Head and the Hares
The origins of Head and the Hares dates back to the fall of 1988 when Massimo di Gianfrancesco, Andrea Roberti and Alessandro Cozzi Lepri decided to form a band called the Spookies (after a Gravedigger Five song called “It’s spooky”). Andrea and Alessandro were in a band called the Silent Shapes which they decided to leave after meeting up with Massimo at the end of their first show. They were joined soon first by Stefano Giustiniani (who soon left to join the Flies) and then by Roberto Sarais (who just quitted The Flies!) and along with the drummer Claudio Pescetelli we started to practice basically doin’ mainly covers chosen from the Back From the Grave compilations and getting our inspirations by some of the most ’60s authentic sound bands from the ’80s like Chesterfield Kings, Wylde Mammoths, Lyres and more.
After recording a demo (which included all covers, mostly from Back From the Grave) and the first gigs, the band gradually started to search for a more ’60s authentic sound. Tired of the ’80s bands attitude, sound and image they started to elaborate songs more inspired by the minor key teenage folk punk. At the same time, they started to heavily collect records. One day Massimo found in a small record shop in Rome a dusty copy of a compilation called New England Teen Scene (NETS) Vol.2. Sometimes records just emanate something intangible, and this time they were captured by the sheer magical power which that LP was emanating.
In early 1990 Diego Filippi, a fanatic of early Rolling Stones, replaced Claudio as a drummer and in that year the band changed name to Head and the Hares. Claudio was a very professional musician who grew up listening to progressive rock which did not seem to suit the style of the band. Diego, in contrast, appeared to be perfect for the job, sticking to his snare drum rolls like his idol Charlie Watts. The name Head and the Hares was taken from a band compiled on NETS vol.1 which among others included one song, a small masterpiece of teenage angst mixed with melancholy mood called “I Won’t Come Back.”
With the new monicker the sound of the band changed drastically emulating that of bands such as the Rising Storm, the Fantastic Dee-jays, the Dovers, Love (1st LP) and many other of teenagers from NETS. For example, another major influence for the songwriting was the song “Love Does Its Harm” by the Mojos. In the meantime, the music world was also changing drastically and the so-called neo-sixties scene was disappearing with many bands breaking up while other starting to play hard rock or glam rock. For Head and the Hares it was no longer easy to play shows in Rome. Most people were now listening to rap or ragamuffin and even the average garage listeners were not very keen to the ultra-teen folky punk sound of the band. Nevertheless, H&H gained a small cult of hardcore fans worldwide.
In 1992, the band cheaply recorded a demo tape, which included a cover version of a song by the original Head and the Hares “I Won’t Come Back” and other originals, and sent it to Dave Brown of Moulty/Distortions Records who was very impressed by the band pure New England sound and offered them to release an EP on his label. The band travelled 100 miles north of Rome to an analogue studio located in a small village called Tobia near lake of Vico to record 4 songs chosen from their live set: two originals (“Try to Forget,” “How She Was Good to Me”) and 3 covers (“Get you,” “I’ve Been Told” and “Tomorrow Never Ends”, by the 24 karat 5, The Effects and the Barons, respectively). Shortly thereafter, Dave decided that an entire LP would be more appropriate, so the band travelled again to the Campolungo Studios in Tobia and recorded and mixed in one day the remaining songs. The LP was duly released in 1992 and received great reviews both in Europe and USA. The heavy vintage-style cardboard cover and the sound made people believe the LP was a reissue of a ’60s group and not a new (and especially) not an Italian band! One of the funniest reviews of the album was from Jud Cost (Cream Puff War zine, BOB and rock magazine journalist) who wrote in BOB magazine: “…they make Dead Moon sound like Guns ’n’ Roses by comparison!” Their idol Arthur Lee, even, had nice words for their version of “Message to Pretty.”
After the release of the 1st album, Massimo, after reading about him on the Italian indie rock magazine (Rockerilla), contacted Aram Heller of Stanton Park Records and an intense correspondence started between the two which brought finally in 1993 at the release of an EP: a tribute to the New England legendary band, the Rising Storm. The double EP contained “She Loved Me” (covered by H&H) plus “Rain Falls Down” (Sandoz lime), “Signed D.C.” and “Trying to Fool” by the reformed Rising Storm.
Meantime the band gained a small group of fans all over Italy and Europe (well, they received letter from USSR and Japan as well) as more people started to be aware of the New England Teen Scene sound (reissues like Relative Distance, NETS #3, Crude PA. etc etc helped a lot) and, in general, of the minor key moody folk garage punk. The same day in which the songs for the EP were cut, the band recorded three new songs: “Lost,” originally released by a totally unknown ’60s band from Iowa called Tyde, an original called “Two Times” and another cover, the folk punk anthem “Now That You Know” (by the Intruders). The latter was included in an Italian garage band compilation called Mind Expanding (released in 1994) while “Lost” and “Two Times” were coupled in a 45 released almost two years later on the Stanton Park/Moulty records label. To some people “Two Times” includes the most memorable H&H guitar solo, a jingle-jangly infectious repetitive riff by Roberto Sarais. “Lost” reflected the new live sound of the band which now included many acid punk songs both originals and cover versions (including some Texas acid punk classics).
