4 Songs, 12 Minutes

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About I Heart Hiroshima

During the late '70s and early '80s, underground bands like the Saints and the Go-Betweens flourished in Brisbane despite -- or perhaps even because of -- the state's premier, Joh Bjelke-Pietersen, instituting a policy of tight police control of festivals and shutting down concert venues. In the mid-2000s, a similar though less harsh crackdown on the enforcement of noise-restriction laws saw many venues close their doors and bands begin regularly performing at house parties as the only alternative. Although part of the city was eventually set aside as a designated Entertainment Precinct to which the noise laws didn't apply, another thriving underground scene had already emerged. One band who personified that scene was I Heart Hiroshima, a three-piece formed at a house party in 2005. All three original members -- Susie Patten, Matthew Somers, and Mel Ralph -- had been members of other indie bands. Patten had drummed and played trumpet, sometimes simultaneously, in the Mean Streaks, and she became the band's de facto leader. She sang as well as drummed, and rather than hiding demurely behind the kit she stood over it, leering at the audience, punkishly slapping herself with the tambourine and jerking her head like a toy monkey. Somers shared lead vocals while playing guitar, his androgynous voice contrasting with Patten's yelps. Ralph left in their early months and was replaced by Cameron Hawes, another guitarist, and the decision was made to stick with a bass-less lineup, which further helped their distinctive sound stand out. The band gigged constantly, performing at over 100 concerts in two years. Though I Heart Hiroshima quickly gathered enough material for an album, Valve Records talked them into beginning with EPs to build a fan base. In 2006 they released two EPs blending post-punk and pop/rock, A Three Letter Word for Candy and Cut in Colour. Their debut album, Tuff Teef, followed in 2007 along with diverse support gigs for touring acts like Cat Power, Conor Oberst, and Tricky. ~ Jody Macgregor

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