“That’s the way it is all through the States,” says Duffy Driediger, vocalist/guitarist of Ladyhawk, his irritation only slightly tempered by resignation after playing to an audience of around a dozen at Washington’s DC9 on May 11.
Dutifully, the four-piece had gone in front of the nearly empty room and laid down a rock solid barrage of gritty yet hook-filled numbers from their second full-length on Jagjaguwar, Shots, capped with the anthemic “The Dugout” from their self-titled debut, which the band (and they’re right) seems to hold out as a striking gem inexplicably languishing in the gravel bed of modern rock. A lot like Ladyhawk itself.
“Every band has to have an angle—something weird and quirky,” Driediger complains by way of explaining the band’s lack of drawing power. “There’s not a lot of bands that just play songs.”
This simplistic approach is Ladyhawk’s palpable strength as much as it may be their commercial pitfall. Just about every song is a visceral experience, whether it pummels you from beginning to end like album opener “I Don’t Always Know What You’re Saying” or “You Ran” or crawls painfully to the crescendo of a searing solo on “Faces of Death.” But Shots is simultaneously looser than the debut while still containing amazing pop hooks in nearly every track. Some new textures like (gasp!) the occasional keyboard or the girl-group backing vocals on “Night You’re Beautiful” were added to the mix since “We had a little bit more money and two weeks to work,” Driediger says.
“No one’s gonna like it the first time,” he says, and while Shots does lack the immediacy of the debut there is great reward in subsequent spins. This new depth amid Ladyhawk’s outward austerity strongly suggests the indie stalwarts of yesteryear who they cite as influences—Silkworm, Pavement, Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr.—bands that all combined challenging elements with a deep debt to straight up rock’n’roll.
As for today’s buzzworthy acts: “We don’t listen to them,” says drummer Ryan Peters. “We don’t know anything that’s going on nowadays.”
Aside from what they have gathered from anecdotal evidence on tour, that is. “Guitar-driven rock bands aren’t that popular right now. It’s just not paying off. We’re lost in all the other noise,” Driediger says. “In Canada, people are really supportive of it,” he says, and the band hopes to try their luck in Europe soon. “I guess we’ll just try to play in the places where people like us more.”