Running barefoot through Los Angeles is a tricky thing to ask of someone—let alone an actor, who is a friend, and it’s for your music video. What about getting them to do that in Orange County and South Pasadena, too? This is what L.A.’s 'queencore' band Hit Bargain asked for their video for “Capitulate.” The video for the thunderous and turbulent sounding song—that immediately hits you in the sternum upon first listen— is a dreamy, L.A. foggy interpretation of the ambiguities of consent in the city’s queer scene. In it, we see two actors, in either a dream or waking life, tackle issues on the heavy side like identity, all while keeping the band’s tone, which is with every bit of seriousness, also comes a cheeky side. Nora Singh, the band’s lead singer, told me over the phone that the song and video both highlight how “erotically confusing” she can be as a performer; straddling the lines of funny, silly, and serious and raw.
Hit Bargain—comprised of members of Beach Fossils, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and Cold Beat—are readying the release of their debut, Potential Maximizer, on May 11. The noise rock band built a buzz in L.A. a couple years ago, especially with Singh’s electric performances, which included standing on the bodies and faces of men, and released their self-titled EP back in 2016. Hit Bargain writes songs about gender, power, something of which the dynamics and structure fascinates Singh quite a bit, and pull inspiration from pop culture. Maybe not current pop culture, as Singh referenced Bruce Willis (likely his Die Hard character) a number of times during our interview, reveling in the special place dramatic action movies and their heroes have in her heart. Watch the video and read our interview with Nora Singh below:
Noisey: When “Capitulate” premiered a few months ago, you said you “ wrote it in response to the real experiences of a friend navigating sex, relationships, and their own emerging queerness in LA” and that you “wish for everyone is to find an intersection of pleasure, bodily integrity, and respect—without abuse or shame.” How does the video represent that?
Nora Singh: We really struggled with finding a way to tackle this subject matter head-on in a balanced way. I really wanted to do something that was nuanced that didn’t come across as an afternoon special or anything that would make it seem sort of trite. It was a true collaboration with the director, Jessica Gonzalez, and with the two actors in the video as well. The ambiguity and sort of dream-like quality of it really lends itself well to the subject matter.
The subject matter is important, and as you said, it’s nuanced. But the video is a bit cheeky in that sense. It’s really funny when you’re looking at your actor, Ellis, running down the street. It’s a little surreal.
[laughs] Yeah, no, I think it really hits the nail on the head of my personal performance M.O., which is, like, erotically confusing, generally. And a sort of in your face sexuality that’s kind of funny, you know? I like to tell people we’re sort of like a joke band. I like to compare myself to an aging action hero. A Bruce Willis sort of character. I’ve been called in for one last job. Like, “no I can’t do it! I’m too old!” But they are like, “I need you!” This sort of Rocky thing that’s totally improbable. The guy’s 70, you know! In a way, this video is like an action hero montage. The improbable thing where this guy has been wasting away in his house in front of the TV, farting, eating TV dinners, getting fat and all of a sudden… “okay! I’m going to do like three pushups and I’m able to save the world.”
[But], in the video, the way it finally comes together, the main character is sort of struggling between the woke self and the dream self. And so, the duality within this character and ambiguous situation that happens with this other person, and then within it, the identities of these people are generally fluid. You have one person currently transitioning and another that has transitioned. If you just saw this, would you know that without us telling you? There are a lot of layers in here.
I’ve read that you’re fascinated by power dynamics. When you’re writing, how do you negotiate the nuances of power and who holds it? And, ultimately, how does music help you do that?
For me personally, I talk about my experiences or maybe I filter the news or the things around me. It comes from there. My band generally trusts me to be a sort of mouthpiece for what we’re doing. But they are also really good people. They’re awesome collaborators, they are incredibly talented. We have like a lot of mutual respect, really good friendships. They aren’t maybe as vocal as I am, politically, like they have beliefs consistent with my own. I feel like we all support each other. We have a conversation when… There’s so much, what am I trying to say here? I don’t know. [laughs] I feel comfortable speaking to them about Harvey Weinstein, for example, saying this is how I feel about this issue or this thing is happening, the zeitgeist happening in the news right now, like what is this about? Being able to process it together is really important.
When it comes to your full-length, was that part of the process? Or did you just write these songs and then sort of bring them to the rest of the band and all talked to each other about it?
This one was sort of like a strange thing. Ultimately, we all bring our parts in and we kinda just, like, see what happens. Then we will do the arranging together, or like, this works or doesn’t work. But generally, they leave it up to me as far as what I’m saying. It gets finessed. It gets boiled down. It starts off, for me, lyrically, like a novel and then ends up being a haiku.
Can you tell me a bit about your full-length debut, Potential Maximizer?
Calling it the Potential Maximizer is a big joke. And the “Potential Maximizer” is the nickname I gave myself because I was dating in L.A.—dating these people where I felt like they were looking to me to help them to achieve their potential or maximize their potential. I was having a series of unfortunate dating events. I mean, I am dating a lot of different kinds of people and it’s fun but after hooking up with people being like, “okay so I don’t believe in one night stands” and then having all of these awful one night stands. I just had to take a step back and be like “what am I doing wrong?” because obviously, I’m attracting the wrong kind of situation.
My immediate association for the title is like an 80s infomercial voice-over. Like, exaggerated: “potential maximizer!!!!”
I think that’s where we’re going. If we could give a TedTalk on the intersectionality, fetishes, what it means to be the Gallagher of noise rock, then I can retire. [laughs]
Upcoming Tour Dates:
05/12 Los Angeles, CA @ Rec Center
05/21 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
06/16 Ottawa, ON @ House Of Targ (Ottawa Explosion)
06/17 Montreal, QC @ Quai Des Brumes
06/18 Burlington, VT @ Hope All Is Well
06/19 Boston, MA @ O'Brien's Pub
06/20 Providence, RI @ Machines With Magnets
06/21 Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville
06/22 Philadelphia, PA @ The Barbary
06/23 Baltimore, MA @ Joe 2
06/27 Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
06/28 Detroit, MI @ Trixies
06/30 Hamilton, ON @ The Casbah (matinee)
06/30 Toronto, ON @ Handlebar
07/11 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar w/Big Ups
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This article originally appeared on Noisey CA.