Psychedelic garage rockers Bobby and Heather Hussy aren't a romantic couple, but they are a couple of turkeys. They're goofy, wild and, at times, quite noisy. It took them four years to learn how to fly, but they've been defying gravity ever since.
In fact, a pretty unromantic event helped their band, the Hussy, soar. Bobby moved to the West Coast with a girl, but the relationship went south. Then he returned to Madison, where the band took off in earnest.
I've been crashing the duo's local shows since 2008, but it wasn't until about a year ago that out-of-town audiophiles began to notice them. I was living in Chicago at the time, and suddenly the Hussy seemed to be following me. First there was a review of their 2012 release, Weed Seizure, in the Chicago Reader. Then there was a gushing show preview in Time Out Chicago. And now they've been getting national attention for their new album, Pagan Hiss. Earlier this month, Pitchfork praised the nuance on "Blame," one of the record's most impressive tracks. Spin also weighed in, noting that the group's "surf-squall sounds born of the same West Coast garages where Ty Segall and crew conjure vast volumes of fuzz." Not bad for a band that perform for free at Mickey's.
But if the Hussy's April 12 show at the High Noon Saloon is any indication, they may not play for free for long. They nearly filled the 400-person venue, a feat few Madison bands have achieved. Pagan Hiss debuted that night, and copies of the first run are a hot commodity. The Hussy will reveal the album to the masses on May 7, and they'll perform in at least nine European countries in the weeks ahead, including Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. The international extravaganza begins in Madrid on May 3.
The band expect to gain lots of knowledge - and perhaps a few pounds - on the trip.
"We're looking forward to the food," they say in unison, like they've read each other's minds.
Visiting friends also tops the list.
"The way the tour got set up was that this guy from Germany flew to Gonerfest to see us. He told our booking agent we were the best band in the festival, and we realized we could tour Europe," Bobby says.
Though they didn't know they'd be traveling the world, the Hussy have been preparing for an epic tour for more than a year. They began working on Pagan Hiss in December of 2011.
"We recorded 35 songs for it, but then we got it down to 13 songs and one interlude," Bobby says.
Though many people would avoid the number 13, the Hussy think it's just right.
"You seem egotistical if you put more songs than that on an album," Bobby says.
This begs another question: Given all the national attention, do the Hussy still consider themselves a Madison band?
"I'm proud to be a Madison band," Heather says.
"We will always be a Madison band," Bobby adds.
The Hussy don't seem to be pandering. We've been discussing the fascinating customers at MadCity Music Exchange, where Bobby works.
"Believe it or not, it's about the best job ever," he says, recalling the long hours and stress of his former job at Epic. But Epic wasn't entirely negative. The work ethic he honed there has certainly helped the band.
"Some people don't want to do the work, the touring. But there's no substitute for playing as many shows as you can," he says.
Bobby's face-melting guitar riffs and Heather's bone-rattling drumming are also the product of hard work.
Neither musician has tons of formal training, but both credit Nirvana for their skills.
"They're probably the reason I play guitar," Bobby says. "I learned to play by listening to their songs over and over."
"I really liked what Dave Grohl was doing [in Nirvana], so I'd imitate it," Heather explains.
Both of them eventually developed their own styles of playing.
"If you learn from someone else, like at a lesson, you pick up their style, but if you teach yourself, it's hard not to have your own way of doing things," Bobby says.
Chemistry also plays a big role in Bobby and Heather's explosive live shows.
"We're practically telepathic by now," Bobby says. "We're turked."
"You're what?" I ask.
"'Turkey' can be a person, a place or even a verb," Heather explains.
"So if you want to get crazy, you want to get turked," Bobby says. "If you're really weird or wild or screwed up, you're turked. We're the good kind of turked."