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Ladies of Punk: Super Wild Horses

Written by Nell Greco on April 29, 2010

On the verge of releasing their first 12″, Nell Greco sat down with Hayley McKee and Amy Franz from Super Wild Horses after their set at Meredith’s Golden Plains Festival to talk whiskey, vinyl and plain ol’ girly punk music.

Punk music has never been pretty. Think Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop or ah, Billie Joe Armstrong. But when Deborah Harry (and Blondie) hit New York’s New Wave scene back in the 70s, they showed the boys that, well, you don’t have to be a boy. Meet the girls on Melbourne’s new garage rock/punk scene block: Super Wild Horses (SWH). SWH are playing gigs and being categorised with bands like Eddy Current Suppression Ring, UV Race, Bum Creek and Spider Vomit for their rough-edged, low-fi and vinyl-friendly Rock.

Even at 10am in the morning, the blokes at Golden Plains had already started wolf whistling and mildly taunting but these girls meant business and they barely batted an eyelid. “We just happen to have boobs,” Hayley informs me. Amy further explains that “it was never our intention to be a girl band – or to use that in any way as some kind of pitch for our band but I guess people will make of it what they will.” Blondie may have used it to her advantage to crack the pop music scene in 1979 with Heart of Glass but there’s no such goal in mind for McKee and Franz.

From the audience, the duo are cool and aloof. Their performance is so cohesive they rarely look at one another but casually make banter with the doe-eyed looking crowd as their whiskey glasses are re-filled. How does one prepare for a set first thing on a Saturday morning? “With bleary eyes and coffee and then we hit the whiskey. It was the only way” says Hayley. The ladies are both quite chipper compared to their humble interviewer (who had only had two straight coffees and no sleep) and happily chat about their set, the new album and upcoming tours.

“Neither of us are particularly proficient on our instruments, we just play what we can,” Amy confesses, but the seduction of their music lies not just in the ragged, distorted riffs or the gritty harmonised shouting but in their audacity to create music anyway they can. “The keyboard thing came about because we were going, ‘Oh it’d be great to have something extra in this song’, and the only way to do it is for us to be playing two things at once” says Amy, and play two things at once they do.

I recall being in awe the first time I saw SWH play – Amy on guitar and Hayley on drums. They looked pretty cool and their sound was rough and angsty, then Hayley started playing keyboard whilst still playing the drums. If only I’d known not to be impressed yet. The ladies then traded instruments and the entire crowd seemed convinced that these girls knew what they were doing. When I put to them the idea of recruiting another band member to play keys, Hayley replies, “we never really thought about having any extra people in the band. I just think of it as me and Amy.” Rather than restricting their sound, this makes it all the more enticing.

Perhaps what was most surprising was learning what SWH are angry or angsty about – I mean, that’s what punk is all about right? Yet so many of their songs are about, uh, love… Hayley starts to explain “we’re total girls-”, but is cut off as Amy quips “we’re too old to be angsty (laughs)! I was thinking about this earlier, we write about our lives really and we’re generally pretty happy people.” Even more peculiar is that they grew up watching Gilbert & Sullivan musicals and were sung the tunes of Billy Joel instead of nursery rhymes at bedtime. “We’ve both been fortunate to be exposed to a lot of different styles of music”, says Amy and “we’ve always been surrounded by it [music] so something has seeped in (laughs)” adds Hayley. It just goes to show there’s always more than meets the ear.

The duo have recorded their first 12″ on an eight track reel to reel, which will be released later this month. Amy recalls, “I don’t think we did more than two or three takes for each song.” Their first 7″ EP, Super Wild Horses (2007) was printed only on vinyl and sold out too quickly (there is such a thing) so this time around, they’re compromising nostalgia with efficiency. “There’s something about putting a record on a turntable and the warmth of the sound that comes out of vinyl – you just can’t match it with CD”, Amy says and adds, “there’s some kind of longevity in records as well.” However, after the response of sales from their first EP, there will be a CD release of the album following the limited edition vinyl.

If you can’t wait until then, you can catch them playing gigs around Melbourne in the coming months and there’s potential for a national album launch tour before they shoot off to the States in September. “We’re playing Gonerfest over in Memphis which is a really exciting four day garage festival” says Hayley, “organised by the crew that run the Goner Records label.” The four day punk festival will also feature fellow Australian garage punk outfits the UV Race and Total Control. As for plans to forge through into the music-scene-future, Hayley says, “We’ve got some rough plans but no grand plans of conquering – we just say yes a lot.”

To keep up to date with their album release and tour schedule, check out www.myspace.com/superwildhorses.

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