The important thing about the Haggard is that they are not afraid to kick you in the balls if you're fucking with them. They're as polite as can be over the phone, they tell funny tour stories, and they even have a Cyndi Lauper cover band on the side. But make no mistake: guitarist/screamer Emily and drummer/screamer sts (say it like it sounds: S-T-S) have stockpiled a slew of righteous balls kickings for asshole politicians, homophobes, capitalist exploiters, misogynists, arrogant motorists, greedy tampon manufacturers—anyone fucking up their world. And if they can't get to you with their shoes, they'll get to you with their songs, which are as short, sharp and shocking as any trauma you'd never wish upon your testicles—and a lot louder to boot. Hardcore punk? Listen closer: hardcore is just what people call them for lack of a better term, says sts.
"We went to the BMX track in Portland, and we gave them one of our CDs, and they played it while we were biking around," says Emily (biking is to the Haggard what skateboarding was to every '80s backyard punk band: life itself). "The music sounds like what they normally play at a skatepark, but the lyrics are a lot different."
"Like pro-queer and pro-feminist, which I think is hard to find," says sts.
"Yeah, guys were really into it, and I think they had no idea what we were saying," says Emily.
"And I bet they thought Emily was a boy," says sts.
You might think that, too, if you were one of those Bro-Magnon types that likes female expression of aggression confined to bitchin' in the kitchen or running credit cards into the dirt because there is nothing in the Haggard that caters to easy classification. Oh, for a world in which guttural bellows don't necessarily have to come from the mouths of sweaty, shirtless scary guys!
Their newest CD, No Future, roars out from the wreckage left behind by last year's A Bike City Called Greasy, all vicious riffs and anti-bullshit lyrics that make the political intimately personal. These aren't diffuse straight-boy critiques of some system somewhere that could use a little smashing; these songs are Emily's and sts' real lives, as activists, beleaguered bike riders, dykes, feminists, women. Vote Haggard for president, they sing: "More bike lanes! Less roadways! More gardens! Less meat farms! More fucking! Less fighting! More!"
"When we first started playing together, we just wanted to play as fast as we could, but Emily finally convinced me to start singing and playing," says sts. "I remember driving around one day, saying, 'I can't sing and play drums; I can't raise my voice!' I hadn't done it since I lived in this crazy household where we all yelled at one another, and I didn't want to be around noise like that again. But Emily was like, 'No, do it like this—not from your throat, from your diaphragm!' So we drove around for a half-hour in the van, just screaming over and over!"
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So they know it's a little hard to listen to live sometimes—sts screams like a pro, but they still hand out lyric sheets, just so you don't miss the point. But noise, smoke and dust aside, the Haggard are about dialogue, not diatribe: for every unflinching polemic like "Tragic Hero" or "Quit Your Job," there's a wink and a smirk like "P.E. Teacher" ("You're so hot, it's depressing/Do you watch me undressing?/I want a physical education!"). And even if they do know a thing or two about balls kicking after taking some self-defense classes ("Don't worry," Emily says to me. "We promise we won't kick you in the balls!"), they're not looking to take down every boy who dares approach the stage. If you're a fucker, you'd best beware. But if you're not part of the problem, maybe you're part of the solution.
"I'd like to hear guys' opinions on the topics we choose to talk about," says Emily. "People who are coming up to us aren't going to criticize us."
"Yeah, guys like to get all technical on Emily about guitar stuff," says sts. "No guys ever talk to me. Except this one guy in D.C. who was totally talking to me all night, and I was finally like, 'Um, don't you realize I'm gay?' And he's like, 'Yeah, but I think I can change that!' He was kind of charming, but I was like, 'Thanks, I appreciate the effort.'"
The Haggard perform with Tami Hart, Molly Bolts, Otter Pops and Hurka's Hero at Koo's Art Caf, 1505 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 648-0937; www.koos.org. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $5. All ages.