Interview: Giant Drag

Page 22 – Giant Drag, header image credit Ward RobinsonThis Giant Drag interview was originally published in Issue 9 of DrunkenWerewolf Magazine, September 2013.

Annie Hardy stands on the precipice of the end of her career as Giant Drag.

That’s not something you can often say of an artist with assurance. Reports of the demise of a band are normally made in retrospect of the decision, or in advance as a prediction following tough times. But Giant Drag has never been a normal project, and Annie Hardy is no normal front woman.

In a move telling of her respectful attitude towards her fans – more on which later - Hardy made the announcement alongside details of a farewell tour scheduled in the UK for September.

“I want to engage [with] people once again and make the rest of the world care as well. Basically the last couple [of] years of my life were pure hell and I spent it (and my “success” period of Giant Drag) a slave to prescription drugs, only to go to rehab last October to get clean. Charlotte Froome and Tennesse Thomas from The Like will be helping me to reform Giant Drag for a select few shows to promote the record and say goodbye to the band properly, so I can concentrate on my new project Annie Hardy and the Psychos.”

The above statement was posted on Hardy’s blog in May and caused a chaotic reaction of news pieces and hastily compiled (and delayed) album reviews.

Those aware of her struggles - mainly through the trials and tribulations of her sophomore album Waking up is Hard to Do - were the least surprised. Ready for what seems like years, the record was finally self-released in March 2013 after a long battle with funding and, as it turns out, personal issues.

“I have been going through the process of being reborn, to sound immediately annoying,” Annie explains. “I don’t know how else to phrase it. The person who I was in Giant Drag had to die metaphorically so that I could be reborn, and so my passion for music and life could as well. I think of how I felt when I was touring and doing all [of] the cool shit [that] I did at the top of my game, and I was just absent. I hated it. I have purpose this time. I’ll appreciate things I took for granted thanks to the pure hell I went through to get back to music.”

The disassociation and dissatisfaction Annie has felt throughout her career as Giant Drag has had an understandably immediate effect on her music and how she’s engaged with the industry thus far. Most poignantly, over the past ten years Giant Drag has made its way through four different labels, one for every record including their debut EP Lemona and 2012’s Swan Song EP. This, she says, was entirely her own fault.

“I tend to be a people pleaser and a pussy when it comes to demanding my needs get met. That somewhat has changed this year for me. I had to learn to communicate and through doing so I’ve learned that I was and am really bad at it.”

Despite an arguably natural aversion to working alone - she looks after her own PR, bookings, management and for the time being at least, releases - Annie declares herself a team player.

“I prefer having a band behind me, as much as it drives me insane sooner or later. I was an only child so I don’t think I’m used to taking other people into consideration within healthy boundaries. I tend to take care of people too much or under-communicate my expectations and get let down. I’ve really been working on this recently because if I don’t I’ll be holding an acoustic [guitar], coffee house style.”

Under ordinary circumstances, the catapult concoction of rehab, a lack of professional support and financial issues would imply Waking up is Hard to Do is a shambolic mess put to sound. But like we say, Annie is no normal front woman, and consequently this is no normal ‘breakdown’ album. She puts most of her success down to the continuing input and support of her friends, but remains characteristically open about her contribution.

“I had to have [Waking up is Hard to Do] funded, which happened thanks to the kindness of my fans and the executive producer Mickey Madden [the bassist of Maroon 5]. If it weren’t for that combination right there, I doubt I’d have survived the seven years. I barely did to begin with.”

Micah Calabrese, who officially left Giant Drag in 2006, also returns to play on the record alongside Madden. Annie, who has previously remained vague about the reasons for Calabrese’s departure, admits “it was tours and the other work [Micah] didn’t love”.

Another name that’s cropped up time and time again in coverage of Waking up is Hard to Do is Icarus Line’sJoe Cardamone, who recorded the demos of the songs with Annie several years ago.

“It was so important that I [recorded] with Joe. Nobody else was looking to protect these songs the way Joe was, because I don’t think there’s anyone who would be as emotionally invested in them as me, except Joe. We are best friends and went through so much making this record. More than I’ve been through with anyone else.”

