For many, music is as disposable as a pop can -- a short sugary burst to soundtrack activities, provide momentary distraction, and possibly remind us we're not alone in life's tumult and ache.
For a few, it's a galvanizing experience when performer and audience participate in transcendence. Music Hates You is just such an act.
The incendiary catalyst for the Athens hardcore/metal quartet isn't the pile-driving rhythms or writhing guitar wail, but feral frontman Noah Ray who herds the sonic stampede with the enthusiasm of a deranged rustler.
"We're going to play what's in our hearts, let everyone else worry about playing music," says Ray. "We start and stop each song together most of the time, other than that all bets are off. But I will promise you, it will be loud."
One of Athens' best live bands, their sometimes confrontational, in-your-face style was born of their beginnings, just a few weeks before 9/11. The event changed Ray's thinking, which he channeled into the band. At the time, he was primarily listening to Bob Dylan, but the raucous roar Music Hates You produces is anything but folk rock. For all the sparks they throw off you'd think they were welding battleships. According to Ray, it's about engaging the audience the same way 9/11 awakened him.
"You wake up one day and the world is a whole different place," he says. "This music needs to be that definite. Doors close, gimme your five dollars, and put your feet on because shit is about to change."
To that end, Ray refuses to recognize the distance between the stage and the crowd. He'll call out audience members on their indifference, and get right in their face. There's always an element of spectacle. At a tequila-fueled New Year's show several years ago, Ray and guitarist Zaxx Hembree started to wail on each other. It ended in a bloody mess and a broken guitar.
Ray's ideal live show atmosphere consists of an audience willing to suspend disbelief. Tracks like the steely punk-metal behemoth "You Have Failed as an Audience" personify that aesthetic. "Music hates us," sings Ray. "You still love it. You can't ever possess it, you only get a taste." He promises to bring the circus, if listeners are willing to step in the ring with him. "Just like you're looking at me, I'm looking at you," he says. "This has to be an interaction. It's confrontation or communication. Either way you want it."
That desire to break the fourth wall traces its origins to Ray's youth, when his mother was into drama. By age five, Ray found himself on the stage. His stepfather worked as a roadie for Charlie Daniels and the Marshall Tucker band, so guitars were always around. When he discovered skateboarding as a tween, it all began to crystallize. He started sneaking into shows featuring touring punk rockers, and such local bands as Pylon.
After playing in bands for years, Ray found the chemistry and effortlessness in Music Hates You that he'd always sought. "It wasn't the music I aimed to make for a long time, but it definitely feels good and worth it every time," he says. "It will probably never go down in the history books anywhere, but, fuck man, it's been fun."
The band released its full-length debut Send More Paramedics in 2006. It was highlighted by the jagged churn of "Fingerprints for Every Man, Woman and Child" – with its admonition to "never give up, never give in" – and the metal-flaked, garage-punk ode to the unholy triumvirate, "Rock and Roll, Ape Sex, and Hell." Though it earned some local accolades, the album didn't turn out like he imagined in his head, says Ray, and he can't stand listening to it now. "The live show is easy to do on no budget, but an album is hard."
For now the focus remains on touring, which they hope to do more often. It's part of the reason drummer Patrick Ferguson left the group last year. After a decade on the road with Five-Eight, he seemed less enthusiastic about the prospect of van life. The split was amicable, and they've been fooling around a bit in Ferguson's nascent studio while Ray books dates, prints t-shirts and hopes for a label deal to cover future recording costs.
"The music of the world – all the noise, scuttle and scamper – all that shit hates you," Ray offers. "It's trying to eat you alive, minute by minute. It's your enemy. That's what Music Hates You is about. You have to own every moment, it's yours and you won't get it again."