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It's around 2 o'clock on a Friday afternoon, and Giant Drag's Annie Hardy and Micah Calabrese are relaxing in their home away from home, which happens to be the back of a rental van. The Los Angeles-based duo has just begun its latest U.S. tour and is en route from Milwaukee to Chicago. Calabrese is digging through a pile of photos for website fodder. Hardy is on the phone with New Times, attempting to recount tour stories from her admittedly frazzled memory. Calabrese hands her a photo as a quick refresher.
"Here's a picture of me pregnant and smoking," Hardy says playfully. "I'm not really pregnant, of course. But I do this thing toward the end of tour where I start going crazy. I stuff a sweater under my shirt and I look pregnant. This was in England [at a place where] the people were so drunk there, they didn't really notice. I used to do the same thing when I was in high school, 'cause I lived in Orange County and there was nothing to do. I'd hang out at shopping centers, looking pregnant and smoking, getting the dirtiest looks ever from the old ladies coming out of the grocery store."
It's a good anecdote, but otherwise the 24-year-old guitarist/vocalist sounds worn-out from the late nights and long rides. And perhaps she's a bit shell-shocked at the barrage of media Giant Drag's brand of grungy shoegaze (grunge-gaze?) has attracted in the past year. With just one album under its belt 2005's Hearts and Unicorns Giant Drag has met with overwhelming approval from, well, pretty much everyone critics, fans, other bands, and big-shot TV executives. The duo recently performed on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live, showing the audience how two people can play three instruments; Calabrese pulls double duty on the drums and synthesizer, hitting the keys with his left hand when it's not banging the snare. Meanwhile, Hardy's charmingly deadpan persona is simultaneously innocent and sarcastic. Together, the couple (it's platonic!) has created something truly buzzworthy. Most of that buzz started with the band's impressive performance at the 2005 SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Giant Drag returned for this year's festival, though for Hardy, it was a considerably less comfortable experience.
"I got the stomach flu on the last day, before we even played," Hardy recalls. "I was sick, but I had to go do an interview, a photo shoot, play a show, and fly home, all in the same day."
That was in March. Since then, the duo hasn't had much time for anything not even for old friends like Kevin, the dude Hardy wrote an unflattering song about.
"Kevin is a friend of mine who hacked into our website and wrote all this stupid shit," Hardy says. "So as a retort, I wrote, 'Come see us play tonight, playing our new song "Kevin Is Gay. "' But he loves it. He's famous now."
The song has nothing to do with Kevin's sexuality. In fact, it doesn't have much to do with anything. The video is equally absurd, with Hardy singing in a near-comatose state, lying prostrate in the dirt while Calabrese sets up his drum kit on top of her. Huh? Right.Don't try reading too much into "Kevin Is Gay" or, for that matter, Hearts and Unicorns' similarly cheeky songs like "My Dick Sux" and "You Fuck Like My Dad" (abbreviated on the disc for commercial reasons). That's not exactly the type of stuff P.J. Harvey writes about but that doesn't stop the comparisons from coming.
"Most people say we sound like the Breeders," Hardy notes. "It gets real tiresome. P.J. Harvey too. I think she's cool, but I don't think I sound like that."
Ah, but that's just the usual startup blues. For a band that's been around for only three years, such comparisons to more established groups are inevitable. The only question now is when the band will get a spot on its hometown show, the hipster hit-maker known as The O.C.
"I don't know that's a good question. They're fucking blowing it," Hardy retorts. "All our friends Nine Black Alps, the Cribs everyone's been on there that we know except for us."
But with another tour planned this summer and numerous festivals lined up in the U.K., Giant Drag may not need any teeny-bopper show to keep the momentum going. Hell, it may be just a matter of time before Fox viewers are treated to Hardy's calming vocals. If not, perhaps the time is right for a song called "The O.C. Is Gay."