Exceptionally loud, passionate, and in-your-face, I Hate It Here is a Denver based synthpunk two-piece whose unapologetic, experimental sound pushes the boundaries of contemporary electronic music. The group is comprised of frontwomen Cooper Carrington who acts as the sole producer, lyricist, and vocalist, while Alec Doniger provides accompaniment on drums.
Though Cooper has been releasing music for I Hate It Here over the past three years, Alec was added to the project in the fall of 2018 giving a unique electro-acoustic sound to their live performance. Alec is not featured on their most recent release, Songs for Pouring Bloody Glories: Why There Is None (Amongst Other Things). In spite of that, the album is perhaps the best in I Hate It Here’s catalog and is only improved upon with the addition of Alec’s drumming when performed live.
For the moment the band will be on hiatus until Cooper returns from attending school in New York City. In the meantime, she will continue to make music under a new project named None Known with plans for an album release sometime this year.
After hearing this news, I decided to attend their final farewell show where I sat down with the duo to ask a few questions.
How did this project come together? Where did it start?
CC: I guess I started recording and writing stuff in 2012 and then I made a lot of bad experimental music under the name Toast Confessions. And then, in 2015 I released I Hate It Here’s first EP.
What was the process of creating that EP and putting that whole thing together?
CC: Yeah um… I guess that was when [writing music] started a continuing trend for I Hate It Here which was really writing about some of my worst emotions and some parts of society that I think are grotesque. So, in a way it’s therapeutic I suppose it’s like a diary almost, but it’s weird because I show everyone in.
What does this project mean to you? Why do you do it?
CC: The “why” is you know just something within me that I guess just commands me to make music and make that a part of my life. For I Hate It Hear though, the “why” was in a lot of ways it was for myself and like I said earlier it's therapeutic and it helps me express things that I am dealing with and articulate them. And, you know, feelings aren’t so easy to describe through words, so I think the sounds that I make help articulate the intensity of them.
What sonically about your music correlates with those emotions?
CC: You know, In a lot of ways they are emotions that are really hard to tell people about in general, it’s not easy just saying them. The sounds are a good way to convey the intensity of these emotions that are often quite negative. So the screaming and the noise I guess it just represents a lot of chaos that is going through my head. I mean there’s also a political element to it a lot of the time. Once again I feel like the political things that I like to talk about are political topics that are not touched often.
What are those topics?
CC: So, for example, ‘Rage Crown’ is a song about street battles between far right and anti-fascist groups. And, you know I’ve attended some of those before. And I guess kind of my emotions around this. What is the effectiveness of this? Does it seem feudal? Does it seem… uh… Why is it that I think it’s so important? What drives me to do that? Or, drug addiction and the whole world around the politics of drugs. Whether there be like legal aspects of it, like the criminalization of substances, or the social elements of it. How when one recognizes one who does a lot of drugs that’s probably a time when they need people to talk to the most and yet that's when people distance themselves from you.
In some of my future releases, I talk more about being trans and just emotions about that. Dealing with transphobia and general discomfort about the subject. And I think it’s also important to talk about whiteness and class. Because I feel like America really just doesn't want you to talk about those things. And, like I said I feel like it's important to talk about these taboo issues.
Do you think your music serves as a medium for those things to be talked about?
CC: I do. I do. Um… I actually think about this a fair amount… You know, I don’t see… Um...
Is that something that motivates you’re writing: opening up the conversation?
CC: I hope! I hope it does. It’s also something I get kind of self-conscious about though.
Why is that?
CC: Well, for one thing you know I talk about things that from a liberal standpoint might be very controversial. And, sometimes I think I may be spitting out perspectives that might actually be nasty that I’m not even trying to convey. So, you know, I’m worried I would never want to make someone so uncomfortable with my music that they would want to turn it off. But, there is a certain level of discomfort that I do want to make people feel. Alec actually once talked to me about how sounds in themselves and music without lyrics can convey some sort of politics in a way, and I thought that was very interesting.
AD: I think that maybe the only reason I say that is because I think it’s almost by escaping, not escaping politics I mean it’s definitely a very central thing, but at least having these spaces to do this, express your political views, you know, I think that is what’s political about it. The fact that we get a chanced to play at DIY spaces like Thought Forums where they open it up for like you know, even if it’s a math rock band that doesn’t have lyrics like Cat Bamboo that last time, I think what makes that political is the fact that it's even able to happen, you know what I mean. Yeah, it’s an expression that isn’t being suppressed and often times that is what politics does in this country. It suppresses people.
