The Hysterical Injury

Jamie Worsfold

Sibling duo Tom and Annie Gardiner make up The Hysterical Injury, a glorious onslaught of bass and drums with pin-sharp ethereal vocals overlaid on top. They told us all about their influences, making a massive noise with only two people, and their favourite bits of kit. They’ve been on the road lately, promoting new album Dead Wolf Situation which has had great reviews.

Bath, UK
Crystal Fuzz

Debut Album

Infectious, dazzling and viscerally striking are just some of the words of praise being heaped on the band and the album.

We’ve had a lot of positive feedback which is really really nice. It’s been really interesting reading some of the reviews, because as the person that wrote the album it’s interesting to see what people pick up on, all the different aspects of it, some things maybe that I was quite unconscious of. And they all see it as ‘The Album’ but I remember the songs from where I was when I wrote then and what have you, and some of them are from totally different places and times in my life, so it’s interesting to hear what they pick up on.

The duo are known for explosive live sets and have tried to capture that feel on the album. Their latest innovative video, Cycle One, was shot entirely on mobile phones and tablets by fans.

We asked Annie what she is after with the band’s sound.

We’re aiming for an immediate, uncompromising sort of sound with very ethereal vocals, you know, juxtaposition I suppose. Because I like putting extremes together, what it throws up in the middle.

It was recorded live, so that is exactly how we sound. I guess we do it by having lots of amps, and what we make up for in not having enough band members or what have you, we have in amps. Although we only have two but it’s all the cabinets that go with it. I was going to say I guess that’s how we do it.

Tom: My drum students all say that. ‘Are you sure that’s two people?’

Annie: Yeah, and it is. It’s not even two people doing a bit and then layering over another guitar to make up the sound, it’s exactly how you’d see us live. We make it with a lot of pedals as well. Well, not that many. Considering some people… I know one bass player that has 32 pedals. He’s an amazing bass player. I’ve only got about five, six that I use, that I constantly use, and on the album I only used five.

The band started out with more of a traditional line-up, but stripping it back to the basics of bass and drums seemed to work best, headed up by Annie.

I was in a band in art school and then I left art school and found myself pregnant. I found myself alone a lot of the time so was just making lots and lots of music. And then I wanted to form a band, so a lot of that came out of that era. I was heavily into Joy Division when I was pregnant, which maybe isn’t a great thing.

But I really wanted to explore the psycho-ness of Joy Division and then I just love fuzz sounds. I was a massive Sonic Youth fan, always, but then I always had a soft spot for dance music, I’m a big Leftfield fan, and The Knife and bands like that, so I always liked other-worldly vocals. And bass sound. I prefer playing the bass for some reason, it has more resonance, personally to me. I can play guitar, I have played guitar in bands, more resonance with the bass, it leaves more room for the voice live, wavelength wise, there’s room for the voice. And yeah, I had all the songs, went out and found people and it just kind of developed through lots and lots of jamming and just playing a lot, at home and with the band and stuff.

Though Tom played on the original demos, he wasn’t available to join his sister’s band at the time. However, six months ago he did join Annie, forced, as the two of them jokingly claimed, by threats of violence, family rupture and Annie not giving him his sweets back.

When Tom joined, that’s when it really just went, yeah. It was great before, the old drummer was fantastic, I did a lot of artistic mileage with him. But what I didn’t get with him was a way of going in and out and dynamically into the songs, and I wanted that uncompromising noise but not all the time, I wanted to be able to pull it back and just sort of be able to have sky’s-the-limit sort of thing and just explore any different type so… Tom joined and that’s what we’ve been able to do since then.

The Hysterical Injury are not the first siblings to put together an intense, exciting band, of course. Does it make things easier, working with your brother or sister?

Tom: From my point of view I’d say so, yeah, because I’ve played in a lot of bands and …I don’t really have to think about things I just know Annie thinks along the same wavelength.

Annie: Yeah, what is great is that we get on as siblings as well. We’re more like brother and sister (laughs) So it is very easy to hang out. And there’s a lot of this kind of crap that goes on in bands that just isn’t there. It’s got to be easy otherwise the stuff gets in the way of the music and I’m so not interested in that. Limited time, life’s work, you’ve just got to get on with it.

Tom: Annie feels like a best friend to me, to. We’re quite lucky like that. I’m just lying actually, I don’t like her!

They haven’t found it too difficult to make an impact even with a lineup that’s stripped back to bass and drums.

Tom: Bass and drums is like the fundamental thing to any band, I mean if that’s not there…

Annie: Sometimes if people haven’t seen us before and they just see the set-up, they’re a bit sceptical because the guitar does take up a lot, and keyboards. It’s that hooky place where your ear catches. But I hope that the vocal does that. But some of the effects that I’ve got on my bass sort of catch that in as well because I can hoof up an octave if I want to as well.

Tom: Gallop up an octave

Annie: Yeah, run up the ladder

Tom: Canter!

Annie: Hold your horses Tom!

It’s obvious that the pair of them are thoroughly attuned. Their influences are also pretty similar.

Annie: I always mention this in interviews, I just can’t get past it but Lightning Bolt are a huge influence on me, they’re just that absolutely otherworldly sound and to see them live is really like visiting another planet. It’s completely compelling. Not that I want to imitate that but I just like being in that space. When I hear it I discover things. Not necessarily about them but about where I want to go. So I really like listening to them for that. The Knife, as well, the Lightning Bolt and The Knife are my favourite influences. The Knife are amazing, vocals, vocal sounds, songwriting and everything, they’re just so good.

Tom has a list of influences as well.

Tom: Well I love the drummer from Battles, John Stanier, session drummers that some people might not know of, like Dennis Chambers. But Jimmy Chamberlin from Smashing Pumpkins, Chad Smith of the Chili Peppers, really solid timekeepers. They were the sort of reason why I started drumming. I get inspired by any drummer really. This idea that you can pick up on people’s ideas, even if they’re not technically great.