Posts Tagged ‘Mary Timony’


To date Matador’s Revisionist History series has set its focus on the hallowed year of 1995 – surfacing critical releases by Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, and Chavez.

Today, however, we whirl the dial on the in-house wayback machine and travel toward the future: the year 2000 and Mary Timony’s debut solo album, ‘Mountains‘, which will be reissued on January 15th. Remastered by Bob Weston, “Mountains” comes back to us as a gold foil-embossed gatefold double LP and will include the previously unreleased original takes of “Return to Pirates,” “Poison Moon,” and “Killed by the Telephone,” which were delivered along with the original master tapes 20 years ago, but were omitted from the final album. The record is completed by a newly recorded orchestral version of “Valley of One Thousand Perfumes” produced by composer Joe Wong (Russian Doll, Midnight Gospel) and mixed by Dave Fridmann.  

At the turn of the century, Timony (Ex Hex, Wild Flag, Hammered Hulls) was already a celebrated presence in American underground music ­­– a fixture of D.C. and Boston rock ’n’ roll via her work in Autoclave and Helium respectively. By 1998, though, Helium was drawing to a close and Timony was feeling uncertain about the future. “I had never been good at the rock’ n’ roll business, and making a living from being in a band just didn’t seem like it was in the realm of possibility for me,” she writes. “I just knew I wanted to make another record because that was the part of being in a band that I liked the most.” 

At the time of its original release, Timony called ‘Mountains’, “A Trip to the New Underworld.” “A bunch of hard stuff was happening in my life: family illnesses, people dying, people leaving, relationships ending. I fell into a deep depression,” she explains. “I tried new ways of making music: I tried writing songs without any filter at all, and I purposely didn’t think about what the music would sound like to anyone else. I was only interested in describing what was in my head.”

Recorded and mixed in Boston alongside Christina Files and Eric Masunaga and in Chicago with Bob Weston, Mountains found Timony dialing into territory that was barer and more confessional than her work in Helium. Stark arrangements were augmented with newly ornate instrumentation — piano, vibraphone, and viola — and the lyrics were tinted with slyly occult imagery.

“Listening back to Mountains now I am struck most by how raw it sounds,” says Timony. “I hear the depression and angst, but also I hear all of that darkness disappearing through the power of music and friendship—and turning into songs during those happy and productive months recording and hanging out in Christina’s loft in downtown Boston.”

Mountains” will be reissued on January 15th.


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“Angie, are you tough enuh-uff/To let it go?” asks Mary Timony over her sugared electric guitar churn at the outset of Ex Hex’s latest, immortalizing a new rock’n’roll Angie with as much performative heartache and swagger as Jagger did, maybe more.

Ex Hex’s second album is about garage-rock thrust at its core, like prime Rolling Stones and their own debut Rips. Like that LP, it draws a through-line from the Shangri-Las to Blondie to Sleater-Kinney to, well, Ex-Hex. This time, though, pop-metal production shine adds a new meta-textual layer, conjuring visions of the CBGB Class of ‘76 upscaled to the arena rock of ’86, thanks in part to furniture maker-turned indie-rock production swami Jonah Takagi. It’s nothing but guitars, bass, and drums, but the sound is huge, bulked up with vocal reverb, choice pedals and amps.

Ex Hex have released the bizarrely glam new video for the track “Rainbow Shiner” from their latest album It’s Real, is out now via Merge Records.

The video’s animator, cult cartoonist M. Wartella, says of the project in a statement, “As artists, often our destructive tendencies come from the same place in our heads that creativity comes from, and that is what we aimed to capture in this psychedelic trip clip. Well, that and to rock your socks off! For real!!!”

From the album It’s Real, out now on Merge Records.

ex hex

When Washington DC power-trio Ex Hex reconvened to record the follow up to their searing 2014 debut Rips, they slipped into this mindset. “We wanted to open up the sound from the first record, which sounded pretty garagey,” guitarist and vocalist Mary Timony says. “Even in how it was mixed – really overly compressed. We wanted to take it back from being blown out and use really diverse guitar sounds, make it lusher and bigger. We were talking a lot about Mutt Lange.”

