The HARD ONS were one of those first wave of punk and post-punk bands that saw more early success and critical respect overseas than in their homeland. Died Pretty, Nick Cave and The Saints all experienced similar. As a result, many think European audiences understood these bands better. It’s a notion that Hard Ons bassist Ray Ahn doesn’t buy for a second.
“Nah, no one gets the Hard Ons more than Australians. When we go to places like Spain I can guarantee you we get a bigger crowd than Sydney but that’s not to say we’re more popular. Madrid’s a massive city. If you can’t pull a decent crowd in Madrid you won’t pull decent crowds anywhere.”
Forming in the western suburbs of Sydney in the early ‘80s the band have assiduously stuck to their guns for over two decades. “We knew exactly what was going to happen,” Ahn says. “We were gonna be shunned, and piss off a lot of people. But we weren’t gonna suck anyone’s cock to open doors for us.”
In response the band started kicking down doors with a tireless work ethic. “In October we’re going to Europe; our 15th tour there,” Ahn reveals. “In February we’re going to Japan; that’ll be the fourth tour. Been to America five times. I don’t know any other band at our level that can do that. We’re really fucking lucky man.”
Lucky maybe, but really hard working, creating an ethos that crowds adore. “We’re also fucking underdogs – people in Australia love underdogs,” adds Ahn, warming to the subject. “We’re a uniquely Australian band – you can tell but the way we sing, our attitude… We don’t have any airs or graces. We’re not a bunch of pretty boys. Typical working class Australians and a lot of people relate to that.”
Indeed. Ahn is conducting this interview on a lunch break from his day job at Utopia Records in Sydney, whilst singer/guitarist Blackie drives cabs and drummer Pete K splits his time between Regurgitator and Front End Loader, amongst others. Oddly, this time-sharing arrangement may have extended the longevity of the Hard Ons.
“I know a lot of bands burn out after a few years but we just don’t have that problem cos we don’t see each other that much socially for a start, and we don’t play with the Hard Ons all the time.” But when they do, you’re going to see “three average looking middle aged guys doing the best to rock their asses off”.
For now the band, who Ahn modestly suggests “got lucky in a small period of our career,” aren’t slowing down. “If we didn’t have jobs we could probably do three times as much, but you just can’t because you have to figure out how to pay the rent.”
The classic paradox – rent vs. rock.
The Hard Ons play at The Maram on Friday August 13, supported by Fangs of a TV Evangelist and Boonhorse. Tix are $14 + bf from Moshtix. The wonderfully titled new album Alfalfa Males Once Summer is Done Conform or Die is out now.