If you don’t call yourself a resident of the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area, you can be forgiven for being completely unaware of rock duo Hobosexual. Inside the confines of that evergreen-adorned landscape around Puget Sound however, the band is something of a cult-favorite; a fixture of the local festival and club scene, and one of the most exciting pure groups to rise out of the region in quite some time. For eight years or so they have remained one of Seattle’s best-kept secrets. Following the release of their towering new album Monolith last week, it’s high-time to let the cat out of the bag.
Formed around 2009, Hobosexual is a duo comprised of frontman and guitar-wizard Ben Harwood behind the microphone and the brutal Jeff Silva bashing away on drums. Because of the expansive nature of Monolith however, they’ve recently had to beef up their live presence with the addition of three extra touring musicians. Harwood and Silva are shaggy, slightly unkempt in appearance, but blissfully uncompromising in presentation.
Their music, which could be mistaken as simple, bombastic rock, with touchstones that include Soundgarden, The Who, and Guns N’ Roses, belies an immense amount of technical thought and musical precision. Not that you’re meant to notice in the first place. More than anything, Hobosexual is a band that places a premium on humor and irreverence. Whether that means performing gigs wearing pink bathrobes, or putting together tracks like “A Motherf#%kin’ Song About Robots,” or “VHS Or Sharon Stone,” their goal is to make you smile while you bang your head.
As is true of most superb rock bands, the roots of Hobo run working class. “We’re sort of a poor people’s band,” Harwood explains. “No matter who you are, we embrace and we love you.” They’ve adopted a certain, trashiness — think gaudy ‘80s T-Top convertible and piles of crumpled beer cans — with aplomb, but in service of a higher idea. “The band has always been about people, and really about poverty versus wealth. There’s a lot of anger out there right now, and as you start to peel back the layers, a lot of it is just about rich and poor. There are so many people of different colors and sexual orientations and we’re all struggling under the same thing, which is: we can’t decent medical care, we can’t afford housing, we can’t afford the most basic, basic things.”
That idea stems from Harwood’s own, personal experience, one that continues to define the band and the music they create. “I come from a pretty diverse family,” he explains. “I have one gay parent. I have a transsexual uncle. I have a gay aunt. I also grew up in a trailer in a predominantly Latino and African-American neighborhood. All of my friends were people of color.”
Monolith is far and away the band’s most audacious and aspirational release yet. From the spine-tingling wail that signals the introduction of the record’s first, boot-stomping burner “Trans Am Sunday,” to the effervescent “doo-doo-doos” that mark the end of the last track “Sunset Adieu,” it’s an album packed with atomic guitar riffage, discordant audio accents, and some of the heaviest drumming your likely to hear all year. The tones and textures are familiar to any Zeppelin or Sabbath fan, but the energy and ideas underneath are decidedly of this era. If it sounds massive, well, that’s the point.