Two jobs, a trip to the chiropractor, and it’s finally time for Ansley Rimmer to talk about her band, Hydrogen Child. If you hear the Shreveport, Louisiana quintet, especially on their new EP Sirens, you would assume that all interviews were taking place on a luxurious tour bus in some exotic location. The hooks are that good and the performances are of such a high quality that they have to be pop stars by now, right?
“If you’ve eaten canned beans and tuna fish for a month and a half, and shared a van with five people somehow, sleeping semi-comfortably, I can’t imagine what it would feel like to sleep on a tour bus,” Rimmer laughs, but she’s not joking. She’s not complaining either, but the 26-year-old singer does want to lift the curtain a bit on what’s real and what’s not in the world of pop music these days.
In short, to “make it” involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears, even if you do have the talent and material to back you up.
“People, in general, think that we’re bigger than we are,” said Rimmer of the band formerly known as Super Water Sympathy. “Even when it comes to booking shows, a venue’s like ‘we’re going to book this band in the middle of nowhere, Arizona where they’ve never played before and we’re going to headline them and they’re going to bring a huge crowd because they played on Vans’ Warped Tour.’ Okay, well we played on a foldout stage, literally the smallest stage on the tour, nobody knew who we were, and we only played there because (Warped Tour creator) Kevin Wyman saw us at a showcase in Atlanta that we paid to play. Kevin Wyman was on the panel, and he booked us for Warped Tour, and still no one knows who we are. It’s the whole grind of the industry. ‘Oh, you guys need to be on the radio, when are you going to be on the radio?’ Well, maybe when we have four or five hundred thousand dollars to spend on a campaign.”
That means plenty of long hours working multiple jobs for everyone in the band (Rimmer, Clyde Hargrove, Chris Rimmer, Jason Mills, Hali Kha), but when it’s time to get down to the music, the band is all-in, whether they’re in the studio or on stage…or even not on a stage but playing somewhere. The grind will not let their art suffer.
“We bring our full production, whether we’re playing at the House of Blues or if we play in a dive bar and we’re standing in the corner and there’s not a stage,” she said. “We bring our lights, our fog, and our bubbles, and we always bring it, no matter what.”
And with Sirens, the band – which changed their name in late-2014 – has basically put all their cards on the table for an all-out assault on the musical universe. Dramatic, maybe, but after battling it out on the road for over five years, it’s time to start reaping the benefits of their hard work.
“We’re not 19 to 22-year-old people,” Rimmer said. “We thought things were going to go a bit further with our second album and they did, and so with this EP, we’ve got two members, we’ve revamped our image, we changed our name, and we needed to hone in on our sound and figure out the direction we want to go because nothing significant enough had happened. So we said ‘let’s do what we want to do.’
“I would be so happy if we were able to tour the country and play sold out shows to 300 people for the rest of our lives,” she continues. “But why not aim for selling out arenas for the rest of my life? All we really need is for something to happen with this EP, just to put us a couple steps above where we are now. And that will be enough to keep us excited and ready to move on and keep on with this.”
It should happen, as long as the EP hits the right people in the right places. That’s a roll of the dice for sure, but it’s disappointing to fathom that tracks like these might get lost in the mix. If that happens, it won’t be from a lack of effort, and in the meantime, guitarist Hargrove has a plan to make sure HG begins their world invasion in style.
“Clyde calls it ‘Operation Swarm and Swoon,’” Rimmer said of the band’s philosophy of playing anywhere in the small towns in and around Shreveport. “It has really, really worked in our favor. Bands have to respect and embrace your region.”
Hydrogen Child do seem destined for bigger things than being a local band though. They play like it and they’ve set the bar high, with some – like Rimmer – having dreamed of the big time for as long as she could remember. I ask her if she’s ready for a life change in the next year.
“I’d like to think that I am,” she said. “I’d like to think that I would be able to handle something like that with grace, but I don’t know. I’m a pretty scatterbrained person. (Laughs) I try to meditate and give myself rest as much as possible, but again, with working two jobs and being gone on the weekends, it’s kind of hard to find that balance. But I’d like to think that I’m ready. It’s been five years and I feel like we finally produced a product where the ultimate dream doesn’t feel as far in the future as before.”
She pauses before continuing, as if she wants to make sure that commitment to the dream is fully there.
“I think I’m ready. Ever since I’ve been a little kid, all I’ve wanted is for everyone to come up and ask me for my autograph everywhere I go. (Laughs) If I can’t handle it, that would be a shame.”
It would be more of a shame to not see her band at least get their shot. They’ve come close with the Warped Tour slot, four days at SXSW in 2014 and positive critical and popular acclaim, but close is just that for a band that will be called an overnight success should they hit big in 2015.
“The scary thing for me is, I think about bands like Coldplay, who were together for ten years before Yellow dropped,” Rimmer said. “Everyone’s an overnight success. But I do look at someone like Macklemore. He was able to build his own empire without ever having the help of an outside label. That was just an anomaly, but that’s the ultimate goal.”
In the meantime, it’s more two job days, more recording, more shows, and thinking up more ways to reach the masses. It’s not as glamorous anymore when you put it like that, but when Ansley Rimmer and her bandmates take the stage, all is forgiven.
“As cliché as it may be, honestly, it’s the release,” she said when asked why she still does this. “Spiritually, energy-wise, physically, after releasing it through sweat, the sleep you get after the show is better than any sleep I’ve ever gotten in my life. It’s also awesome to be vulnerable. When I’m on stage, I’m emotionally naked and I’m not thinking about any movement I’m doing or my facial expressions. I’m thinking just enough to make words and melodies come out of my mouth. It’s a hundred percent stress release.”