When I meet with the band I Hate Your Girlfriend to interview them, I have not yet heard what they sound like. They've only played six shows so far, but Facebook chatter had led me to believe they're good. Sitting around a table at the Old Post, the trioguitarist/vocalist Madison Masse, bassist Sam Peeples and drummer Jamie Rogersseems genuinely surprised that they'd be the focus of an article. When Rogers says with curiosity, "Did you think you were going to be interviewing a different band?" I feel uneasy. Then he says, "You're going to be blown away at how much we suck."
This is not a good sign.
As the band talks, however, evidence points to the contrary. They might either be (a) putting me on, or (b) too modest for their own good. For one thing, their previous band Ax Racoons, which included all of them plus two other musicians, had a fantastically lush, fist-pumping pop soundlike Tegan and Sara on steroids. For another thing, they have two prime gigs this upcoming weekend, opening for hot bands Unicycle Loves You and White Mystery. Finally, they don't really seem worried about what people think, which means they're confident. "It's only our name and our charming good looks that transfixes people," says Masse, laughing. "And after that, it's all downhill."
"We do bring a lot of sex appeal," says Peeples. "It's not like a James Taylor concert, but close."
They tell me they're big in Honduras and that they sound like the band Boston.
I Hate Your Girlfriend had their first show in January, when VFW band-in-residence the Juveniles asked them to play. Ax Racoons had broken up, but Masse gathered Peeples and Rogers together, practiced for a few days and hit the stage with what they had cobbled together.
"Aside from playing that one show, I don't know if we really had the idea to be a band again," says Rogers. "This band is much looserwe really want to have funand the band before was a little tight-butted. We want an atmosphere that is about playing music and then if we end up with shows down the road, then that would just be icing on the cake."
The name I Hate Your Girlfriend was the first band moniker that really clicked.
"I think the name is so applicable to so many different situations," Masse says. "I just think it's so true. If you really dig somebody who's already dating someone, then it's like, 'I hate your girlfriend. Why do you have to have a girlfriend?' Or if someone's girlfriend is so annoying, then you're like, 'I hate your girlfriend.'
"It's negative in general," says Peeples, inducing a peel of laughter from the others. "It's certainly better than choosing an adjective or a color and a random animal and making that the band name."
Masse, a natural frontwoman, wears red sunglasses, jeans and boots. She's regarded by her bandmates as a badass, and for good reason. Not too long ago, she got up on stage and told a bad '80s cover band to stop playing after they'd gone on for an hour. No one else would do it. "I don't think it was rude," she says.
She writes songs about what she knows. "I wanted to write primarily fun songs and some slower lonely songs," she says. "I wanted to write about things that are fun to me, like partying and things that go along with partying. I basically write songs about exes, partying, bars that I like and monsters."
"At the Party," for instance, is about wanting somebody you're into to come to your party. "Golden Rose" is about friends meeting up at the Golden Rose bar.
At a recent show at the Palace, the band decided to test their partying limits. The headliner had dropped out at the last minute and there wasn't much of a chance for getting paid, so when I Hate Your Girlfriend arrived they decided to use the night to experiment. After all, says Masse, what ever happened to the rock and roll gimmick of getting so wasted that you can't finish your set?
"There were five people there and we took the liberty to test our limit on how drunk we could be," says Rogers. "So it was memorable, but I don't really remember too much. It was...it was...it was..."
"It was ridiculous," says Masse.
"It was bad," Rogers agrees. "We're not going to do that again."
The band discusses the Justin Bieber video where someone throws a water balloon in his face. They tell me that if this article about them could somehow facilitate a dinner date with any of the out-of-town bands they'll be playing with soon, specifically White Mystery or the Coathangers, "that would be awesome." They say they're going to try their hardest to play a good show tonight.
Then they get ready to go play their show at the Palace and I follow them to see exactly what they'll sound like.
It's Friday night and a good-sized group of fans gather around the stage as I Hate Your Girlfriend breaks into one song after another"Frankenstein," "Build You Up," "Parasite," "Help I'm Alive." And, as it turns out, they're amazing. If The Pretenders and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and MGMT had a love child, this might be it. Clearly they're having funsmart-ass lyrics about parents' unlocked liquor cabinets and other shenanigans abound. Music-wise, they're overachievers, steeped in the art of stage presence and rocking out. Peeples straddles the ground like he's balancing on two high rises, writhing along with the perfectly rendered hooks. Rogers, grinning and sweating, has committed to good-naturedly beating the drums into submission. Masse's got the crowd in the palm of her hand. Her voice is glam and strutting and stunning as she belts out "If you were undead/and I was liv-in'/I would race death/ to the grave." And you believe every word.
I Hate Your Girlfriend plays the Badlander Fri., March 30, at 9 PM with Unicycle Loves You for the official Dude Abides after-party. $5/$3 with a Wilma wristband. They play again on Sat., March, 31, at Zoo City Apparel with White Mystery and The Coathangers, plus others, at 9 PM. $8/$6 advance at Ear Candy.