Hallie Bulleit has been in The Chris Gethard Show house band, the LLC, since 2011, which is about the time I met her. I didn’t have an actual conversation with her though, until many years later, when she was now-married to Chris Gethard, at an after-show bar hang. There, and then, we got glimpses into the women we are. And I knew I liked her, a lot. I love when I get to know women who are like-minded, who are fierce, who are feminist. Hallie is all that and more, more, more. Hallie is also in the band Hiccup. They have a new video out, and go on tour next month, promoting their new album, Imaginary Enemies, which comes out March 24. Catch them when they hit your town.
What would your younger self say about your life today?
Oh, that’s so good. A lot of things. I think my younger self would be so excited that I waited so long to get married. I’m telling you, just with the guys I was with before my husband? Any one of those people are beautiful people and I love them and I’m so glad they were in my life but trying to build a life with them would have been a catastrophe. Younger me would have been really proud that I didn’t just settle down. I really waited for the right person. I’m happier than I think I could have imagined myself being married. I think younger me would be disappointed that I don’t dance any more because when you’re younger you don’t think about that part. You don’t think about the part where your body is going to get too old to do it. I didn’t do a lot of thinking about that or planning about it until the day that I had to retire from dance because my body could not do it not one more day.
What kind of dance?
I studied as a modern dancer. I moved to the city where there are a lot of women in the city that are stronger modern dancers than me but maybe they can’t also sing or maybe they aren’t as quite as athletic as me. I ended up really building my career out of really fun, very, very physical theater style. I did Stomp. I did De La Guarda. I did Fuerza Bruta. I did stuff that was on the border of just athletics and dance. I think younger me would have been so excited and proud that I got to do that. I think my career was cooler than I’d ever dreamed was possible. But also I think I would be crushed that that is almost not my life at all anymore.
Why did you stop dancing professionally?
I had a really bad accident during a performance. I herniated a disc in my back. I tore a piece of my hip that you need for your hip to work.
At the time of your accident, were you happy at where you were with your career?
I mean, I just couldn’t believe how happy I was. I couldn’t believe I was in Fuerza Bruta. I was just so proud of the work I was doing at the time I got hurt. I was the captain of that production; I was in charge of watching the show, giving creative notes, making sure that the show stayed true to its original vision (the director who was from Argentina couldn’t be around all the time). The captain is sort of expected to be the creative eyes of the show in the absence of the director. I really felt that I was at the height of my career. And then it was just over from one day to the next. It was really bananas.
I can only imagine how devastating that was for you.
Oh, I was a mess. I was a successful artist. I took so much pride in that. So much of my identity was wrapped up in the fact that I had come to New York, and I wanted to do a thing and I had done it. Which is so insane. I took such pride in that. Having that stripped away? I really had to dig deep to find out what were the other parts of myself that I was also proud of. It took me a really long time to be able to even think of them.
Where did your talent for music come into play?
I had always played music as a hobby; it had always been the thing I kind of fell back on when I was in between shows or when I had a break from dance, music was the thing that would keep me creative and keep me happy and keep me feeling like I was expressing myself even if it was just on a hobby level. Thank God I always had music to fall back on. But even that didn’t happen immediately. I was too hurt to carry my bass; I couldn’t actually lift my bass. Sometimes I could lay in bed and hold it on top of me and try to play it lying down. It was nuts.
How did you transition from being a dancer to being in a band?
I think younger Hallie would be so delighted and fascinated by the fact that I somehow managed to transition from a career as a dancer to a career as a musician. It’s definitely not anything I ever saw or something I would have imagined. I have a couple of different bands. I have my old punk rock band, The Unloveables, which is the band I always did while I was dancing. it was just a hobby. That band is mostly retired. We’ll still do stuff from time to time. I have the band I play on The Chris Gethard Show that only exists for the show. We’ve never played a music venue. We really just exist for the solely for the show. And then Alex, who I play in The Chris Gethard Show band, were enjoying that project so much that we started what is now my main focus which is Hiccup.
How long has Hiccup been a band?
