The Hugs

Gus Van Sant

07/27/09

The Hugs are a four-piece  rock ’n’ roll band from Portland, Oregon, who recorded their debut album in England. This makes sense because their music sounds British—not “Greensleeves” British, but rather the brand of British that became popular when groups like The Kinks and The Yardbirds invaded America in the mid-’60s with their ramshackle lyrics and bluesy riffs. The Hugs’s music, though, is also very Oregonian, owing an equal debt to home-state forerunners like “Louie Louie” auteurs The Kingsmen and the late-’70s pre-grunge grunge outfit the Wipers. Our woman in Portland, Paige Powell, met up with The Hugs after a practice session, crowding into a beat-up tour van with singer-guitarist Danny Delegato (20), guitarist Nicholas LoCascio (21), drummer Kelly McKenzie (20), and bassist Brendan Welch (19)—as well as a bunch of their fans.

PAIGE POWELL: I’m with The Hugs in their gutted-out blue road van.

DANNY DELEGATO: We’re about to have an invasion of high school kids.

POWELL: It’s getting kind of snug in here—we’re about 12 people now. What year is this van?

DELEGATO: I don’t know—it’s from the ’80s maybe? It’s a converted shipping van that we bought used.

POWELL: It’s a boat! When I first saw you guys play, I thought you looked like an English band.

DELEGATO: We do sort of have that English thing.

NICHOLAS LOCASCIO: People in America say, “You’ll do great in England.” I guess it’s a kind of noise we have that appeals more to the British scene.

POWELL: You recently spent some time in England. How was the band received?

DELEGATO: [in English accent] It was fuckin’ great. Wicked!

POWELL: What did you guys eat for breakfast while you were over there?

DELEGATO: Just eggs.

POWELL: No tea and crumpets?

DELEGATO: No. Just normal sort of English breakfast stuff. There’s a lot of not great food over there. A few of us got food poisoning.

POWELL: From what? Fish and chips?

DELEGATO: I think it was just those bad kebab shops that they have in abundance in London. The area where we were living was filled with them, so it was hard not to eat at them. The house we were staying in also had a mold problem, so we all ended up sleeping in the living room. But it was great—we wound up with enough songs for two albums.

POWELL: When will the first album come out?

DELEGATO: I think maybe September, but right now we’re just trying to get back to America’s frame of mind. We might want to put out some stuff in Australia first to just sort of test the waters there, too.

POWELL: Do you all have any hobbies?

BRENDAN WELCH: I like to occupy myself with recreational activities.

DELEGATO: I like to sit and ponder. When everything gets too quick, I like to slow down. But
Kelly likes kung fu.

POWELL: Do you actually practice kung fu?

KELLY MCKENZIE: I have plans to in the future.

POWELL: Nicholas, what about you?

LOCASCIO: I do a lot of artsy-fartsy stuff. I’m also teaching myself psychological tricks. Derren Brown [the British illusionist] is going to take me under his wing next time we go to England.

Photo above: The Hugs in London, July 2009. above, clockwise from top left | Welch wears a Cardigan by Replay. Shirt: Beyond Retro. Trousers: b store. Delegato wears a Jacket by Rag & Bone. Shirt: Margaret Howell. Waistcoat and Hat: Rokit. LoCascio wears a Jacket by Tween. Polo shirt: Rokit. Trousers: Rag & Bone. McKenzie wears a Coat by Lou Dalton. Shirt: Margaret Howell. Trousers: Peter Jensen. Scarf: Nicole Farhi. | Fragrance: Hypnose by LancÔme. | Styling: Beth Fenton/Smiletoo. Special thanks: Air Studios.

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