A bit of time later, I happened across a flyer that made me think: “Someone else had the same idea.”
On a good-looking sheet of paper was, yes, “Hardware,” a band billed among others to play some upcoming show. They were local. And I had no way of knowing at the time that some of its members were concurrently writing my favorite ever North Carolina music in a trio called Cornelius.
By 1996 I had a good enough map in my head regarding who was who (I saw the Cornelius guys around town but didn’t know them yet), what labels mattered (Assorted Porkchops, for one), what bands they put out (Cornelius), and so on. In 1997, when I saw the Hardware seven-inch hit the bin at CD Alley in hometown Wilmington, N.C., and when I turned it over to see the Assorted Porkchops name dance across it, I claimed it.
I’d already seen Hardware play at the Exchange in Wilmington, recognized the faces and dug the music, so. Oh, and a note about that: guitarist Dave Hause told me recently that show might have been the band’s final.
I also recently learned by way of drummer Chris Murray that the seven-inch was essentially put out by Dave and thus was not an official Assorted Porkchops release (AP was Chris's label).
And after recently conducted interviews, I further learned all three Hardware members had some colorful—not always cheery—memories of the band.
Regarding the seven-inch, “Dave wanted to use the cover of the Police's album, Regatta de Blanc, as the front of the sleeve--unaltered!--but I talked him out of it,” said Chris, who also played guitar and screamed in Cornelius. “Didn't want to get sued. He went with the three bike gears instead.”
Five-hundred copies hit in 1997. “I really like the songs on the seven-inch. I think they were our best ever, but I hate the sound of the recording,” Dave said. “Part of it is my fault for messing with the mix after recording.”
“I remember thinking that it sounded pretty good,” said Hardware bassist Mike Dail, who also played bass for, yes, Cornelius. “There was one problem with it,” he said of the seven-inch. “I decided to use Dave's high end--higher end than mine anyway--fretless bass because it sounded so nice. That made the recording go a little longer than it should due to me hitting the wrong notes, and I think some bad notes can be heard on the final product.”
For the record, nothing's ever sounded amiss to me and I always thought the songwriting grand.
“I was never too thrilled with any of the recordings,” Chris said.
“The few people who actually bought the record thought we had a girl singer, and seemed into it until I told them it was a dude,” Chris continued. “Then their enthusiasm went flaccid.”
Said Dave, “I played for a short time in Suburban Propain with Chris. So when I returned to Wilmington from college in 1991 we started jamming together.”
A short piece and a bass player later, they had enough songs for a demo and a few shows. At this point, the lineup included Dave and Chris with Dave Wells on the low end.
“Dave (Wells) was younger; he must’ve been around 17 and still in high school,” Dave Hause said. “It was a pain because playing a show on a weekday out of town was a no-go.”
After a year or so, Dave Wells dropped out and Hardware welcomed Mike Dail.
“I had actually been friends with Dave Wells because we started playing together my freshman year—I played drums and he played guitar—and I would go with him to Hardware shows,” Mike said. “I started playing in Cornelius and getting very into the scene and Dave Wells sort of disappeared. Maybe he was working a lot. Anyway, Dave (Hause) and Chris asked me to play and I was reluctant. I had liked Hardware. I had actually sat through their entire first recording session. I just didn't think it was my kind of music.
“But then," Mike continued, "when I gave playing with them a shot, they had scrapped a lot of the pop-punk I wasn't real excited about for more just garage-y power pop, which I much preferred. I think that the fact that I was obsessed with Unwound at the time made playing in Hardware very fun for me since Hardware's pace was much closer to Unwound's than Cornelius’s--Cornelius's pace is closer to Assuck--and that allowed me to rip off Vern Rumsey more often.”
While Dave said Hardware experienced more cancellations than actual performances (three no-gos in one day, he recalled), Mike said he essentially cancelled his consciousness for some of the shows they did play.
He recalled a house show with Eagle Bravo on the corner of 23rd and Market streets in Wilmington. “I had decided to trip on acid earlier in the day, a couple hours before that show,” he said. “It turned out to be STRONG shit. By the time we had to play I had pretty much lost my mind.”
“The music sounded like a bunch of chainsaws running simultaneously. I am not sure if I was playing what I was supposed to or not. And I have no idea how the show went.”
Mike remembers better a show Hardware played at Pointdexter Records, which in its heyday, before CD Alley opened in 1995, was Wilmington's best record store. Next door, at the famous but bygone Mad Monk, Cornelius and Fugazi shared a bill. It was the only time Hardware and Cornelius played on the same night, Mike said.
Hardware broke up in the summer of 1997, evidently right after the aforementioned Exchange show.
Chris does, however, still possess a box of those seven-inches if anyone’s interested.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The only show my aforementioned 1993-era band played, alas, was to our drummer’s girlfriend, who I suppose had nothing else going on that afternoon, and the cops showed up, but we thought that part was pretty cool and couldn’t wait to tell our fellow 8th graders. Hey, maybe I’ll post one of our boombox-recorded songs one day. After we’d recruited a bass player, we did an hilariously inaccurate version of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”)