Interview with vocalist Alec MacKaye | By Caleb R. Newton
Hammered Hulls are a rousing but strikingly personable hardcore band from the D.C. area with an energetic delivery and a sound so crisp, it’s a wonder they’re a brand-new project. Their self-titled three-song debut EP was released on Aug. 9 via Dischord Records, a staple of the D.C. music scene. It’s a community Hammered Hulls vocalist Alec MacKaye feels is “always evolving” and “still encouraging and supporting new voices while the longtimers keep trying new things to stay green.”
Although the concept of Hammered Hulls as a band is new, the energy packed into Hammered Hulls isn’t, and the members have dived right in to deliver an action-packed examination of finding one’s way in the midst of mayhem.
“The thing that is good about recorded music can also be seen as somehow lacking: it delivers songs to the ears of the individual and sounds precisely the same every time,” MacKaye notes. “I love listening to records, but I really love seeing and hearing bands walking the high-wire, putting it out there, feeling it and making the audience feel it too. I like when the audience takes the energy and gives it back exponentially. This record is a way into that.”
The members of Hammered Hulls—MacKaye, bassist Mary Timony, guitarist Mark Cisneros, and drummer Chris Wilson—have all been involved in live music for years. Some of them are in other projects, but MacKaye asserts that they “will continue to make songs and play shows as often as we can,” adding, “To be successful in this, we give plenty of room for each other to work in other areas of our lives. It’s an allowance that pays off.”
The musicians behind this work pour their perspectives into the project, delivering some real emotional honesty. For instance, MacKaye notes that the tense track “Looking After You” is a “concise examination of an unnerving compact between freedom and control.” While this relatable conflict could be applied in a wide array of contexts, MacKaye offers a specific one, bringing the urgency of “Looking After You” and the whole EP into focus.
“It’s not news that people—trying, in their way, to be free—find themselves giving away freedom and power all day every day in small, seemingly painless ways,” he notes. “In return, their new unseen bosses have them working for the tools, helping to refine methods of continuous fleecing, and we all mostly go along with it. For example, who wouldn’t prefer to get a traffic ticket in the mail rather than engage in unpredictable psyops with a police officer? Lockheed-Martin, among others, enjoys your business by getting a percentage of the traffic fine every time one of the pieces of equipment they lease to the police snaps a picture of the moment of your transgression.”
“I haven’t actually checked, but I imagine the same company sells radar detectors, so we can avoid paying the fines that they get a cut of,” he adds. “It’s all very tidy, and it happens quickly, like the song itself.”
Powerfully, Hammered Hulls transform their dynamic musical energy into this real human expression, which ensures that the songs will stick with listeners well after the recordings conclude.