, and we were tired, and we heard they were playing. We just think they're the best. On tour, everything is sort of regimented – you don't get a lot of free time. Any time we get a chance to see one of the legendary bands that's still playing, it's just a magical treat.
What's coming up for Ex Hex?
We just started working on some new stuff. It's going to take a while, because we're touring so much. We're just starting to get fresh ideas and new little tunes. We don't have plans to record in this year necessarily, but we might start some pre-production; we don't know.
This was a pretty crazy year. The 7" and then the record – it really took off.
Things happened sort of fast. People seemed to like the record, we're psyched about that. I think we're all really enjoying being able to tour so much and play so much, so I'm sure we'll want to keep going. We're excited to come back to the Stopover and see Savannah again. It's a beautiful town.