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Young Heart Attack
By Alexander Laurence

Young Heart Attack formed in 2001 in Austin, TX. The band consisted of Chris Hodge (vocals/guitar), Frenchie (guitar) and Steven Hall (bass), and Joey Shuffield (drums). They got together out of the shared love for hard rock. After a few gigs they became the biggest band in Austin. They soon acquired vocalist Jennifer Stephens who completed the classic sound of the band.

They played for a year and released a few singles. A big show at SXSW took everyone by surprise. Shortly after they signed a deal on XL. They travel to Europe and rocked the European crowds alongside the Darkness and the Datsuns. The "Misty Rowe" single appeared in autumn 2003, a song about a character on "Hee Haw." I caught them last year opening up for Junior Senior.

This year they played some shows with Peaches. The full-length XL debut Mouthful of Love dropped in the USA in May 2004. I spoke with Steven and Chris before their sold out show at the Henry Fonda Theater. On stage, Chris announced: "All our songs are about our three favorite things: long hair, Mexicans, and tequila."


AL: Where are you guys from?

Chris: I did a lot of traveling when I was young. I was a military brat.

Steven: We have all lived in Austin for a few years. We are all from different places.

AL: You met Jennifer when she was going to the University of Texas.

Chris: She hung around one of our mutual friends. We were looking for a girl singer. She was like a stoner chick back then. She was a hippy. She has her own look.

AL: What did you guys do before the band?

Chris: I delivered coffee at a coffee warehouse. It was great.

Steven: I haven't worked a real job in over ten years. I have always been in a band or working in a recording studio. Frenchie and I have been in bands for a while.

AL: You have a studio called the Bubble. You worked with Lemmy from Motorhead recently?

Steven: We have played with him before. We did a song for his solo album and a b-side for our last single. We did a cover of AC/DC's "Get It Hot." We did a song for his album called "Love Is Like A Hurricane."

AL: What was it like working Lemmy?

Steven: It was cool. We had toured with Motorhead in the fall and we had known him for a while. We started chatting about doing some stuff together. We said "Why don't you come to Austin to our place?" He spent a few days hanging out and we wrote some songs. We put some tracks down. We went to some strip bars.

AL: Is Austin known for its strip bars?

Steven: Lemmy is known for going to strip bars! He thought it was fucking brilliant. There is a place called Expose there, which has some of the hottest women you ever seen.

AL: Is that where you go to s get inspired?

Chris: Yeah. Very uplifting.

AL: What is the Bubble like?

Steven: It's on the east side. It's at the gateway of little Mexico. It's a 24-track studio. It has classical gear. It's world class. It's all analog. We have pro tools but we don't use it for what we do. We have some tape machines.

AL: It seems like many bands down there have their own studios?

Steven: At a certain level you have to. Frenchie and I built that studio six years ago when we were in another band. Our contract was bought out by Warner Brothers. So with that money we built a studio. We have moved it downtown. Since then we have been working on bands. He and I have been learning engineering. We have been producing.

AL: What bands have you worked with lately?

Steven: There is a new band that we are going to take out with us on tour called The Action Is. They are a cool rock band. There are a ton of Austin bands.

AL: How does the songwriting go in the band? Who writes the tunes?

Chris: The songs usually start with a riff.

Steven: One of us will have a riff. Most of the songs we wrote together. Some songs I wrote by myself. Sometimes we will collaborate. I'll go "What do you think of this?" And someone will go:" I have something that will go with that." Or visa versa. We are going to try to get everyone involved with the next record.

AL: Did you write all the songs before Jennifer joined?

Steven: No. Just one song. We formed the band and made it what it is. Jennifer joined almost at the beginning. Things happened fast.

AL: You have been together for about three years now?

Steven: Joseph joined about two and a half years ago. We had been playing for six months before that.

AL: What was the reaction in Austin?

Steven: It was hyped as fuck. We were written about constantly. Most of us had been in some prominent local groups so it was written about in the local papers at first like we were some supergroup. It was ridiculous at home. We had two full-page feature articles about the band in the first three months. We didn't have a record deal. We hadn't played out of town yet. We had eight songs. We were playing clubs that were way too big. The hype died off soon after. That's when we started to get serious. We started to tour. We got a record deal quickly. We started writing songs.

AL: What do you think of The Datsuns and The Darkness?

Steven: We are fans of those bands. They are our peers and contemporaries. Some of those guys are our friends. I like it if it is solid rock. I don't care for any of the pretentious bullshit.

Chris: It's good to see bands that started rocking again. Nobody wants to see a sad screamo band.

AL: Do you like Kurt Cobain?

Chris: I like Nirvana but I think he was full of shit. Being suicidal is being a pussy. It's ironic that a man with that much power didn't realize that he could have a way out of any situation. He was tired of fame and being a rock star. Well, take some of your money and go buy a fucking island and live with your family.

AL: There was a lot of downer music from the 1990s.

Steven: We are not into the downer vibe. We live in fucking Texas. We don't have a reason to be upset. We have great weather and a great culture. There are a lot of margueritas. We want to get excited when we are onstage. We want to do something that is a lift.

AL: I was looking at some pictures of Young Heart Attack a few days ago. You were playing live. Every pictures you guys were smiling and enjoying yourself.

Steven: Playing live is what we like doing. It's like your woman. You look at her and you smile because you love her. That is what this band is like. We are all best friends. We are very close. We formed this band to make ourselves happy. We intend to make other people happy.

