On the Radar – No: 225: A band called Hookers for Jesus playing in a church should have been controversial, but actually it turned out to be the perfect backdrop for the thoughtful Dundee duo, who launch their debut EP Hymns for Beautiful Losers this weekend.
Daisy Dundee caught up with band members Andy (singing, speaking and scrawling words) and Graeme (guitar and programming) beforehand to talk about immaculate conception, growing older, sock puppets and Jupiter.
Did you form naturally or were the Hookers immaculately conceived?
Andy: “Largely by a series of strange coincidences and lucky happenstance. There were never any adverts in record shops with lists of influences or awkward auditions. We played a gig, then another one, then occasionally other people would ask us to play so we did and it went on from there.
Explain how your name came about. Were you trying to be deliberately blasphemous or does it reflect something else?
Andy: “The name came about basically because, since I was a kid, I made up bands in my head. They had names, sounds, images even songs and discographies. At one point, I had this idea that I’d form a kind of country ‘n’ western band one day and Hookers for Jesus would be the perfect name for it as these are two important themes in country music, at least in my head. The name always stuck around and it seemed perfect to use it. I love the juxtaposition between seriousness and trashiness as well, it’s a good place to start.
“I don’t see it as being blasphemous. I truly think if Jesus were a modern day person he would be on the side of all the outsiders and outcasts and losers. And all great creative works come from outsiders.”
Are you religious at all?
Graeme: “I’m in with the Non-Model Agnostic crowd. Except the days where it’s a blend of Taoism, Shinto & Buddhist concepts.”
Andy: “No, not at all. I’m atheist-curious.”
You’ve been around longer than most Dundee bands on the current scene… is that a help or a hindrance?
Andy: “I’m not really sure either way. Compared to some bands we’re fairly new, compared to others we are veritable relics. It’s not something I’ve really thought about. We pretty much started Hookers for Jesus thinking, no one is going to really like it much but not really caring about that. We just thought we’d do something the way we wanted to and to try and present it the way we wanted it and damn everything else.
Younger bands like Vladimir seem to respect you, because you come from the same ‘place’ musically – is it refreshing to be part of a new scene?
Andy: “I don’t think either of us have ever particularly been part of a scene, we’re awkward joiners. It is pretty cool that there are bands around at this point that I really like and would love to see doing really well, that’s refreshing. What we share is a love of music and a passion for exploring music. Are we role models? I hope not.”
Do your songs differ now from those written when you were younger… or are you still lonely teenagers at heart?
Andy: “A lot different and a lot better. There are recordings but I’m not sure I could bring myself to listen to them again. I don’t yearn to be a teenager again, most teenagers manage to do a better job of it than I ever managed and good for them. A lot of our songs are about growing older, changing but not discarding who you were before. I think, if you have an open-mind, you just naturally assimilate more things and develop and that is reflected in your life and your creative endeavours.”
Are all losers beautiful?
Graeme: “Isn’t everyone?”
Andy: “Yes, but especially the ones who come to see us.”
Who are your influences, musical and otherwise?
Graeme: “The writings of Ramsey Dukes, the music of Shiina Ringo, the imagery of Visual Kei, ghost/folk tales, the dark original non-Disneyfied versions of fairy tales and danceable trashy pop songs.”
Andy: “This is always a tricky question. There are so many. I am attracted to artists who have an aesthetic and develop within that in ways that don’t seem too contrived or strained but are pushing against structures and limitations in ways that seem quite natural. I admire Nick Cave, for some people the stretch from the Birthday Party’s Junkyard to his more recent stuff is too big a leap, but if you follow the work through it makes perfect sense to me. It isn’t so much a leap as a development, the roots and routes taken are similar. The words, the music, the performance for me are still brilliant, still passionate and still intense.
What’s the weather like in Jupiter?
Graeme: “Windy, with a chance of storms lasting 200 years.”
You played in a church recently. Awkward?
Andy: “Not at all. Although I was a little concerned when there was the suggestion that a local newspaper might run a contentious article suggesting the pews would be full of blasphemers and Devil worshippers lured by the blasphemous Hookers for Jesus into an orgy of Satanic delights. Part of me thought that was quite an entertaining if hugely unlikely scenario and a part of me was a little concerned that the organisers would catch it in the neck for allowing us to play. In the end it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Plans for 2013?
Andy: “Write, record, release. Play some more gigs. Work on some of our extra-musical ideas including making a video featuring sock puppets.”
• Hookers for Jesus launch their EP Hymns for Beautiful Losers on Saturday night (April 6) at Beat Generator Dundee, with support from Et tu Brute???, Behold, The Old Bear, Playground Tactics and The Alley. Doors 8pm, entry £4. On May 11 they play an Edinburgh launch at Sneaky Pete’s with Edinburgh School for the Deaf and Wozniak.