An afternoon and an evening with Hard-Fi  


Having just returned, soaked in the Tokyo tears of hysterical girls, from a chaotic trip to Japan, Hard-Fi find themselves in… Exeter.  Quite a come-down, one might imagine.  Yet Kai Stephens doesn’t see it that way.  Despite, in Asia, feeling for the first time ‘like a rock star’, the affable bassist couldn’t be happier with his short stop in our sleepy Devon city.  Clearly willing to embrace the contrast to customary madness, Stephens chirpily confirmed that, on the first date of their sold out UK tour, he “was up at eight”, went to city centre, and “had a look at the Guild Hall, and the Cathedral”.  With his early-bird enthusiasm unbounded, he also chatted about fastidious students, security threats, and his newly-exercisable passion for charity.


Considering their image projects them as a product of London-satellite urban decay, it would be entirely feasible for Hard-Fi to chary against the, let’s face it, overwhelmingly middle class persuasion of university gig attendees.  But Stephens refuses to consider the issue beyond the margins of the music.  Although “you do have to work a bit harder” at uni gigs, it’s not due to the impassive apathy of undergraduates.  Contrarily, “students know their shit more than a lot of other people”, confirmed a resolute Stephens.  


This all-embracing attitude reflects on their varied fan base as a whole.  Being initially touted as a post-Streets outfit in the vein of Audio Bullies (and, due to the subject matter of their material, still often aligned with such artists), the band has also played with outfits as diverse as Kaiser Chiefs, The Bravery and Green Day.  This has resulted in Hard-Fi boasting an especially eclectic following.  Whether due to their blending of indie-style musical arrangements with underlying dub and pop-house hints – or simply thanks to a stroke of pure luck concerning the dissimilar bands they’ve ended up on tour with – Hard-Fi transgress sub-genres and facilitate the literal mixing of music fans who would, most likely, scoff at their fellow gig-goers’ iPod playlist. 


As for supporting Green Day in the US, however, Stephens, personally, did not.  Due to his arrest for cocaine possession, his visa application was futile and the band was forced to hire a temporary bassist.  Whilst Stephens was indisposed to discuss the affair, he did indicate that “America’s definitely on the horizon”, which will, no doubt, endow the Staines quartet with an even greater fanbase- and the possibility of stardom on a truly magnificent level.


But the burgeoning status of the band has already begun to magnetise the rich and the famous.  Jude Law, Sadie Frost and Clive Owen were among the names mentioned by Stephens as having attended recent shows.  But the position of mounting eminence that the band is currently in – the limbo-point, dangling somewhere between having a bunch of mates as lookout, and exclusive minders – does have its downside.  The band returned to their dressing room after a show at the London Electric Ballroom to find they had been relieved of their belongings.  The following night, a “Russian special forces bloke” was hired; needless to say, there wasn’t a repeat performance.


Yet his increasing fame, Stephens assures, does not warrant a concern for his personal security; he might not be able to safeguard his laptop, but he can “take care of himself if there’s any sort of threat or nonsense”.  And it’s not just himself that Stephens and the band have been taking care of recently.  On the subject of charity, Stephens said that the band are “always up for it”, and expressed that he did not have the means to support good causes before the band found fame because  “you can’t give what you haven’t got”.


But fast forward five hours and Hard-Fi are on stage, giving every quivering fibre of their being, not to charity, but to an ecstatic Lemmy packed tighter than living memory cares to invoke.  Even the venue’s brutal air-conditioning system couldn’t combat the overwhelming closeness of the atmosphere as the band streaked through tracks from their acclaimed debut album.  The set highlight was perhaps their thrilling rendition of the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, with its freshly re-conditioned bass line and dubbed-out off-beat rhythm.  Frontman Richard Archer mesmerised the crowd with his Melodica improvisation, rousing the them to near hysteria.  And if that wasn’t enough to make better than a trip to Warehouse on a Thursday night, Hard-Fi announced themselves to be the first band ever to give fans the chance to download a song from the gig they attended. 


With the incentive “see if you can hear yourself scream”, the Lemmy exploded as the band launched into live favourite ‘Cash Machine’.  In the inevitable encore, Archer showed his poignant side in a sensitive solo version of ‘Move on Now’ before being joined by his band mates to close the night with a scorchingly passionate ‘Stars of CCTV’.  Stephens’ ethic of needing to work harder at uni gigs was certainly put into practice.  Yet his band is one that, uni gig or not, performs with an effortless fervour to leave every member of the audience feeling as though they had borne witness to something truly remarkable.  At the Lemmy, they did. 


When considering the staggering rise of his band during the last year, Kai Stephens and his band would be granted an automatic licence to be arrogant.  But this is not the case; they’re just extremely proud and rather, well… jolly.  Stephens said he’d “be surprised” if the band don’t record a second album in 2006.  With the way things are progressing for Hard-Fi at the moment, that album may just be THE album of this year.



Hard-Fi tearsheet



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: