Hysteric vs was a hardcore band and they were damn cool. They were cool because they knew that hardcore is not for the cool and this is what made them important and, well, being important is kinda cool.
I fell for them forever when I saw a footage of them playing in an east coast basement. As the groovy bass paved the way, the offbeat drums blended together with the feedback-filled guitar noise in a chaotic intro, and Stephanie, their singer, burst into an awkward rage, wildly running in zig zag, losing control over her body while her enthusiasm took over her limbs, making such non-threatening, still absolutely violent moves, summing up her inner rage in a simple act of articulating that, for them, this is fun. I often come back to this video to remind myself what is the personal greatness in this community, sub- and counterculture. It’s about going against the grain and feeling alright even when nothing really allows you to. Because to live is to be lost and confused and when you know you are lost and confused then you begin to start finding yourself. This is punk; to be abandoned and to cope with this dumbness, to transform it into whatever you want with whatever you have. This is the point of living and gosh, Hysterics could live!
Now they are gone, their existence reminds us how easy it is to remake hardcore again into a platform for the misfits, where all the young folks can save their lives from boredom and bullshit.
With a demo and two 7”s as a discography Hysterics were also band you had to see live. Their records’ basic sound carried the visceral message: We have no idea how to play but we are sure as hell what to play. They played for their own sake, there was will, they were ready to die on stage, they made us want every band to be as enthusiastic for punk as they were. They gave everything they had and they got back everything they wanted. Let it be a joy of performing your angst, putting out your music, travelling through your noise or having the chance to simply say: “Well, fuck you.”
This conversation took place on their European tour in May. Follow-up questions were answered over email in December 2014.
MRR: What were the first bands you were into? Were there any shitty bands? Because when I started listening to punk I listened to a lot of ska punk, and then I grew into...
Stephie: Wait, are you saying ska is shitty? [Laughs]
Adriana: I was into a lot of shitty ska when I was growing up. I think Operation Ivy was the gateway and then I just went from there, getting more into bands with lyrics that I liked and related to that were angry and political, I guess? That's what started me getting into punk, as opposed to ska.
Jessica: I listened to nu metal, because I lived in the middle of the country and that was what was available to me. Then I downloaded Kazaa and started randomly downloading things like Agnostic Front when I was fourteen and that changed the whole game. My only regret of my early hardcore choices was that my first Cro-Mags record was Alpha and Omega! And of course I loved it!
MRR: What made you dig into this and leave nu metal?
Jessica: It's always in my heart! Punk's more accessible and has politics that I agree with, and nu metal doesn't really have that at all. I grew up very ignorant, with a lot of ignorant people around me, and when I was seventeen I started being more introspective, listening to bands that talked about things I felt the same about. It was a transition out.
Stephie: I got into Nirvana when I was twelve or thirteen. I had pretty much just listened to Top 40 and rap before that. I had always felt like a freak at school and had hated being a freak, so getting into guitar music made me suddenly feel good for being a freak, gave me a reason to be like that.
Matt: I was listening to NOFX via my brother and then I was in an after-school program for those who needed help studying. My tutor was like, “Oh, you listen to NOFX?” and gave me a Minor Threat CD. And then it was over.
Stephie: Yeah, somebody in my seventh grade class burned me that CD.
Matt: And then from that, I just got more into things that were happening around my town in Philadelphia, went to a Global Threat show and became a street punk.
Stephie: It took me a while to realize there were still bands playing that kind of music...
Matt: Street punks?
Stephie: No, like punk and hardcore in general. I just assumed it was over because all the bands I was listening to were old. So the idea that there was a local scene happening a couple years after I had started listening to this music just never occurred to me, that it would still exist. So that was cool!
Adriana: I grew up in Chicago so I knew there were punk shows but there was such a range of things going on that it was overwhelming. I remember getting a Minor Threat CD and a Sick Of It All CD and “A Fistful of Hardcore: An East Coast Compilation,” with stuff like Fury of Five on it? [Laughs] I was just listening to them simultaneously going like, what?! One of these bands is just straight metal! I was really confused. It was a kind of similar experience sampling the different niches of hardcore and punk in a live setting; I was just like, “Whoa! What is this? What is this crazy mosh metal?” And then I was like, “This stuff is more punk and I like this…” I'm also older than a lot of people in the band so metalcore was really popular, which was a really interesting experience.
MRR: You know, when I ask people that question, they always say that when they first got into punk it was funny to them because the music is kinda weird, it's so fast and simple, and everybody's singing “fuck the government!” But eventually it grows on you and you're like “Yeah, all right, I agree with that.” How was that process for you? How did you end up with the definition of punk you have right now?
