When: April 19 (doors at 7 p.m.)
Where: Biltmore Cabaret
Tickets: $19 at eventbrite.com and Red Cat Records
Nineties alt-music fans may recall Mary Timony as the frontwoman of Helium, a band that released two acclaimed albums of mystical-sounding indie-rock before folding. For her new power trio Ex Hex, the guitarist/singer teamed up with drummer Laura Harris and bassist Betsy Wright for a sound that recalls ’70s glam and ’80s hard rock. We talked to Timony about touring today versus 30 years ago, her “lost” years, and Ex Hex’s second album, It’s Real.
Q: You were just checking out of Airbnb when we called, which of course wasn’t available in the ’90s. Is this a good option for touring musicians?
A: Yeah. It’s cheaper. We just stayed in a super-nice Airbnb, really comfortable. It’s not as easy as staying in a hotel. Usually there are a bunch of guidelines you have to follow. You don’t want to end up with a bad review!
I remember touring without cellphones, you’d roll into town, find a pay phone, call the club, and write down the directions on a piece of paper. Things have changed.
Q: Do you miss the nineties?
A: Not really (laughs). Some things. But there were also a lot of terrible bands. There are good things about music now. It’s easier for people to record themselves. Anybody who’s got talent can have other people hear it. In the ’90s it was harder to start a band, you had to be more resourceful. I hated being in my 20s, so I guess I don’t really miss the ‘90s.
Q: Was there a time when you just weren’t making music — i.e., the lost years of Mary Timony?
A: I did a bunch of solo records, two for Matador (2000’s Mountains and 2002’s The Golden Dove) and then one on Lookout (2005’s Ex Hex, from which her current band takes its name), but that label folded two weeks after we put the record out. And I went on tour and lost a bunch of money, and I didn’t see a point in doing any more records. So I stopped for a little while. I never really wanted to sell records, but I wasn’t angry enough to keep writing sad music and I just didn’t want to do music as a hobby and lose money on it, so I thought, why don’t I just start teaching guitar?
So that’s what I did for three or four years, and then I got super-bored. And then the Wild Flag ladies asked me to join that band. (In 2011, Wild Flag — featuring Timony, Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, and Rebecca Cole, released a self-titled record.) Even during that time I had a band, but we only played locally. But it was really only three years that I stopped. So it wasn’t that long.
Q: The songs on It’s Real, the new album, are a little longer than on the first, Rips. Was that intentional?
A: Yeah. We didn’t want it to be all short pop songs. We wanted to stretch it out, and have the sound be a little more diverse.
Q: You released Rips five years ago, in 2014. Will there be as long a wait for a third record?
A: I hope not. We’re being smarter about how much we tour. We toured a little too much, and there were too many logistics. I was burned out. I’m better at being a musician than a band manager, I guess. Now we have help. I hope we can get it done faster.
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