“It’s hard to be in the gray of things, that’s what I’m finding,” Joe Clements says after a thoughtful pause.“Everyone wants absolutes. It’s either this way, or it’s that.”
The singer for Santa Cruz hardcore acts, Fury 66 and The Deathless, is his usual calm and collected self. A punk turned spiritual teacher, Clements is open about his musical uncertainty, despite being a veteran in the scene.
“Talking about Buddhism, [self-doubt] is one of the hindrances that keeps us from liberation and freedom of the mind,” he explains. “I used to hide in humility, but it was really self-doubt.”
It’s this sort of raw honesty that he and his fellow bandmates bring to their new project–a ‘90s alt-rock/post-hardcore inspired five piece called Hot Lung. On Sunday, Jan. 14 they will open for desert rockers Fatso Jetson and local metal act, Dusted Angel in the second of a new series of Sunday matinee shows at Moe’s Alley.
“I’m stoked!” vocalist Kelly Dalbeck says of the show’s 3pm start time.
“I’m 36. I have a routine, I get tired,” she laughs. “And I think a lot of our friends who are coming are going to be happy too. We need sleep!”
Formed only early last year, the band is a who’s-who of Bay Area musicians. Along with Clements on guitar and Dalbeck (ex-Daxma) on vocals it features Dustin Roth(Thanks Buddy) on drums, Brian Lonsdorf (Lucas Lawson/Coal Fired Bicycle) on bass and Jon Jamieson (Crucial Unicorn) also on guitar.
Roth, Jamieson and Clements have all played in various projects together for “at least 15 years.” But for Hot Lung, Clements wanted something new where he could take a step back from the mic and play guitar. He and Jamieson threw around different styles and influences they wanted to incorporate along with what sort of voices they wanted to highlight.
“We really wanted a female vocalist, a different voice than what we’ve had,” he says.
Clements knew Dalbeck through local mindfulness practices around town and the greater Bay Area spiritual community. Lonsdorf was a friend of Jamieson’s and joined shortly after. In the last year they only played five shows but released a track on Bandcamp.com, “Never Home.” They’re currently finishing their debut EP, a seven song banger in the exploration of the more vulnerable side of rock, set to be released later this Spring.
“When we first started I wanted to lean more towards the punk side of things like scream,” admits Dalbeck.
“But Joe and the other guys pushed me to sing more, be a little more gentle. It’s turned into a really cool mix of all of our styles, and they’re all very different.”
“It’s this grunge meets post-hardcore kind of stuff,” describes Clements.
It’s the differences in style and their open vulnerability that makes Hot Lung so good. Musically, they’re a mix of Fugazi and Quicksand sprinkled with elements of The Smashing Pumpkins and Alice in Chains. Lyrically they are raw and visceral. Sometimes brash, other times gentle and accepting.
Take “Never Home,” which is also the first track on the EP. Along with emotionally gripping riffs, lyrics like “Use your voice/open your mouth/heartbreaker you can’t make it alone” and “If I can eat away/at all my skin and bones/nothing left to show/I would get small and fade away”show the brutal honesty the band brings to the table.
The track’s name–and the ending lyrics of “This house is a dangerous place/this house was never home”–might convey domestic abuse or neglect but the meaning is much deeper for Dalbeck.
“It’s about being a woman in general and never really feeling like you have complete agency over your own body,” she says.
“You’re never the one in complete control of it, there’s always some other factor going on. My experience has been that as women we sometimes disassociate from our own bodies, too.”
Then there are songs like “El Dorado”, what Dalbeck describes as a “letter to myself. . .because in the past I’ve had a tendency to disappoint myself.”
But if there’s one message Clements would like listeners to take away from Hot Lung, it would be passion.
“Don’t do something just because it’s cool or popular,” he states. “This is what I want to play, I want to try different stuff.”
He pauses another moment before perfectly summarizing with three simple words, “Follow your heart.”
INFO: 3pm, Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $15adv/$20door. 479-1854