Adriana: Once I started listening to bands that did have lyrics that were more serious and critiquing society and the government and whatnot, that's when I actually felt more attached to the music and that's when I wanted to listen to punk. Before that, I didn't really understand what it was about but it was those lyrics that attracted me to it in the first place. Over time, that made me start going to shows, and that funneled me into where I am now, however many years later.
Stephie: I didn't really understand a lot of the political side at first. I connected with the unrest, the restlessness, and the sense of feeling like something was vaguely messed up? But I didn't, for example, at fourteen, really understand what capitalism was or anarchism was or anything. It challenged me to wanna learn more about that stuff because I identified with the fundamental restlessness and feeling apart, being apart from what was around me. It planted the idea in my head to ask a lot of questions and challenge what the norm was, which sort of led me down a path of being able to form my own politics, my sense of myself in the world.
Jessica: I was just young and really angry and didn't know why. I listened to a lot of punk and heavier music because I identified with the way it sounded. Once I actually started growing up, which can be somewhat difficult in a small town, it takes a really long time to work out what your politics are and feel things, and probably didn't understand what I wanted out of life until I was like eighteen and moved away to the coast and started interacting with people that weren't from Oklahoma. I think my anger really just kept me going. I had a lot of things to be angry about and punk helped me raise my voice about what I was angry about and figure out where I was and where I stood in the world before I could form my own thoughts about these things.
Stephie: It definitely triggered a lot of thinking, both on the level of society at large, and also about myself and whatever semblance of community I had. You could make critiques of a wider system, but the same process of questioning and defying the norm could translate to ideas like DIY or putting out your own record or booking your own show or starting your own band. Kind of what got the wheels turning on a lot of different possibilities.
Matt: The turning point for me was like, firstly listening to this music and at some point there it's still disconnected from your reality. But then you go to shows and the people are playing the music and you're like “that's the same,” but then between songs they talk about what's happening in the world, and maybe it's a band from your area and it relates it back to some personal level where they're talking to you about something in their life and it's real and affecting and not just through music. It's actual experience, and there's these things going on and it's making me think about it more than just the musical form. Going to shows and interacting with people and bands on a larger scale, starting conversations on a more personal level really changed what punk meant to me.
Adriana: That's a really good point, that it's disconnected at a certain point, or it was for me when I got into it. Through a process of going to shows and showing up and interacting with people, getting involved in different projects, it became more of a visceral experience. You are so provoked sometimes when you go to a show and someone talks about something that's very real, and you peel back a layer keeping you from reality because, you know, you're an angry kid trying to figure out what’s really going on in the world. I liked the music because I thought, “Wow, this is real and these people are real and talking about real things, and it’s affecting me..” It's not just like being in school and all the kids around me are just zoned out and fake, watching TV and drinking.
MRR: Can you remember if there was a specific point when you felt when you wanted to start this band?
Stephie: This band?
MRR: Yeah, or like any other band—the first time you formed a band and felt “I can do this better”? Or did you go to a show and it got you so inspired that you started something? Or was it natural because in punk everybody has a band?
Stephie: For Hysterics, seeing Adriana sing in Outlook was a big turning point for me because it was the first time I had seen a female-identified person sing in a hardcore band and just command all the respect in the room. I just assumed that people wouldn't take me seriously if I sang in a band because of gender stuff, and so being able to see that was possible was definitely a moment that ignited some thought in wanting to do something like that.
Jessica: Being in Olympia too, it's really easy and super cheap to live, so people just form bands. So many bands!
Stephie: Everybody and their mom is in a band.
Stephie: For better, for worse!
Jessica: It's funny, I kinda lived there for three and a half months and joined a band, and I had never been in a band before. It was the right environment to be able to do that in many ways like how Stephie was saying.
MRR: Were you playing music before, or did you start playing bass for this band.
Jessica: Yeah. I played music in middle school but had never played in a band before. I'd never even really thought about it honestly, because, I don't know, a lot to do with not really seeing females in bands? So it was cool to move to Olympia where there's lots of non-males in bands. It feels like it can be more of a reality if you really want that to happen.
Adriana: I just remember at a certain point where I'd been going to and booking shows for awhile and there came a time where there was a shortage of people in Olympia and someone needed someone to play something and I was like, “I'm not very good, but at the same time this is punk and I might as well just do it.” That attitude is what made me be in bands. I might not be the best person at XYZ, because there's always a lot of self-worth stuff, right, that keeps you from doing whatever you wanna do so at a certain point I just said “fuck it.”
Stephie: Also, the kind of simplicity of the style of music made it more acceptable maybe than the idea of playing in like, more complicated styles of music? In a similar way to what Adriana said, if a band needed a position filled you started thinking, “well, I don't really do this but maybe I could learn how to do this?” There was a band I was in when I was sixteen that needed a drummer and I had played a little bit of drums but I listened to a Minor Threat CD-R in my headphones and played along to it as long and fast as possible until I got tired, and I did that every day until I could play the whole record. And then it would be like, “cool, I can be in a band!” There's just this accessibility about it in how simple it is, 'it can't be that hard!' There are bands with this kind of music who are literally children, like, fucking Teen Idles or Stimulators. They were literally children on stage playing punk!
