When you consider the influences that Ex Hex – the US trio fronted by former Wild Flag member, 90s alt-rock lynchpin and general bad-ass Mary Timony – might channel, you’d be forgiven for not immediately sticking a Yorkshire cock rock group front and centre. And yet, as we discover speaking to the singer on the phone from her home in Washington, DC, it’s Def Leppard – or, more specifically, the production of Leppard’s go-to guy Mutt Lange – that’s been one of the driving forces behind forthcoming second LP ‘It’s Real’ (due 22nd March via Merge). “I missed the boat on Def Leppard when they were really popular because I was a punk,” laughs Mary, “but then I came around to it in the last five years and started getting really into the production on ‘Hysteria’ – it’s like ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine or something. Mutt Lange is basically a genius.”
You can hear it laced all over the record’s 10 tracks, too. Where critically-acclaimed 2014 debut ‘Rips’ came out of the traps in a barrel of Thee Oh Sees-esque garage riffs and big, bright, immediate hooks, their second often runs with a dirtier ’80s rock swagger. Yet though the presentation is different, the directness of Ex Hex is still the priority. “To me the hardest thing to do is to make something that’s simple but really good,” she explains. “It’s a really hard road to get there, and the amount of effort it takes is so much more than something that’s complex.
"The hardest thing to do is to make something that's simple but really good."
— Mary Timony
"I've definitely made music that has a different intent, that's more of a diary entry or about figuring out where my brain is, but with Ex Hex it's more of a craft. We're trying to make songs that we'd like to play a million times and that's not always easy to do."
However, if all this talk of craft and diligence sounds a bit like hard work, then fear not: 'It's Real' is anything but a slog. Ex Hex have basically put in the hours stripping their wares down to their most classic bones and translating their deeply unfashionable new influences into something fresh so that you can just sit back and press play. "I like that [they're unfashionable] because I don't wanna feel like we're following a trend," laughs Mary at our summary. "We really spent a lot of time making sure that we'd just wanna listen to this record a lot; it's something I'm trying now I'm almost 50..."
'It's Real' is out on 22nd March via Merge.
As featured in the February 2019 issue of DIY, out now.