Ben Harwood and Jeff Silva are the two halves of Seattle rock band Hobosexual. I thought it would be neat to get to know the guys since they’re playing a show on Record Store Day at Silver Platters’ Sodo location. I met Ben and Jeff at Add-A-Ball, a pinball bar in Fremont. We played a few games, including Street Fighter 2 and a really trippy pinball game set in outer space. I had to admit to the guys that I had never played Street Fighter before, so they demonstrated how it was done. Then we found a relatively quiet table to sit down and chat. The conversation went something like this:
ZOE: Would you please introduce yourselves for the recording?
BEN: I’m Ben, and I play guitar and sing.
JEFF: I’m Jeff. I play drums, and I don’t sing.
ZOE: Because you don’t like to or you’re afraid to?
JEFF: I’m not certain that I can sing. I’ve never done it. I’d love to. I just haven’t had the opportunity, and I don’t know if I can.
BEN: He can sing. I got him really drunk at practice one time, and I got him to sing back up. It was awesome!
ZOE: Do you think that might be where you’re headed?
JEFF: We’re gonna try it. Absolutely, why not?
BEN: For Jeff it’s just that he’s never done it. It’s like jumping into an icy pond.
ZOE: Today I was playing the new album (Hobosexual II) in the store for my coworkers, and I had a woman come up to me and ask, “What’s playing right now?” She got really excited. Apparently she’s a cycling instructor for spin workouts, and she really wanted to play it for her class. I told her about how the album’s about a BMX biker gang, is that right?
BEN: Most people understand this concept album as retro science fiction. It’s the action/exploitation/grindhouse films from the 80s, but through a modern lens. When the 80s were around I was so little I barely remember them, but I have this weird fever dream memory of what they were about based on images from weird movie posters and VHS boxes. I’ve read several other people who have the same experience. The director of the movie Beyond The Black Rainbow was talking about that, and I saw that movie and thought, “Yeah, that’s exactly where my brain is.” It’s an awareness that [art] can be both good and bad at the same time. So much of [art] now is so deadly serious. Yeah, there is some stuff to take deadly serious, but all my favorite science fiction movies and designs are all from the 70s and 80s.
ZOE: I feel like you have to laugh about things, because if you don’t laugh about them now you’re going to laugh about them in the future. Why look back and miss out on that?
BEN: Exactly. Have fun with it. If you have fun with it you’re never going to regret it. Anyway, the [album] is a tongue-in-cheek absurdist story that you would hear about in an A or B list 80s movie: movies like Solar Babies, Explorers, and of course the Terminator series. It’s an amalgam of weird cult movies.
ZOE: Jeff, do you do any of the songwriting?
JEFF: The only parts I write are the drumming parts. Ben’s in charge of all the lyrics and main rhythms. My drums might sway the rhythm in one direction or another, or maybe it will increase the tempo, but for the most part I just write the drums.
ZOE: You guys are playing Record Store Day at the Sodo store. Have you been involved with RSD before?
BEN: Yeah, small things like at Easy Street Records, but never a featured performance like this. I think because we have a record released around the same time it’s all coming together.
ZOE: Speaking of record stores, do you have a favorite find? Something you thought was awesome that you can only find in a record store?
BEN: I got a monaural version of John Lee Hooker’s It Serves You Right To Suffer. I found that in Chicago on tour in about 2008. It was only fifteen bucks, but it’s actually fairly valuable and hard to find in mono. In mono it just sounds incredible. Probably the best vinyl I have.
JEFF: I have a find, but I didn’t buy it. I couldn’t afford it. It was at Jive Time Records in Fremont. See, I’m a big Kiss fan. My first album growing up was Kiss’s Destroyer. The first three albums that Kiss put out were also packaged as something called The Originals, a three album set. I own every single Kiss album, but not The Originals. I’ll probably buy it, just not right now. I’ve never seen it anywhere else. I should probably buy it…
ZOE: It’s interesting to me how vinyl collectors will have a “collectors’ copy” and a “player copy” of the same album. I never knew that was a thing that people did until I started working at Silver Platters.
BEN: Records are made to be played. It’s counterintuitive to not play it.
ZOE: A lot of the value comes from not opening the record. It’s really fun to price vinyl and see all this awesome stuff come in, but for me I can’t imagine not playing my records.
JEFF: Back to the woman who wanted to play [our album] for the spin class, did she buy it?
ZOE: She did! She told me about a competition that they’re training for, and she wants to play the album to pump people up.
JEFF: What age would you say this woman was?
ZOE: I dunno, maybe in her 40s? She was rockin’ out in the store!
BEN: The thing about Hobosexual II is that it’s selling like crazy. We couldn’t have anticipated it being this awesome. The demographic of people who like it, like our all ages following is burgeoning and getting more massive. The all ages show that we did for the record release was insane. We almost destroyed Easy Street Records, inadvertently. Two mosh pits broke out. It was insane. There’s a video [from the show], but the guy’s camera got hit and went into the mosh pit. You see this blur, and then you’ve got the camera back. Then you’ve got the other demographic of people in their 30s, 40s, even 50s who are more classic rock oriented because of their upbringing. Naturally we love anyone who listens to our music.
ZOE: Do you like playing all ages shows or do you prefer 21+?
BEN: I don’t really have a preference. I like to help the kids if I can because they don’t get enough. It’s more rewarding to have a kid who’s not ham-faced come up to you at the end of a show who actually listened and say, “That was amazing,” as opposed to at a 21+ show where people won’t remember who you were and what your band was called the next day because they were so hammered. But we have done a number of 21+ shows that were phenomenal, where none of those factors apply, and it’s just awesome. The best ones are when everybody can go, like at The Neptune [Theater].
ZOE: Do you have a favorite venue to play in Seattle?
JEFF: I think the two best experiences I can remember today were at the Neptune Theater. Neptune’s great for stage sound and playing in front of 1,200 people screaming. But we’ve played fun shows at The Comet, Blue Moon and Tractor [Taverns].
BEN: I’d say the Tractor because they’re load-ins are terrific and their crowds are amazing. They treat the bands really well. For The Comet it had to be the right moment. You could see fifty shows and feel like you don’t want to go there anymore, but then you see one and it’s the best show you’ve ever seen.
ZOE: It was an institution. It definitely leaves a void. Do you remember your first live show as Hobosexual?
BEN: Our first show as Hobo was in Arlington at The Murkwood. Jeff had to learn twelve songs in four days.
ZOE: Are you guys touring right now? Do you have any shows coming up?
BEN: So far we’ve got four different tours on the books where we’re going out regionally, one where we’re potentially going out east. I’d say between now and next fall we’re gonna be out there a lot. We’re playing with Ancient Warlocks, and we’ve got Sasquatch coming up.
ZOE: Did you start getting into music at a young age?
JEFF: I was like 8. I’ve been doing it most of my life. I can see stopping a lot of things in my life, but not drumming. I love it too much. My dad was a drummer his whole life, and as a kid he played in a Beatles cover band. This was while The Beatles were still around. He quit for a while when I was born, but he picked it up again about 8 years later, so there was always a kit in the house. I was so shy that I would get home from school at two o’clock, my parents wouldn’t get home til 5pm, so I’d go in the basement and play drums for three hours. Then when I saw the headlights pull up I’d shut everything off and go upstairs. I don’t think they knew I played drums for years. Eventually they found out I was playing, and I got over my stage fright.
And the rest was history! Get in on the action Saturday April 19, Record Store Day, at Silver Platters Sodo. If you like rock ‘n roll and having a good time, you won’t want to miss this show. Hobosexual plays at 4:30 PM.