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Artist Spotlight: Mystery Hangup

When I interviewed the members of Mystery Hangup, we discussed everything from the difficulties of breaking into the Los Angeles-area indie rock scene to the band’s recent U.S. tour to our mutual admiration of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Throughout the hour-long conversation, though, one topic kept rearing its head – gender. The exchange became so heartfelt that singer and guitarist Mystery Cat emailed me a few days later to clarify some of the band’s sentiments.

For a band comprised of four women – Mystery Cat, Bisou (guitar, keyboards), Redd (bass), and Lux (drums) – promotion can be tricky, as marketing and press types still do make references to “girl bands” and “chick bands,” as though an accompanying photo of the female form were not enough of a tip. As might be expected, the band members take issue with the idea of gender as musical genre.

“We just want to be Mystery Hangup,” says Mystery Cat.

Although still flying under the radar, Mystery Hangup, who played the inaugural Summer Strummer event at Bergamot Station in 2006, is certainly coming into its own. The seeds of the band began to sprout when a young Mystery Cat heard Tex-Mex star Selena and was inspired to study various styles of Mexican music. She began studying guitar and soon her sisters Bisou and Lux were picking out their own instruments. A while later, the siblings moved towards American-styled rock, although Mystery Cat continues to alternate between Spanish and English lyrics and the members note that their musical roots still inspire the sound. The three were soon joined by Redd, who was working the graveyard shift at a security company and looking for a change when she noticed the band’s want ad in the O.C. Weekly. Despite being primarily a guitarist and drummer, Redd auditioned to play bass, which she had never learned before, and won a spot in the fold.

As a foursome, the band developed a visceral sound that cuts like late-’70s punk. Fittingly, Mystery Hangup recorded its debut album, Three Moons and the Crashing Sun, at Satellite Studios in Malibu with LA punk legends Geza X (Germs, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys) and Paul Roessler (The Screamers, Josie Cotton, 45 Grave).

Lyrically, Mystery Hangup’s songs can be as dark as the guitar sounds Bisou and Mystery Cat unleash.

“Really, most of my lyrics have to do with violence against women, whether it is through the victim’s eyes, through the guilty, or as a narrator,” the singer explains, adding that she also dabbles with songs about “government bollocks.”

“My lyrics are sometimes straight out, you can read them and know what I am talking about,” says Mystery Cat, “and some are very metaphorical where one sentence can represent many things.”

But Mystery Hangup doesn’t just give socially conscious lip service, and the band’s presence has helped raise awareness of the plight of women in Juarez, children in Chiapas, and the spread of Hepatitis C here in the States.

“Mystery Hangup always tries to help out in their community the best they can,” says Mystery Cat, “whether it be by promoting a cause, showing support by being present at marches or meetings, or by representing through our music.”

When the members of Mystery Hangup aren’t assisting with various causes, they are booking their own gigs, handling their own publicity, making plans to head into the studio to record a rock en español EP and, of course, working non-music jobs. It’s a busy life for Mystery Hangup, but none of the members seem to mind.

“If it’s something that you love to do, it should come easy,” says Mystery Cat. “We work so hard and sweat it out so hard. It actually feels pretty good.”Mystery Hangup plays the Good Hurt on November 21.

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