2004_10_hazzards_large.jpgThe Hazzards are an incredibly adorable ukulele duo (though they've recently expanded into a five-member band) who plink away onstage with sweet smiles on their faces as they sing about day jobs, gay boyfriends, roommates and romance. The group, who were originally called "The Ukes of Hazzard," perform regularly at comedy and music venues, usually in matching homemade outfits. Their debut EP is coming out this fall and will be self-released, while the "Gay Boyfriend" single was released last year on London's Better the Devil Records with two dance remixes. They excel at dressing up, witty stage banter, and creating perky, infectious pop songs that will make you want to sing along.

Where do you live?
Sydney Maresca: I live on the border between Carrol Gardens & Red Hook. It was Red Hook when I moved in two years ago, but now it's Carroll Gardens.

Anne Harris: I live in Fort Greene but I used to live in Astoria. I miss it a little bit, but the commute to rehearse with Sydney is a lot better these days. I can bike there!

When did you start playing an instrument and which instrument? Were you in other bands before The Hazzards?
AH: I started playing viola in third grade then switched to chorus in seventh grade and was in a slew of embarassing vocal groups through college-including a capella and a group of my junior high friends who performed showtunes in the basement of a church in multi-colored t-shirts & black pants. We called ourselves Celebration of Friends. It was seventh grade and it wasn't my idea.

SM: The ukulele was my first instrument. I started playing in 2000 and I learned from the internet.

How'd you settle on the ukulele?
AH: It looked easy, I was bored at my day job. Marilyn Monroe plays one in Some Like It Hot and they are readily available on the internet. I had no idea about the crazy, world-wide uke-community. I soon found out at Uke-fest 2001 in Upper Montclair, NJ.

SM: I had a roommate when I first moved to New York who played a million instruments. She had a ukulele in her room. I never saw her play it, but I was a little obsessed with it. I was also a little obsessed with how cool she was. Three years later, when I was leaving my day job I finally got one of my own. I went for the expensive one, figuring if I blew a lot of money on a nice one I'd really have to learn how to play it.

Your website says you met at a party-whose party? How did you decide you wanted to play in a band together? And why "The Hazzards?"
SM: A lot of people have asked how we've met, but no one ever wondered what the party was. It was an auction at Galapagos in Williamsburg for Kick Stand Dance.

AH: Wasn't that the one where the auctioneer passed out because he was ODing on heroin?

SM: Yeah.

AH: That makes us sound like such dirty hipsters. Awesome.

SM: I had just got a ukulele and I was telling everyone at the party about it. They all said, "You should talk to Anne Harris, she just got a ukulele, too." I went up to Anne and we talked about our ukuleles. She said, "Let's start a band and call it 'The Ukes of Hazzard.'" And so we did.

You recently expanded into being a five-piece band (with a harp even!). Why'd you go this route? What's it like to combine such unusual instruments (glockenspiel, harp, ukulele, Casio, tambourine)?
SM: Our songs sound so much awesomer with the full band.

AH: First, we added our friend Will Carlough. He was in another band we liked playing with and he volunteered to play drums for us at a couple of shows.

SM: I don't know how we got Andy. He plays a million instruments (including banjo!) but we really needed a bass player.

AH: I sang in his senior thesis recital for upright bass. One of his other senior pieces was Super Mario Brothers on upright bass. He's awesome.

SM: And Paul?

AH: I went over to my friend Paul's house one day and he had a harp in his living room. We were friends for a while and I thought I knew him, but apparently he taught himself how to play harp in college. I had no idea. Paul has also been my fake-boyfriend since 1998.

SM: Anne brought him in first to play on one song, "Let's get Romantic," because the harp is really romantic. But Paul was so good that we made him play on all the songs.

AH: Now that I think about it, all of our boy band mates play a million instruments. One day, Paul was busting on his own musicianship because Andy and Will are so nasty, but in the same breath mentioned that he was second chair trumpet back in Minnesota. He plays trumpet on the new version of "Shut Up and Makeout!!"

SM: And Will taught himself to play accordion in five minutes at our last rehearsal.

Are your songs autobiographical, and if so, has that ever presented a problem for you?
SM: They are totally autobiographical.

AH: And it's not a problem because we're magic.

SM: We started writing a song last rehearsal called "Will is our Richest Friend" and a few days later he won $10,000.

AH: We made it happen.

SM: It was a filmmaking contest that Will won. Will also made it happen. He is very talented.

What's been your most memorable show to date?
SM: Two come to mind. Our first show in the UK where we performed for 1,000 drunk, screaming, gay brits who memorized our dance moves. The second was the one where I had laryngitis and couldn't sing at all. I brought a guy who called himself "Dirtbag" up to sing "Sweet Child o Mine" because he had been requesting metal songs all night and he forgot all of the words.

AH: Two come to my mind as well. This summer we went to San Francisco and played in a dive bar with a gentleman of the "Burning Man" variety who had overhead projections and passed around a chalice of raisins.

SM: We played a guessing game with the number of rubber bands in his hair. Anne won--she guessed 23.

AH: Just recently we played at Sin-e and debuted our new song "Hott for Hasidem" and we magically summoned to Hasidic dudes to the bar with our song. Obviously we made that happen as well. I've never seen Hasidim in bars before...and I'm in them a lot.

