The members of Hex never thought that they’d pursue a career in music – and really, they’re still a little unsure about it.
Formed in 2014 at Toronto’s chapter of the Girls Rock Camp program, Halina Katz, Simryn Mordasiewicz and Kyria Sztainbok had an immediate connection. “There was just no tension, and I think we just understood each other’s sensibilities,” says Katz. One of the first songs they ever performed together was Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl,” a ‘90s Riot Grrrl theme song of sorts that Hex related to because, as Katz says, “it represents a lot of the ideologies of Girls Rock Camp – they want young women to go and perform, and be anarchic.”
It was through that experience that the members of Hex, who were still getting a handle on performing and songwriting, were encouraged to continue working together. Girls Rock Camp’s Kritty Uranowski even took on the task of managing the trio. But, as they were still attending high school at the time, it had to be a balancing act. And when they had to split time between homework and jam sessions, the best way for them to gain experience and grow as a band was to hit the stage, performing in all-ages venues, and opening for local acts like Hooded Fang, and Polaris Prize winner Lido Pimienta.
Tackling the music scene can be tough, though, as not only do the Hex members have to confront sexist behaviour on occasion, but also ageism. “We get treated like idiots by every sound person,” says Mordasiewicz. Katz recalls a recent show where she was shown how to turn her amp on, to which she thought, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
On their manager, Kritty Uranowski, also a musician, and artistic director of the No Mean City collective: “We would be nothing without her,” says Mordasiewicz. Katz adds, “She showed us the importance of having diversity, and giving bands a chance. When we book a show, we’re really aware of having a female presence and, like, dealing with asshole sound men. She’s the wisest woman ever.”
“They’re only mean to us before our set though,” she continues, adding that their performance is all the proof they need to show that they know what they’re doing. “At this point, we’ve been doing it for years,” Sztainbok says. “So we know what we want for our sound.”
Eventually, the time came to record an album. The trio admits that they struggled at first to lay down their tracks individually but later realized that the band works best when replicating their tight live sound together in one room – a process completed in the span of one evening. “We stayed up till 5 a.m.,” Mordasiewicz says of their recording session. “It was fun, and it was really intense.”
Thanks to that method of recording, Hex’s thunderous live energy is perfectly captured on their record, Miss Pristine, which came out earlier this year. On the seven-minute opening title track, Hex plays with tempo and volume, one minute slowly strumming along, as Katz’s howling vibrato fills every nook of the track, the next building up an incredible fury of cacophony.
Miss Pristine finds its influences deeply embedded in the music they first learned to perform in Rock Camp – Bikini Kill, and other ‘90s punk and rock acts like Sleater-Kinney and Hole – but they pull those threads forward to the present day. Songs are infused with a rage that burns brightly inside each member, an energy that fuels every guitar riff, drum fill, and bass line.
The songs work primarily around Katz, her captivating voice, and her songwriting. Mordasiewicz and Sztainbok praise their lead singer as a “lyrical goddess” who often brings sparks of song ideas – inspired by her real-life experiences – to the band in the form of words, which the others can then build upon with their respective instruments. When asked if Hex has more new music on the way, Mordasiewicz looks to Katz, and says with a smirk, “I don’t know, got any song ideas?”
With Mordasiewicz and Sztainbok now in university, and Katz currently living in Philadelphia, Hex acts as a part-time job for its members. That doesn’t mean they’re not committed to performing more, and putting out more music in the future; they’re very excited to put out a music video soon, and have even written three new songs recently. But the band maintains a bit of a laissez-faire attitude towards the future.
“I do want to pursue music, but it’s hard to admit, because it’s a hard thing to do,” Katz confesses. But Sztainbok sums up everyone’s mindset pretty succinctly with an optimistic statement: “As long as I always have music as something that I’m doing, then I’ll be happy.”