The HardChargers have always been ‘out-of-towners’, both a part of that scene and single-mindedly outside it so they simply got on with forging their own path. That path has led to an annual itinerary of 80–90 gigs a year the length and breadth of Ireland since 2012, with routine repeat bookings and four self-released singles and EPs prior to the nationally released debut album Scarecrow in Autumn 2017. They have been repeat guests at numerous Irish festivals including Monaghan’s Harvest Time Blues Festival, the Open House Festival, based in Bangor/Belfast , Wicklow’s Knockanstockan Festival, and opening for cross genre artists such as The Waterboys, Alabama 3 and Hayseed Dixie at shows in some of Northern Ireland’s biggest venues along the way.
Eschewing the standard covers, The HardChargers are a trio steeped in inspiration from the greats of the pre-electric blues – Blind Willie McTell, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White and Willie Brown, to the pioneers of electric blues such as Lightnin Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf and Frankie Lee Simms. Their live set is an electrifying reimagining of all of the above, delivered with a hitherto unknown power, with a musical language exquisitely refined from all of Blues/Roots and Rock history since.
Comparable to The Who for their free-wheeling, telepathic interplay and high-energy live performances, each member – Richard, Dave and Chris – are crucial to The HardChargers’ sound. While festival stages provide the band with opportunities to play all-original sets, catching one of the band’s two-hour plus barroom gigs will typically feature two-thirds original material and one third covers. As if to underline their commitment to a huge breadth of Roots music styles, many of the covers are twangy up tempo instrumentals by the likes of Lonnie Mack, Dick Dale and Roy Buchanan, allowing the band to take audiences on a journey from Mississippi Juke Joints to Chicago Taverns to Texas Roadhouses and more within the space of a performance.
Richard J. Hodgen: ‘There’s equal parts love and anger in our music – and the love always wins! We started out playing a set of Blues/Rock covers, while avoiding anything that had been done to death but we really came into our own when we began composing original songs. Never one to be a fan of the norm, I needed to inject a groove, a power, to what we call standard blues. I don’t play like a blues drummer, because I’m not a blues drummer. I bring to those songs a hypnotic groove, a rhythmical counterpoint of a solid ‘four to the floor’ with my feet, to the syncopated hand rhythms on the washboard or snare depending on the song. It’s been described as ‘live techno’ when heard in isolation... You could call it ‘hillbilly house’ or ‘techno roots’, Luckily, no one needs a name for it just yet– they just respond to the rhythm and then the melody carries them away.’
Following years of doing just about as much as any band can do without leaving Ireland, the first half of 2017 had to be a sabbatical for the band ahead of the Autumn release of the album Scarecrow.
With Scarecrow’s national UK release, The HardChargers are focused now on getting the word out beyond Ireland and taking their hugely distinctive, exhilarating brand of the blues on the road in Europe and beyond.