At the time, the band was renting a basement nicknamed Vibrasound Studios where they rehearsed a lot the new set of originals and covers intended for a follow up LP. The band acquired an original Semprini tape-echo unit from the ’60s which gave the vocals a deep echo laden sound which was reflected in their new record: an EP from the German Outer Limits label, again in the acid punk and moody folk rock garage vein. The EP, in fact, included their version of the creepy Texas acid punker “Painted Air” by the legendary group the Remaining Few, one of the most sought after and elusive garage 45s from the USA (plus “No Use In Trying” and a WCPAEB inspired original entitled “How Many”). The long-haired H&H gathered in a friend’s pub in the borough of San Lorenzo in Rome to cut some low-key photos while drinking some beer and pretending to read a newspaper for the sleeve. The EP was released in 1995 the same year which saw, finally, the release of the “Lost”/“Two Times” 45 as well. 1995 was a cool year for the band with all these new records out and fantastic gigs at some important beat festivals in Germany (Beat-o-Mania) and Italy. In particular, the performance at the Italian Beat Festival was brilliant and the band received top reviews in some of the most important Italian indie rock magazines. A compilation including the best of Beat-o-Mania came out in 1997 and featured one of the songs played by H&H at the festival.
The summer of the same year the band entered Vibrasound Studios to record their 2nd album, a sort of a concept LP, called Autumn Songbook, with stories about lost love and disillusion in life. The LP was basically part acid punk (with songs like “Velvet Illusion” by the Velvet Illusions, “I Think I’m Going Insane” a new original), part Farfisa-driven folk psych (“Sun is Going Away,” “Why Must You Fade Away”) and part pure folky garage (“I’m Gonna Kill You,” “Never be Happy” the latter by Satisfactions) with a real ’60s authentic sound thanks to the Semprini echo unit, Fender backlines, a Farfisa Compact De-Luxe and vintage guitars. Andrea was the sound engineer and the LP was recorded on a portable 8-track cassette desk. Different labels were expressing interest for a release but the lack of funds which hit all small indie labels in that period caused a delay.
In the meantime the band have lost two of the co-founders: Alessandro was moving to London to study while Andrea Roberti decided to quit. The remaining three (Massimo, Roberto and Diego) recruited ex Cosmonauti bass player Massimo Galati and moved towards a more UK mod-beat sound rearranging some of the old song in a Kinks/Easybeats/Artwoods fashion, and an EP was recorded for a release on Hate Records but never seen the light of the day. Diego Filippi left in the fall of 1997 followed by Roberto Sarais so the band rechristened themselves The Hares with new members (Lorenzo Paolini on drums and Federico Febbo on guitar) playing UK influenced psych music of bands like Tomorrow/July. So when the LP was finally released in 1998 the original band was long gone. In conclusion, Head and the Hares were a seminal band that influenced a pletora of bands that had yet to discover the real sixties teenage punk sound, unaware of the fact that ’60s garage was not only fuzz and farfisa and screams (ala Gravedigger V) but also a more subtle affair made of jangly guitar, vocals harmonies and introspective lyrics.
Biography by Massimo di Gianfrancesco
Members went on to: The Embrooks, Tandem Cycle, The Victorians, Magic Cat
Seven Inch Singles
Full-Length LP & CDs
Autumn Song Book
Head and The Hares are a prime example of garage independence. Shamefully few acts from the past two decades have mined the sweet chiming of folk rock, but this Italian combo makes it its mission. The band’s self-titled debut LP from 1992 appeared on the Moulty label—on vinyl only, of course—and it still rings joyfully for me. The LP has been impossible to find almost since the day of its release, so, Get Hip has thankfully reissued it on CD with an extra track. Moody, affectionately simple and crudely recorded, the shimmering guitars and plaintive (teen) melancholy make the debut a folk-rock goldmine. Longtime fans are doubly blessed: Stanton Park has issued a new Head and The Hares LP, Autumn Songbook. Yes, once again it’s a vinyl-only release, but I have to believe that it won’t take another six years for their sophomore effort to reach the digital realm. Head and The Hares (a New England garage band from the 1960s held the same moniker) mix their 12-string acumen with well-chosen covers, including the three-brain-cell genius of “Velvet lllusions.” I once thought the original Hares couldn’t be topped, but when these Italians sneer, “We are the velvet illusions, so beware,” you just gotta stop and tip your hat. Records this vital only come along every 30 years or so.Timothy Gassen — Magnet Magazine
Autumn Song Book
The Left Banke styled cover of this fine, Italian band’s second LP shouts out to me: “Hey Mojo. this is your kinda record.” After putting it on, the old motto you can’t judge a book by it’s cover is proved wrong, this song book sounds as good as it looks. Both my eyes and ears have been rewarded.
