Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #129. Subscribe to our print edition here!
Bigger, brighter and giving less f***s than ever, the politically charged pop-punks in Muncie Girls are making tsunami-sized waves with LP2. Words by Matt Doria. Photo by Derek Bremner.
As it turns out, those ultra-posi ‘making of’ docos where your favourite band race into the studio, crack a few beers and jam away until suddenly, a masterpiece appears… Well, they’re total horseshit. Great albums are built on a foundation of blood, sweat and tears, and oftentimes, it’s not until a band member feels like punching their drummer in the throat that creative genius is truly sparked.
In the case of UK trio Muncie Girls, their latest set of shred – the unforgivingly upfront and menacingly melodic Fixed Ideals – wound up sending frontwoman Lande Hekt to the hospital with a crushing spell of stress‑induced exhaustion. Though 11 cuts dot the tracklist of their sophomore effort, the band skirmished to record a colossal 19 (a handful of which, Hekt says, will land as B-sides in the near future). And with the dynamo yielding a three‑way province of guitar, bass and vocal duties, the weight of their ambition tumbled down without remorse.
It was a tracking session for the mid-paced groovefest “In Between Bands” that saw Hekt’s enervation reach its boiling point.
“I remember trying to record a certain guitar part, and I was feeling so weird and exhausted that I literally couldn’t see,” she tells us. “I thought I was going to faint, but I was like, ‘No, no, no, I can do it!” I even felt kind of bad for holding the process up, but I was almost too stressed, and I felt like I’d taken on too much at once. But I reckon it was worth it in the long run. It served the record well!”
It was an honest hiccup, with the band switching up their entire foundation on the cusp of their biggest recording opportunity yet. Though she had always been a guitarist in the creative stages, Fixed Ideals is the first Muncie Girls record to see Hekt in a performing lead guitarist role, joining longtime co-riffer Dean McMullen to gift a thicker and more dynamic sound to the band’s searing political pop‑punk bangers.
“I’d write all the songs on a guitar, and then Dean would play those parts and I’d play bass
over them,” Hekt explains of the process for recording their first LP, From Caplan To Belsize. “But for Fixed Ideals, I moved into that role on the guitar. We’re still a three-piece at this point, so I played the guitar parts, and then Dean would play the secondary guitars, and then I played the bass afterwards as well, when we were multi-tracking for the recording.
“So in terms of pushing myself and what we changed, I was playing two instruments – two core instruments – so it was a lot of work. It was also really new; I’d never recorded that much guitar, to that extent, and I played a bit of acoustic guitar on there as well, just to layer it up, whereas Dean would have handled all of that before. So it took a lot more responsibility this time.”
So what made now the right time for Muncie Girls to become an allegorical four-piece (they’re a proper quartet on stage, mind you, with Shit Present leader Iona Cairns taking the reigns on bass) in the studio?
“I wrote these songs with it in mind that I was going to be playing them on the guitar,” Hekt says. “And the potential that we’d have two guitars in the band when we played live meant we could really experiment with loads on the recordings. The whole thing was just really exciting for us.
“After touring From Caplan To Belsize, I realised how much I really wanted to play the guitar while I was singing. Because it doesn’t feel as satisfying, playing the songs you’ve written if you’re playing them on bass, because there’s a lot of conflicting rhythms that go against what you’re singing. It’s satisfying being able to get a hold of that, and being able to play one rhythm on the bass and sing a completely different rhythm – it’s definitely an achievement – but it’s not how I wrote the songs, so it doesn’t feel as authentic for me.”
Hekt’s go-to piece of kit – alongside a “really nice version of” a Gibson Les Paul – is a vintage Gretsch Electromatic solidbody, decked out with a Bigsby tailpiece. It’s a stunning little chip of metal and mahogany, its origins lying in a sweet ambassador deal the band inked with the archtop icons.
“They just gave me free reign of the website,” Hekt chuckles, “So I honestly picked it almost purely on looks. I have a Gretsch baritone with a Bigsby in it, which I played on ‘Social Side’ [on From Caplan To Belsize] and I loved the way that guitar looked and sounded, so it was a pretty easy choice for me.”
“If it slots into this interview nicely,” Hekt leaves us, her voice swelling with pride, “I would like to say that I played my first ever guitar solo on this record – it’s in the song ‘High’, which I was so happy about!”