Specifically, they talked about Lange’s work on Hysteria, Def Leppard’s 1987 monster hit and one of the most fastidiously overproduced albums of all time. Given the dirt under Rips’ fingernails, and Timony’s rep as a classically trained guitarist who favoured difficult, mathy melodies during her time with Helium and Autoclave, on paper ‘Ex Hex x Def Leppard’ is a weird look. But It’s Real drops that perception with its first couple of punches – this is a muscular, furiously enjoyable record that mainlines brazen riff worship.

With Betsy Wright, who played bass and sang on Rips, stepping up to spar with Timony as a second guitarist and drummer Laura Harris keeping a tight rein on things, behind its day-glo exterior lurks a shared set of blueprints that ensured Ex Hex hit their marks. “It was super collaborative,” Timony says. “If something could be played better by someone else, we’d do that. The parts just became parts.”


Both guitarists took time away from Ex Hex before settling in to write It’s Real. While Timony toured around some Helium reissues, Wright issued an LP with her side project Bat Fangs that set out some signposts for what would follow. Its sound – righteous power chords, Gibson SGs and cranked Orange amps – bleeds into her writing here, bouncing off Timony’s more studied, punk-leaning work.

“I’ve been getting more into 80s metal,” Wright says. “I got really inspired by a lot of guitar players and tried to stretch my ability a little bit by learning a lot of solos – Randy Rhoads, Angus Young, a lot of the songwriting on the solo Ozzy stuff.”

But getting your Mutt Lange on in the studio is expensive and time-consuming. Ex Hex didn’t have an 80s budget for their 80s ambitions, so they had to improvise. Producer Jonah Takagi, who also helmed Rips, provided the meticulousness, while the LP was tracked at several locations, including sessions with engineer Ben Green at Ivakota in DC and in Baltimore with post-hardcore hero J Robbins at his Magpie Cage studio. During their stay in Maryland, that improvisation was facilitated with a room of amps mic’d up at all times, while helping hands also came from the nearby Big Crunch.

Timony and Wright are an achingly cool duo who have riffs and hooks to spare, and on It’s Real, Ex Hex have hit on a formula that works perfectly for them. “We started with: ‘What songs do we have?’ and went with whoever had ideas – it was pretty natural,” Timony says. “There wasn’t a lot of figuring it out.”

From the album It’s Real, out now on Merge Records.

Ex Hex: <i>It's Real</i> Review

Whoever Mary Timony’s singing to on It’s Real, Ex Hex’s sophomore follow up to 2014’s Rips, they’ve taken her on one dizzying rollercoaster ride. From start to end, It’s Real warps around “you,” more than likely the same person all the way through the record’s track list; Timony sings the same yearning for “you” on the opening song, “Tough Enough,” and on “Good Times,” “Want It to Be True,” all the way to “Talk to Me,” where Timony appeals to her nameless audience to grant her the simple courtesy of a conversation.

“If you shut me down, will all be lost in space and time? / I’ll wade into your stormy sea,” she croons, vulnerable but possessed of steely dignity. It takes immense strength of spirit to guide a boat over rough waters, and “It’s Real” charts a perilous course: The second track, “Rainbow Shiner,” soberly rings with implied violence, a document of triumph through “the black and blue.” If anyone wishes to make the case that Timony intends to address more than one subject, “Rainbow Shiner” is a good place to start; this song feels aimed at someone she’s breaking away from rather than someone she’s trying to get closer to. But maybe It’s Real, in keeping with its title, means to acknowledge complications of the heart. Maybe the one Timony got all the black and blue from is the same one she ran from shadows with in “Cosmic Cave.”

