fanclubwallet Finds the Bright Side on Debut EP Hurt is Boring

Photo Credit: Ian Filipovic

Like the airbag that “popped and knocked sense into me” in her debut EP’s opener “Car Crash in G Major,” Ottawa’s fanclubwallet comes out swinging on Hurt is Boring. The punchy blend of indie rock and bedroom pop, helmed by Hannah Judge, brims with bouncy, high octave keys, asserting joy in a way that contrasts some of its darker subject matter. Hitting you with disaster from the get-go—a violent, traumatizing car crash that serves as a metaphor for a doomed relationship—is way of commanding attention, and Judge’s breezy delivery is a Trojan horse; worms nest so casually in your ears that you find yourself humming about your skin falling off as you brew your morning tea.

Fleshed out while a Crohn’s disease flare-up left Judge bedridden for ten months, Hurt is Boring touches on every emotion across an omnipresent spectrum of existential ennui. Lucky to have podded up with her producer (and grade school best friend) Michael Watson, just a few modifications were made for an adapted recording process in her childhood home that’s as literal as bedroom pop can get, with Judge tracking vocals while lying down as Watson set up shop “at a very tiny overcrowded desk in the corner.” “I’m really grateful that [Watson] was so accommodating and willing to help me find ways of recording that worked for me,” Judge says. “There’s a photo of me somewhere lying in bed with an overhead mic and holding a keyboard. It looks a little silly, but it got the job done!”

Hurt is Boring follows a steady stream of singles dropped throughout 2020 after finding success with her cover of the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place.” The pandemic, coupled with her boredom in recovery, gave her the time and mental space to hone in on her first cohesive project. She fittingly describes this past year as “pretty bonkers…for everyone,” and though disability might not have been what did us all in, the sentiment is familiar: we’re all, categorically, tired; with her upbeat musings and a soft charm, Judge wakes us—and herself—up.

“I love music with a consistent beat, stuff you can dance to or at least bop your head to,” she says. “Whenever I sit down to actually produce things, they end up being a lot happier than they originally sounded just on guitar.” Recounting a relationship’s disintegration in the most brutal way over a bright, almost Sheryl Crow-like instrumental shouldn’t make as much sense as it does, but it’s liberating. 

“I’m never really intentionally trying to write really depressing lyrics, just kind of talking about what I know,” she says. “C’mon Be Cool” came of “overanalyzing how I thought people might feel about me,” she continues. “‘C’mon be cool, I’m not gonna be rude to you’ is just me being like, ‘Okay, let’s all just take a breather… it’s been a rough year.” She renders that misery in small details like a bandaid left on just a little too long, but also offers a little kindness: “I don’t see what you see in making all this fuss.”

Judge scatters these sharp and severe elements throughout the EP, from flying shrapnel to a cold bathroom floor, echoing the lyricism of Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan and Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, two songwriters she admires. Situating metaphors for bitterness and grief over easy pop beats normalizes them, breaks them down into something less cynical and more serene.

On maintaining mystery to her lyrics, she explains, “I don’t like to give too much away… I think life is really just built up of small moments that we think about over and over until they feel like big ones… It means what it means to me, and if it means something entirely different to you that’s cool too.”

“I would love to write a really happy song, but I’m just not quite sure how,” she confesses, but these tracks are happy, albeit in their own refreshing way. The abrupt fanclubwallet approach comes from Judge’s proclivity for “dwelling” (“I honestly never stop,” she admits), but by the time you reach the EP’s end, you realize that hints of optimism hide between the glittery synths and danceable beats of each track. It’s funny to think that “Hurt is Boring” was written about a year before the others, but makes for a rewarding end—it’s her admission that “Hey, it’s okay to feel like crap sometimes,” simply put. “Otherwise,” she reasons, “you won’t notice the good stuff.”

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