In life, it’s always important to have someone close to call you out on your shit and keep you between the lines.
Josiah Hughes has that.
He also has it in his art.
The Calgary musician and journalist is bandmates with his wife Sara in jittery, jangly, tumultuous, punk-pop project Pre Nup — the successor to their other act Grown-Ups — and, well, she’s more than happy to let him know when to wrap it up, when to shut the hell up.
That, he says, is a big reason why the act’s 10-track debut full-length Oh Well is the wonderfully concise, lo-fi, repeated stab of sweet splinters it is, clocking in at just over the 20-minute mark while leaving a lasting impression.
“She really helps me not be too self-indulgent because she just calls bullshit on everything all the time, when it’s too long or too bland,” says Hughes of his stick-wielding partner in Pre Nup and the get-in, get-out philosophy of the songs. “She has a really short attention span from a lifetime of listening to punk music, so I think that helps.
He adds: “I (also) love this guy, Tony Molina, and he does sort of Teenage Fanclub worship and his songs are, like, 45-seconds long. He did an album that fit on a 7-inch, and it’s over and then you’re like, ‘I need to listen to that again immediately.’ So that’s the feeling that I like.”
Fans of ’90s acts such as Sebadoh, Pavement, Shonen Knife, Lemonheads and, going further back albeit on a much less proficient musical scale, The Shaggs, will undoubtedly dig the nevermind of Oh Well.
The album, which the band will release Saturday, May 12 with a show at 17th Ave. wiener heaven, Tubby Dog, preoccupied much of the past year of the Hughes’s life, recording it with band member, producer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Dadge in his basement studio in fits and spurts, as well as other input from live Pre Nup member Darrell Hartsook.
Yes, part of that was due to the fact that Dadge was also busy with his many other projects including Lab Coast and Chad VanGaalen, but it was also because Josiah and Sara wanted to capture something that was “raw and energetic and fast and explosive,” while also still adding some organs and skin to their dancing skeletal songs.
“Whenever there was a spare couple of hours we would talk about it, and I would try to add more guitar tracks and (Dadge) would beg me to remove more guitar tracks,” he says with a laugh, noting that he kept wanting to “layer tons of shit” on the songs.
“That was another thing where Sara was eventually, ‘We need to stop adding so much stuff and just hiding everything.’ So there’s certainly a balance of cramming way too many ideas into such a little amount of time, but then working our asses off on mixing it and try and make it make sense.”
He continues. “As it went on, I’m like, ‘Why are we putting so much effort into this?’ But we just were sort of chasing something that I think we finally found … something that still feels like it could fall apart at any minute, but won’t.”
And wrapped up inside of the melodic chaos are some pretty cleverly worded thoughts and ideas that also speak to the special relationship that Hughes has with his emotional and musical partner, as well as his own self-awareness/deprecation.[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=752868759 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 tracklist=false artwork=small track=2911312828]
Opener Admit features the line, “Everyone’s the worst, but I’m worse” while the fantastic Sara-sung track Adequate, has her slacker singing, “If you want me to accomplish more, there’s the door.”
Perhaps the most resonant tune on Oh Well, though, is Internet Arguments, which is a not-so veiled reference to Josiah’s reputation as something of a shit-disturber in his journalism career.
He laughs. “Yeah, I think anyone in Calgary who knows me knows that, especially a few years ago at Fast Forward, I constantly had a middle finger out to everyone in my writing,” he says of the late, lamented weekly, where he was also the music and film editor.
“Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’m not really like that, but whenever I would write blog posts or articles, it’s just — I love to stir the pot and be cheeky and tongue in cheek, but it always ends up rubbing people the wrong way.”
He laughs again. “In my mind Internet Arguments is actually a love song, because it’s about how Sara used to stand up for me and get in fights with people, and I just had to tell her to stop reading the comments.”
Calling you out. Having your back. The perfect partner.
Pre Nup release Oh Well with a show Saturday, May 12 at Tubby Dog.