Hardcore mariachi music.
The type of music youd play at the circus to get people to leave—or when the lions turn on the tamers.
An autistic kids worst nightmare or wet dream. Probably both.
We get the whole autism thing, but more often than not, we get the ADHD thing translated into music, singer and guitarist Nathan Joyner responded when I read the descriptions to the band a few days after the show. Really, though, what mariachi band was that person listening to?
Sometimes Nathans guitar can sound like a horn, points out drummer Thomas OConnell, citing all the effects pedals Joyner uses onstage to make his guitar sound like anything but a guitar. I guess it could sound like a saxophone.
The fact of the matter is that even Hot Nerds dont exactly know how to describe their music. Its certainly weird, and the members of the group (Joyner, OConnell and Alia Jyawook on keyboards) are just some straight-up weirdos. Still, Im not entirely sure who the target audience is for Hot Nerds debut, Strategically Placed Bananas.
Other weirdos? I dont think its unfair to predict that the band will never sell more than a few thousand records, and its entirely likely youll never hear their music unless you purposefully look for it. And once you do, theres a great chance you wont like it. But that just means you probably dont get it, because you arent weird enough.
Every sound is calculated to some extent, Joyner says. Tommy knows where every drum hit goes. Theres no point in any of our songs where were like, This is the part where we spaz out.
The album is about as short as short gets, featuring 10 tracks in a span of 16 minutes. Given the rate at which most punk bands release material these days, the release seems belated, considering the core unit (Jyawook and Joyner) has been together for more than three years (OConnell came aboard in 2013). Talking with them, I quickly realize that the album—like the band itself—has been a labor of love and that, for Joyner especially, theyre lucky to be playing together at all.
The details are pretty brutal. Walking home from his bartending job one night in September 2012, Joyner was struck by a car. The list of injuries he sustained is lengthy and cringeworthy: brain bleeding, torn ligaments and broken bones.
He woke up after a week of being in a coma and was like, What happened to me last night? recalls Jyawook, and I looked at him and said, Girl, its been a week. For a couple weeks, he was just rolling around like an animal.
Joyners right elbow and tibia had to be replaced with metal, and he had to do extensive physical therapy just to walk again. After a month in the hospital, Jyawook, Joyners girlfriend and music partner, helped nurse him back to health. Joyner says he still pulls gravel out of his neck and head that had been lodged in there and has been slowly pushed out by his body.
I wish I had gotten those metal claws like Wolverine, he jokes.
I feel like we could still get them for you, Jyawook counters.
Joyner says the accident helped him reevaluate his priorities. Hed been a hard partier for years, having spent time in bands like noise-punks Some Girls and Justin Pearsons farcical, electro-punk group All Leather. After the accident, he decided to get sober and focus more exclusively on Hot Nerds.
It was definitely an eye-opener, but not because life is so precious or whatever people think. It just made me realize that it was time to do something different and see what happens, Joyner says. They were telling Alia that I was going to have permanent brain damage, but I dont know, I just kind of snapped out of it. I knew then that I had been lucky. I got a second chance. Not even a second chance, a third chance.
Or maybe a ninth chance, Jyawook chimes in. Like nine lives.
Yeah, Im on my ninth life right now, Joyner agrees. So lets not waste this opportunity.
So, maybe thats it: Hot Nerds is the sound of a band happy to be alive and playing together.
The thing with us is that we dont take ourselves too seriously, Joyner says. Some people might see it as us not being serious, but the point of this band is to have a shitload of fun.