Still, it hasn’t always been that way for Hess. He grew up letting his aggression out via beating the skins off his drum set in San Diego hardcore/screamo outfit A Shattered Hope. It wasn’t until three years ago that Hess did pick up that warm guitar and started the alt-folk quintet, Bad & The Ugly. Leaving primal screams and double bass pedals behind for the sounds of a desert drive and eerie finger picking, the band self-released their debut EP, Skin and Bones in 2013 along with a music video for the foot stomping single “Borrego Dreamer.”
One of their latest tracks currently dominating the GigTown Radio charts is “My Empty Ghost” and, given that we can’t shake it out of our heads, it’s the obvious choice for our inaugural “Song of the Week.”
Hess isn’t the first post-hardcore musician to evolve into a haunted folk-singer, but "My Empty Ghost" shows that the band is capable of serving up a static mood unlike their peers. Snake bite string bends glide along and push the track forward, but it’s the space between the sullen notes that echo through a visual canyon that becomes more vivid with each listen. By keeping their toes out of the all-too-familiar San Diego surfer folk/rock pool, the song sounds like it just blew in with the wind – from nowhere in particular. While the pace on their first release Skin and Bones is seemingly relaxed, there is an undertone of urgency that runs throughout the EP. It’s as if Hess was still looking over his shoulder, outrunning a past life or trying to reach the finish line of a musical transition. Yet, the loneliness heard in his voice on “My Empty Ghost” and Slept in Pages feels more like a wandering acceptance than emotional longing, and the result is beautiful.
Transitioning from hardcore beginnings to the open road of songwriting in front of them, it will be interesting to see what happens next for Bad & The Ugly. In the interim, honest lyrics coupled with a transient sound provides a mysterious distance that has us hoping these musical drifters aren’t just passing through.
Come back again to see what Song of the Week is featured next!