Spotlight

The Hairs

“Clever and twisty in melody and buried guitar lines, simple and immediate in fuzz, and pulse, and its ostensibly slapdash home-recorded vibe.” – Stereogum

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Kevin Alvir, the front-and-basically-everything-else man behind freaky, funny, impossible to get out of your head indie pop band The Hairs, says he doesn’t have anything to say. This is obviously self-effacing, because The Hairs’ songs sure do say a lot. Covering such varied topics as prisons, scabies, and houseplants, Alvir’s sprightly tenor skips and trips around classic pop riffs with an off the cuff confidence that makes it hard not to get completely hooked. With the quirky, earnest and slightly squirmy quality of a Daniel Johnston ditty; the fey, whip-smart sensibility of the Television Personalities; the lo-fi aesthetic of Guided By Voices and the dark, punk-rock influenced pop of Flying Nun Records bands like The Clean, The Hairs make good-hearted music, but with an edge—always reminding the listener that “life isn’t all,” according to Alvir, “holding hands and eating ice cream.”

The Hairs are a decidedly Brooklyn band, as Alvir calls the borough home and has an indie all-star cast of friends such as members of pop sweethearts Pains Of Being Pure At Heart—who’s own Alex Naidus contributed his bass skills to The Hairs’ early recordings—and surf-pop luminaries The Drums, who asked Alvir to join them on a recent spate of Canadian tour dates. Really, though, they’re not. “I mean Brooklyn’s cool,” he says, in his typical slow, chilled out cadence, indicating that ‘cool’ isn’t everything, and that’s the end of that. Alvir is also not your average indie-popper. Instead, he strives for nuance and meaning in his songs, and tries to avoid what he calls the “twee garbage” of his past musical lives. His process is simple, usually starting with a title or a concept and building the tune around it. “It’s melodic music that’s up for anything,” Alvir says “it’s just kinda me.” “Hellninja,” a jangly, upbeat number with layered, slightly off-key harmonies, was written in “literally 5 minutes” after Alvir had watched a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, during a period of feeling “rejected, dejected and resented.”

If you listen closely to many of Alvir’s songs, you’ll notice subtle references to that teenage vampire killer, and other female outcasts. “Women’s Prison,” a surf rocker, was inspired by Mo’nique’s “I Coulda Been Your Cellmate!” comedy special. After watching the special, which was filmed at The Ohio Reformatory for Women, Alvir wanted to “show the tender side of women’s prison.” This kind of funny and kind of uncomfortable sensibility reflects both Alvir’s music and his personality. “I guess I can relate to outcasts like Roseanne [yeah, that Roseanne] and Buffy—that feeling of being the oddball or freak,” Alvir says, getting a little, but not too, serious, “I don’t really feel like a good musician.”

Like the aforementioned Johnston, and similar underground, outsider geniuses Peter Bagge and R. Crumb, The Hairs’ music reflects society the way only its most astute, and sometimes fringe, members can—with a stark and sometimes grotesque honesty. Like Johnston, Bagge and Crumb, too, “They show that while all the garbage (prisons: “Women’s Prison”) and shit (balding: “Balding College Girls”) in life is disgusting and strange, it can also be made into something beautiful and funny. The Hairs make tiny pop gems twinkling out of the grimy, stinking gutter.”