Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grant's Tomb: Interview with Jen Allen of Hath No Fury

I. I. I. I. I. Seems like that’s all I’ve been writing about lately, making lists, bitching about the current state of hardcore, etc. Time for a change, and what better way then to share some of the great/up and coming acts we have here in Des Moines. The next several entries I’m planning on doing for Bigfoot will be candid interviews with some of our local talent and this first one was absolutely enlightening!

Hath No Fury is a relatively young band, but most of the members have been in/around the Des Moines scene for the better part of the last decade (I can even remember seeing the bassist and drummers old band at the House of Bricks when I was back in high school), but unlike some of their peers, they are not bound by any specific genre and have played with bands that are polar opposites from them-a very gutsy move for a band so young. Guitarist/Vocalist Jen Allen graciously took some time out from her very busy (really, she has had a lot going on the past few months) to let me pick around inside her head.

The Band: Hath No Fury
Kristin Sauvago/Vocals
AJ Arterburn/Drums
Jeff Stone/Bass
Jen Allen/Guitar/Vocals
Jayson Kempf/Guitar
Who: Jen Allen (guitars/vocals)Where you can hear their music: http://www.facebook.com/hathnofuryband

What was the first thing to really spark your interest in music?

I really can't tell you--its been there as long as I can remember and more. I have a picture of me when I was three years old, using my grandmother's cane like a microphone and striking a pretty typical rocker pose. I'm not sure where it came from, but it runs deep in me, this need to make and share and experience music.

What was the first show you attended? Was it a local band or a national?

The first show I attended and paid attention to was actually in 2001 when I first saw Tool. (How did I not see bands earlier? Combination of being rather secluded and growing up quite poor.) Tool was an experience I'll never forget. I was completely blown away by the whole thing, and have seen them twice since. They'll always have a special place in my heart and mind.

Any particular artist/s that have influenced you, not only as a musician, but also as an individual?

To be slightly repetitive, Tool first. Not only through their music, but their attitude. I remember Maynard [James Keenan] saying, when I saw them the first time, that everyone out in the general area, in the pit, needed to be careful and to watch out for their brothers and sisters. To not only be badass but to want people to be safe and happy really affected me. There is no reason we can't have an amazing time and still be good to each other. They really go hand in hand.

What kind of genres do you find yourself most drawn to?

I listen to a little of everything. Hard rock always catches me first, but there are a lot of pop influenced musicians out there that I really enjoy. Even though I do play guitar, I am drawn to vocals first, so a great singer--or better yet, an emotional singer--will get me every time.

Where did the name “Hath No Fury” come from?

Jeffro named the band, actually. He was at Carl's Place (bar) one night playing Roshambo with our friend Craig, when Craig's girlfriend Lindsey slapped Jeff so hard out of nowhere that he almost fell over. The next day he was driving around and thinking about it. "Hell hath no fury like Lindsey's Pimp hand." Hath No Fury for short. During the naming process we tossed around all sorts of jewels, including "Grandma's Red Panties" which certainly was a favorite.

How old is the band now?

Hath No Fury is only about a year and a half old. I played on my own for about 10 years before that, and almost all of the other members were/are in other bands for many years. Jeff and AJ have played music together for about 15 years, Jayson has played for at least 8 years in Mindrite. Kristin is pretty new on the scene but rocking it. It's great to have Jeffro, AJ, and Jayson's experience and knowledge to help guide the music I wrote and that we will be writing together.

How has your band grown over the years, as far as sound?

Jen Allen
(Photo by Willie Sheldon)
Right now we're almost done recording our first EP, so we haven't had a lot of time to grow and change within THIS band. I wrote the original guitar/vocals and we have definitely expanded on that through this year. I think we all, as individual musicians, have come a long way. Some of us were in acoustic pop music (me), some were in heavy rock/metal bands, a couple of the members have been in blues bands, cover bands, a Primus tribute, death metal, R&B, etc.

