It seems like ages ago that The New Hijackers were chosen for Missoula's Best New Band by the Indy. Travis Yost and his bevy of beauties had plotted to storm the castle with saucy lyrics and cut-and-dried, four-on-the-floor rock and roll. However, other than regularly seeing their band's sticker on the condom machine at the Palace, which reads "Welcome to the Shitshow," there hadn't been much in the way of activity.
These days, The New Hijackers are a band with a plan. They've returned with a re-tooled line-up that includes drummer Fel Torres of The Cold Hard Cash Show, keyboardist/bassist Jon Sporman of Tom Catmull and the Clerics, the musically omni-present Bethany Joyce on keys/bass/cello and original Hijacker Caroline Keys, who plays with the lush and serene Stellarondo. Their one-year plan is perfect in its mundanity: Write songs. Play shows. Record an album.
In a first, divinely awkward step toward executing it, the Hijackers recently performed at The Top Hat's Family Friendly Friday with the acoustic group Christian and The Sinners, whose Facebook page states, "makes sacred music together." FFF is a weekly, six o'clock rock/bluegrass/quiet-time show for parents who need a beer and want to expose their kids to the joys of live music (and, let's be honest, to meet and mingle with other single parents, am I right or am I right?). Joyce and Sporman are Sinners as well as Hijackers, thus possibly answering Chuck D's question, "Who stole the soul?" Sporman semi-jokingly describes what happened once the Hijackers hit the stage: "We ripped the faces off of some five-year-olds."
The typical scene at FFF is one of toddlers and recent toddlers bopping around in front of the stage, spinning and stomping, squealing and squirming and clapping to a metronome only they can hear. The sound is generally low enough that nattering parents can be heard over most acts during performances that often are made up mainly of acoustic instrumentation or, if not, of electrified instrumentation played through what rockers would call "practice amps."
The non-typical scene at Family Friendly Friday is the route the Jackers took. They're a full rock band with a full drum kit, Yost says, looking to play "three-chord rockers, songs about fuckin', girlfriends and breaking up. Pretty normal rock stuff." With joyful disregard for people who bring their kids to bars, they played their songs and the sea of children either parted or were drawn bawling into the murky rock and roll abyss. Most likely their mothers took them home.
One has to ask why performers often do something they know will agitate or disappoint the audience. To Yost, the answer is simple. "We're not going to play an acoustic set. We rehearsed it to sound like this." The sound of "this" can be described as dirty-blues slut-rock that left its gimmick behind for honesty. But like Billy Joel says, "Honesty is such a lonely word."
Why? Because if you a want to honestly play loud music in these parts, you best be ready to play for some small crowds and legitimately only play the music for yourselves.
Yost explains that they aren't loud for the sake of being loud. "It's not consciously focusing on being louder. It's about how that sound makes you feel. Does it strike a chord in you that makes more sense to the song? When everything is shaking, it's way different. When my own vocal is punching me in the face from the monitor, there's a whole energy level that comes with that."
This project seem like an odd fit for its members, who come from bands playing at reasonable volumes that regularly draw large crowds and expect/assume they will get paid at the end of the night. But they have their reasons, Joyce's being that most demure folks secretly harbor a wish "to be ridiculously loud." For Torres, stepping out of the rockabilly world of The Cold Hard Cash Show has to be a nice change of pace. For Sporman, it's because Yost asked.
Keys, normally a cheery performer who casually engages her audience, sums up why many a rock and roller plays music. "When we were first writing songs, it was like writing for a character. I could say stuff that I would never really say in real life, but if it comes out of Travis's mouth, it's okay." True enough, it's difficult to imagine her singing the lines "Welcome to the shitshow...We gotta lot of pussy and we've gotta lot of dick/We gotta lot of problems that we don't admit" while fronting Stellarondo.
For each of them, The New Hijackers is about evolving or devolving as musicians. They're stomping grapes into wine and turning wine into vinegar. Real loud.
The New Hijackers play the Palace Thursday, Dec. 22, at 9 PM with The Fumeroles, Whippletree and Nate Hegyi. Free.