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From Theage.com.au


Angie Hart - Theage.com.au Interview (buffy mention)

Saturday 15 January 2005, by Webmaster

Twice Angie Hart has been in a relationship with the men she’s written and played music with, and twice it’s come to an end. Now, and despite a reunion tour with Frente, she thinks it could be time to go solo. By Guy Blackman.

Angie Hart has never been a natural star. Her first band, Frente, burst unexpectedly out of Fitzroy in the early 1990s with a string of winsome, unassuming and eminently hummable pop singles, including Labour of Love, Ordinary Angels and Accidently Kelly Street . Plucked from inner-city obscurity while still a teenager and thrust into the national limelight, Hart had no idea who she was meant to be, or how she was supposed to behave.

"To start with, I didn’t expect this was what I was getting into, when we started doing music," Hart says now, bare-armed in the summer heat of a quiet bar in Northcote. "It was just a shambles, like a rolling stone that just kept going and going. I was so ill-prepared for it."

Nearly 15 years later, now aged 32, Hart still feels uncomfortable in front of an audience. "I have a lot of trouble performing," she admits. "But I’ve gotten so fed up with myself that I’ve decided to let that go. I’m sick of being so hard on myself about what I put across on stage; I can’t continue on that way. I just have to realise that people are very happy with what I have to offer, and I need to be comfortable with it and get on with it."

Now based in Los Angeles, Hart is in Australia to promote her first new release in five years, an EP by Splendid, her duo with professional session muso Jesse Tobias. She is also talking up a series of Frente reunion shows, the first she and former boyfriend/Frente guitarist Simon Austin have played in Australia since the band split in 1996.

It’s a time Hart has never forgotten. "I remember the very last day of Frente," she says. "We were touring in Asia and we were so tired and Simon was going crazy. He just seemed like an insane person. We were so worried about him and I was just falling apart. We always said `yes’ to everything and there were more dates coming, there was more stuff planned. It just got to a point where we sat down and had breakfast and I found words coming out of my mouth, that I was done with this and I wasn’t going to continue with it any more. We finished our tour and that was it, it was over."

Hart and Austin were a couple when the band began, but the pressure of success and endless touring saw the relationship slowly disintegrate. Worse still, there was little chance for either to gain perspective on their break-up without putting the band at risk.

"The moment we broke up we started touring," says Hart. "We tried to have a friendship, where in a normal situation you would have tried to give each other a little more space. That was very destructive and very hard going on each other. There were a lot of issues we never delved into because we were constantly in each other’s faces, so there was no resolution."

It’s a cautionary tale many would do well to heed, but Hart repeated the same mistake with her next project. She met US session guitarist Jesse Tobias when he was in Alanis Morrisette’s band, and Frente were the support act for an American tour. They were married in 1996 and soon began to collaborate musically as Splendid.

For a while it seemed Hart’s new project was going to be big. Signed to the Disney-owned Mammoth Records, and scoring an instant following through their appearances on cult TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Buffy creator Josh Whedon is the husband of Hart’s best friend in LA), Splendid began working on their debut album in 1998.

"With the build-up when we were putting the album together and the machine that we were beginning to be a part of, it looked like we were going to have some really great backing," Hart says. "It was going to be a pretty big project, we were going to have some serious money poured into it. And we worked really hard to make sure that it was the album they thought they were getting, which I’ve never done before - and I’ll never do again."

Then in 1999, just before Mammoth was due to release Splendid’s Have You Got a Name for It? , the label folded. "When they didn’t release the album at all, it was a rude shock," Hart says. "At the time I thought I’d gone beyond all boundaries and it was this soul-destroying cliched pile of shit, but now I listen to it and it’s a beautiful album. It’s still really subtle. No wonder they didn’t think they had any radio hits on there."

After reluctantly agreeing to compromise her art and still not getting anywhere, Hart had had enough. She retired from music in 2001 and found herself a job in a jewellery workshop.

"It was the first place I walked into," she says. "It’s a good thing for people who have a creative mind - you keep your hands busy and you have that creative flow happening at the same time. You’re probably not writing songs on the spot but it’s entertaining that same part of your mind."

This is how Hart spent the next 18 months, all the while considering whether she ever wanted to return to music. "I just needed a really big break, to have a sense of not living that life at all, to know whether I wanted to live it again. And the more I was away from it, the more I craved it, which is what I was hoping would happen."

Hart first dipped her toe into musical waters again in 2003 when she did some collaborative song writing with ex-boyfriend Austin, and started talking tentatively about resuscitating Frente. "We started wanting to do music together again just to be able to have fun together," she says. "Because I think that was the main thing that was missing for us. It should have been such a wonderful time and we made it so hard. Now it’s so easy compared to how it used to be. It used to be a tug of war, which we really enjoyed - we wanted that intensity. But now it’s just the opposite."

Hart also missed the sense of communion that she had felt as a songwriter. "I have a lot that I want to tell people about myself, and I need that outlet of performing and writing. It’s not enough for me just to be an ant. I want to write things that people will hear and communicate with the world."

Meanwhile, her relationship with Tobias was deteriorating. While Hart’s musical career was on hold, his was going from strength to strength, culminating in his being asked to join the touring band of former Smiths frontman Morrissey. It was just before Tobias left LA to begin a UK tour that he and Hart officially separated.

"I’m just starting to talk about this," she says, slowly moving her hand to cover the tattoo on her left shoulder bearing her husband’s name. "Jesse and I split up three months ago. So right now I’m facing the question, `Why do I force people that I have relationships with into my musical world?’ It’s a tight little ball, and then it unravels."

Hart says the split is amicable, and expects Tobias will tour with Splendid to promote their second album later this year. She also says the timing of the upcoming Frente shows is not deliberately connected to her break-up with Tobias, though she admits it could perhaps be subconsciously linked.

"It’s really strange. There’s a part of you that somehow knows these things, even when you don’t. There are some songs I wrote around that time - I guess I must have known that things were winding down. I look at the songs now and it’s really obvious to me what was going on, but I had no clue. And around about the same time I started embarking on all these projects, pushing myself in different directions, making myself more independent ... and then, voila!"

Now a member of two bands that no longer really exist, both of which include men she has had long-term relationships with, it is time for Hart to figure out once and for all what she wants from music. A fully fledged Frente reunion definitely isn’t it. "I know that we’ll continue doing some Frente stuff together, but I wouldn’t like that to be the major focus of my life," she says. "So we’ll just do a couple of shows here and there, see how much we can write, and when we want to release something, release it."

And what about a solo career? "I’ve been fighting that for 15 years," Hart laughs, before suddenly turning serious. "So I’ve decided that I should give it a shot. It’s really scary, and because it’s scary I’m thinking now is the time to find out what’s so scary about it."

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