Shreveport, Louisiana-based energetic pop band Super Water Sympathy formed in 2010. The group consists of brothers Billy and Clyde Hargrove (bass and guitar, respectively), Ryan Robinson (drums), Jason Mills (keys), and Ansley Hughes (vocals). Hughes took the time to answer my questions about the band and the new album Hydrogen Child.
Amy Steele: How did you get together?
Ansley Hughes: I’ll try to make this short and to-the-point. 🙂 The only member of our band I knew personally before the band started was Ryan Robinson (drummer). Billy and Clyde Hargrove knew each other, obviously, since they came from the same womb, although Clyde has never admitted to being born a human. He says one day he just “was”, haha. Jason and Clyde were pals growing up. And I’m pretty sure Ryan didn’t really know any of them well. Although he says he did have lunch with Clyde once at Tacomania.
Clyde and Billy used to be in a band together called The Sidewalks. Billy played rhythm guitar, I think, and Clyde played lead guitar. Billy had to quit because of school (he’s the responsible one). The band then added a new member and changed their name to The Terms. Once everyone from that project parted ways, Clyde went on about his business… A few years later he and Billy decided they wanted to give the band thing another shot.
Ryan was recommended by their cousin, as was I. At the time I was working professionally doing outdoor theatre in North Carolina. Clyde called me and asked if I wanted to come sing with them, and I said, sure, why not? The day after I got back from North Carolina, we had our first “jam session”. It was August 16, 2010. It wasn’t until about our third practice when I realized we had something unique. I didn’t know if it was good, necessarily, but I knew it was definitely different. Jason joined the band about a month after that. His pads really glued our sound together.
Now when we practice, we cover ourselves in blue body paint and warm up by mimicking native birds of the Cayman Islands.
Amy Steele: Why do you call your music water pop?
Ansley Hughes: One of the hardest questions to answer is when people ask us what kind of music we play… because, well, we don’t really know. So one day we decided to come up with a genre. Something we could say, other than Billy’s famous, “We’re a mix between Marilyn Manson and Taylor Swift,” response. So we came up with “water pop”. First of all, it has a great ring to it. Second of all, I like to think it represents the fluidity of our sound. And coincidently, one day we realized every one of our songs on our freshman album (Vesper Belle) had some sort of reference to water, whether it be a waterfall or a tear drop. We like water. Bodies of water are great visual images… and considering we tend to focus more on painting pictures in people’s minds with our lyrics, rather than always trying to make perfect lyrical sense, it fits.
Amy Steele: How did you come up with the name Super Water Sympathy?
Ansley Hughes: Clyde has a really beautiful definition of our name.. It goes something like – “super water sympathy represents the recognition of the history of the world taking advantage of water.. And now, having the ability to sympathize with its abuse.” water is a necessity. Something everyone needs to survive… Yet we abuse it daily.. Water has the power to give life, and also take life… It’s origination came from lyrics to “Spain”.. A song off our first album. Clyde thought it had a cool ring. So we ran with it.
Amy Steele: What makes you work well together?
Ansley Hughes: We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Jason and Clyde are really good at composing. Billy has a great ear for bass parts that aren’t what you’d expect. Ryan is a brilliant poet. And I specialize in melodies and phrasing.. But even though we all have these strengths, we have all dabbled quite a bit in all aspects of songwriting. Every one of us writes lyrics. Every one of us composes. We collaborate, and I think that is very important in any band.
Amy Steele: What makes a good song?
Ansley Hughes: That’s a great question. One that we ask ourselves regularly. We listen to the radio, and we’re like “what makes THIS song a hit, and how can WE write something equally as classic?” it’s hard because no one really knows. I think it’s important to write music that ages well. If you follow some type of fad or formula, I feel like that’s less likely to happen. We focus on innovative lyrics, melodies and composition… And hopefully, there will end up being a classic tune in the midst of everything we’ve created thus far… Or in the future.