Matt: For me it was like similar but completely different. I started my first band when I was fourteen or fifteen. Someone had given me a drum set and everyone was like “oh, you're gonna play drums, then?” I think about fucked up that is because it really is simple and accessible, but a lot of that has to do with gender dynamics and feeling empowered as a fourteen-year-old male to do whatever you want to do. It just feels really unfair. In a lot of ways I was thankful that I felt that way but at the same time I feel, “wow, that really sucks that not everyone feels that way,” and when talking to different people who say how they didn't feel empowered to start bands until they moved to a place that's been set up to make people feel included, and not just Anywhere, USA.
Jessica: It's funny because that's what I was thinking while the question was being asked about growing up in Oklahoma and realizing that if I still lived there I would not be into punk. I would be doing something completely different. That environment of going to hardcore shows just wasn't available to me; I forced my way in there but never felt like I belonged, and it's funny that none of the people in that shitty scene are into hardcore anymore, but I'm still doing it!
MRR: What were the steps in forming this band? Were you friends before?
Stephie: I remember talking to Adriana about it and there was someone else who was gonna sing, and I was going to play bass and we didn't know who was going to be the drummer for a while. When it became clear that that arrangement wasn't going to work out, I started entertaining the idea of singing, and we knew Jess and thought she was cool.
MRR: Who had the original idea of getting the band together?
Adriana: It was actually someone who isn't in the band anymore, but I remember her talking to me about how it'd be sick to have an all-girl hardcore band and I was like, “Yes, I really wanna do that.” Stephie and I had seen each other around but didn't really talk to each other...
Stephie: I was new in town; it was 2008. I had just moved.
Adriana: I approached her about it, we talked about it for a long time. Stephie and I became friends, then Jess moved to town and became friends with us and so there was a sort of back-and-forth until we actually got together and started writing a song. And then, everything changed, Stephie started to do vocals, and it was awesome.
MRR: When you practiced, did you start by jamming or playing covers?
Adriana: We were jamming, but Stephie and I had gotten together and workshopped a few riffs prior, even like a year before starting the band.
Stephie: Yeah, it was a while.
Adriana: It was a kinda chaotic meeting of four people.
Stephie: Definitely. Everyone was, for want of a better term, fucking their way through it. We were all new to the instruments we were playing.
Adriana: I had never played guitar.
Stephie: It was really chaotic but it was cool, we were having a good time and I was just enthralled with what at the time seemed like a radical idea because even though there's totally been hardcore bands that were only comprised of women or trans* or queers, I felt like we were the only one at the beginning! I wasn't aware of a lot of that history in hardcore because that history's been erased or is more inaccessible than it should be. Now it feels less so, and obviously since we've been touring I've seen all kinds of bands that make me realize how much great stuff is happening. But at the time I was like, “I've never heard of another hardcore punk band without guys in it, this is crazy, let's do this crazy banner with tampons on it and see how many people we can piss off!” There was a lot of excitement at the beginning and the more we kept playing the more serious and the more real it all fel. It went beyond the kitsch and whatever novelty factors people might have perceived in the beginning. We fought to be taken seriously with subversive humor and aggression and brains, and we broke through. It really grew in its own way.
Adriana: The novelty factor is interesting I remember not wanting to do the tampons at first because it was just four people playing hardcore who happen to be women and trans* people or whatever, right? It was interesting adopting that logo because it was like well, people are going to talk shit regardless or people are going to notice that we're not all dudes playing hardcore, so why not just rub it in their face? You could perceive it as kind of a joke. It's facetious almost—four tampons arranged in a Black Flag logo.
MRR: People were freaking out over it?
Adriana: Yeah. I just thought it was funny but then it seemed to chafe against people's ideas and proved how there is so much resistance in this patriarchal hardcore scene with guys coming up and saying, “That logo is akin to me having a shirt logo of toilet paper with poop on it!”
MRR: And yet everyone's making a fucking legend of GG Allin shitting himself! Maybe it's just...body fluids in a polite way?
Stephie: Body Fluids In A Polite Way, that's going to be our next album.
Adriana: It's weird how you can put something that's gendered on a shirt and it seems more shocking as opposed to shock imagery, like a dead person, which is actually more upsetting and people think that's fine. You put a tampon on a shirt or something to do with menstruation which half the population at least deals with once a month and people freak out.
MRR: It's not even offensive, it's just what nature does.