AL: People look at bands like yourself and The Darkness who are playing heavy rock again. They think that these guys can't be serious, they can't be THAT positive: they are being ironic. What do you think about that?

Steven: I know The Darkness and have toured with them. It is not a joke. It's what they love to do. That's it. If you think it's a put on, that's what entertainment is for. That's like saying I don't like the film Die Hard because it is not based on a true story. Or I don't like the concept of Rocky Balboa because he wasn't a real prizefighter. It's all entertainment. It's the same for music. There is no rule that all music has to have some deep meaning behind it.

AL: What are your songs about?

Steven: "Mouthful of Love" is obvious. "Starlite" is a boy girl songs. "El Camino" is a song about our favorite bar. "Tommy Shots" is about the first summer we spent as a crew. We used to rent boats out in the lake. We used to drink and have a great time. It was such a great summer. We had to write a song to remind ourselves that we can have a great summer again by doing those things.

Chris: The summer is symbolized by taking tequila shots.

Steven: "To The Teeth" is about Chris moving back to Texas. "Sick Of Doing Time": we know what that is about. "Misty Rowe" is about when I was a kid. I was obsessed with this actress who was on Hee Haw and Happy Days. She was really sexy. I forgot about her for years. Then I saw her on television a year or so ago. Misty Rowe was the first woman on television who made me feel different. I wasn't aware of having a hard on yet. But it was a pure feeling of that is a different girl from all the other girls. The song is an ode to her. The lyrical imagery in that song is pretty tense. I hope she doesn't get upset and send me a letter.

AL: How many songs do you have?

Steven: We have written about thirty songs. We just picked the best ten songs. It's stupid to make a real long record. Every some of my favorite records are too long to listen to.

Chris: This is our first record. We are a rock and roll band. We don't need an epic experience the first time out.

AL: Most of the early Led Zeppelin records are ten songs and thirty minutes.

Steven: We don't play long sets. Even when we were playing headlining sets in London we would play for forty minutes. I like how the Dwarves and the Jesus and Mary Chain would play for ten minutes and leave. I think that is brilliant. The next album might be thirty-five minutes long.

AL: Are you going to work on the next album already?

Steven: Chris and I are going back in the studio and start writing the next album. Our goal is to have both album out within twelve months. We want to have written and recorded the new album by the end of summer.

AL: What is your setlist like now?

Chris: We will play some b-sides and stuff from the album. Maybe a few new songs and a cover song. We can play fifteen songs under forty minutes.

Steven: We have to learn a cover song. We just got invited to play on this Replacements tribute album.

AL: Who are some bands that you have toured with?

Steven: We have toured in the past year with Peaches, Motorhead, and The Darkness. We played with a great band from Britain called Viking Skull. We have been fortunate enough to play with some great bands. On the next tour we are supporting Jet. Then The Mooney Suzuki is supporting us.

AL: You have played with a lot of different bands.

Steven: In the past year we have played with The Darkness and Motorhead, and then we have played with Peaches and Junior Senior, which are totally different types of crowds. We are used to playing with guitar bands, but with Peaches it's totally different. There are elements of youth subculture that attend shows with Peaches, who would never attend other types of gigs. We are managing to get in all areas. It's cool.

AL: The Darkness is like the Kerrang magazine crowd.

Steven: Sure, it's metal. It's hard rock. We were playing to sixteen-year-old girls who really look up to Peaches. People in the gay community like her. It's cool. We are really fortunate that we can cut across all these different youth groups.

AL: You are a big band in England?

Steven: England is like a second home. We are a lot bigger there and we play bigger venues. We are playing on the main stage at Redding this year. The lineup on our day is amazing.

AL: When are you going to play New York and Los Angeles?

Steven: In July, we are going to do the proper support tour for the album. It will be the most extensive America tour. We only played half of the Peaches tour. We played on the east coast. When she got to Los Angeles we were already here doing a video for "Starlite." We have done four videos for the album. The new video has no performance by the band. It's more like a loose adaptation of The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.

AL: On this album was it all live takes?

Steven: A lot of live takes. There are a lot of live guitar solos too. Not all. We add in vocals and layer the sound. We did the record in three two-week sessions. We have some tracks that we never finished.

AL: What other bands do you like now?

Steven: I like The Libertines a lot. I like The White Stripes. And Jet.

Chris: I like The Secret Machines.

AL: What did you like when you were growing up?

Chris: Kiss.

Steven: I like a lot of punk and hardcore music. I liked Black Flag, X, and stuff on Discord Records. We were listening to Rancid recently. I still like punk, but when I was a kid, that was all I liked.

AL: A lot of bands that I see now have cheap guitars. What gear did you have?

Steven: We tend to tend to lean in the Gibson and Epiphone and Marshall direction. The tone is perfect.

AL: Does the band have any religious or political views?

Steven: I am not sure if there are any religious views. But the band is definitely left wing and liberal in its views. We are very anti-Bush and anti-Republicans. We are pro people. We want to make this democracy a real democracy.

AL: A lot of young girls show up to see Young Heart Attack?

Chris: I guess we put out a sexual vibe.

AL: This album is thirty-five minutes of pure sex.

Chris: It's a good album to fuck to.

AL: Did you hang out with Peaches a lot on this tour?

Chris: Yeah. She's great. She's awesome. Really down to earth. Really punk rock. There is an after party every night with Peaches.

Website: http://www.youngheartattack.net/


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