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Helland: “With Hoaries, I wanted a band that I could control my own destiny.” Photo by Andrew Sherman

The writing dynamics inside of bands vary almost as broadly as the stylistic sonic fruits of those dynamics. There are some groups in which each member might contribute their individual parts or even whole songs. Others might create their sounds collectively in the moment through jams or improvisational sessions. Others still are bands in name only, with one person composing nearly every note played and word sung. Chances are, most musicians have had experience with each of these processes in some capacity. Singer/guitarist Jeff Helland had certainly had his turns with all of these methods except one. Used to mostly joint compositional strategies, he’d never attempted to be a band’s sole principal creative force. That is, until he started Hoaries.

“I’ve been playing in bands for more than 20 years,” Helland said, “and for whatever reason, those were what you might call ‘somebody else’s band,’ or maybe they were even good true collaborative bands. But at a certain point, every one of them stopped. Maybe somebody moved out of town, or maybe I got flat-out replaced. They always seemed to end prematurely. With Hoaries, I wanted a band that I could control my own destiny — a band that, no matter how many people filtered in and out, at the end of the day, it was up to me to continue producing. It was ultimately my responsibility to keep it going.”

Under Helland’s direction, Hoaries, a bellicose noise-rock quartet, has just released Rocker Shocker, a nine-song collection of cantankerous punk at its finest. With brittle, angular guitars, blitzkrieg, asymmetrical rhythms, and Helland’s indignant barking, the tight 25-minute blast is an exorcism of pent-up frustration ideal for the COVID-era. With the Weltschmerz cranked to 11, the sonic onslaught is a cleansing. You can practically feel your black bile humour running out of your ears like a mockup of a sweating, conspiracy-drunk Rudy Giuliani press conference. They said the Trump era would be good for punk music. With Rocker Shocker, local punk seems to be peaking just as he’s headed out the door.

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Helland, who started Hoaries a little more than three years ago, is perhaps best known from his time co-fronting Denton aggro slop-rockers White Drugs. That band, despite few releases and rare shows, found a fairly devoted fanbase among the somewhat obsessive disciples of underground noise rock. A particularly ravenous subspecies of the obscure music collector, noise rock junkies are constantly seeking any new music in the genre (if only to one-up their fellow enthusiasts by being able to claim to be the first to have heard of something). In this circle, the link to White Drugs certainly had a part in helping Hoaries’ first few releases — a three-volume series of EPs called Crudforms released over the last couple of years — sell out of their limited runs almost immediately upon release. Helland is hoping this same buzz can help Rocker Shocker, the band’s first full-length — as well as their debut release on Reptilian Records (Faking, BULLS) — to continue that trend.

The album was begun in the spring of last year at Dallas’ Consolvo Studios. Finishing touches were finished at guitarist Christian Breit’s home studio over the lockdown. Rocker Shocker was mastered by Matt Barnhart (METZ, Superchunk).

Helland said he enjoys being responsible for the core of the content, but it’s not without its pressures. “It’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s on me. If that record label puts [this album] out, and it doesn’t sell anything — if that guy pays for those records, and he’s sitting on them for 10 years, he’s looking at those records, and he’s seeing me. I can’t just step away from it.”

He’s not without help, however. After early iterations featured an assortment of players such as John Newberry (Deep Snapper), Britt Robisheaux (Drug Mountain, Most Efficient Women), and Helland’s brother Tom Helland on guitar, Helland feels the current lineup is here to stay. Notable Dallas artist Clay Stinnett (Boom Boom Box, Ghost Car) has retained his founding position behind the drumkit while Belt, an old cohort of Helland’s from White Drugs, has slid into a comfortable role playing second guitar opposite him. The latest member to join brings with him an enviable noise rock pedigree. New bassist Bobby Weaver was a founding member of the now legendary local post-punk pioneers the pAper chAse.

“As soon as [Breit] took a stab” at playing guitar, Helland said, “it was instantly like, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’ He and I just know [each other’s] guitar playing so well. As soon as Bobby [Weaver] agreed to join up, that first practice you just realized it was a perfect fit. That guy does stuff with the bass you’re just not supposed to do. Just wild, leftfield stuff.”

Though not interested in “taking up space” from musicians trying to eke out a living during the pandemic, Helland said he looks forward to taking the new lineup out on the road once he feels comfortable.

Rocker Shocker is available on vinyl from Reptilian Records and also available to stream on Hoaries’ Bandcamp page.

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