Many parents of infants are ready to pass out -- and understandably so -- after tending to their kid all day. But when Terrin and Ricky Riemer put their baby in his crib for the evening, they didn't pass out: They started to rock out.
What began as an idea for a band around 1999 grew into a full-fledged project, His & Her Vanities, which released their first album in 2002, as well as the label Science of Sound, which is now home to Sleeping in the Aviary, Pale Young Gentlemen, Whatfor, The Hussy, Icarus Himself and several others in addition to His & Hers.
And the left-field lo-fi they came up with wasn't the stuff of most lullabies: It was an angular post-punk soundtrack that lured plenty of local folks into the world of indie rock. Perhaps it makes sense to look to the Riemers for the next evolution of pop-music culture as well. Their song "Hits Like Hail," off of their brand-new album The Mighty Lunge, presents at least one path for musicians who want to keep the D.I.Y. ethic that built the indie movement but ditch the cliches that accompany it.
The song's "personality" emerges from themes of devastation and doubt -- and that frantic scramble to keep things from changing, even if it's time for some old walls to crumble. As the guitar loops through an addictive set of chords over and over again, making you crave the melody more rather than getting it out of your system, it reminds you of being thrown for a loop by a shocking life event, with a certain set of pictures, sounds and other memories on constant rewind-and-repeat in your head.
Despite the weighty themes the song bites into, it started simply as a simple sonic experiment, according to the Riemers. However, the addition of vocals gave it an entirely new layer of meaning.
"I began playing a couple of simple bass parts to a simple beat on a drum machine, and then Ricky went nuts layering guitars, real drums and vocals over it," says Terrin. "In general, it's about something devastating that happens, and it's eating you up inside. You're trying to keep yourself together while going through it, also becoming suspicious of other things throughout the process."
"Hail" nails the nervous energy that fuels this gnawing suspicion and uses it to create something that's both beautiful and slightly disturbing.
The song kicks off with an energetic beat suited for both jumping jacks and inspired head-bobbing, layered with a ringing guitar that slides from one octave to another with rhythmic precision. The vocals, almost shouted, pack the power of a scream but keep a lid on it as well, bottling that emotion for a few bars, then letting it rip when the chorus reaches its apex with "You can't set fire to get rid of the desire / And if you break there won't be anything to save."
It's a moment that indeed hits like hail, blasting you with shards of sound that seem icy-cool but leave a welt that burns like hell -- and keeps you coming back for more.>
An MP3 of "Hits Like Hail" is available in the related downloads section at right. More music by His & Her Vanities is available on its MySpace page. Catch the first live performance of songs from The Mighty Lunge at a His & Her Vanities release show on Saturday, October 17 at the Frequency.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.