Stephie: Yeah. I never really felt feminine in the conventional sense but I liked the idea of defining femininity for myself and embodying that and presenting it in a really aggressive way because that's what I like about punk and hardcore, that it's aggressive. I wanna use that aggression and wanna use the way I feel about gender and shove it in people's faces a little bit, because it's like, why is a guy allowed to be confrontational with all the trappings of conventional masculinity, but I'm not allowed to have some fun and be aggressive with my gender?
Adriana: Like you said before, why would we be serious by default? Why can't we have fun with things as well, know what I mean? We can be a serious band and get angry and sing about serious things and not take ourselves totally seriously.
Stephie: Basically, like self-definition. It's very easy to fall into an idea of what, under this gaze, of what somebody wants you to be to please them, in a certain way. Just trying to subvert that, I guess.
MRR: The punk scene always seems to be preaching about one thing and acting in a different way, making a huge thing about stuff that should be normal.
Stephie: Well, punks have been splitting hairs over dumb shit since the beginning. It's kind of appalling sometimes when you do meet a misinformed person who likes to run their mouth, but there are also a lot of people who are cool. It's not that hard for me to just forget about whatever idiot is saying something stupid because I know there are people who are down. We've got a lot of support. I definitely found that playing music with people who identified as women or as trans* people or whatever, it was like a really new feeling, like you've created an environment that just felt like it changed the feeling in the room. That was empowering to me, to be able to have that experience. I've played in bands that were all men before and it was really fun but this was a different kind of feeling. A freer feeling. In a certain way, I identify as a female sort of out of convenience but the societal shit that's stacked against people who aren't men gets so intense that I want to defend it even more vehemently. It's like a back and forth between how I feel and what society is showing me, and that tension. It's kind of crazy.
MRR: Do you think your music would be different if it were four guys?
Stephie: I think we maybe have different stuff to say.
MRR: How about musically, is there like a femininity?
Stephie: Fundamentally, to like the way we play a chord? I don't know! [Everyone laughs]
Jessica: That's just bringing back that idea that punk music is male, that because the music is aggressive it has to be male-identified. Music is just music unless you want to pull it in that one direction. We like hardcore, we play hardcore, it has nothing to do with what's going on in our bodies, you know? I don't think it focuses or changes the music at all. Whether people want to like us because we have females in the band, that's their prerogative if that's what they into but we can't really speak for why people like us.
Stephie: I think some people relate to the feminism and the lyrics that are maybe different and are drawn into it for that reason. I think that's totally valid, also.
Jessica: But the chords alone, no. “There's so much testosterone in these chords!” [Laughs]
Matt: As someone who hasn't always been in the band and has been able to see it from an outside perspective, as well as interacting with the gender thing on a different level obviously, for me seeing Hysterics was really cool and empowering, and not in a “good for those women!” way, but good for me because it's breaking this idea that masculinity belongs to males or that there's this idea of masculinity in the first place.
Stephie: Or aggression?
Matt: Yeah. Or just like this idea of socialization that men are like this and women are like this, punk is like this and if you're a guy you have to act like this. To see women take something that has been claimed and dominated by men and take that means that I don't have to do that any more either, because it's breaking the binary two ways, you know? It's really cool.
MRR: The first time I fell in love with your band was when I was watching this video of you playing some basement in Boston, and the way you moved and the faces you made felt so free, like you didn't give a fuck, and you're doing it however you wanted to do it, and it seemed like you're losing your shit because you're enjoying the music that much. When you're on stage, what goes on your mind, do you have insecurities onstage or offstage connected to this band?
Stephie: I guess I just figure like, go hard or go home. Put everything you have into that show or just don't do it. I just think that people can sort of smell a fake a mile away, and it's always impossible for me to half-ass a show. It's why I always lose my voice right away. People will tell me how to sing with moderation and breathing properly, but the second I start I just forget because I have to just be like, going. It's impenetrable in a way: what can someone say to you if you put everything you had into something? Like, “oh, it sucked”? Well, fuck you! Know what I mean? Nobody can say it's bullshit, really. That’s why I’m not insecure. I grew up on early ’80s hardcore and stuff and a lot of the expressiveness got lost as hardcore progressed over the years, which meant that so many bands between the mid-’80s and now were just so predictable. I really appreciate bands who were expressive in a way that wasn't just sticking to a code of how you were supposed to act or move or whatever. It keeps things interesting.
MRR: The rest of you, how do you feel on stage?
Adriana: I guess I'm just trying to play guitar, and sometimes I get nervous. When I was singing for a band it was actually easier; you were just going all in, and it's just you, but when you're playing an instrument you're just trying not to fuck up what you're doing. It feels like I'm doing something instead of being out there performing, you know what I mean? If I think too much about how people are watching me play my instrument that makes me kind of freeze up, so I just try not to think about it: just do my job, get it done!
