Though the loud, raucous, Stones-esque Hanna Barbarians recently announced they were breaking up, they essentially broke up the day they formed in 2009.
“We had this barbaric attitude, if you will,” guitarist Alex Zobel said at an informal meeting recently with what’s left of the band: singer Blake Parish, guitarist Kris Luther, and drummer Brady Hamilton. “It was hedonistic, and it was great. … Toward the end … it wasn’t reflective of who we were, and it started to piss me off, the whole rock ’n’ roll lifestyle.”
“And it hurt,” Parish said.
“We all feel it now, for sure,” Zobel said. “It’s kind of a cliché, the burned-out rock-star mentality, but we definitely went for it, and if we were gonna make it …”
“… we would have made it by now,” Parish added.
Basing a band on hedonism –– every show’s a party, and every morning that should be spent writing new material is instead spent recovering –– is like fueling a car with dynamite. That the Barbs managed to pack houses across North Texas, churn out a couple of fantastic recordings, including a new five-song EP, The Last One, and even go on a small tour, is a minor miracle, doubly miraculous considering no one was injured along the way.
“That’s the problem with being in the band that the Barbs became,” Hamilton said. “You can’t live life like that on the road and be successful and make money. You can do it and spend all your money and have the best time you ever had, but you’re going to come back with nothing, and you’re not going to be able to do it again.”
“It’s emotionally and physically exhausting,” Zobel said. “I’m sure we would have had success regionally and nationally because we’re all driven and talented, but I think it was killing us slowly.”
“I think we just got lost in the idea of what it is to be in this band,” Luther said, “instead of why we were doing it in the first place: to write and play music we’re passionate about.”
The new songs were recorded with producer Will Hunt at his Spaceway Studios downtown over a year ago. The band intended to fine-tune them but simply lost steam. After the Barbs and co-founding bassist Chris Evans split not long after the sessions, the remaining members spent months getting his replacement up to speed but only to watch him also move on. The whole time, Parish and company were sweating and scrounging to pay off a one-time bright idea: a 15-passenger Ford Express. (Hamilton has some advice for young rockers: “Don’t buy a van unless you have someone [to] book you regionally and nationally.”)
As the Barbs were on a downward trajectory, The Longshots were taking off. The newish quartet to which Zobel, Hamilton, and Luther belong recently put out an amazing self-titled debut album and has received some national press.
Parish feels The Longshots’ success was one of “several small factors” that helped spell the demise of The Hanna Barbarians, not the only one.
The Hanna Barbarians? These days it’s more like The Hanna Librarians. Both Parish and Hamilton are getting hitched soon, and Zobel has been sober for nearly seven months. “I came to a point in my life where it wasn’t sustainable for me to be the way I was anymore,” Zobel said. “I wanted something more from life, and I wanted to find out who I was. … Now, I’m fully ready to experience life without a filter.”
The change to not pounding shots at bars hasn’t slowed down the guys musically. In addition to The Longshots, Hamilton and Luther are in Chucho –– a new project by two Foxtrot Uniform cats, frontman Kenny Uptain and keyboardist/vocalist Katie Robertson –– and Parish is pursuing the idea of another rock ’n’ roll band. (“I’m going to be very picky, take my time,” he said.)
The Barbs have two farewell shows lined up: Saturday, Jan. 17, at The Grotto (517 University Dr., 817-882-9331) and Friday at Lola’s Saloon (2736 W. 6th St., 817-877-0666) with American 45s, Mountain Kid, and The Phuss’ Josh Fleming. Copies of The Last One will be for sale at both shows.
“It’s been so long since we tracked” the songs, Luther said. “We kind of went through a process of ‘I don’t give a shit about them,’ and then you go back, find them, and you’re like, ‘These are actually pretty cool! I’m really proud of this stuff.’ ”
“We wanted to be able to go out without anything sitting on the shelf,” Parish said. “It’s good to go out on top!”
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