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Giant Drag: From a major label to auctioning hair

February 24, 2010 |  1:24 pm
Giant_drag_3_4With the release last week of a new EP, Giant Drag's Annie Hardy finally had something to sell other than her hair -- or sex toys. Once stamped with next-big-thing status, the Silver Lake-based rock band, centered on Hardy's sweetly vindictive vocals and her dreamily dreary guitar work, has been missing in action for the better part of four years.

While the Silversun Pickups have ridden an alt-rock-inspired sound straight to the Grammy Awards, Hardy's own mid-'90s-influenced rock has gradually faded from the local scene. After parting ways with Interscope Records, Hardy went the straight do-it-yourself route two years ago, asking fans for donations to fund a second album, and eventually raising about $9,000. Spare cash also come in via EBay, where Hardy has recently sold what she described as a "personal massager," and said she once offered strands of her hair.

"It takes a lot to creep me out, and the No. 1 fans are just collecting the weirdest stuff I can sell them, legally, on EBay," Hardy said. "The hair didn’t go for that much. This was going to go in the trash, anyway, so why not see what happens? It went for somewhere in the $20 range. I had a filling that fell out, and I may have sold that. I think someone purchased that. " 

Resurfacing with the four-track EP "Swan Song," Giant Drag is coming out with its first official release since 2005. The EP was released independently via Roar Scratch Records, a label Hardy has started with Joe Cardamone from the Icarus Line, and with additional help from the Maroon 5's Mickey Madden. The album is being serviced to retail via Sony BMG's Red Distribution. 

"The feeling of the EP being finished and not released was a feeling of extreme mental constipation," Hardy said. "We had no record label. We had to figure out a way for it to come back."

Think of it as a tentative first step to a full-on Giant Drag comeback -- probably. In addition to record label drama, Hardy rattles off numerous other causes for delay, including her on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again, on-again relationship with drummer Micah Calabrese, a computer hard drive crash, a number of failed attempts to put together new bands and her own battles with muscle disorder fibromyalgia. 

The EP was recorded a couple years ago with Calabrese, who first left the band before Hardy inked with Kickball Records, at the time a new subsidiary of Interscope. He returned, but when Giant Drag was eventually signed to Interscope proper, Hardy and Calabrese's musical partnership again took a hit.

"The dynamic is that Micah is not very outward with his feelings and thoughts. So the fans know only a little bit less than I do, as far as how much Micah is or isn’t in the band," she said. "He quit right before Giant Drag got signed to Kickball, so I signed as just me, and got all the money. Then, Micah came back, and quit right before the Interscope contract. Every time he quits, I get money, so I can’t hold a grudge. Every time he bums me out, I get at least $20,000."

At just four songs, the EP, said Hardy, doesn't necessarily offer a glimpse of Giant Drag's future. "Heart Carl" is an acoustic lament, and "White Baby" alternates between fuzzed-up guitars and Hardy's cut-to-the-chase lyrics, in which a hint of lewdness keeps things from getting too personal. Its tone matches a conversation with Hardy, in which obscenities are delivered with everyday candor.  

"That song is just about shooting out babies, and maybe putting in them in a Dumpster if you don’t want it," Hardy said of "White Baby." "But let’s make some babies -- some white ones, some black ones, whatever."

Current time in the studio has largely been spent with Cardamone, and Hardy notes that an upcoming album, hoped to be released this year, promises to feature less of a blissed-out guitar sound. "Instead of that whammy-barred guitar and the My Bloody Valentine comparisons, I wanted to do more vocally, with backing vocals and harmonies and keyboards and pianos," Hardy said. "In a way, it’s more bare-boned. It’s more straight to the point."

It will be the second time Hardy has composed songs for a sophomore album. She had one album ready to be recorded with Interscope, having been paired up, at the label's suggestion, with A-list session musicians. Ultimately, it ended in disaster.

"Something just didn’t feel right," Hardy said. "I thought it was maybe the absence of Micah, or the fact that it sounded totally different. I was ready to go through it. I have a horrible people-pleasing complex, and I was like, ‘Whatever you want, I will do it.’ But the day before we were meant to go in the studio and record the album, I received a phone call that said production had been halted on the record."

Hardy has been label-less since. She's recently recorded some commercial work, including one for Yahoo, and Giant Drag's cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" was used in a heavily aired "Nip/Tuck" promo. Royalties, however, for the latter go to Isaak, and Hardy noted her former label owns the master recordings. 

"It was so fun watching ‘Wicked Game’ on the ‘Nip/Tuck’ promos every five seconds and knowing that I was getting absolutely no money from it," she said. "It’s like you’re driving to Disneyland, and you finally see the Matterhorn, and there’s a rapist on top of it. That’s how I felt."

An exaggeration, perhaps, but vulgarity comes natural to Hardy.

"It’s a part of my mind, and it always has been," Hardy said. "I remember informing my first-grade classmates of the spectrum of bad words that were out there. With me, it’s always been bad words, bathroom humor and butt holes."

-- Todd Martens 

Photo: Micah Calabrese and Annie Hardy. Credit: Giant Drag.

Video: Giant Drag's "Stuff to Live For" from the the EP "Swan Song." 

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