Your songs are pretty funny, and you've been on various comedy lineups, as well as musical ones. Which of those arenas do you feel you fit into the most?
SM: I think we sort of straddle the line, but the sound set-up is usually much better at music shows.

AH: That's a tough call. More and more we've been playing just the two of us in Comedy Venues and with the full band in music venues. But we're working on developing a show-show with the full band. Luckily the boys are all truly hilarious in addition to being amazing musicians.

You're often wearing coordinating outfits like Le Tigre does-can you tell me about your fashion philosophy?
SM: Wow, that's the first time we've ever been compared Le Tigre. Thanks. I think one of the main reasons to be in a band is to get to play dress-up. And everything looks better when it matches.

AH: Sydney makes everything. She is awesome.

SM: Anne is awesome.

*hugs*

Your song "Shut Up And Make Out" is wonderful and totally true.
Aside from putting that song on the stereo, how can you really get someone to shut up and make out with you?

AH: Booze?

SM: I don't know if we're so good at that. That's why we have the song. Usually I just wait around akwardly until there is nothing else to do.

AH: My style is just to say "Look, I really wanna make out with you." And more often than not it's in public. Oops.

Your song "Gay Boyfriend" has garnered you a bit of attention. What inspired you to write it? Do you consider yourself fag hags?
SM: I like to consider us "International Fag Hags."

AH: Yeah, we like gay dudes. What?

You did a video for "Gay Boyfriend" and I was curious as to how that came about-did you do it on your own?

SM: Our friend, Dave Ratzlow, recorded a demo for us in Anne's bedroom with a machine he brought in his back pack. A couple months later he called introduced us to his friend Ryan and told us Ryan was going to direct our video. And the rest is internet history.

That video was posted online, and you also have a blog where you dish about your shows and adventures. Do you think having an internet presence is a necessity for a new band nowadays? What do you like and dislike the most about having a website and blog?
AH: It sure is.

SM: We wouldn't even be a band if it weren't for the internet.

AH: We got a record deal emailed to us on our hotmail account. We get fan emails from Japan. It's awesome.

SM: We taught ourselves ukulele from these weird websites. And we use email to book most of our shows. I love having a website and a blog. I don't know what there possibly is to dislike about them.

AH: Hate mail? No wait, I love hate mail.

At the WYSIWYG Talent Show in June, you read some of your hate mail. What kind of mail, good and bad, do you get from listeners? How do you deal with negative/hate mail?
SM: We get a lot of emails from 18 year old boys in England who want to be our gay boyfriends. It's very sweet.

AH: Surprisingly, there was a three week period where we were getting a lot of email from men in the Armed Forces who really liked our music, especially "Gay Boyfriend." That was a pleasant surprise.

SM: When we get hate mail, we promptly sign the sender up for Kylie Minogue newsletters.

You're playing tonight at Cocktoberfest on a bill with The Isotoners and Pink Steel, to what I imagine will be largely a gay crowd. Do you think your fanbase is mostly gay or mixed or what?
AH: Mixed. (but all really rad.)

SM: We have a lot of gay fans, but it's pretty mixed. We also have a lot of death-metal fans on MySpace.

AH: And recently a lot of Christians, too.

You have an EP coming out soon-can you tell me more about what's going to be on it? How does it differ from your live shows?
SM: There are less mess-ups on the EP than in our live shows.

AH: We have six awesome songs on it. Will, our drummer, plays saxophone on one song-something he can't do in live shows. It was the best seeing Paul lay down harp tracks with the headphones on.

SM: And I got to plug my ukulele into an amp as tall as I was with crazy distortion for "The Business." I know there's a fancy word for what I plugged into, but I don't know what it is. It was pretty tough, though.

What's something that would surprise people about you?
AH: Sydney made her cat wear a fez.

SM: That's not surprising, though.

AH: I hold it down hard for the Red Sox.

SM: Candy makes me crazy!

Do you both have day jobs, and if so, what are they?
SM: Yes. We like our day jobs.

AH: I work in TV. It's awesome. My bosses are rad.

SM: I am a fashion designer. It's cool.

AH & SM: JOBS! *high five*

If you could create the ideal New York venue for shows, what would it include and where would it be?
SM: It would be on Anne's roof so we wouldn't have to take the train with all our novelty instruments.

AH: There would be a fireman's pole so you could leave, but we have to
figure out a cool way for everyone to get up there.

SM: They can just take the stairs.

AH: There would be fireworks timed to the music. And a rad sound system with dope sound people.

SM: And a jacuzzi.

AH: And free flavored malt beverages for everyone.

SM: And we'd have like 17 costume changes.

AH: And backup dancers.

When you're not playing shows, what kind of trouble do you like to get into?
AH: I play street hockey and I get black eyes because I'm really scrappy.

SM: I don't really get into trouble. I do like to watch Blind Date with my cat.

The Hazzards perform at Pianos tonight as part of Cocktoberfest along with The Isotoners and Pink Steel. They are also playing a free show on Wednesday, November 10th at Galapagos in Williamsburg at 10 pm. Visit The Hazzards' website for more information, song samples and merchandise; they also blog.

-- Interview by Rachel Kramer Bussel