If you were at this year’s Deutschtown Music Fest and experienced a set complete with a blow-up unicorn humping the singers on stage in front of a dancing crowd full of folks sporting sparkly unicorn horn headbands, you might be quick to label the band as a fun gimmick. But behind the kitsch of God Hates Unicorns is a group of musicians with a drive to produce good songs and amplify others in the local music scene.
But the silliness is admittedly a hell of a lot of fun.
Self-described as “dick rock” on all their socials, God Hates Unicorns produces a mixture of ‘90s garage rock and playful, often angst-ridden punk. The Pittsburgh band — comprised of Joshua Hartz on vocals and keyboard, Jessica Zoric on vocals, Marcus Gabriel on guitar, Matthew Crippen on bass, and Tim Saunders on drums — isn’t afraid to push boundaries by mixing in weird, occasionally fucked-up lyrics with their tight, synchronized tracks.
Like when Hartz and Zoric sing back and forth on the head-banging worthy “Chipped Ma’am” (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the much-loved Pittsburgh deli meat):
“It’s not all good in my clitoral hood.”
“Just a little snip”
“off my little clit. It hurts a bit”
“I don’t give a shit.”
It’s one of the 11 songs from their 2021 album, No Gloryholes in Heaven, which Pittsburgh City Paper readers just voted as one of the best local albums of the year. “Chipped Ma’am,” the band tells City Paper, is about drawing attention to the harms of female circumcision. There’s a must-see video, too, edited by Gabriel and Crippen, featuring the band members on a picnic complete with, yes, chipped ham. But what could be seen as offensive becomes a kind of feminist anthem with the addition of Zoric.
The band got its start in 2015 as a three-piece noise-rock band, and has changed a few members over the years before landing on its current line-up. Zoric says she got asked to be in the band with a question, “Would you be willing to sing ‘cunt?’”
She says the band is “still a little spicy, it’s still gonna catch your attention,” but the members agree they’re now more palatable and focused.
“It’s a lot like sitting at the lunch table with sixth graders,” says Gabriel, who describes their music as “PG-13 shock rock.”
Other members agree it’s “theatrical,” but are also quick to point out that the band is inclusive and accepting of all identities, lest anyone thinks they have something against unicorns being a now-common symbol of the LGBTQ community. And they don’t want to be pigeonholed as a joke band.
They’re also surprisingly, well, normal and pleasant off-stage. City Paper met with the band, made up of mostly Gen Xers and one elder Millennial, on Hartz’s lovely suburban front porch just south of the city, while several young bandmembers’ offspring occasionally peeked out of the window to ask, “Are you almost done with the interview?!”
One of those young kids, Hartz’s seven-year-old son, is also an honorary band member — you can hear his lyrics on their song “Not Your Day.” His dad says he overheard him singing “It’s OK if it’s not your day” in the shower, and it stuck with the band so much, they turned it into the song’s chorus.
You can also experience the band’s more serious side on Thu., Oct. 20 when they release their latest track “Vigil,” featuring a funky riff and a spirited chorus. (Crippen says he’s “a huge funk and progressive rock fan” and it comes through on this track.)
On Sat., Oct. 22, the band will take the stage at Half-Covered Halloween, a spooky-themed show at Ormsby Avenue Cafe and Outdoor Stage in Mt. Oliver. The show will feature multiple local bands covering performers from past versions of Ozzfest. God Hates Unicorns says they fought hard to be the ones to cover Primus. (The band promises several songs, including “Blue Collar Tweakers” with “a really cool medley and some surprises,” according to Zoric.)
The band members say they try to practice at least once a week, and in addition to becoming a better band, they actively seek to highlight other local musicians in the scene. During the pandemic, Hartz and Zoric launched a podcast, hilariously named Bands and Artists We Like and Support that Aren’t as Good as God Hates Unicorns, featuring fun and in-depth interviews with local bands.
“We wanted to find a way to still be able to connect with other artists, make connections, meet new people, do things like that in the confines of our home,” says Zoric. They’ve since recorded over 50 episodes, something she says is really gratifying. “A lot of people find a lot of value in it.”
God Hates Unicorns at Half Covered Halloween. 5:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 22. Ormsby Avenue Cafe and Outdoor Stage. 402 Ormsby Ave., Mt. Oliver. $15. linktr.ee/GodHatesUnicorns