Volume 93, Issue 49

Thursday, November 25, 1999


Chown still kicking around on his old Stompin' Grounds

Hefner wages war on life, love and music

Tractor runs just like a Deere

Hefner wages war on life, love and music

Photo by Sara Light
THESE HEFNERS HAVE TO PAY FOR THEIR BUNNIES. British-bred pop group Hefner come out with a critically acclaimed album, The Fidelity Wars.

By Mark Pytlik
Gazette Staff

In an odd way, the title of the latest record by the British three piece Hefner neatly sums up every aspect of the band's ongoing struggles.

Their critically acclaimed sophomore effort, The Fidelity Wars, is a quirky collection of songs about relationships as delivered by a trio of unpolished misfits. The slighty off-kilter instrumentation and delivery style have struck a chord with music acolytes everywhere and the result is that the band now find themselves embarking on their first North American tour.

Bassist John Morrison concedes that there's an undercurrent of duplicity running through the album's title. "It has a double meaning really," he smiles. "[Lead singer] Darren [Hayman] writes a lot of songs about relationships, so it kind of refers to the battle between boys and girls. But it also means fidelity as in sound, referring to 'lo-fi,' 'hi-fi' and the slight battle that goes on within people's ears."

A wholly appropriate double meaning, considering Hefner is one of those rare bands who consistently teeter between 'lo-fi' and 'hi-fi.' On one hand, The Fidelity Wars is an eclectic album absolutely loaded with odds and ends. But although everything from brass sections to gospel codas to record scratching creep up at some point in the record, it never ends up sounding too extravagent or superfluous.

In fact, Hefner pulls off the difficult task of somehow adhering to the lo-fi "less is more" maxim, while still including said wide array of musical bells and whistles. Is the band constantly warring with themselves and musical fidelity whilst in the studio?

"It's something that we don't really consider that much," Morrison muses. "But in terms of the kinds of bands we listen to, I guess we would align ourselves with lo-fi."

Regardless of where they sit on that topic, things seem to be moving in full swing for the band. They've recently been championed by British DJ John Peel on his now legendary BBC program The Peel Sessions – in fact, Hefner's relationship with Peel has resulted in the radio magnate recently inviting them to dinner and then commissioning them to perform some gospel covers on his show.

According to Morrison, the idea isn't as outlandish as it may sound. "When we're travelling we all bring CDs and [our listening patterns] tend to go into themes of certain kinds of music," he explains. "We were listening to a lot of gospel and really early soul music and we'd tend to fool around, covering [those songs] in sound check and stuff. Peel heard about it and thought it'd be a really great idea for a session."

True to fashion, the gospel session went down like gangbusters and has since been repeated a few times on radio by request. Like most of Hefner's music, it seemed to strike a chord because people recognized it was working on a variety of different levels. Morrison largely chalks up the band's success to their ability to sound both bleak and tongue-in-cheek all at once.

"A lot of people don't seem to think there's any irony there – they think it's very gloomy and very dark," he notes. "A lot of [our music] is very serious and pretty sad, but there's definitely irony there."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999