It’s not every day that a new band is mentioned in the same breath as My Bloody Valentine, The Pixies, Mazzy Star, PJ Harvey, the Beach Boys and Nirvana. It’s even rarer when it occurs in those bastions of hipster credibility, NME & Spin Magazine. Rarer still when that same band’s first recording was a Journey cover. But indeed, that is part of the story behind Los Angeles combo Giant Drag – guitarist/singer Annie Hardy and drummer Micah Calabrese.
Wind back a little though, to the germination of Giant Drag in a musical matchmaking parent. Oddly enough, Annie’s mother and Micah worked together – with Mrs. Hardy always prodding Micah, “my daughter is a musician, you should meet her!” meanwhile telling Annie “this guy at my work is in a band, you should meet him!” Of course, Micah saw this as a recipe for disaster, hoping he would never be forced to meet the Jewel wannabe singer/songwriter he imagined the daughter to be. Annie, meanwhile, hoped she’d never be introduced to this leather pant-clad Creed imposter. But that was not meant to be, as through some quirk of fate, Jewel and Creed actually met one another in 2001 through both of their best friends who just happened to be dating. Despite those initial reservations, the pair quickly became friends, having random jam sessions at Micah’s practice space. The formation of what would be ‘Giant Drag’ came soon after when the two decided to record a song at Micah’s home studio – a sweet cover of “Who’s Crying Now?” by Journey.
Annie had been writing and recording countless songs by this time, and eventually Micah began recording some of them, adding drums and bass to complement her vocals and guitar. Annie felt Micah “passed the test,” and she asked Micah to be in her band, to which he replied, “okay.” About a month later, Annie decided to book the band’s first show, whether they were ready or not. This would set the trend for the way Giant Drag was to exist: last minute and flying by the seat of their pants.
Of course, now that they were a “band,” they thought they needed a bass player, though that fruitless quest was solved one day when Micah jokingly tried playing bass lines on his Roland SH09 synthesizer while simultaneously playing drums. Amazingly the joke worked, and thus the band became a three piece – the third member being Micah’s left hand. Still, one part was missing: they didn’t have a name. With their first show rapidly approaching, they obviously needed to get their shit together. Annie came up with “Giant Drag” – a name Micah wasn’t too stoked on. But Giant Drag it became, after Annie forced her way with a series of Indian burns.
And so, June 4th, 2003, Giant Drag played their first show, merely one month after deciding to be a band. From there the ball started rolling pretty fast and hasn’t slowed down since. The third Giant Drag show led to an offer of a month long residency at the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles, playing for free every Monday. As the month progressed, the band noticed more and more people showing up each week. It wasn’t long before they recorded the 5 song Lemona EP – originally released on the local Leftwing Recordings label, before Wichita Records reissued the record in the UK. It was this EP that first had the press gushing. NME proclaimed Annie as “a woman who plays guitar like Kevin Shields and Kim Deal,” while CMJ described the EP as “a shortlist of tastefully acerbic pop songs that evoke My Bloody Valentine’s multi-layered guitar wash, Polly Jean’s sinister lyrical streak and Hope Sandoval’s Codeine-syrup vocals.” Soon, it wasn’t just the press that were fawning over Giant Drag – “This Isn’t It,” from the EP was playlisted on the new LA radio station Indie 103.1.
Meanwhile, the Giant Drag juggernaut rolled on. Another residency, this time on the popular Monday night slot at Spaceland followed, leading to the band being signed to new label Kickball Records, an indie subsidiary of Interscope. It was at this time, just as everything was coming together for Giant Drag, that Micah thought it would be a good idea to quit the band. Although she briefly filled the drummer slot with a boy named Eli for dates in the UK and New York, Annie soon realized that Micah couldn’t be replaced. So when it came time to start recording the Giant Drag full length, Annie turned to her old partner in crime, and asked Micah to play drums on it. In an echo of the past, Micah once again said, “okay.” And it was during this recording, for the album which Annie decided to name Hearts and Unicorns, that she forced Micah to sell his soul to her in exchange for a piece of yellow candy. Solving the drummer problem once and for all, now Micah is tied to Giant Drag forever. The world is a better place, and everyone is happy.
Meanwhile, at the 2005 SXSW festival and beyond, the press continued to gush about Giant Drag. Spin called them one of the buzz bands of the week, describing Annie as having “David Lee Roth stage power”. Billlboard said the singer “kicked up a wall of noise to dress up her killer hooks” and NME simply wrote, “the woman’s a genius”.
Hearts and Unicorns will be released on September 13, 2005 and Annie, Micah (and Micah’s left hand, of course) will embark on tours everywhere they can, playing to everyone who’ll listen until they’re all sick of it, at which time Giant Drag will rinse and repeat, making more records and playing music ad nauseum until one of them dies (probably Annie) and then who knows? One thing definitely to expect is more unexpected cosmic happenings. And plenty of pizza.
Written by Record Label