Photo by Amanda Minette

Photo by Amanda Minette

Welcome To Our Hearts Haze County

by Jay Armstrong

I am in love with Haze County. These first songs are a selfish organic release of compounded layered expression yet speak to the ALL our individual spirits gravitate towards. Haze County breathes through frantic frenzied technique blurred beneath a rare sensitivity towards the bigger cohesive whole. Certainly this is yet another band on the path of Bryan Leslie Roberts creativity yet the stand alone, above, beyond, nature of this project’s first few songs overshadow all which he had his hands in before. What is the point in reflecting on each band and step leading Roberts here when such reflection would take the necessary appreciative focus away from what we have here before us? And honestly I’m just too lazy to explain what got me focused on his noise years ago. I mean, who gives a shit, the effort it would take to type out two paragraphs properly annotated with necessary WOW and AWE in the “should of heard em when” tone it would ta– what I’m saying is, none of that matters, none of it. Sort of. Only a goddamn fool would press play on any one of these first six Haze County songs and not be swallowed in how much this guy intellectually and intrinsically knows his shit. There is grace in skill, there is warm dominance in presence, all steps from the past disregarded with a voice clear, present, demanding, “hear me now” and hear me now we will.

It feels as though all we have been doing these last five years, possibly more, has been waiting for a band to come along offering what this band does. Maybe Spray Paint came/comes close to scratching the itch, Bad Sports kinda had it for a second, at least in memory, yet there is a them and me and never an us with the experience of listening to both those bands. It’s all US with Hazy County; An in-it-togetherness. The angry hopeful happy sadness of thirteen year old me sneaking out when I was grounded, since I was always grounded, bubbles up to be touched once more through these songs. Flashbacks of hitching rides with whoever willing to sneak their mom’s car out for the night, found finding myself in the calmed confusion of rock n roll at house shows and all age venues, this band, these songs, embodies not the contrived rock n roll of capitalistic marketable pomp and circumstance, instead here we speak of the mystical mythos Rock n Roll which does not exist yet is felt in faith of the holy spirit transcendent beaming center of light and sweat and salvation. Roberts is on to something and we have been high and dry in the desert waiting waiting waiting wondering if it would ever show. Was it ever real? Could it ever be real again? These songs dance through the desert of the real, embodying the real– Zizek eat your heart out.

Something about those who live their entire lives passionately studying, reappropriating, rock n roll seems to near always lead us to this place with this sound, albeit anomalously rare.  John Dwyer and Ty Segall are two similar comrades of Roberts to have done it slightly bigger thus far. Easily, admittedly, I cannot stand Segall yet I can only say such a statement in mixed company by first prefacing my acute awareness of the immense amount of skill and craft which goes into his music, it just isn’t a lens which looking through does anything beyond bore me to hear, sounding like something Mac Demarco fans would call “heavy” or “psychedelic,” all that talent and he just circles around it. It’s blase’. It lacks substance (or I lack understanding). Sure he is one of the nicest guys in the world to hang with but where is the punch and grit and taste of blood? Where is the honesty? Now if Ty Segall were for once to properly get down to the job and put out something on par with Haze County’s “I n s o m n i a” then I would be eating my years of underappreciation on the spot. Yet Segall’s place as a referencing point for what we hear now coming out of Roberts cannot go without being noted. The influence is certainly there, consciously or not. Dwyer, Segall, find themselves channeled through these songs, even Mark Sultan creeps up in beautiful interventions here and there yet for the first time in as long as I can remember those comparisons surface not as a way of slighting who we speak of, instead they are markers to show the path along the way which guided the steps to this Haze County sound. All those positives we at Anon have had toward Roberts, grandiose and optimistic as they were, paled miserably in comparison of where his potential has brought us. His noise before drifted along the edge, was part of the landscape, floating about our psyche with a secondary force. These songs are monumental in their own right; powerful, having presence, lacking ego….all we ask from rock n roll yet rarely receive.

I caught one of the first Haze County shows a few weeks ago at Antone’s and can vouch firsthand Roberts has found the needed  players to carry out these bedroom visions, I wouldn’t hype these tracks up if that were not the case. We have unwillingly sat through enough lone tracking cowboys who mimic creativity without the true ability to play it, Haze County is not more of the same. If anything, these players he has found lead me to believe what we will see going forward will only grow in monstrous presence to embody the idolized noise those of us few still believing in the hot space cramped dream of youth to still be alive. I’m sold on this band and pretty stoked to have them as our own in Austin.