I first heard of the Hissy Fits about three years ago when they were opening for a band at the Tap House. My reaction went something like this, “The Hissy Fits? Never heard of them, but damn that’s a great name!”
And it’s one they’ve lived up to.
Like a twisted, grungy snowflake, a Hissy Fits show is never the same experience twice.
Although each show can be unpredictable, what you can rely on is the fierce playing and urgent vocals of front woman and guitarist, Mary Jane Malace. You can also count on her swimming in a sea of sweat and possibly running mascara by the night’s end. She brings it that hard every time with no apologies. Also holding it all down is bassist, Jenni Thomas, and drummer, Logan Laurent. Together they become the grounding wire keeping us, and surely Mary Jane, from spiraling off into some other plain never to be heard from again.
Recently, I caught them at the Belmont House of Smoke at the release party for their new EP, No Way Out. After the show, I got a copy and wondered how the live experience would translate to something recorded in a studio. Would it be just as killer without the show, the sweat and the running mascara?
A couple of days later, having no expectations, I put the CD on and sat back on the couch. As I listened to the first track, “Angel,” I literally felt my jaw slowly begin to drop. And I believe my mouth stayed that way for the majority of my private listening party. So yeah, the answer to the above question is, yes. No Way Out is absolutely incredible, and has become one of my favorite releases of the past couple of years. Musically, it’s very grungy, but with more layers. And the vocals, deliciously gravelly but clear, go from near whisper to full on scream with an incredible fluidity. Everybody needs to hear this. Period.
Over the years, I’ve seen and shot the band a ton of times, but have never had a conversation with any of them. That changed a few weeks ago.
Beth Austin: Who’s who and what do you do?
Mary Jane Malice: Vocals, guitar.
Logan Laurent: Drums, backing vocals, occasionally guitar.
Jenni Thomas: Bass guitar, and backing vocals
Beth: How did you all become The Hissy Fits?
Logan: Mary and I had already known each other for almost ten years. We ran into each other again, at an open mic night, near the end of 2009. I was there trying out some new material for my solo project, Karacell, and she was there to play electric guitar and sing her original songs. I offered to back her up on the drum kit, already at the venue. About nine months after that, we started playing together regularly. I knew Jenni through our mutual friend, Rex, and we jammed together a couple of times. I knew her attitude and influences would mesh well with Mary and I, so she started playing bass with us.
Jenni: You had me at “early 90’s grunge.”
Beth: I’ve been going to your shows for years, I know this because I’ve shot you with all three of my cameras. My old point and shoot broke while shooting one of your early shows at The Taphouse, actually (laughs). That had to be over three years ago. So how long have you been together?
Jenni: We’ve been together as a three piece since late 2010. Our first show was January 8th, 2011, at The Norfolk Taphouse, with Geneva and Karacell, Logan’s solo project.
Beth: Your name had me loving you before I even saw you. How did you come up with the band name?
Logan: As far as I remember, Mary came up with the name pretty early into us playing together, as a duo, and I loved it.
Mary Jane: It’s based on our sound, appearance and overall demeanor.
Beth: Who are the primary song writers and how does your stuff come together? Is it based on your day to day, or…?
Logan: Mary usually starts a song off with a riff and a verse—or verses. Sometimes it’s just a chorus and we develop the song as a band through jamming it out together. Sometimes we take two or more separate song ideas and put them together to make a new song.
Mary Jane: Topics are based on my encounters with everyday life and my struggles with that.
Beth: If I was looking around a music store, what bin would I find you in?
Mary Jane: I would like to think miscellaneous.
Logan: Cage free, grass fed.
Jenni: Slop pop.
Beth: Is your EP, No Way Out, your first recording or do you have other stuff? How was the process for you? Where can people get it and is there anywhere we can find a digital download, as well?
Logan: Our first recording was a digital single “Dress Up,” with the song “Liar” as the B side. We only released it online. We recorded it on our own, in my apartment, at the now demolished Painted Lady, where we used to rehearse.
No Way Out was recorded with Ross Guthrie and Cody Dickover at their Harrington Labs studio, which is now located in Colonial Place. Their set up is perfect for capturing that live energy, where you can all play at the same time, but still get good clarity in each piece of the music. Recording with Ross and Cody was honestly the most fun we’ve ever had recording. The single and the EP can be streamed and downloaded at bandcamp.com, and we’re selling actual physical copies of No Way Out at shows until they’re gone.
Beth: If someone asked me to describe your sound, I would try by saying, Hole/Sleater-Kinney/Bikini Killish. Who do you listen to? Who are your musical influences?
Jenni: Those three bands are very pivotal in my ever wanting to pick up an instrument in the first place; but I would say the Pixies, Babes in Toyland and Sonic Youth explain me more fully. Kim Deal and Kim Gordon are for sure the reason I chose to play bass.
Logan: I currently listen to a lot of electronic music like Laurel Halo, The Field, and Daft Punk. My inspiration for the Fits comes mostly from the music I listened to as a teenager, bands like The Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson, also my love for 90’s Shoegaze and 60’s psychedelic rock. My favorite drummers are Steve Shelley, from Sonic Youth, and Maureen Tucker, from The Velvet Underground.
Mary Jane: I’m into the slow jams, hip-hop and Brooke Candy. But I also listen to a lot of GG Allin, The Germs and Sex Pistols… It really changes, day to day.
Beth: Mary Jane, when I watch you, I get a heavy Courtney Love vibe. Or maybe when I watch Courtney Love, I get a heavy Mary Jane vibe. Am I crazy?
Mary Jane: It’s no secret how much I love Courtney, and I would be a liar if I said I wasn't influenced by her. I mostly go for the attitude of Nancy Spungen, Courtney and Wendy O. Williams.
Beth: When trying to describe a Hissy Fits show to friends, it usually starts with, “Oh man, yeah, I love them. They’re such a beautiful mess…” And then I stumble through a garbled description and end up telling them that they just have to see for themselves. How would you describe a Hissy Fits show?
Logan: Haha, I’m just going to steal “beautiful mess” from now on.
Jenni: Like the sweetest night terror ever imagined.
Mary Jane: Ask me how I’m feeling that day, and there’s your answer.
Beth: As a music photographer, I have those nights when I get home from a show and check my shots, and it might have been an off night. Or, just an okay night. But other times I have a “hell yeah,” kind of night. As performers, what kind of night makes you go, “hell yeah?”
All: It’s always a good night if we’re feeling it and the audience is feeling it. The energy of the band and the audience together, is one of the most amazing and addictive feelings we’ve ever experienced.
Beth: Do you have any favorite places to play, and why?
All: We love playing the Taphouse and in Norfolk. Patrick Walsh always makes us sound great at the Belmont.
Beth: So, what are your future plans?
Jenni: Plans for touring are in the works. We have our eyes set on a small east coast tour during the late summer/early fall. We’re currently working on new songs and hope to have something new out by the end of year.
THE QUICK SIX
Beth: Hole or Bikini Kill?
Jenni: Bikini Kill, hands down. WE WANT REVOLUTION GRRRL STYLE NOW.
Logan: Hole. Sorry Kathleen Hanna, love you.
Mary Jane: HOLEHOLEHOLEHOLEHOLEHOLE… HOLE!
Beth: Puppies or Kittens?
Mary Jane: Puppies!!
Beth: PJ’s or Bugatti’s?
Logan: It’s never a good sign if I end up at either, but I’ve never been to Bugatti’s.
Jenni: At home in some PJs and eating a PB&J!
Mary Jane: PJ’s hands down, Bugatti’s is like being inside a genie’s bottle…
It’s just weird.
Beth: Wheat or White?
Logan: I heard somewhere that wheat bread was linked to Alzheimer’s, so I’ve been eating multi-grain ever since.
Jenni: WHOLE MOTHERF**KIN’ WHE… wait what was the question?
Mary Jane: White
Beth: Mean Girls or Heathers?
Jenni: Oh, this is a tough one actually, but my heart says, Heathers.
Mary Jane: Heathers.
Beth: Book or Nook?
Logan: Nook, save the trees!
Jenni: Oh, f**k the trees… I will always love that new book smell.
Mary Jane: F**k reading, I gots YouTube!
To keep up with The Hissy Fits tour plans and to get their new EP and other offerings, check out the links below.
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