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Hard-On Hags

2 May 2012 | 6:30 am | Doug Wallen

More Night Hag More Night Hag

Night Hag don't mess around. Prolific in both recording and gigging, the ominous Adelaide five-piece have put out a couple EPs and last year's album Gilded Age since 2010, and now have a third EP, the Confidence Man 7”. They also embarked on a tour of South East Asia in January, including one date at a swimming pool.

“In the day leading up to the gig, there was a problem with police trying to extort money out of the promoters,” recounts vocalist Dale Halliday. “So they moved it at the last minute and then moved it again. The only place left was a public swimming pool. It was a festival with 18 bands on the bill. We rocked up and there were kids having swimming lessons.” But the kiddies cleared out well in time for hundreds of punters to swarm in, he adds, before pointing out, “The night went great.”

As heard on Confidence Man, Night Hag are brittle and volatile, erupting their way through curt songs with names like Number Rash and Roast Beef Living. The band don't work with an official producer, but they always record at Adelaide's Capital Sound with Jimmy Balderston engineering. Balderston is at least partly to thank, then, for the grotty atmosphere that pervades the EP's five whip-lashing tracks. But lest the band get lost in said atmosphere, all the music is recorded live, while Halliday's hoarse-sounding vocals come last and often last-minute.

So does he work to keep that voice in shape? Lemon tea with honey, perhaps? “I don't really think about it much,” he answers. “My voice gets a little hoarse when we record because we're doing it [for longer]. On tour you're just doing 20 minutes a night. We record in quite a quick process, and I'm usually doing vocals last, when we haven't left enough time and we've got to cream through everything.”

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Wait a minute. Even for a band with predominately two-minute songs, 20-minute sets seem a bit short. “I don't think anyone wants to watch us for much longer,” says Halliday. “I think with punk and hardcore, it's good to keep it short and sharp. A quick, energetic set. The older songs we had were quite a bit longer, with more drawn-out bits. The album and 7”s [since] are shorter, faster songs.”

He says the band's first four-song EP was around the same length as last year's entire album. So instead of starting with short songs and challenging themselves to stretch things out longer and longer, Night Hag strive to accomplish just the opposite. “We found our sound with that EP,” he says, “and we just wanted to make it shorter, condense the songs and compress it a bit.”

Although they were included on a free digital compilation last summer from the website AusGrind, Halliday's not sure whether to call Night Hag grind, hardcore, doom or what. “I just call us a punk band,” he confesses. “I don't really listen to a lot of real heavy stuff, to be honest. I think of us as a punk or hardcore band, because that's the way I approach my part. Maybe a metal/punk crossover.”

Complicating matters, the band have been known to break out such unlikely covers as Syd Barrett's Baby Lemonade and, on the new EP, Boys Next Door's After A Fashion. They've even done the Twin Peaks theme live. Halliday credits guitarist David Gibson for leading that charge. “[He] likes to take songs that are a bit of a stretch for us stylistically,” he explains, “and transpose them to our style a bit more; weirder songs, rather than just covering a band that sounds like us.”

Finally, how about that band name? It turns out it's a nod to a mythical creature. “It was just playing around with stuff that had the same aesthetic we were going for,” Halliday admits. “It reminded us of a Melvins song, so we went with it.”

WHO: Night Hag

WHAT: Confidence Man 7” (Monolith)

WHEN & WHERE: Friday 4 May, Gasometer