Pretty sweet


Hazz is a band with a dance-based sound that’s “sweet with a little dirt on it.”

Hazz is a band with a dance-based sound that’s “sweet with a little dirt on it.”

Photo/Kent Irwin

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Space often defines our relationships to each other in powerful ways. When we find ourselves inhabiting a space between where we came from and where we are going, our consciousness expands. We seek alternate paths, new friendships. We question our old ideals and foundations.

At the age of 12, Harry Collins found himself floating through space. Having recently immigrated from England, here he was, waiting at a bus stop in Nevada City, California, when along came Austin, a kid in the same grade. Unlike Collins, Austin was native to the area, but was also floating through the nebulous territory of adolescence. The two became fast friends, and soon Austin introduced Collins to his stepbrother, Gabe Cantrell.

The three became an inseparable trio, encountering the world together as they navigated their teenage years. As they grew up, they developed a love for science fiction, hip-hop, and playing music. At first, Gabe filled the role of drummer by default, having played since he was 8 years old. However, each of the guys took time to explore a different instrument.

Guitarist Collins eventually met up with bassist Mike Wronski, and the two put together a few songs under the band name Hazz, drawn from Collins’ childhood in England.

“In England, if your name is Harry, Barry or Gary, they’ll give you -azz at the end,” explained Collins. “Hazz, Bazz, Gazz. Even if your name is Matthew, they’ll call you Mazz.”

Hazz played a heavily rhythmic, dance-based sound, indebted to the music of the ’80s, particularly New Wave. Collins would often describe Hazz to people as a dance band, due to its emphasis on repetition, simplicity and rhythm. Also, they had a drum machine.

“I would tell people, ’we’re repetitious, but not boring,’” said Collins. “Like Daft Punk, but with actual instruments.”

As Hazz evolved, the dance element remained a part of the band’s DNA, yet they sought to defy easy categorization. Keyboardist and synth player Dez Sharp was added to the lineup. Cantrell was brought back, at first to play the drum machine, then to adapt the beats to a full kit. Though adamant about translating the stripped-down and catchy appeal of the drum machine, Cantrell considers his approach to drumming less mechanical, and more spirited.

“I’m a very non-metronome guy,” said Cantrell. “I’m not an anti-metronome guy, I’m just more influenced by ’60s drummers—Ringo, Moon. I like to give a little swing to it.”

This approach to rhythm changed the format of Hazz into something a bit harder to define.

“We often get asked, ’Who do you like, and who do you sound like?’” said Cantrell. “Those are two different questions. There’s some experimentation, but we’re not an experimental band, not strictly a psychedelic band either. There’s a rawness, but we’re not a punk rock band.”

Disillusioned with traditional genre monikers, Hazz sought other ways to define their sound. One such attempt came in the title of their next EP, Honey. The title was inspired by The Jesus and Mary Chain, who held a similar obsession with the word “honey.” Hazz liked the word too, and felt it was an adequate way to describe their sound.

“It implies sweetness,” said Collins. “Most of our music is pretty sweet. Very melodic, mid-to up-tempo, major chords.”

“It’s sweet,” agreed Cantrell. “With a little dirt on it.”

It’s this blend of fun, melodic, and catchy pop tunes, with a bit of the grit and passion of punk and psychedelic rock, that defines the sonic voice of Hazz. But what truly focuses Collins is not the notes, but the space between them.

“I believe less is more, so I try to work with that,” said Collins. “It’s not so much about the notes that you play, but more about the ones that you don’t.”