If you are familiar with the band’s previous album you’ll know where they’re coming from. I argue with so many people nowadays about how one defines a ’garage band’ in the 1990s. I don’t have much time for all this over-the-top Northwest inspired stuff that many favour — The Sonics were fantastic, but hearing the vast amount of bands who try to imitate them coming off sounding like Heavy Metal sickens me. My own preference is for a ’garage band’ that plays so authentically that I could mistake them for being an original sixties hand. Head & The Hares are one of the very few bands who do this. Their New England angle is done so well that label bosses Aram Heller and Dave Brown have been bowled over by their talent, and that must mean something as it was Dave who brought to fruition the brilliant New England Teen Scene LPs and Aram who wrote the encyclopedia on New England garage, Till The Stroke of Dawn.
The band’s song writing skills have a definite progression from the first LP, even a UK psych/freakbeat styled song (Tomorrow So Far) creeps into their otherwise strictly US sounding repertoire. Robert Sarais, the guitar player has plenty of space for his fantastic, searing, Beck like solos. Elsewhere the teen-garage sound is shadowed with a darker threatening mood — for example I Think I’m Going Insane, which has a very psychedelic feel akin to Human Expression. The non cheerful nature of song titles (both originals and covers) sum up the moody New England feel: I’m Gonna Kill You, Never Be Happy, I Think I’m Going Insane, Sun Is Going Away, You Cursed Me, etc are certainly not tunes to aid the suicidal! However, for recapturing teen angst this is the stuff. Remember when your parents didn’t let you go out, the spots on your face that cursed you, or the pretty girl at school who laughed in your face? You do? Those were the emotions that plagued the garage band kids who needed to express these emotions. And although they’re no longer teenagers, Head & The Hares tackle them perfectly.
Buy this LP if you want to restore your faith in nineties garage. Buy this LP if you like sixties garage. lf you like Heavy Metal garage avoid it, as you won’t find any of that shit smeared between these groovy grooves. There’s still some bands around on the scene that take my breath away!Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills — Shindig Magazine
Two Tymes/Lost (Stanton Park Records/Moulty)
The final folk-punk 45 by these garage Gods from Italy. Since then they’ve moved onto psych and now mod/freakbeat. Two Tymes is a great, ferocious folk-punker with way cool 12-string and an excellent ‘aw right gurl’ at the end of the song, which gets me every time. Lost sounds close to the original gem and is a great psych-punker containing some excellent fuzz guitar and Farfisa organ. I love this band.Shindig Magazine #3
Head and the Hares on Stanton Park
I am pretty sure I first heard about Head and the Hares when I received a copy of their debut LP from Dave Brown of Moulty (Distortions) Records. I do, however, have a vague memory of hearing a cassette of their demo prior to the album. This page reminded me of something I wrote about the band at the time (it’s not the liner notes to Frozen Laughter though). However I heard them first, I think it was their album that won me over.
For anyone who was following Stanton Park in the early ’90s, it seemed pretty likely that I might be interested in a band like this. I was collecting ’60s garage 45s (particularly from the New England area), Stanton Park had just reissued the Rising Storm LP, and I was desperately trying to finish the New England discography, Till the Stroke of Dawn, that I had been working on for several years. But, I was becoming increasingly jaded with new bands due to the number of records I was dealing with in the catalog. I had become particularly wary of the cookie-cutter aspect of many of the garage bands at the time. Head and the Hares could have slipped through the cracks.
Could have, but they didn’t. At that point, I was still listening to everything that showed up, and because the album was on Moulty, it already had an important stamp of approval. So, on it went, and I was immediately impressed by the record. The songs, the recording, the arrangments and singing combined to form a sound that felt really authentic, and not just because they might have been playing “vintage” instruments. It felt honest, rather than forced which wound up drawing me in.
Head and the Hares were deeply influenced by the sixties garage sound, but they had found something different that many of their peers missed. Instead of being slaves to the fuzz/organ/snarl/primitive brand of garage they found influence in the more subtle folk-rock elements as exemplified by many of the New England garage bands. As Massimo noted in the bio, they took their name from a Massachusetts band. The album cover was clearly inspired by one of the great collectable LPs from Massachusetts; Calm Before the Rising Storm.
They had absorbed the feel of the sixties in such a way that it seemed naturally part of their style. Yet they had also added their own interpretations and flourishes along the way that perfectly matched the sound they were striving to create. They had arrived at that mythical moody New England sound which is dark, haunting, and fragile yet curiously potent persisting in your psyche long after the record is safely put away.
I believe I named their eponymous debut as one of my favorite records of 1992. It still is way up there.