Ex Hex on Rock 'n' Roll: "It's Been the Most Important Thing in Our Lives"

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There is a special place in the memory bank for that first person who turned you on to something cool, whether they slipped you a flyer or made a mixtape.

For D.C.-based band Ex Hex, featuring indie veteran Mary Timony (Wild Flag, Helium, Autoclave), bassist Betsy Wright (Fire Tapes), and drummer Laura Harris (Aquarium), the original access point into rock 'n' roll came in the form of the members' older teenage brothers.

Timony was also aided along by hardcore punk legend Ian MacKaye, whose father's house was just down the street from her home.

See also: Five Signs You Might Be a Shitty Guitarist

But even though teenage boys can be credited for the trio's love of old Rolling Stones and Ramones records, the fun, angst, and recklessness of rock is certainly not the exclusive realm of pubescent males.

Among the latest pieces of snarling proof: Ex Hex's debut album, Rips, on Merge Records. It is a near-perfect, summery, power-pop offering that evokes Cheap Trick, The Runaways, and Johnny Thunders.

Recently, bassist Betsy Wright spoke to Crossfade while walking her dog (a mutt that's part Australian Shepherd) and preparing for Ex Hex's January tour, which arrives at Churchill's Pub next week.

Crossfade: The subject of fun seems to come up a lot with this band. You're always smiling and laughing while playing. And yet it seems like it was born out of some pretty serious times, from band breakups to divorces. What were you going through when Mary asked you to play?

Betsy Wright: I was between lots of things. I was living in Charlottesville and was about to move back to D.C., and I was also in another band with my husband at the time and we were breaking up. So we were all in between bands and things.

Was it the perfect distraction at the right time?

Yeah, definitely. I think that it was, for all of us. It was perfect timing for everything to kind of come together.

Even though you all had just come from breakups of different kinds, you were supercommitted right away. Was that surprising?

I think the three of us have all been playing music for so long and it's been the most important thing in all of our lives for so long, so it's just sort of natural that we wanted to play in a band that was a full-time thing and touring. I think we were all just really ready for that.

See also: Rock 'n' Roll's Seven Baddest Chicks

The age range in the band is 30s to mid-40s. Was it important to dispel any myths that fun, debauched rock 'n' roll is something that's owned by the youth, and maybe even more specifically, male youth?

I guess it was just a relief to be where we are right now. The music is so not serious that it just lends itself to us having fun. I mean, we are serious about the music, but the songs themselves are really upbeat and fun.

What is it like to be playing in this band as a certifiable adult versus earlier endeavors?

I think we are able to enjoy ourselves more now because we have been through so many bands and hoping things are going to work out so many different times. All that stuff you just think don't think about it in the same way. Also, we feel more confident. I mean, I know I do, more than when I was a kid playing in bands. I think we know what we're doing by now. [Laughs]

Mary came up in an era of D.C. music that would make most punk and hardcore kids extremely envious, literally living down the street from Ian MacKaye's dad's house. Getting to see Rites of Spring and Fugazi, being around during Revolution Summer. You're a few years younger so what were your early music years like?

When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I was pretty unaware of any kind of scene going on in D.C. because I was living about 15 minutes outside of the city. So we would go to bigger shows, but my older brother and I were really into classic rock. We went to see the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. So that's kind of where I was coming from. I didn't discover any of that other stuff till later, till way after it was over.

Even though Mary was raised in a scene that was politically engaged and you all live in D.C., you all agreed to make this band just be the essence of a party, right?

I guess it was sort of unspoken. I mean we didn't make like a party manifesto or anything. [Laughs] It was really about the music and the rock and roll that we love.

Does D.C. shape your music in any way?

I'm sure it does, just having a common experience. I think it's interesting that we all have older brothers that we looked up to and that's what got us into classic rock as kids and so we have all of that in common. That doesn't have anything to do with D.C., necessarily. But to me, this music does seem like it could only come out of D.C.

While on tour, what kind of trouble are you getting into? I heard something about sneaking into hotel pools?

We don't get into any real trouble. [Laughs] I think sometimes we just want to cut loose and have a little fun. It's hard being in a van all day, loading all our gear and playing a show, selling merch all night. So occasionally, we like to listen to music and dance around and whatnot.

Who controls the radio in the van?

I think the rule is whoever is driving does. Last tour, we listened to a lot of audio books, which was awesome. On Halloween, we listened to Dracula.

-- Terra Sullivan

Crossfade's Top Blogs

-Miami's 20 Best Punk Bands of All Time

-Ten Best Female Punks Ever

-Five Signs You Might Be a Shitty Drummer

Ex Hex. With King Tuff and Jacuzzi Boys. Presented by Strutter USA. Saturday, January 17. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 9 p.m. and admission costs $12. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

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