Adelaide’s indie-punk dynamic duo The Hard Aches didn’t pick an easy topic to address with their sophomore release Mess. And for that, we are eternally grateful. Rather than settling for the middle of the road tales of torment and sadness, the group flipped the discussion on its head, approaching the topic of mental illness from a positive perspective, and we’re sitting here wondering why it’s taken this long for someone to do that.

Instead of getting bogged down in the perils of mental health, The Hard Aches have used Mess, out now, as a vessel of hope. Sure, we might have our dark times, the album accepts, but hope is very much a real thing, often lurking just around the corner and as we knuckle down with the greater discussion of mental health, it’s important to keep that in mind.

What’s more, the ability to see through the doom and gloom, to find the speckles of positivity in mental health is the sign of truly important songwriters. Moments ahead of the release, we caught up with frontman Ben David to learn about the record.

The Neversphere: We’re now T-Minus a few days away from the big release date for Mess, as one of the dudes who made the thing…how are you feeling right now? Nervous, excited?
Ben: It’s three sleeps away and I’m a combination of all of them. Nerves coming from thinking ‘What have we missed? What have we forgot to do?‘ But I’m really fucking hyped for everyone to hear this record. Hopefully, they love it as much as we loved making it. We’re really proud of this record.

Coming in to make this record, we were the best the band has ever been. The pressure to make something that people will like is always there, but we’re not the kind of band that really thinks about that when we’re making music. We want to make music that we enjoy. You make music that your teenage self would have loved, and I think we’ve achieved that.
The Neversphere: I really like that as a metric to know if you’re on the right path. With sales and charts and all that stuff not meaning as much these days, what’s your gauge of success for the record, other than pleasing your teenage self?
Ben: To be completely honest the sales, charts and radio play isn’t something that we ever have at the front of our minds when we’re putting songs together; If people like it enough to buy it, that’s the icing on top but we’re not the kind of band to put songs together with a purpose to get in on the radio, or impress people. For us, success is being able to keep touring, and hopefully help inspire the next generation of kids to get involved to some degree, whether it’s starting a band or going to more shows.

We love that our audiences have gotten younger and younger, because it’s really important to be able to show the younger generations that ‘Hey, you can do this…go out and buy an instrument, or buy a camera…Go out there and do whatever it is you want to do, ‘cos we did it.’ With this new record, we’ve done a big focus on putting a positive spin on mental health. We want to inspire people in that way – to open up and start the conversation, whether it be about mental health or diversity around music or whatever it may be. We want to inspire people to talk outside of the box they might live in, and be open to new ideas…Open for the change that’s going to happen.
The Neversphere: I find it really interesting that you didn’t just use mental health as a crutch to support the album, but more so as a tool given that you approach it from the positive aspects of mental health…How difficult was it to be positive about something so dark?
Ben: Writing about mental health and stories, or things that have come from a dark and gloomy place is not uncommon ground for us. It’s the way I’ve always written songs. It’s been my outlet to express these things and get them out of my head. When it came to writing this record, I didn’t want to just write a bunch of songs that were the same ‘woe is me, life sucks’ that you can so easily fall into and get away with.

I had a few experiences that made me look at the bigger picture and write a record that talks about these things, but in a more hopeful light. If we talk about it, we can break the stigma…Things can get better for us; they’ll get better for everyone. There’s definitely this ‘Awh you’ll be right, mate’ culture around mental health. But you struggle to find someone who hasn’t been touched by mental health personally or around them. That conversation is happening, people are becoming more comfortable, but there’s this stigma around it that it’s a weakness.

There are a lot of people who don’t have the courage to step out of their own comfort zone to talk about it. It is uncomfortable, and it is scary. I’m not fully comfortable talking about it yet but I’m trying really hard to be the voice I want to be for advocating the positivity that surrounds mental health. There’s another side, you come out of it and things do get better.

The Neversphere: How did this work for you; did you find any catharsis, or even a sense of healing throughout the writing and recording process?
Ben: Of course. I’m really lucky that I’ve had songwriting to help me through some of the worst times in my life. I don’t know where I’d be without it. I was really lucky that I found something really early in life; that I had something I could use to just get it out. That was a big healing process. Getting to go out and share these experiences with people, to be able to have conversations with people about their own experiences…I think that is such a beautiful thing that it makes it all feel like it was for a reason.
The Neversphere: The album has some amazing collaborations on it. You have Georgia from Camp Cope, Craig from The Bennies…Even Jeff Rosenstock. These are really great and also forward-thinking guest features, how did they come to life?
Ben: They’re bands we’ve been touring with and playing with for a long, long time so we have really cool, beautiful friendships with them. Georgia is a huge inspiration for us; someone who, for me, has been a huge part of my mental health experience. It made a lot of sense to have Georgia come in and sing this song Happy that weaves in and out between two peoples stories, meeting somewhere in the middle. She was always our first pic.

It was really that Craig was around and that Josh was around…It all happened so organically we never set out to have guests on the album, it just worked out that way – we were just hanging in the studio.
The Neversphere: You’re going on the road as soon as you release the record, that’s a big step considering fans might not have their heads around it yet…
Ben:…We hoped we’d get the chance to release the record earlier than we did, somethings didn’t line up, life gets in the way…we had to push the release date to the first date of the tour which is a scary one, because we love the crowd participation. But we’ve got that many releases now that we won’t be getting up there and playing the new album in full, we’re playing a good chunk of it but still keeping the songs people know and want to see live.

Hopefully, towards the end of the year we can do another tour where we can play the rest of the record that people aren’t so familiar with yet…who knows…

…People might really hate this record.

The Hard Aches Australian Tour Dates
Tickets available now

Wednesday, April 18
Transit Bar, Canberra
Tickets: Hard Aches Website

Thursday, April 19
The Cambridge, Newcastle
Tickets: Hard Aches Website

Friday, April 20
Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney
Tickets: Hard Aches Website

Saturday, April 21
The Zoo, Brisbane
Tickets: Hard Aches Website

Tuesday, April 24
Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth
Tickets: Hard Aches Website