|Mena Hardy & The Shotgun Revolutionaries: An Introduction|
|Written by Jason Daniel Baker|
|Sunday, 29 January 2012 05:00|
I love retro rock and the classic feel a really good retro band can give to new material. Few bands have matched the feel of pure magic I had after I saw my first Frankie Whyte and the Dead Idols show back in 2007 but I very recently found an act that really did it for me in the same way that so few have.
Mena Hardy is my answer to the question "What if Janis Joplin (Mena's biggest influence) had lived?" and her self-titled EP is a testament to that and all things 'Redneck Rock' cool.
With an infectious smile and enthusiasm that goes along with doing what she loves she got ready for her gig at Southside Johnny's introducing herself to patrons one by one. The petite brunette is a natural extrovert in a profession where a ton of tunesmiths have had to learn a degree of personalism to engage audiences and plenty never have.
She is amused when I tell how I found out about her. I had been looking for a female-fronted Southern rock act to write about and a nearly fruitless search turned up her name - a hard-rocking young woman from Alexandria which I assumed meant Alexandria, Louisiana or perhaps Alexandria, Virginia not Alexandria, Ontario, Canada. If you try to track down Southern rock musicians online you'll find a number of them are more country than rock and they are almost all guys.
But if you look hard enough you might find bands that have a blend which echoes the best of the Allman Brothers, Mountain, Skynyrd, etc. There are Janis Joplins and Melissa Etheridges out there - just not necessarily in the Southern United States. Southern rock is no longer a geographic classification for the genre if it ever really was.
"After a while everything I was listening was Delta blues and Southern-based and it just kinda came together. When I write I try to do a more a modern version of Southern rock and make it MY genre, my niche."
Her performance included covers of 'Mississippi Queen' by Mountain and 'Rock N' Roll' by Zep. These are the kinds of tracks that compliment her hard rockin' original material like her showstopper 'Livin' It Up'. "The first set is always the most difficult because the people (audience) aren't drunk yet so ya gotta warm 'em up," she jokes.
Setting aside time for an interview with me we went over her background chatting about her start in a small-town which straddles the Ontario/Quebec border. Feelings of awkwardness were never a stranger to young Ms. Hardy, the only would-be rock star in her rural setting, a vivacious heterosexual woman who got targeted for homophobia by local crackers without the qualification of being gay.
"I always knew there was something different about me growing up. I was the artist - the weird kid, always playing music and reading books. I was characterized as a 'dyke' because I had picked up a guitar," she recounts candidly.
The familiar experience young musicians get of being told they'll never make it is touched upon as she performs the autobiographical track 'I'm a Loser' in which she plays with the label bestowed upon her by peers and teachers in her small-town. After a year and a half in Toronto her reality is very different now. But not different enough when it comes to occasional bouts of stage fright like those she had when she first hit stages.
"These days playing is just like second nature - no problem, you don't really think about it. But it's weird how it comes and goes. I don't know why. Sometimes I'll get it - it'll kick in. This physical sensation." She credits her father for pushing her to get over her early jitters. Music runs in her family and her father is an artist of some note.
'Livin' It Up' and 'I'm a Loser' are the opening two tracks on her self-titled EP which includes solid rock tracks like 'The Way She Goes', 'I'm In All Over' and 'G-Force' (which lyrically seems to evoke the classic rock tune 'Radar Love' by Golden Earring). "It's been licensed twice. If there is anything that is close to a hit on the album it is that one. It's been on a show called 'Biker TV' and was played six times last season," beams Mena talking about 'G-Force'. It has also been used in the upcoming movie 'Club Utopia'.