“Queencore” is the term Hit Bargain use to describe their brand of music and performance—a cross between hardcore, queerness, and queening, which is in its simplest terms the act of face sitting. Vocalist Nora Singh—fka Anna Barie of These Are Powers—has undertaken the consensual trampling of men’s bodies at Hit Bargain shows in a display that’s extreme and defiant, if philosophically complex (symbolically crushing the patriarchy while, on the ground, feeding men’s fetishes?). She’s said that as an artist her job is fundamentally “to ask questions, not really to have answers.”
Even setting aside the performance aspect, Hit Bargain’s approach to feminism involves opening up a number of questions that call on the listener for a response. The four-piece are working in the same vein as groups like G.L.O.S.S. and Slouch—their self-titled debut EP is wryly aggressive, both playing with tropes in hardcore and knocking them down. On “The Circuits That Cannot Be Cut” Singh wails, “Now I’ve got a gun, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” with breath between each syllable, her maniacal laughter in sync with the rips of the guitar before she closes the track with a sardonically intoned “Merry Christmas”. The music is unrelenting but still totally melodic, hearkening to Bikini Kill’s militarism while employing vocals that call to mind PJ Harvey’s in their vast tonal range. On “Song For Fainting” light descending vocal lines scaffold Singh’s shouts in a careful round; “No Body” finds many voices singing in unison before a shattering climax of near-whispers. Meanwhile bending guitars tear through each other with precision, some of the lines invoking surf rock or power pop against an otherwise heavily post-punk framework. Hit Bargain have no qualms about changing things up, or for that matter about getting in your face, and there’s a lot to digest here. Still, it’s palatable and a lot of fun—the record ends in a place that feels markedly bright, a mesh of energetic chords and rolling percussion taking it to its brink as Singh’s exclamation of “PRODUCTION / POWER / WEALTH / FEAR” lingers in memory.
[Editor’s note: Earlier, I had written that Hit Bargain exists to decry the oppression that still pervades the hardcore genre, which I had observed “was built up as a men’s arena.” In a subsequent email, Singh clarified, “I’d like to think that Hit Bargain exists NOT in spite of the oppression of a particular genre, BUT as a creative entity of its own. If anything, I would say that hardcore music has inspired Hit Bargain, and it’s coincidental and topical that my gender is historically atypical of it. However, hardcore is merely one of many influences for us, stemming in part to a new fascination (mine) with our shared geography of Los Angeles and the historical context of punk and DIY in California. To say that one gender exists in opposition to the other, or even that a band exists in opposition to another is too simple and dualistic. Personally, I don’t demand to be a part of a community that I don’t feel a part of, nor do I necessarily want to occupy just one kind of community.
Similarly, I would say that my identity shifts daily on a spectrum of masculine and feminine, which are not in opposition to each other. I see them working in tandem, often overlapping, or even fusing into another space.”]
Hit Bargain is out now, self-released. You can stream the EP in full below.