Amy Steele: Can you tell me about the following songs—what inspired them, how you wrote them, recorded them etc?—
Amy Steele: “Uh Oh”
Ansley Hughes: We wrote “Uh Oh” in an RV park in Oregon, I think. Of all the tracks on Hydrogen Child, I’d say “Uh Oh” was probably the most collaborative of them all. There are literally lyrics from every member of the band, as well as composition. All five of us hold an equal 20% of that song… It was inspired by all the uproar of the apocalypse happening in the coming months. (dec. 2013). It was a very fun song to write.
Amy Steele:“Purple Poppies”
Ansley Hughes: We actually wrote “Purple Poppies” before we went on tour (along with “Avalon”). Those were the only two songs we wrote prior to the tour. The rest (sans “Magnolia Parade”) were written on the road during our 2012 West Coast tour… We all have our own analysis of “Purple Poppies” so I’m not really gonna get too deep into that.. But I will say for me it’s about a struggle. A struggle to communicate for whatever reason.
Amy Steele: “Fire Me Up”
Ansley Hughes: The original idea of this song came up when Clyde and I stayed at my Aunt’s lake house for a couple nights about a year or so ago. We wanted to write a song about feeling cold and wanting to feel warm again.. Metaphorically of course.. But we wanted to make it very literal to create more of an image. I remember Clyde saying things like “what if we were saying we wanted to jump in a cold lake just to get out and feel warm again” which I thought was really cool.
We ended up only writing the chorus. And when we collaborated with the whole band, it took a turn for something I find much more relatable. I’ll go into this with a little more detail just because I think it’s a cool story… But the idea is a woman at her own wedding experiencing “cold feet”. She’s kind of watching it all unfold and realizing how silly it all is.. How mundane her relationship has become and just wanting something exciting to happen.
“I turn my back upon their faces as the ladies take their places, like a family of wolves” is one of my favorite lines.. It continues with “and my deception in these flowers makes the world of wedding showers for magnolia fools.”
I just visualize this terrified bride looking at this big catastrophe of a ceremony.. When all she really really wants is to feel warm again.
Ansley Hughes: This tune is a bit darker than we tend to go.. But upon listening to it, you gather that the singer is not happy with whoever it is she’s talking about. It’s about seeking revenge.. But not necessarily in this life.. You could say that the subject is expressing that he/she would rather be dead than be in their current relationship… Because the afterlife has to be more fun than this. Whatever “this” is.
“You can throw me to the gallows, we can get down low, watching our bones dance in their graves”…
Its like get me out of here, man. I’m gonna party no matter where I go.
That’s what I Get from it at least. I know each band member would have their own interpretation of any of our songs.
Amy Steele: “Pistol”
Ansley Hughes: I’m not entirely sure what exactly this song means, to be honest. However, today it still marks, in my book, one of Clyde’s most clever lyrical moments.
We were writing one day.. And he was all, “hey, isn’t a pistol a part of a flower?” and I was like, “yeah, I mean, a pist-IL is part of a flower.. Where are
You going with this, you lyrical genius?!” I was so excited. Anyway, he was like, “what if we wrote a song about someone being a pistil in someone’s flower and, like, at any moment they will explode or something???” ..and from that, we constructed the chorus to “Pistol”, as well as the bridge in Sunday School Dress.. And as far as verses go, they’re just pretty words put together to make you feel on top of the world. That’s what I think.
Amy Steele: What can people expect when seeing Super Water Sympathy on tour?
Ansley Hughes: Bubbles and a killer light show. And hopefully some songs they want to listen to over and over. If we can sell at least one album per show, we will consider that a huge success. We’ve always said that… And if a new listener talks to Clyde Hargrove for more than five minutes, they’ll be hooked, regardless.
Amy Steele: thanks for taking the time to answer some questions! Hope to see you soon in Boston.
Ansley Hughes: Thanks so much!!!