Maybe the days of pasty teens with baby powder stiffened hair pogoing at CBGBs are over, but the image of white, heterosexual, middle class men screaming about the monarchy just isn’t revolutionary anymore.
If punk is a way for subjugated social groups to rebel against ‘the man’ (or something) and find solace in a space outside of repression, then Hunx and his Punx are probably the most pure example of punk rock in 2014. “I used love the Ramones but now I can’t fucking stand them,” lead singer Seth Bogart says. “(The old definition of punk) is like, fuck no. I think the most punk stuff is Riot grrrl.”
Seth’s adoration of the ‘90s Riot Grrrl movement and of one of its ringleaders Kathleen Hanna (“Oh, I loooooove her!”) is hardly surprising. Hunx and His Punx may not be tackling contentious social issues as blatantly as Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, but they are offering an alternative to bro-guitar music that is energetic and active. It also helps that their songs are super catchy.
It all began in 2008, when Seth was performing in a ‘gay pop group’ called Gravy Train!!! and his partner was having trouble writing songs for a teenage girl band. “Everyone thought he was a creep even though he was gay,” he says, laughing. “I was like, ‘I want to sound like a girl, I sound annoying, let me sing them!’ So we kind of reshaped the lyrics so they sounded more gay and we recorded them just for fun.”
After a few years Hunx and His Punx was born, going through a few incarnations before it became the three-piece featuring Erin Emslie and Shannon Shaw (Shannon and The Clams) that it is today. Despite their namesake, Hunx and his Punx albums sound like a party compilation in the best possible way; a mash of rock, ‘60s girl groups, hair metal and Riot grrrl, with the addition of mesh tank tops and red lipstick. Seth’s fourth album as Hunx Street Punk, came out halfway through 2013.
“We started the album based around hard punk songs as a joke, you know? And that’s not what we sound like at all, so I thought it would be funny and fuck with people’s idea of punk,” he says. “We just tried to write punk songs and a mix of other stuff too.”
The album jumps from super aggressive scream-fests like ‘Everyone’s a Pussy (Fuck You Dude)’, infectious pop like ‘Mud In You Eyes’ (“Oh my gosh that’s my favourite! Shannon was trying to get me to sing it and I was like, ‘You’re crazy!’”) and sweetly awkward odes to teenage-hood like ‘Bad Skin’. If the thought of baby punks jumping to songs about acne doesn’t warm your heart, nothing will. “I just felt like it was the record I needed to make, just ten years too late,” Seth says. “I thought, ‘What’s punk? Oh yeah, bad skin is really punk’.”
Everything from the band’s costumes, music videos and even merchandise has a fun, DIY aesthetic which makes why they have such a cult of international fans obvious. Seth Bogart is kind of the ideal front man: talented, funny and reliably unpredictable. It’s unsurprising that he also stars in the web variety show Hollywood Nailz. Apart from the fact that Hunx and His Punx make good music, it’s Seth’s lack of pretentiousness that makes this band so bloody appealing. This band is cool because they actually could not care less about being cool or adhering to anyone’s standard of taste. “I don’t understand why people get so offended at pop music, it’s like who cares?” he says. “When I was a teenager I was really into faggy pop stuff. I loved The Donnas, and then I really got into a bunch of girl groups – actually it’s kind of exactly the same now… I haven’t matured much.”
Hunx & His Punx and Shannon & The Clams are touring Australia in April, visit mosshtix.com.au for details.