Following It’s Real’s unifying thread is a complex task. The music, granted, isn’t as complex, in the sense that the music itself requires no moralizing for engagement: It’s great, unqualified awesomeness soaked in ‘80s and ‘90s rock ‘n roll, echoing anyone and everyone from Joan Jett to Sleater-Kinney to Scorpions and even to Tsunami Bomb. But here rests the line of delineation. Folks who don’t appreciate an aesthetic planted firmly in the eras of grunge and Camaro rock likely won’t change their tune on hearing It’s Real’s stomping power-pop stylings (assuming they’re generous enough to give it a shot in the first place). People who read that description as a promise of Good Times, on the other hand, will embrace It’s Real as Ex Hex’s return to the modern day rock ecosystem.


There’s a gentle hand needed to make music with as much edge as Ex Hex’s sound so tender through the crackle and buzz of distortion pedals and the confident strut-worthy boom of Laura Harris’ drums. In some cases, the music actually sounds reckless: “This illusion of love is coming to ya,” sings Timony on “Diamond Drive. “The dots are moving on, and the lines are keeping time.” Calling back to “You Fell Apart” from Rips, Timony starts pointing out the “creeps” catching up to her. She doesn’t want the driver to crash, but boy, she wants to get the hell away from the creeps as they swing around on chandeliers. Between the creeps and a crash, the latter sounds preferable. If you’re going to wreck a car, might as well wreck it with the volume cranked up.

But the key word in “Diamond Drive” is “illusion.” It’s used on a recurring basis over the course of It’s Real, not only in “Diamond Drive” but “Another Dimension” and “Cosmic Cave” Was the love between Timony and her listener real? Did she just imagine the whole relationship? “We hung our minds / on an illusion of our love,” she muses on “Cosmic Cave.” If it was an illusion, it’s a remarkably substantial one. She can’t forget the experience she had with this person, however good or bad they might have been. She went so far as to craft an album about those experiences, after all.


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Washington DC power rock group Ex Hex came onto the scene in 2014 with their excellent, loud debut Rips. Filled with big, raucous waves of guitar, the album embodied the type of rock ‘n’ roll that genre devotees were hungry for, which made sense; Mary Timony, founder of the influential ‘90s riot grrrl group Helium, helms the group alongside Betsy Wright on guitar and Laura Harris on drums. Their second studio album, It’s Real, which arrives March 22nd via Merge Records, along with the premiere of “Cosmic Cave” a guitar-shimmering single that Timony calls “Old style Ex Hex.” It’s lively garage rock with a bittersweet swirl of a chorus and cavernous-sounding embellishments, best experienced beyond the boundaries of headphones.

Timony and Wright explained that It’s Real found its form through the deliberate collaboration between the pair  their knack for continuous refinement feeding into their tightness in sound, execution, and their will to experiment. Whether it’s recording with ten amps at once or indulging in the weird effects of an old ‘80s headphone amp, Ex Hex are fully devoted to crafting the best sounds for blaring at maximum volume.

From the album It’s Real, out March 22nd, 2019 on Merge Records.


You have to hand it to Ex Hex: they didn’t waste any time. Around this time last fall, the Washington, D.C.-based garage-pop trio, lead by guitarist/singer Mary Timony, had yet to play its first show. The only real evidence of the band’s existence was an early mix of the song “Hot and Cold”, which Timony posted online, then quickly removed. Within a month, the band–which also includes bassist/singer Betsy Wright (Childballads) and drummer Laura Harris (Aquarium, Benjy Ferree)—had joined up with Merge. By spring, “Hot and Cold” had been remixed and released on a three-song single.

And now, only a year in comes “Rips”, Ex Hex’s debut full-length. It’s the record of the summer, a collection of perfectly lean power-pop tunes that evoke Tom Petty and The Runaways while conjuring the unruly energy of contemporary mid-fi bashers like Thee Oh Sees. Rips sounds fine on headphones or at home, but it’s best enjoyed in the car where it’s possible to feel more perfectly tuned into the music’s steady velocity. The production is clean, but not polished, and the performances are tight. It doesn’t sound like a record that was made in a hurry.

Washington DC trio Ex Hex perform two punchy classic tracks “Eveywhere” at WAMU Radio,taken from the debut album out now “Rips” available on Merge Records