Jessica: I've always had short hair my whole life and since I've grown my hair out long it's really cool to cover my face when we play. I feel a lot better. [Laughs] Insecurities are weird, we all have different ones and I don't know whether you being on stage or just interacting with someone is that different an environment. I'm just happy I hide behind an instrument and have something to focus on.
MRR: Speaking of the freedom of punk: did you really play a trumpet solo in the middle of a Cro-Mags song?
Adriana: Instagrammed, worldwide!
Stephie: Solo is a kind term. I found a fucked up trumpet, and I played it. It sounded exactly how I wanted it to, which was disastrously out of tune.
Jessica: It was also accidentally on April Fool's Day.
MRR: What's your attitude towards playing punk music?
Stephie: In general? Just try to be free. Make a space that's free and don't follow the codes too much. Don't feel you have to.
Jessica: Freak what you feel.
Stephie: Yeah. There's a long period of time where punk or hardcore wasn't for the freaks any more. In the beginning it really was for those who felt marginalized or those who just wanted to do whatever they wanted, and along the line it morphed into this uniformed, heavily coded, boring prescribed way of being and it wasn't for the freaks anymore. And that just isn't really interesting to me. I like the idea of putting a damaged trumpet solo in the middle of a Cro-Mags song and they're such a masculine, tough guy band. That I love, but with a grain of salt.
Adriana: A grain of salt, that's perfect.
Stephie: I like surprising people. Who wants to see the same thing over and over again?
Adriana: I think especially in punk when you start, from when you're fourteen, you're always asking yourself if you're looking right, talking right, knowing all the right bands. If you’re conforming to the non-conformity. And that persists for way longer than it should and there's a certain point when you're playing music and you just decide, “I don't even fucking care if I play this right, or what people say.” It's fun to stop caring so much—if we're going to put a trumpet solo or a weird part in a song or play something wrong I don't even care. You have to loosen up, not take it so seriously.
MRR: Nowadays it seems normal hat bands have lyrics that don’t say anything—the vocals are an instrument as well, that they could just be part of the music but don't matter that much. It seems like you wanna write lyrics that mean things to you, so is it harder? Do you have many topics to write about?
Stephie: I got topics. Damn, I got topics! [Laughs] The way this band has operated with fits and starts and long periods of activity and non-activity, I've realized that the lyrics have followed suit in a similar way. At one time I'll have a lot to say and get five songs written down at once, and then not write anything for months. To me that's probably one of the most fun things in the band, lyric writing. I really like the process of it. The idea of having a song that's a minute and a half long and trying to condense as much as possible to say in that amount of time in the way I want to say it is always enjoyable. Sometimes I feel like I've got nothing to write about, but inevitably there's always something that comes up and inspires me again.
Adriana: One thing I like about being in this band is Stephie's lyrics. I was reading the lyric sheet to our EP, Can't I Live, and I was like, “Man, this is getting me so pumped!” And then I thought, “Man, I get to play in this band and help to further these lyrics and put them out into the world” and I think that's really cool. Because for me, getting into punk, while it's not like all the bands I've ever listened to have had impeccable lyrics that are thought-provoking and well written, my favorite bands, and the music that I love and get inspired by, always have lyrics that are good and reach me. I've really appreciated Stephie's lyrics.
MRR: How did you feel when Pitchfork wrote about you, did you get anything out of that?
Stephie: We didn't get shit. The Pitchfork thing is deceptive because people would assume you're like a big band because that happens but we're not really. People don't offer us money to do things, really.
Adriana: I'm going broke as it is!
Stephie: And just because the major indie world might be interested in some bands that play punk or hardcore because it's trendy right now doesn't really affect us that much, we're still doing our thing. If they wanna write something about it, then whatever, but we're not a band to please those people. They can do whatever they want, we don't change what we do because of them.
Adriana: They're not offering us a tour bus, we're not playing Coachella. It is something I can tell my relatives though, and they can get impressed!
Stephie: And what you do is valid for a minute.
Adriana: “Oh! Well then!”
Jessica: My boss told me about the Pitchfork thing, printed it and put it on the wall.
Stephie: It's weird how being recognized by certain sources causes certain people outside punk and people to suddenly decide that what you do is semi-valid for a few minutes. “I get it, a corporate publication kind of cares about you, maybe you are doing something with your life!” How backwards is that? It's just so strange. I'm doing the same thing whether you recognize it or not and how valuable, does it actually matter? Just the fact that realistically a lot of those publications are just dabbling in the punk and hardcore world, it's not that they'll change the ethics of what they're doing because of this subculture, they just want to write about something trendy that will lend some credibility to their publication, to say they've got their ear to the ground. It's so funny how that manifests though. Take a band like Perfect Pussy, they're getting a lot of press right now, and they're friends of friends of ours I think, and they seem like intelligent people. And yet, as soon as all the Rolling Stone shit ran, a bunch of white 50 year old men were coming into my work asking for Perfect Pussy records! It was really bizarre and sort of like, what happens when you join those two worlds together, what are people really looking for?