I think Hath No Fury has given us all a unique chance to use everything we have learned and build something incredible out of it. All of our influences come together, and despite being very different, they don't clash--they melt together into something new.

Has your voice developed more or has it stayed fairly consistent?

My voice has changed, grown, and become something I LIKE over the past year and a half, which has been really great. I used to feel like I had a small, unreliable voice. The problem was--I was trying to sing in ways that weren't right for my voice. Singing harmony with Kristin has let me relax and adjust in ways I couldn't with the spotlight all on me. It also has given me the ability and
confidence to completely give my all to the few songs that I sing all the lead parts on. You can't do it if you are scared, or tense, or full of doubt. I can't. It's all or nothing.

What has been the most embarrassing moment on stage so far?

Oh, gosh....the first time we played "out" together. We went to a small open mic and totally bombed it. My guitar wouldn't stay in tune, which made harmonizing very difficult. I think we got flustered enough to forget some of the words, some of the chords..... It was a humbling experience, but a great one--pointed out some very specific things we needed to work on. It was like a homing beacon
aimed at our weak spots (Ha--read: mine and Kristin's).

What would you consider to be your biggest triumph as a group?

This EP we are recording. Since we've done it ourselves, it has been a huge undertaking, but we have done it in such a way that it has cost very, very little. We have worked to keep it sounding very real and organic, so that if you listen to it and then come to a show...you'll have a similar experience. Jeffro has spent so many hours mixing, planning, setting up the recording areas, and really putting his heart into it. I love him for that. We have all worked to be as real and true to ourselves in the recording and to bring that forth. The special effect sounds that Jayson made with Jeff are really amazing and cannot be duplicated, also, and I can't wait for everyone to hear those. Want to know what happens if you hook a keyboard up to all your guitar pedals and then run on intuition? Listen to our EP when we release it.

Hath No Fury
You mentioned that you are in the process of finishing up your first release, an EP, how has the process been so far? If I understood you correctly, you’re actually doing by yourselves, was this a conscious decision or something that just kind of happened?

It's really been a great experience that has helped us come even closer together as friends and as a band. Most of the album was recorded in a studio apartment, all the guitars and bass were located in a small, sound treated closet so that we could use our real amps to record and get our real sound. We spent a goodly bit of time talking about whether we wanted to pay to go to a local studio to do it, but decided that for now we wanted to have full control over all aspects. We were also able to experiment with different set-ups and get the organic sound that we wanted. That, and we could work on it all hours of the day and night for no additional cost, tweaking things, trying it differently, etc. Having NO time constraint has been really nice. Granted, that means it has taken longer than we expected, but I'm really okay with that. This means we're making the product that we wanted to, and that when we can start getting it into the hands of fans--we are confident they'll love what they get.

You mentioned that the EP will sound organic and similar to your live shows, what made you decide to go that route vs. using some studio tricks?

I've seen a lot of bands live that I loved until I listened to their CD. Live= energetic, fun, powerful. Recorded = glossy, too perfect, no spirit. Now, this isn't always the case, of course, but I've seen it too many times. We definitely used a few studio tricks to make things sound good and balanced, and added a few simple effects, but for the most part, you'll get the same pure sound on the CD as you would live, with the addition of some amazing effects made from plugging the keyboard into all of our guitar effect pedals. Still--we didn't program them into the computer--Jayson made that noise. Even drum wise, we recorded live to keep all the emotion and emphasis that AJ plays with. We wanted nothing on this EP to sound sterile or cold.

Have you picked a title for the release yet, and when can we expect it to drop?

We're currently tossing around names for the EP. Things like "Grandma's Red Panties" and "Just the Tip" keep getting brought up, so we haven't been super productive yet, but we'll get there. Hoping to have a release party in February, and we're planning some pretty cool stuff to happen there. We want to give our fans a whole new experience.

When writing lyrics, what kind of things inspire you?

