After dissolving his former band Chongo in late 2015, James Ashworth didn’t really want to form another one. Years of playing in a number of musical acts left him wanting a break. Not until after months of relentless pushing from a future bandmate, bassist Daniel Cazort, did he change his mind.
With the addition of Andrew Lowry, Ashworth’s longtime friend and former Chongo drummer, the trio breathes some fresh air into Huntsville’s thick country-music atmosphere with their garage-punk/surf-rock group, Hammer Party.
“This project is different. I would say Chongo really got us in the groove for what we’re doing now,” Ashworth says. “We had a different guy then, but Daniel is better at being a provisional bassist.”
“It’s music written in the same vein — surf, punk, party music — but the songs on this demo and the last one is the best stuff I’ve ever done playing in a band," Lowry adds. "It is definitely at its pinnacle.”
Going back to the roots of do-it-yourself punk, the trio recorded the band’s debut EP, An Evening With the Hammer Party, in Cazort’s house in Huntsville.
The four-song release was recorded in just a few days, with the group individually recording each instrument and then laying down Ashworth’s gritty vocals on top. The end product is a vinyl seven-inch packed with eight minutes of ear-thrashing, face-punching rawness similar to the Dead Kennedys or Minor Threat.
Each song is lethal and quick, but remains accessible enough for everyone. Even those who might not enjoy punk rock will be headbanging two minutes into the album.
“I think [the album] is good, especially for us doing it ourselves,” Cazort says. “We did it all here so it’s very DIY. It’s not the best setup, but we’re hoping to do it differently next time.”
The album was primarily written by Ashworth, who would record song demos in his home and then give them to Cazort and Lowry to learn and critique. Staying clear from writing politically and socially conscious lyrics, Ashworth’s material offers a more satirical, tongue-in-cheek vibe.
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“It’s a pragmatic tyranny but it totally works for the band, and that’s the cool thing about it,” Lowry says. “Every band has their own way; some bands just jam out and some have a singular songwriter, and that’s how we are. When we first started playing songs, it was something that we all agreed upon and it worked out. It made it more fluid.”
Hammer Party have also mastered the difficult task of seamlessly translating their sound from the recording studio to their concerts, which are dynamic in and of themselves. Peppering in Minutemen and Joy Division covers in between originals, the band's shows offer a nice change of pace that keeps listeners engaged and continues to draw in new ones.
Over the last few months, the group has played shows with The Gooch Palms, The Darts and College Station's Girlband. Hammer Party continues to gain speed in the Houston scene, and will snowball into Satellite Bar tonight opening for Austin's A Giant Dog and H-Town's own Frog Hair. The self-described "octopus rock" of Houston's Howard and the Nosebleeds is up first. Doors open at 8 p.m.; tickets are $10.
Besides this evening's Satellite Bar gig, An Evening with the Hammer Party is available at any of the group's upcoming shows or through their Bandcamp page. For updates on new music and upcoming shows visit Hammer Party on Facebook.