Hazardous Material 

New Orleans’ Hazard County Girls blast beyond gender generalizations.

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New Orleans’ Hazard County Girls are just like any other travelin’ rock band, ridin’ in a van and rubberneckin’ at road wrecks. That’s a point Hazard County Girls vocalist-guitarist Christy Kane makes. By virtue of their gender, the good-rockin’ HCGs are being heralded as one of those magical girl bands that breeze in and out of rock fans’ lives every decade or so (you know the type: The Runaways, Go-Gos, Babes in Toyland, L7). By virtue of their music, they’re beyond a generalization.

But that’s the thing. There are so many bad, bad, bad female bands as a result of men and women buying into and/or perpetuating stereotypes. Enough people think women should be prancing around suckin’ on lollipops and singin’ about puppy love. So many of them do. Then, when a really good female band comes along, it’s a Big Deal. Why?

“There are countless bad [female bands],” says Kane, “and a lot of good ones. But as far as all girl groups, if it happens to be woman playing? Awesome. If it’s a guy, that’s fine with us too.” Her bottom line, paraphrased: rock is rock and if it’s good, it’s good.

Kane and drummer Sharon Heather met at a party thrown by Sean Yseult, ex-bassist of White Zombie (currently with Rock City Morgue). After a few weeks of jamming, the pair had enough songs to play a show at New Orleans’ renowned Mermaid Lounge. For that show, Yseult played bass, but due to her Rock City Morgue commitment, Katie Campbell signed on to sling bottom. Campbell’s tenure with the band was short-lived, however, as Nashville Pussy snatched her up after a few months. Current bassist Jennifer K was plugged in soon after and Hazard Country Girls have been static since, releasing an EP (Living Room) in 2002 and debut full-length, Never No More (Wooden Wheel Records) earlier this year.

Never No More, produced by punk/metal über-producer Daniel Rey, is a frightening example, if merely a surface scratch, of Hazard County Girls’ mettle. The HCGs have listened to anything and everything, and by intent or osmosis, retained and employed key elements as their own. “Sonic” strikes a balance between alt-rock and ’70s and ’80s punk; “Uninvited Mess” melds Black Sabbath riff rock to Sonic Youth’s pop side (an oft-mentioned comparison); “Spy” and “Train” checks surf and garage rock without overt loyalty to either; “Exit” is almost sweet, sunny pop rock circa ’94—but for its somewhat ominous chorus. The HCGs are doing it all, with aplomb and seemingly little effort. They’re a helluva band.

“Honestly,” says Kane, “[the music] is nothing we think about too much; it just sorta happens. We just kinda really click together, because musically we all come from such different interests that when we write together, it makes something unique. We have real good—I hate to use the word because it’s so stupid—chemistry.”

What might now be stupid or cliché because lesser bands have cheapened it by insisting they have it, is profound when it’s authentic. And Hazard County Girls have The Real Thing in kilo bales. Never No More and a scorched-earth live show (which they’ve put on throughout the Southeast and up and down the East Coast) are garnering the HCGs a steady, throbbin’ base of fans.

That’s not to assign superhuman qualities to a still-young band, just to speak of potential. They’ve still got earth to scorch—as she spoke, Kane and her bandmates were en route to the first show of their first-ever West Coast tour—and ears to win. Sometimes, like when they’re booked on the basis of their hillbilly-ish name, it can be a challenge.

“We’ve ended up being put on bills where [it seems like] our press kit hasn’t been looked at or our disc hasn’t been listened to,” says Kane. “And sometimes people think we’re this hillbilly, country novelty thing; I think it’s safe to say we’ve scared some people away. Now I always preface a crowd that looks like they’re assuming we’ll be something different, ‘Hey, if you think this is gonna be country, you’re wrong. We’re a really loud band.’”

Most brave the imminent onslaught, she says, and eventually get down with it since, after all, few can resist the sound of one band rocking. Kane says college kids, punk kids, bikers, hicks, metalheads, men and women now claim membership in the Hazard County Appreciation Society—and that pleases the HCGs.

“It’s shocking sometimes, but obviously we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It seems like there’s no specific stereotype as far as people that are into the band.”

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More by Randy Harward

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