Adriana: There's that gross feeling isn't there? Ugh!
All: Ugh! Yeuch!
MRR: Is this tour gonna affect you in a way? Does playing your songs for a month every day, inspire you to write more songs or agendas?
Stephie: I don't know about the agenda thing, but it's definitely been inspiring to see what people are doing in other places. I've personally been blown away by the squat stuff going on in Europe, it's so different from the States. You'll have these squats that have been going for decades.
Matt: There's some that have been sponsored by governments, like in Germany.
Jessica: Yeah, the place we played in Offenburg is sponsored by the government.
Matt: There're different kinds of squats. In Barcelona we played a place that is gonna get evicted in the next two months and then in Zarautz there was another illegal squat that maybe is going to be evicted in the next couple of years. There're ones like the one we played in Zagreb which started out as illegal squats and then became community centers in a way that was legal. None of that shit exists in the US in the same way and it's really inspiring to see that happen, claiming space, keeping it for long periods of time.
MRR: Is it harder to be a punk in America, without that infrastructure?
Stephie: We definitely don't get money from the government for the arts, which seems to happen in a couple of places here. People go broke trying to facilitate shows in America.
Matt: Yeah, and physical space is hard in the US. Squat shows don't really exist and finding venues is often difficult in many cities.
MRR: But it's harder to play a house show in Europe, because of the neighbors and, like in Hungary everybody buys a flat and aren't renting it, so they're not thinking “we're here for a month and I don't give a fuck about my neighbors!”
Stephie: A lot of times the house shows happen out of necessity, and yeah the neighbors do get mad, the police do get called and people do get evicted! That's why it's so hard to keep it going. There's this constant threat of eviction, rent hikes, crazy building codes that cost thousands of dollars to legally meet...you just never know at a given day when it's going to be gone. When people put shows in houses it's often because there's nothing more you can do. You don't have a bunch of money to rent out a proper venue, what happens if not enough people come? What happens if the touring band, you can't pay them anything? A lot of people just end up paying out of pocket and there's a fleeting feeling to a lot of the venues out there, a feeling you have to cling to what you have because it might be gone tomorrow.
Adriana: I know that there are different places that have opened up around the US, like youth-orientated music venues which sometimes get grants and maybe some government funding or private money to operate and run their projects that help to support young people in the arts. We've played those places a couple of times but they're not really centers of hardcore or punk, it seems. I guess it's harder to make it happen, but it still seems like the same factors exist over in Europe: the whole space thing and funding is just different.
MRR: There's some people in Europe who are like “Oh, these American bands have it so easy!”, but it turns out that if you're a squatter in Germany and have a dog you get extra money from the government to feed your dog. I just met a guy in Denmark who's doing community service for throwing a brick into a cop's face, and Marty was telling us that if that happened in Chicago...
Stephie: You'd be in fucking jail.
Adriana: Or dead.
Jessica: I mean, there are different worlds, we deal with different struggles being in punk and doing punk things in the area that you're in but they're all valid and real. And like, whether your squat gets assistance from the government or not, you're still doing what you want to do in the space you created for it, and that's cool in itself.
MRR: Do you have thoughts about why most of us listen to American bands? Like, even the European bands are singing in English, but that's changing now because of the internet, which might be because you can download shitloads of punk and not have the time to pore over the lyrics like before.
Stephie: It's instantly accessible now. It's funny, I still don't listen to music that way, I don't listen through the internet. I might check it out and then buy the record if I like it, but maybe I'm old fashioned or something.
Jessica: I don't even have a working computer or a record player, so the internet's been good for that, pulling up Bandcamp on my stupid smartphone and listening to the same band about twenty times in a month. That's how I get into music. The internet has made it accessible and easier for me but I understand how the turnover can be super high, everything comes and goes so fast. The thing about American bands being so popular I'm sure is because of the media and how everything American is everywhere.
Stephie: Americans don't do a very good job of paying attention to things outside of America a lot of the time. There's a lot of reasons for that, some of it coming from a certain political and imperialistic attitude that assumes that America can provide for itself with everything it ever needs and that leaks into a lot of people's lifestyles, where it's just this sense of an enclosed space. Kinda sucks.
Jessica: That was the most exciting thing about coming over here. I had never left the United States before, all I knew about Europe was what my parents experienced from being in the Air Force, you know, and what kind of traveling is that? It was really cool to be excited about something you had no idea what to expect and seeing bands that were singing in their own language. Like when we saw Las Otras in Barcelona. I had no idea what she was saying between the songs, but it was cool to be there.
Matt: You couldn't understand it but you could feel it.
Jessica: Definitely! You could stand there and feel it and even not speaking the same language with someone but trying to communicate with them in a different way is really cool.
