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Psych-poppers the Hugs prepare for the musical revolution

The art of selling

Retro popsters The Hugs play Olympia Dec. 11. Photo credit: Sean Allen

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Is there such a thing as selling out, anymore? Was there ever such a thing as selling out? I've personally never felt an overwhelming desire to shit on bands that I liked way back when after they eventually find success and fame. Is it disappointing for them to change some aspect of themselves and become less enjoyable on the pursuit of said riches? Perhaps. And, in these moments, it is the healthiest thing to do to look fondly at their earlier records and hope that one day they go back to making the sort of music you like, rather than rolling your eyes and muttering condescending things about "selling out."

Still, as much as I think it can be fairly said that selling out was never quite the big deal that everyone made it out to be, there is still a stigma about proclaiming one's intentions to do so. In hip-hop, perhaps, there is a certain air of striving for fortune and fame, but it always stops short of suggesting that the compromising of your art will come along with newfound money. It was a pleasant surprise, then, when I found myself in refreshingly frank conversation with guitarist for The Hugs, Davey Appaloosa. The Portland psych-pop group has been steadily picking up steam since their formation in 2007 - being featured in illustrious music publications like NME, and sharing the stage with tons of indie rock luminaries - and they've recently released a new EP.

"When we were younger, we had a lot of ideas about music and purity and wanting to not sell out, whatever that means," says Appaloosa. "Speaking at least for myself, now we just want to make music that people love. We're not hung up about indie status - not that we're successful, yet, but we want to be successful at all costs. At least I do. I hope we can sell out. That's the goal."

I don't tell you this to shine a bad light on the Hugs or Appaloosa (not that I perceive it as bad, nor do I think they'd care), but to illustrate how uncommon it is to hear this from working musicians. As Appaloosa references, there is an unstated requirement from up-and-coming bands to put on a front about remaining pure in their goals as artists, and to never express a desire to be rich and famous, until that moment actually happens. U2 are nothing if not constantly striving to be the biggest thing in the entire world, and we get it because they're already U2. If the gigging band in your town tried to put their demo on the world's iTunes, it'd be a magical folly.

The Hugs bear a certain passing resemblance to the Dandy Warhols, with remarkably assured music that calls upon '90s Brit-rock and light psychedelia. As they've grown up as a band, their albums have taken on a radio-ready sheen. Their latest, the four-song EP Wherever You Go, is perhaps their most polished to date. With Appaloosa, frontman Danny Delegato and drummer Skyler Weaver, the Hugs have crafted a fine pop record that threatens to flirt with the zeitgeist.

Asked about the future, Appaloosa is similarly upfront about where he sees the state of music heading.

"I have really big, ambitious plans, particularly for what the value of art means, and what artists should be paid," says Appaloosa. "I believe digital sales of anything should be illegal. Anything that is sold should be representing something that is physical, tangible and finite. (It becomes a problem) when you start selling things that don't have intrinsic physical value. It's unscrupulous. ... I find it really comical when some of the indie status artists or cult icons like David Byrne criticize that people aren't buying music anymore, or criticizes his own fans. I thought the customer was always right. Anyone that's expecting to sell music is pretty ridiculous. ... Recently, we uploaded all of our music online to be downloaded for free. I see art as the advertisement, and I see advertisements, now, as complete noise. In the future, I imagine corporations sponsoring bands as more of a representative of the company. The art they would make would be completely for the sake of art, and given away for free."

When it comes down to it, the Hugs sound pristine for consumption. If that's art or premeditation, that's up to you. Someone's always buying and someone's always selling. The Hugs, for whatever it's worth, know where they stand.

THE HUGS, w/ guests, 10 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 11, Le Voyeur, 404 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia, cover tba, 360.943.5710

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