Deep below the city streets, a mysterious four-piece takes the stage at Indy's Deluxe. Playing a brand of darkly-tinged punk rock, the group finds itself opening for Canada "blues rock devil" Jordan Cook, otherwise known as Reignwolf. Greeting ears with eerie echoes, the band promptly jolts the crowd with a fiendish frenzy of gripping rock 'n' roll goodness.
Throughout the set, lead singer Jilly Weiss parades diabolically around the stage, thrashing her hair about as she shrieks into the microphone. Her vicious vigor remains consistent throughout the band's set, as she humbly addresses applause while gasping for breath. "The name of this band is We Are Hex, and we are from here."
We Are Hex opened for Reignwolf at Deluxe on May 10th.
For We Are Hex, however, the decade-long road to this impressive hometown stage has been complexly unorthodox.
While living in Muncie in the early 2000s, Weiss played in a "synthygoth/punk" band, known as Days & Nights in the Skeleton Crew, with current We Are Hex guitarist Matt Hagan. Also living in Muncie at this time was Brandon Beaver, who would eventually befriend Weiss after becoming familiar with her group's work.
two quickly bonded musically, with Weiss being "blown away" by Beaver's
"I had never seen someone play so precisely and at the same time hit so f----ing hard," she recalls. "He is a force, but one with finesse."
Weiss quickly recruited Beaver (who she often refers to as "the captain") to be her band's drummer, saying, "We were sort of reconfiguring, and Brandon jumped right in and tightened up that ship." The two went on to start Ari Ari in late 2004, a band whose three-year stint serves as the piercing precursor to their current Indy four-piece, which also includes Hagan on guitar and Trevor Wathen (formerly in the band Extra Blue Kind) on bass.
Considering their collective backgrounds, Weiss explained that We Are Hex, and all of its striking menace, was a natural progression musically for the four band members.
"It's more of a return to the music that inspired us to become musicians in the first place," she says. "We all listen to really different stuff, but can agree on and return to bands like The Birthday Party, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure."
Upon joining forces, the group quickly got to work, churning out two full-length albums, 2009's Gloom Bloom and 2010's Hail The Goer. The successes would only continue the following year, with Jack White inviting the group to record a 7-inch to be released on his Nashville record label (Third Man Records), propelling We Are Hex toward national notoriety. Plans to record with Tim Green (Melvins' producer) and a string of West Coast tour dates followed these triumphs. The group's rise seemed imminent.
To celebrate their newest 7-inch release, the members of We Are Hex (from left, Brandon Beaver, Matt Hagan, Jilly Weiss and Trevor Wathen) will play a special release show Thursday, May 22 at the Melody Inn.
But amidst all this early acclaim, We Are Hex abruptly announced an indefinite hiatus in August 2011, putting the band's momentum on pause.
According to Weiss, a number of factors contributed to this "necessary" break, including the departure of guitarist Matt Hagan, who "had left to join a cult." In his absence, the band members had their friend from Cleveland, Jeff Harris, filling in.
"During that time we were driving back and forth to Cleveland where Jeff lived and that started to wear everyone out," Weiss recalls. "That was a great creative period, but required some rehab/detox time afterwards."
Also around this time, the Hex Haus, where the band lived and practiced, was broken into. Their instruments and recording equipment was stolen. Gone -- all of it.
"We had insurance, but it took over a year to get through all of the red tape and start getting things back," Weiss says. "We're just working-class folks, and we just couldn't replace our stuff. It was devastating to go that long without being able to make music."
According to Beaver, the hiatus was more of a conclusion than a decision for the group. "The band needed to stop."
"We needed time off," Beaver says. "I did not think about the band's future since it was no longer in my day-to-day. I only knew I had a bunch of free time I needed to fill. I knew when everyone was ready to start playing music together again they would say so."
During this break, Beaver was far from silent, playing with Fountain Square noise-punkers Ancient Slang. But as 2013 rolled around, he would also be reunited with his perplexing Hex partners.
The We Are Hex bandmates have eclectic musical influences from Black Sabbath and Motorhead to Kraftwerk and Bauhaus.
A Diabolical Return
In January of last year, the band's original lineup reunited, playing shows and writing new material. According to Weiss, the reconstitution came together "organically."
"Basically, we tried to stop, but couldn't," she says. "I'm afraid we're lifers."
We Are Hex picked up where it left off, continuing down a rampant path of songwriting. According to Weiss, the four "immediately started writing songs," just as if they'd never been apart.
"Having had a break, we were feeling really creative and fresh," she says. "We'd all had some interesting life experiences that provided a lot of material for writing. Sort of amazing how well we work together -- after the first practice, it seemed like we had never been apart."
Coinciding with their songwriting acceleration, the group began releasing new material, beginning with its June 2013 Lewd Nudie Animals 7-inch. For the release, We Are Hex teamed up with friend Jon Spencer (of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), who Beaver refers to as "a large influence" and "all-around sweetheart."
"After we wrote 'Lewd Nudie Animals' and 'Real Waco Lot Lizard,' all we could think was how awesome these would be if Jon Spencer would produce them," Weiss says. "He agreed, and we went to New York City where he put some spit shine on the tracks. Wish he could produce everything we do from here on out, but he's a little busy being number one."
Having released a split LP with Detroit's Child Bite in the time since, the group now prepares for its W.D.M.R.S. / Tongues 7-inch release, which will be celebrated this Thursday at the Melody Inn, featuring appearances from We Are Hex, Bloomington's Thee Open Sex and Wisconsin's The Hussy.
Looking to the future, Weiss seems aware of her band's erratic past, choosing instead to dwell in its present.
"We don't really plan ahead too much," she says. "This won't last forever, so we're just trying to appreciate it in the now."