Matt: It also feels like for American bands, it's kind of easier to come to Europe than it is for European bands to come to America. There's this support network in Europe that exists and it's relatively easy to get all your shows booked, get the right equipment, get a van, get a driver, and everywhere you go people are cooking you dinner and you're getting paid and people are coming to your show. The promoters are putting in a lot of work, cleaning the place, putting a lot of work in the venue. In the US, those things don't exist. Who's got a van that anyone can borrow? Nobody, you know? It's just hard.
Stephie: Like, if you had a van would you let them borrow it?
Matt: And who's got a backline to rent? I don't know! Who's got their own shit? I don't even know.
Jessica: And the strangeness of us going to all these completely different countries that speak their own language and how many speak English, how if it was reversed it'd be completely different and that's wild to me, like how many people can speak to me in English.
Matt: Some crazy hegemony.
Stephie: A lot of it is luck, having the right band at the right time, having the right support to be able to have a tour that's semi-successful. I know people who work a lot harder than I do who have never had the opportunity to do a European tour like we've had, so I feel super fortunate.
MRR: Have you ever had hard moments where you feel you should just quit all this?
Jessica: Yeah, but I think there were personal reasons rather than outside factors.
Adriana: In one year I did two full US tours and it nearly broke my spirit. It is pretty exhausting and you have to love what you do and care about your band to do that. And you need resources. I was lucky—well, not lucky, I got in a car accident—and got a settlement from that so I was able to not work that much that year, and scrape by on going on tour, but you do have to care about what you're doing, otherwise there's no point. I know bands who are kind of successful and who go on tour all the time, they're always touring, it just seems like they have the resources and the drive and the passion somewhere in there. I'm not in a hurry to do a full US tour to be honest!
Jessica: There are quite a few bands who have toured the US who aren't from there that have just broken up.
Adriana: People break up in Europe too. Or on any long tour.
Jessica: It's just different, like exactly what I said before: similar yet different struggles on different continents.
Stephie: Sometimes it is nice to only have one meal at a gas station a day as opposed to three. Like on a US tour where it's chips for breakfast, chips for lunch, soda for dinner!
Jessica: Showing up somewhere and seeing someone has made you food as opposed to telling you the gas station's around the corner or there's this vegan restaurant down the street that costs a lot of money.
Adriana: “Oh, but it's closed!”
Stephie: “Maybe tomorrow.”
Jessica: And so that's completely different.
Adriana: The fact you cooked two meals for us was really good.
Matt: I wouldn't do that for you at home. [Laughs]
Stephie: I think it's also hard in America because everyone works too much, and there's not a whole lot of energy to go around to put into music. There're so many bands and everywhere we go we meet people who are super kind and willing to put us up for the night or whatever, but there's also this kind of pressure in America because people are just spread really thin for a number of reasons, and being in a band or the arts is this luxury they can't really afford.
Jessica: I was fucking miserable. I don't have a job anymore but I fucking hated working at my job, I was working late all the time, couldn't even find the energy to go to shows. I was perpetually broke. It wears you down.
Matt: But Viktor works 40 hours a week and has two hour commutes every day and puts on shows, puts up bands. There is a lot of people in the US that are overworked, but people here are too and they're still doing a lot of cool shit.
Adriana: It depends on how stoked you are too. There was a time where I was working 60 hours a week and still playing in bands and going to shows.
Jessica: It can happen, it does happen everywhere. And there are waves of it too, like what Adriana said about touring so much, you have to love it and it's cool. I could talk all day about how I hate my job but I quit it to be here, I love it enough to...
Stephie: “I quit my job for this!”
Jessica: Yeah, I quit my job for this. And that's great in itself, being willing to sacrifice shit to make things happen and experience things and it's fucking cool. Being here, sitting here in Budapest with Viktor. I quit my job for this and I couldn't be happier. When I get really dark, just bring that up!
MRR: Do you worry about getting drained out playing hardcore?
Adriana: The thing with hardcore bands is they don't have that long of a life expectancy, and it kind of takes it out of you and is sometimes a pain in the butt to do things yourself. It's not gonna last forever, we are going to get sick of it and then we'll break up.
Jessica: It's the cycle, you know?
Adriana: But it's also like, we've been here a long time, as a band we could keep going...
Jessica: We could go for thirty years.
Adriana: Just wait for the reunion.
Stephie: I think there was a time where I felt really restricted by hardcore and punk, but I don't feel...
Matt: You've got a trumpet!
Stephie: I've got a trumpet.
Jessica: And now your mind has changed!
Stephie: Now I feel we can do whatever we want, and right now it's still hardcore punk but our blues album is coming out soon...
Adriana: Oh my god!
