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Published: 10/1/2008

The not-so Hard Lessons of love

BY ANNE ERICKSON
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Augie Visocchi and Korin Cox of The Hard Lessons play Frankie's Inner City Saturday night. Augie Visocchi and Korin Cox of The Hard Lessons play Frankie's Inner City Saturday night.
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The Hard Lessons has developed a unique band strategy: Complete a run of high-profile gigs, marry off two band members (to each other) and then go back to playing shows.

Version 1.0 of the concept happened earlier this year, when the Detroit rock band played the South by Southwest Festival in Austin and landed shows with Sammy Hagar and Motion City Soundtrack.

And the nuptial phase of the plan came about when vocalist/guitarist Augie Visocchi and vocalist/organ/synth player Korin Cox (aka Ko Ko Louise) tied the knot this summer.

Now after the honeymooning, the band has a handful of new dates posted, including a stop at Frankie s Inner-City on Saturday.

All of which raises the question: What is it like working, touring, and driving around in a three-person band van with your spouse 24/7?

Playing with my wife is definitely the key to my mental health, especially on the road, said Visocchi via cell phone from his Detroit digs. No matter how far away from home we are, it never feels that strange because we re still right next to each other.

In the Hard Lessons, Visocchi sings with a full, raspy baritone like it s nobody s business, and when he s speaking with you one-on-one, you sense that same confidence the assurance that comes from someone who truly knows his craft.

He perks up when asked about playing South by Southwest, which is thought of as indie music s biggest music festival.

I think going to South by Southwest is fun for us, but for reasoning different than what people might expect, Visocchi explained. We love hanging out with our friends from Michigan in warmer weather. We love seeing touring friends from around the country. But I don t think anybody goes to South by Southwest to be discovered anymore.

The story of the Hard Lessons began on the campus of Michigan State University in 2003. Visocchi, Cox, and then drummer the Anvil entered a campus battle of the bands on a whim.

It was all kind of a joke, Visocchi said. I had been demoing a bunch of rock songs in my dorm room, and one day it was like, Well, we could try to sneak into this battle of the bands and win some money to record a demo.

They, of course, won.

It was our first gig ever and we played the only three songs we knew at the time, laughed Visocchi.

From there, the band toured Europe. They released album after album, gamely available by online download, CD, and vinyl. ( To me, vinyl was always the pinnacle of listening to music, Visocchi said. You re touching the cover, looking at the pictures, reading the song titles. and focusing on the music. ) And their smiling mugs graced the pages of magazines such as SPIN.

But what has people buzzing today is B & G Sides, released in July, an eclectic collection of songs ranging from acoustic vignettes to fuzzed-out, vamping garage rockers. With dueling male and female vocals, Visocchi croons and plays the six-string while Cox sings sultry passages and pounds on the organ.

It s a warm sound that recalls the Detroit garage-rock grit of the White Stripes and the grungy, 90s alt-rock of the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam.

And the album s theme?

The concept is a story of sorts between a boy and a girl, said Visocchi.

How appropriate for the newlyweds.

Next up for the band: Breaking in new drummer Mark Dawson. Original drummer the Anvil jetted earlier this year to pursue other musical projects.

The split was amicable.

Regarding the Anvil, we are definitely going to miss having him around, Visocchi said. Mark has been a friend of the band since day one. I played in a band with him called Battling Siki. We ve been having a lot of fun playing with him and it has reinvigorated us on stage and in the studio.

The core of the band is still the same, as the creative side and songwriting has always come from Ko Ko and I. But there is just something about this transition that feels like a fresh start, without having to start over from scratch.

The Hard Lessons and Joey and the Traitors will play at Frankie s Inner-City, 308 Main St., on Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door. Information: 419-691-7464.



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