"I pretty much almost get killed everyday when I'm riding my bicycle," she continues. "It makes me mad; it's one of the things we like to sing about." She and bandmate sts (pronounced s-t-s) have been singing about what makes them mad for five years now. The Portland band plays a kind of hardcore that is fast and hard enough that it meshes into a sweet, single sound. By relying on the instrumental simplicity of drums and guitar, their vocals are left as the dominating sound, and they're so focused and passionate that you can't help but get caught up in the vulnerability of their music. "What we play is pretty straightforward; it's not much different from the hardcore that lots of boys play, except we bring a whole new set of politics to it," says Emily.
After talking to Emily and sts for one minute, it's clear that it's this commitment to both their music and their politics that holds them together. This is not music about love, or music that's given lyrics just to match the song. The Haggard wouldn't exist without a cause.
"We sing because we love it, but we also sing because we've got something to say. That's why we hand out lyrics at our show too." explains sts. "We're pro-queer, pro-girl, pro-bikers, and that's incredibly important to us." Indeed, a type of music was never more well suited to its content. "We love hardcore because it's a chance to just get incredibly angry, and to get the crowd angry, and to play hard music."
It seems strange, at first, that two girls so committed to politics would choose music as their form of expression--unlike most political activism, art appears to be so indirect; but Emily and sts illuminate how much music is politics. They couldn't be this emotionally effective in any other way.
The Haggard has already released one album with Mr. Lady Records, a label they love. "I don't know of another hardcore label that would have recorded us. There aren't very many labels that support this kind of music. As a queer female musician, I'm so glad that they're giving this kind of music a chance, and taking a stand against a world that's made for and dominated by men," says sts.
In October, the Haggard returned from a North American tour, but they've also played all around the world--in Berlin, England, and New York, and they plan to go to Australia as soon as they release their next album, which they're working on now.
But commitment like this is never easy. "Me and Emily fight sometimes too, definitely," said sts. "It's gotten a lot better now, but it used to be so hard sometimes. We even went to couples therapy to keep the band together. One of our counselors even fell asleep while we were talking!" For the sake of the project, the two keep it together and can't wait for their show this week. "We haven't played out in a long time, because we took a month off, and then we both traveled a bunch, and now we're back. But we had a really great practice last Saturday where we played 15 songs in a row," says Emily.
"We try to raise awareness with our songs," she continues. "Sometimes people object to what we're doing, tell us that feminism is dead, you know stuff like that," sts adds. "But I always say, sure. Until there's a woman president, or at least someone of color in office, feminism will never be dead."