But the little dogs understand
Local instrumental spazzcore duo Hella sez this is your brains on the rug
When Legs on Earth split like an amoeba in a petri dish before heading straight down the drain—how’s that for a lead, Madame Curie?—guitarist Spencer Seim and drummer Zach Hill found safe refuge with an entirely new sound. Hella, as the duo christened its new project, started playing shows around the greater Bay Area and Sacramento Valley. In the process, the neo-prog combo gained a sizable local following.
Hella recently released its first EP, which sold, amazingly enough, more than 30 copies at one show alone! Could it be that Hella has come to take shake your collective senses in ways unimaginable and stimulate you into neurotic fits?
Hellacious? Hella? Does it really matter what the etymology of a band’s moniker is? After all, it’s the music that counts, right? Just what kind of band would name itself after an overused Fast Times at Ridgemont High catchphrase that has taken root, nearly 20 years later, as a staple of local teen lexicon? And what makes the Hella Experience? “Zach mentioned it jokingly one day and it stuck,” says Seim, obviously not concerned with modern-day semantics.
Such other lesser-known acts as Lightning Bolt, the Moldy Peaches, Vaz, Pink & Brown and the Need have also used similar two-piece configurations with great effect. “There’s definitely quite a few out there currently,” says Hill, a tall and skinny but outspoken fan of the aforementioned acts. “Everybody has got their own way of doing it—which is good.”
Seim claims the duo is creating music for a specific purpose. “We’re out to boggle some brains and try to give people an insight into what our dog thinks about when he is alone in our backyard,” he deadpans.
Strange? Not strange at all, when you consider that Seim’s self-professed guilty pleasure is listening to music from his eight-bit Nintendo.
Hill previewed the duo’s initial recordings that would make up its self-produced EP, Leather Diamond, before its formal release—a photocopied cover stapled with a CDR—which is currently available at shows only. Needless to say, the band’s brash approach is quite intriguing. If you can imagine Primus frontman Les Claypool’s bass lines mimicked at warp speed alongside some of the craziest bass-drum/full-kit rudiments since Terry Bozzio’s years playing with the late Frank Zappa, you’d possibly understand about half of what Hella is trying to achieve sonically.
Hill is one of Sacramento’s greatest skinsmen. He pummels his drum kit—often destroying countless drumsticks, warping drumheads and breaking bass-drum pedals on a regular basis. And Seim is an adept guitarist who, for the most part, remains sedentary onstage while administering fretboard work that would befuddle and amuse almost any unsuspecting club-hopper.
The duo just inked a deal with influential Olympia, Washington, indie label Kill Rock Stars’ imprint 5RC. That, along with a pending October East Coast tour in the works with Seim and Hill’s buddies in Lightning Bolt, indicates things are happening hella fast—pun intended.
Hella is scheduled to record again in November, and a full-length CD is due around next February. Synchronizing the logistics—getting a booking agency to put together a tour that will work with the next CD’s release—is today’s challenge. “We’re figuring everything out and coordinating it with the label right now,” says Hill, who is obviously amazed at the progress of the duo and seems aware of the upcoming workload.
Sacramento has needed a prolific act like Hella to help turn around the sonic atrophy of the last few years. Better enjoy it while these guys are still local, though: Hella good may soon equal hella gone.