She continues: “Joe is such a talent, and he has a method that intrigues me by how much I don’t understand it. He's ‘the hardest working man in no biz’ as he puts it. He’s always working and doing cool shit, exclusively. It’s so admirable and honourable and it seems like with the recent release of Slave Vows - the new Icarus Line album – he’s finally getting some of the praise he deserves.”

Her deep respect for the work of others compares to her gratitude for her fan base. Hardy notoriously keeps fans in the loop through a variety of personal publications, recently combined on Annie Hardy Party, now fittingly renamed Annie Hardy Battles On.

When questioned about her rapport with her fans online, she humbly claims that she “just doesn’t think about [emails from fans] any differently than other emails in my inbox. Perspective and comparison to other artists has made it seem like I should be congratulated for being so down to earth, but I [just] don’t see it like others do I guess. I’m probably just retarded though!”

Returning to what will now be Giant Drag’s last album; Annie admits that she “hates titles” but found Waking up is Hard to Do a suitable name for the album.

“[With titles], either you're too literal or too overly serious. It rubbed me the wrong way back in my early days, hence “Kevin Is Gay” and “YFLMD (You Fuck like My Dad)”. Mostly I'd drive around thinking of fucked up shit or flippin' puns around. Waking up is Hard to Do just seemed like a perfect title. I was tired and groggy all the time from being strung out on painkillers and then right before starting the record I went to rehab where they put me on four other meds to get off the one I was on. Then I thought I was sober only I was high in a different way. I'm waking up in the alertness sense and then also in the realisation sense. It’s always extremely painful and/or hard to do.”

It’s similarly fitting that Waking up is Hard to Do will act as a bow out for Giant Drag. The album is caught up in breakups for Annie, in more ways than one.

“At the time of writing [the songs] I was in the process of trying to move on from the second of what would be three Micah breakups. It was sort of pathetic when I realised how many [Giant Drag] songs were about my totally platonic relationship with Micah. I realised at that point I hadn't really dated anyone in years. Then I dated someone and was so miserable I finally finished the album. But we’re always moving on and moving through different phases of our lives.”

“I was and am scared to depart from the safety zone that is Giant Drag, but I have to because I need to find out who and where I am at this point in my life,” she adds. “I hear "Kevin Is Gay" and I don't know the person who’s singing that song. I don't know why either, so I hope this UK tour will shed some light on that for me.”

Said UK tour is fast approaching and will commence and end during this issue’s month of publication. Stopping off at nine UK cities, amongst them Bristol, it’s not the most lengthy of schedules but it will be a hectic and probably emotionally charged farewell.

“It’s going to be weird and I’ll probably cry,” Annie agrees.

Some however might ask why a Los Angeles based artist has chosen the UK as her final circuit. According to Annie the answer is quite straightforward.

“I love America, I live here obviously, but I love touring in UK. You guys are the tastemakers and Los Angeles and New York looks to NME and other publications and record labels out there to see what'll be cool out here.”

“I didn't do well in Los Angeles until Wichita was putting out Lemona and NME was praising me,” she concedes. “Even with all that clout you guys are the most fun to play for because being a music fan is part of your culture in a way that it isn't [in America]. You guys are present for the live music experience. In Los Angeles people are too predisposed with looking cool to really let loose and have fun. It’s fucking stupid. So for the farewell tour and the final farewell show, I am happy to do it for UK exclusively.”

There you have it. On 20th September 2013, the day after Annie’s final show in Brighton, Giant Drag will be no more. Fortunately Annie’s not calling quits on music all together. With her own label Full Psycho in tow, she’s teaming up with a number of musicians under the moniker of Annie Hardy and the Psychos. They’ve already released a debut EP – Shaved and Waiting at the Cum Trough – and hope to have an album ready in the not too distant future.

She concludes: “In my old age I’m only getting angrier and dirtier. But it’s also all in good fun, something I get to have now from time to time.”

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