Monday, June 7, 2010


Hugs was a chaotic hardcore four piece from Cedar Falls. After the breakup of the short lived Cedar Falls hardcore outfit Sender Receiver, members Shawn Reed, Benjy Klostermann, and Andy Spore formed Hugs in late 2002, with Shawn on guitar, Andy on guitar, and Benjy on bass. They needed a drummer and had their friend Ryan Garbes, who had spent time playing in the Cedar Falls and Waverly band The Skabortionists, round out the lineup on drums.

Hugs was most influenced by the late 80s and 90s Dischord sound, specifically post hardcore bands like Fugazi and the Nation of Ulysses, as well as bands like Cap'n Jazz from Chicago. Hardcore bands such as Universal Order of Armageddon, Moss Icon, and the Amherst, Massachusetts screamo act Orchid (among other Ebullition bands) were also huge influences. Later in the band's life, influence could be found in bands such as the Velvet Underground and MC5. When listening to Hugs' music, you can also hear a definite metal influence as well.

One major, non-musical influence that Hugs took to heart, however, was the 90s DIY ethic. This ideology helped the band carve a more distinct niche for themselves in the hardcore world. Lyrics were just as important of an element for them as their musical stylings with commentary on the education system, the environment, and prevailing attitudes on the opposite sex, but still reading like poetry. Every record was released with an analysis/explanation of the lyrics. With all of these influences combined, sound and action wise, Hugs was a more grounded and focused band when compared to contemporaries playing the same chaotic sound from other parts of the state. To put it in other terms, Hugs didn't quite have the fashion sense that Des Moines screamo bands did, nor did they want to.

Shortly after forming, Hugs traveled to Muscatine to record an EP with Landon Strause in mid 2003. This recording session would become a 6 song 12" put out by the band themselves. The 12" was one sided and clear, with art by Shawn screened onto the b-side. Soon after this was released, the band hit the road for a two week long midwestern tour.

1. Hell is For Children
2. Transposition of the Greater Vessels
3. Won't Lovers Revolt Now
4. Death of a Postmodernist
5. The Logic in Sand
6. Bringing Home the Blood

Click to download.

For the rest of year, Hugs stuck to playing shows around the midwest, with most of them happening in Iowa. Some of the more standout shows around this time included Hugs playing with the Locust at Gabe's Oasis in Iowa City, and playing with Milemarker at the Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls. One of the more influential shows for the band was the show they played with Wives (later becoming No Age) and Hale Zukas. Wives' art conscious mentality and sound would influence the way Shawn, Andy, and Ryan would create music in future projects.

The band embarked on a nine day winter tour in late December 2003 with highlights at The Ghetto Diaper in Lansing, MI and new found friends in Indianapolis, Louisville, and Somerset (KY). Benjy says, "Derek Black (Mara'akate, Phoenix Bodies) is such a standup dude. He would stay up until 5am to let us into his parent's house while we drove in from wherever, set up shows, feed us. He did so much for us, that and Horsethrower."

The winter tour had a bit of a rocky start in Detroit. The house show was mildly attended, but what really freaked them out was the gun-toting promoter. He was reported as saying "Sometimes I go out back and just shoot my gun off a few times so other people in the neighborhood know I have a gun too." Despite the scary Detroit locals, Hugs was able to start building a solid fanbase outside of Iowa. The mini-tour also sparked the strongest friendship of Hugs' career with ex-Saetia hardcore band The Fiction of New York City.

In early 2004, Hugs journeyed to Chicago and stepped into Mike Lust's (Lustre King, Tight Phantomz) studio (who also had recorded Ten Grand) to record their full length. Rough tracking was done in the course of a single weekend and the mixing was finished in another whirlwind session the following weekend. The session produced 13 tracks known as The Tarpit that definitely exhibited a more refined sound than the self titled 12". The Tarpit was initially slated for release on CD/LP by Indiana based label Happy Couples Never Last, but those plans had to be scrapped. A supposed important-emails-in-the-spam-folder problem by HCNL caused Hugs to resort to their own resources to ensure that the new record was ready for The Fiction/Hugs 2004 Summer Tour. Friend of the band (and Benjy's roommate) Cameron Myers stepped up to the plate and released the album on his newly founded label Records of the Damned. Waking Records also completed the CD version with different art near the end of the 2004 summer tour.

1. Some Great American West
2. Who's On First, Who's On Second
3. Part 1: Te Young Corporate
4. Jesus Nike Brad Pitt Hard On
5. Glacier
6. Run
7. Lost in the Wilderness
8. Mike Witry was a Good Kid
9. The Deep World
10. Run!
11. Shiv for the Immortals
12. Part 2: Overthrow of the Boy's Club
13. Untitled and Self-Improvement

Click to download.

By this time, Hugs was gaining more attention and Slave Union Records repressed the self-titled 12" just in time for Hugs' late July/early August 2004 east coast tour with The Fiction. A few days into tour, Hugs played Dudefest 2004. Several other dates on the tour also included shows with Welcome the Plague Year and Cowboys Became Folk Heroes, as well as select dates with Meneguar, Transistor/Transistor and Books Lie. This tour would prove to be completely disastrous for Hugs, however. While driving from Summerville, SC to Raleigh, NC, Hugs' van got a flat tire. They stopped and got an after hours tire/wheel replacement by "some sketchy local yokel" and everything seemed normal. While they were driving to their show that night the entire newly replaced wheel completely snapped off at the bolts at 70 MPH on I-95, which sent sparks flying everywhere. After getting towed the remaining 45 miles to Raleigh, the entire rear axle had to be replaced, an expensive endeavor.

Thankful to be alive and lucky enough to make friends with a guy named Chris in Raleigh, Hugs went on to play itheir strongest and most cathartic show ever on July 30th, 2004 at the Posidome in Raleigh. Despite the glimmer of hope, this was in no way the end of Hugs' adversity as they would later go on to get lost in the Appalachians while attempting to take a shortcut en route to Blacksburg, VA, and at one point the entire sliding door of the van fell off, among other problems. After playing a show in New York, Hugs decided to cut the tour short at 3 weeks and drive back to Cedar Falls. Four dudes in a minivan for 20 days with all their equipment - that's a hard sell.

At this point in time, the member's interest in Hugs was waning. The hardships of the last tour coupled with shifting musical interests would mark an end for the band. Four unrecorded tracks were planned to be pressed as a hearthshaped split 10" with Sweetheart of Ohio by Perpetual Motion Machine (and was planned to be released on Valentine's day of 2005), but these plans never came to fruition, and Hugs had no interest in continuing as a band. Their show in New York would turn out to be their curtain call, and Hugs would never play another Iowa show again.

Shawn, Andy, and Ryan moved to Iowa City and started up the experimental psychedelic band Raccoo-oo-oon, and Benjy moved to Des Moines, playing in the short-lived thrash metal outfit Bartyr in Blood, as well as Tyborn Jig and Monstro. As of this entry, Shawn and Ryan are playing in the Iowa City band Wet Hair, Benjy is continuing on in Tyborn Jig, and Andy is living in California.

Thanks to Shawn for giving me all the information he could remember, and thanks to Benjy for all he remembered, his anecdotes, and for ironing out the details.

Check out Hugs' old website as it existed years ago: HUGS KILL

No comments:

Post a Comment