Stephie: It just feels right to play right now. I mean, I have outlets to do other bands and other stuff too, but I come back to hardcore because it's hardcore and punk and not because it's something else. I like it for what it is.
Adriana: I take back the negative vibe of what I said first but what I was getting at was what Stephie said, you do it for however long you do it, and then you just don't anymore. It's not worth planning out, and if you get bored there's always other outlets for you musically.
Stephie: There is something inherently short-term about hardcore and punk because it's so much energy condensed, it's no wonder bands burn out or get weird in a shitty way.
Jessica: The flame burns brighter for shorter.
Stephie: Just the natural order of things.
Matt: Like, how many records can Hoax put out?
Stephie: I heard they broke up kinda for that reason. They'd done all they could do.
Jessica: Before we left I was in a pretty dark place and was thinking, what is there you can do after Europe? There's nothing to be done after Europe, but now I'm here it's like what Stephie said, you can do whatever you want, you know?
Stephie: I wanna do a record!
Jessica: That's the beauty of punk, you don't know what's going to happen, and that's fucking cool.
MRR: Closing question: what will happen with Hysterics?
MRR: Closing question: what will happen with Hysterics?
Jessica: Blues album. 2015.
Stephie: Blue eyed soul.
Jessica: Front of Rolling Stone.
Adrianna: Double LP.
Stephie: I would love to do an LP, we've never done one but I think it's possible. This band, we've been around for four years and it always felt like we were on the verge of breaking up constantly.
Adrianna: Pretty much all the time.
Stephie: And yet, somehow that has added this fuel to the fire that's kept it all continuing. So, I have no idea but we could probably eke a record out.
Jessica: I mean, fuck, we wrote a song on tour!
Stephie: We've got some ideas going around, it'll be cool.
Jessica: Things will happen, or they won't. We can do what we want.
Stephie: You just gotta chill, dude. Fuckin' chill.
Hysterics played their last shows on October 10th and 11th in Olympia and Seattle, Washington. They answered the remaining questions via email.
MRR: What were you feeling during the rehearsals surrounding the last gig?
Adriana: I was feeling pretty depleted. I had been firing on a single cylinder for some time and was realizing that I was completely burned out (on the band, punk, life under capitalism, etc.). I was a little curmudgeonly during our (two) rehearsals. However our shows were really fun and life affirming. I was kind of on a high after witnessing/being a part of them and seeing all the people who were touched by this band in some way. It was great fun.
Jessica: oh man that is really tough. adriana and i got into a long discussion and talked about feelings so it was kind of rough but really good. it's hard being in a band with your friends sometimes. we dont really practice except for recording or playing a show so it felt odd because we hadnt played these songs in a while and i kept reminding myself it was for the last show. it felt surreal.
MRR: Is there anything that you wished to do with Hysterics and you were not able to do?
Adriana: I did everything I wanted to do with Hysterics. I realized this during our last Olympia show, when Stephie asked everyone who identified as cis-gendered, white, straight, and male to step back and everyone else come forward. The crowd complied, and as I looked at all my friends (and strangers) who have experienced alienation and marginalization their entire lives surging forward and enjoying themselves in their own zone, I felt so touched and awe-struck. The only thing I really ever wanted to do in this band was create an alternative to the shitty, alienating atmosphere of shows of my youth. Though it surely was far from perfect, and there is so much work to be done, I realized watching the crowd that at that place and time, at least for a moment, a special space existed where people felt more empowered and free to be themselves as themselves and I had had a hand in creating it. I'm very thankful for that opportunity. It made me entirely grateful for all of my life's experiences. I realized at that moment that whatever we did as a band didn't matter—we could totally play like garbage, we could walk off the stage and it wouldn't matter because what we had wanted to shift had shifted. And it was beautiful.
Jessica: i did everything i could have ever imagined to do with a band. shit we toured europe that is crazy enough, especially after not breaking up after a full US tour haha. i felt the end coming in early winter of 2013 then knew that europe would be the last thing we did together after february. it was kind of bitter sweet everything was working out and we were definitely going to europe but i think we all felt the same without really talking about it.
MRR: Do you plan to replace the space in your life that once belonged to Hysterics? Not practically with another band but with something that satisfies the same needs, brings the same feelings?
Adriana: Meeting one's own needs is an ongoing and dynamic process. My needs and wants have changed over time and since Hysterics began. I have been bringing tools, people, situations into my life that are supportive and enhance my well-being and I plan on continuing to do this. I trust that when it is time to meet another need or release some feelings the right situation will show up.
Jessica: I dont think anything will ever be like hysterics.
MRR: Who are the new blood we have to pay attention to?
Adriana: Please go see my friends Vexx, Bricklayer, Mysterious Skin, and Trrash.
MRR: What was Hysterics?
Jessica: a whirlwind full of emotions.
Adriana: Hysterics was a punk band.