Billy Hinkle Brings East Side Ethic to Poison Girl Turntables

L-R: Robert Mena, Francisco Pulido, Scott Peterson (of Cryptic Slaughter), Billy Hinkle, and Ed Reyes
L-R: Robert Mena, Francisco Pulido, Scott Peterson (of Cryptic Slaughter), Billy Hinkle, and Ed Reyes
photo by Matthew Romero

Pasadena hardcore outfit H.R.A., named after television personality Marvin Zindler's "heavy roach activity" blurb from his famous and often-amusing weekly rundown of local health-inspection violations, makes music to kill cats by, pens theme songs for nightmares, belches anthems for the apocalypse. Fast, furious, industrial-strength, and filled with rage, this is sonic warfare, the stuff they play in the torture cells at CIA black sites.

Unless you're part of the hardcore scene, it's hard to comprehend how deeply embedded hardcore is on the East Side. According to H.R.A. bassist Billy Hinkle, whose first DJ gig ever will be spinning his vinyl at Poison Girl tonight, the manic, abrasive, buzzsaw genre that sprang out of punk is in the water in east Houston. [Disclosure: the author is also DJing at PG this evening -- ed.]

"A lot of bands -- you know, Splatterreah, Bacteria, Social Deceit, Crucifixion -- were based out of the East Side. There's something about the working class and chemical pollution that caters to this music."

Together seven years, H.R.A. -- Francisco Pulido (guitars), Ed Reyes (drums) and Robert Mena (vocals) -- rarely ventures out to play, although they did rip off a furious 30 minute set at Rudyard's in early 2014. While they aren't necessarily on hiatus, Hinkle notes that the band no longer does shoestring tours.

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"We're old enough now, we don't tour just to tour or just to play," Hinkle offers. "That's cool, but we actually like to come out ahead. After seven years we've learned how to turn a profit, but if the numbers don't add up, we stay home."

The band has a routine built around making gigs and tours fun and as comfortable as possible.

"We're too old to be sleeping on couches or in sleeping bags," Hinkle explains. "So if we do a tour, we get one room and hold each other through the night."

Asked how the band would like to be remembered eventually, Hinkle bridles and turns the tables.

"That's just it, we may not want to be remembered," he surmises. "Let's be clear: we are in no way trying to reinvent the wheel with H.R.A. We are having a blast playing the same crap we were listening to when we were 15."

"The thing about Houston is, in every record store and music shop there are dudes working who are bummed out that they weren't the next Van Halen. It's not like that for us. H.R.A. just wants to put out some cool records and play fast."

"When we record, we aren't trying to put out the next Pet Sounds; no one will," says Hinkle. "The best compliment our band ever got was a fan saying our record sounded like it came out in 1988. Mission accomplished."

Story continues on next page.


H.R.A. doesn't really care what you think of them or their music

While Pasadena and its hinterlands are a hotbed for this type of musical enterprise, Hinkle notes H.R.A. has always done well in the Valley.

"We love to play in the Valley," says Hinkle, the only gringo in the band. "We love the food, the people, and there are always some great Valley bands on the bills. The last time we played McAllen, all these Mexican kids started showing up on their bicycles -- how cool is that?"

"We're also taqueria aficianados, so that's another plus about touring in the Valley," addss Hinkle. "And the Border Patrol just flat out loves us."

So will grindcore, hardcore and death metal comprise the core of Hinkle's set?

"Ah, hell no," he laughs. "Nobody wants to listen to three solid hours of that shit.

"I'm gonna get really hardcore about this," says Hinkle. "You know, early Buck Owens, the Beatles, Gary Stewart, stuff for old-school fanatics. I think people will be surprised."

Billy Hinkle spins 10 p.m. tonight at Poison Girl Cocktail Lounge, 1641 Westheimer.

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