CC: Yeah I think you’re really right about just having them perform in these spaces is a political act. Cause in a lot of places all these bands which are often young kids and people in their early twenties and teenagers, you know they can’t always afford to buy out a venue for the night to perform. And that's what's great about DIY spaces is that the whole attitude is that it’s accessible.
What inspires your music making?
CC: Yeah, I find that a lot of people just in general find it hard to talk about very intense emotions that have happened to them even privately with a single person. And I think that creates something kind of toxic in our society, just like a certain emotional closed offness. So I feel like I channel a lot of painful experiences that I’ve had into my music because I think it's important that people be able to be open about those kinds of things.
How would you describe your music to someone who's never heard it before?
CC: You know most of the time when someone asks me when I’m like, ‘Oh I make music,’ and someone's just like, ‘Oh what kind of music do you make? I’m just like, ‘Uuh it’s pretty weird,’ and then I don’t know exactly where to go from there. I guess I would say its menacing, I would say its discomforting, but in challenging and important ways. I like to think so at least.
AD: I also find it, I mean I’m not the creator of it, but I also find it really pretty. Not in a sense that is sounds beautiful or conventionally beautiful but in the sense that, like we were talking about earlier, that you’ve created a very very effective outlet. I mean I think what’s beautiful about it for me is specifically watching you perform. Yeah, there’s never a moment in my mind where I’m doubting that you aren’t pouring your soul into this, which is beautiful.
CC: Thank you, I appreciate that. Yeah, even though it is experimental music with lots of elements of noise and avant-garde stuff, it can often be pretty melodic in a lot of ways.
Could you talk about the performance of it a little bit more?
CC: I’ve had someone come up to me and say that they wonder if I did theater in high school and if I acted, and I did, and it was nothing like… Oh my goodness I was um… You know… I’m not playing Huckleberry Finn. I guess I’m kind of the antithesis of that. But yeah, you know, when I go up I feel like it's not acting as so much as is being able to express these… if I expressed these songs in any other way than what I do, which is often pouring a lot of soul into it, pouring a lot of emotions into it, interacting with the audience a little bit during the songs and doing weird stage antics, I don’t see how it could be performed any other way. Like, I don’t see myself standing perfectly still and singing it unless I wanted that effect because that would be weird.
Are you musically trained? Do you have a musical background?
CC: Yeah um, I’m a classically trained vocalist, and I did choir all through high school. And uh, I’ve done voice lessons and guitar and mixing and mastering classes.
Does that background influence your music?
CC: Yeah definitely I think folk, like classical folk, has had a big influence on me and Italian standards and choral music I think have quite a bit of influence on me. And you know I only knew about these things through choir and my voice lessons.
What drew you to music to express your art?
CC: Well I’ve had a drive to sing and to express myself with music since I was young. My mom tells me this story how about how in kindergarten we had our classroom, and there was a bathroom for the kindergarten kids in the class. And, at the same time every day I would go into that bathroom and take a shit and sing my fucking heart out, and the whole class could hear, and I was just clueless. But looking back at that I guess that's the beginning of me not giving a shit about what...
AD: You did give one shit!
CC: I did give one shit, oh my God!
AD: Just putting that out there.
CC: Um… yeah, and I just feel like sounds can carry a lot of emotion. I think singing a poem can take that poem a lot further than maybe just reciting it or reading it?
What are your more modern musical influences?
CC: Uh more modern stuff… I guess I really get inspired by a number of things like I listen to a lot of different music from around the world, so I guess lately I’ve been listening to a lot of like Ghanaian music and also kind of standards and experimental rock, and art rock, and whatnot. But I also listen to a lot of hip hop, and I listen to a lot of electronic music like minimal electronic music like techno and house. And then yeah I guess I listen to a fair amount of noise music and experimental stuff.
Is there anything new coming up in the future for I Hate It Here?
CC: Yeah pretty much what we are performing tonight is almost all new material which has not been released yet so yeah there’s an EP that's gonna be coming out this year, a single that's gonna be coming out this year, and an album under a different project name called None Known. And that is more experimental, and its structure has a bigger element on noise and ambiance. So that whole album is about exploring themes of sexual trauma and transphobia, and kind of the failures of queer theory and domestic violence and stuff. So, it's some really f*cked up stuff, so I’m excited about that.
Keep up with I Hate It Here here.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.