Life. This EP tells a lot of stories from my life, some from my perspective, some from the perspective of others. I try to be very honest. Therefore, if I caused the pain, I say so. If I caused the joy, I say so. If we all survived to see more sunrises and lived and learned...I say so. It was hard to share the songs, sometimes, because I feel like I am baring my soul for all to see and that can be frightening. It is also the most liberating thing I feel I can do.

How did you get your start in the Des Moines music scene?

I played for a long time on my own, but very small shows, and only occasionally. My friends were always supportive, but Jayson Kempf had a big hand in giving me the direction I needed to get better, to branch out, and to become a better musician. When I was ready to start a band, he was in 7 other ones and not an option for mine (though that changed later on). It was really talking to Jeff one random night at House of Bricks after his band Divided We Stand had broken up that got the ball rolling. He indicated interest so I sent him a song I had recorded at home. He sent it back about an hour later with some edits and a sweet bassline and I knew I had something special. I found Kristin not too long after that, I think. We were at People's talking and she mentioned trying out for a band in Ames. I had her sing me a couple lines and I was blown away. Still took a couple of weeks for me to put my ego away and ask her to be the lead singer instead of me, but I'm glad I did it. A.J. was in when Jeffro vouched for the music being decent, and he's been amazing at giving everything some heavy spirit. About a year after we started, Jayson Kempf was able to join us and bring his amazing guitar voice to the group, and everything seems splendidly solid now. One person in particular I'd like to thank, who isn't in the band, is the great Denny Harvey. He came and gave us a listen, and has helped with guidance and advice, as well as helping us get on some great shows, like New Years Eve at the House of Bricks and opening the Junk Poet Resurrection CD release at People's. We love Denny.

Hath No Fury Live
If you could form your own super group, consisting of any musicians, who would it be?

Right now, I feel like I've got it. I believe in these people so much, and they bring so much talent to the table. Kristin Sauvago, Jeff Stone, Jayson Kempf, A.J. Arterburn. I feel we can and will tackle any challenge that comes our way with, in the least, a very stubborn determination and a refusal to believe that we can't do it. I think all of our photos are likely in the dictionary next to the word "Stubborn." We've really learned to work together, though, and it's priceless to get to make music with your best friends.

How do you feel about illegal downloading?

Oh, man. What a complicated topic! As a consumer, we always seem to want things for free. With respect to the musicians and artists of the world, though, it's so important to buy what you want. Somebody's heart, soul, blood and tears went into making the music you are enjoying, and throwing some cash their way is the least you can do. I won't say that I don't download things, but if I like it,
I'll buy it. Most often, any downloads I make are because I've listened to a CD so much that it's too damaged to keep listening to, and this procrastinator didn't put it on I-
tunes yet.

Any tour horror stories?

Not yet! I have a feeling we'll fight over who gets the unicorn pillow, but it's all supposition at this point. We haven't made it that far yet, but we are networking and laying some groundwork.

Do you have any crazy fan stories?

Again, not yet! Our fans have been supportive and amazing and I couldn't ask for anything more!

Any song in your catalogue you wish you could go back and delete?

Nope. Not yet.

Any singular line in a song you wish you hadn’t written?


What do you feel separates your band from the rest in the local scene?

That's something we've been discussing lately, especially in reference to booking shows. We're essentially an alternative rock/pop band, and I haven't found many of them in this area. The covers we do are NOT alternative, we're female fronted but not soft, but by no means what you could call hard-core. We DO refer to ourselves as Awesome-Core. That's obvious. I'm not sure, but I've had people tell me that there is something about our vibe, something about our music and personalities coming together that draws them in. We have fans who normally only love Metal. We have fans who listen to country. I described us the other day as somewhere between Tool and No Doubt, but without the stereotypes. I think it's something you have to see and hear to experience. Hopefully we'll see you all at a show soon and you can tell us!

Thanks for your time Jen! It was a great pleasure!

Hath No Fury’s next show is December 11, 2011 at Vaudville Mews (benefits show). The band is extremely active on Facebook. Why don’t you hit up their page and give them a like!

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