The Hard Aches are about to hit the road to tour their new record, ‘Mess’. I caught up with vocalist Ben David to talk mental health and its place on the album.
“It’s something that I’ve always talked about in my music and in my songs,” David confirms. “I’ve been really aware of mental health myself in my own personal life since I was a teenager, and it’s been something that I’ve battled with forever. This was the first record where I consciously wanted to sit back and say, ‘Alright, this is something that affects everybody, whether it’s directly or indirectly, but, for some reason, there is still this stigma about it being seen as a weakness or something to be ashamed about.’ I wanted to put a record together that acknowledged that but also saw it in a light that said it does actually get better, and it’s okay to not be okay, it’s okay to ask if your friend’s not okay.
“It’s the first record where I wanted to write about the things that were happening around me and to people around me rather than it be directly about myself and my own experiences. There’s this f*cked stigma in Australia of ‘you’ll be right’, whereas that’s kinda sweeping it under the rug and ignoring the core problem. No one should feel like they can’t ever get better. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, whether you can see it or not. It is there. I myself didn’t think there was, and then one day, I actually saw it from a different point of view. I want other people to be able to feel purpose and feel like they’re not weak for feeling sh*tty.”
The album features guest vocals from some prominent Melbourne musicians, as well as a well-known American muso. “Georgia (Mae, Camp Cope) and I have been playing music together for about six or seven years. She’s one of my best friends, but she also happens to be someone who is extremely talented and who I really like singing songs with. So, naturally, she was the person we thought of to do the backing vocals on Happy and Family.
“Craig (Selak, The Bennies) is another person who we’ve known for a long time. We heard this harmony in a song and we were thinking about who could do it because we didn’t want to go too heavy on the guest side of things. We just like to keep it as me and Alex, but Craig just had this beautiful ’80s glam-rock falsetto voice that worked perfectly.
“Jeff Rosenstock is someone who we’re both big fans of and we sort of know him. He was in town for the Poison City Weekender and he’s good mates with Sam (Johnson, Holes & Corners) who was producing our record. One thing led to another and Jeff came in and had a yell for us.”
The lead single and title track is gaining traction nationally and I wanted to know what it was about. “Mess is probably one of the songs we’ve been sitting on for the longest. It was one of those songs for us that came together so quickly, it almost didn’t feel right because we just jammed it a few times and that was it. I moved to Melbourne about a year and a half ago and it was the first song kinda inspired by that. The whole concept of ‘we’re not burning out, we’re not burning out’ is the core message of the whole record, whether we feel like we’re burning out, we’re not. That song sets the tone for the whole album, hence why it’s the title track and the first track on the record.”
Happy, the second single from the record is one that touches close to home for David. “This song is the most personal on the record. I remember writing it more vividly than any other song on the record. I’d been hanging out with one of my dearest friends and they were having a really tough time. It was someone that I’d never seen show any signs of feeling this way before, and it really humanised and reiterated the fact that we’re all only human and feeling this way is okay. There were so many things my friend was telling me that resonated with my own experiences. Being able to be there for someone through shared experiences really helps. Having more people talk about this sort of stuff is the only way we’re going to break the stigma.”
“It wasn’t initially written with a dual vocal part, but once we put it together, it made sense and jumped the song on to a whole other level. It really made sense to get Georgia involved, being someone who is very open about mental health and tries to portray a positive message on mental health through her music.”
The band is hitting the road in April and they’re joined by Antonia & The Lazy Susans and Sincerely, Grizzly. “Antonia & The Lazy Susans are very new as a band, and I was linked to a YouTube video where they did a cover of one of my songs mashed up with a Bennies song, and it was awesome. I heard their record and it blew me away. Seeing them play, I knew that it was the right fit for us.
“Sincerely, Grizzly are old friends of ours from Adelaide, and they’re releasing their new record through Anchorhead Records – Alex’s label – so it made sense to take one of our label-mates out on the road. Touring for us is not hard; we try to make it as fun for everyone as we can. These guys are three people who are going to contribute to that; they’re such a nice energy to have around.”