We started Hiccup two years ago. I just got our vinyl records delivered to my house yesterday. I nearly cried from happiness. They looked so beautiful! From our first practice to getting that record in my hand was a two-year process. We’ve put out little releases but this is the first full length and its on a record.
So when you’re starting a band, considering all the different influences you each have, how do you get to your sound?
We knew we wanted it to be different from the LLC because the LLC is so goofy by nature. We knew we wanted to do something that was a little more serious. We definitely have those conversations, “Well who are you listening to? Well who are you listening to?” The thing that’s fun about Alex and I working together is we actually have a narrow space where our tastes overlap. We also have really different things we like and are influenced by. I think the band is interesting because it’s this funny combination that could only happen if you put Alex and all of his influences and me and all of my influences in the same room together.
So what are your influences?
The stuff I write for Hiccup has more of a 90s vibe. It gets put into a blender with all of Alex’s tastes. So I’m not saying this is who we sound like but I think the things I have in my brain when I’m writing those sounds are like the Breeders, Pavement, The Muffs, even stuff that’s a little punkier. There’s something about the music you were listening to when you were in high school and college that it’s always going to be the most exciting or is the most in your heart.
How did you end up going from dancing to being in the LLC?
I was definitely feeling my body slow down so after the show, everyone else would get showered, put clothes on, and go home. An hour after the curtain had come down, I would still be at the theatre, stretching out. I would have ice packs attached to my entire body. I had this whole hour of self care that I would do after the show to make sure that I could just wake up in the morning the next day and go do it all over again. On the one night a month that The Gethard Show was happening at UCB, that was the one night I would allow myself to just throw all my clothes on and run across town to go see the show. So then it was really exciting when they asked me to be a part of it. It was originally the Kung Fu Monkeys that was the house show band for the Gethard Show when they were still doing their live shows at UCB. So James (the lead singer) moved and got a job in Canada. I was actually an audience member at the live Gethard Show at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade. It was one of the more completely off the wall Gethard shows where things got out of control. The back up singer got so grossed out that she actually just ran offstage and basically just never came back. If one of the singers of the Gethard Show house band hadn’t been so disgusted by the whole affair that she quit, I wouldn’t have the job I have now and I wouldn’t be married to my husband.
So when the album comes out in March, do you go on tour? Do you travel in a van?
The album comes out on march 24. Yes, we do travel in a van. You can’t believe of how much being on the road is just loading and unloading the damn van. You wake up in the morning, you put everything in the van. You get to the show, you take everything out of the van. You play the show, you put everything back in the van. It’s absolutely endless but it’s worth it. Tour is so fun and beautiful.
I love going to see bands play live. That’s something I hope my daughter loves too as she starts to go to shows.
What’s so funny is that I remember driving around or walking around the city with my Mom when I was little. My Mom had played in bands before I was born. When I was really tiny, my mom was still playing in bands. So fast forward to I’m in high school and she and I would be walking around the city. And my mom would always be looking around and going. “Oh, that’s where Max’s used to be, oh that’s where the old Gildersleeves used to be.” In high school, I would just kind of roll my eyes. I didn’t really know what any of those things were. I didn’t see how if my mom liked them, they could possibly have ever been cool. Of course, now I’m that lady that wanders around and is like, “Oh, that’s where Brownies used to be, that’s where I played my first show ever.” Like, oh my god, you really just do turn into your mom.
Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about The Male Gaze. I’m obsessed with this notion because as my life evolves, I start to lament the things that once angered me so very much, like being noticed.
It’s going to sound way sadder than I mean it to but I do slowly feel myself getting less visible in the world. I used to walk down the street and feel like people are staring at me all the time. It’s like you said, I didn’t really like it. It would make me uncomfortable especially because I was so punky. I’d always be in some outlandish outfit or something. Some days, I’d just want to be able to wear whatever crazy thing I wanted to wear without getting looked at or without getting comments from men. Yeah, it is funny. You notice it just goes away. I don’t miss it but it is funny to realize that people are just not seeing me in the same way. Again, I don’t want to be shouted at all day on the street. I don’t miss that at all.
What is your Mom like?
I’d say my Mom was kind of in the middle. My Mom was raised in the Midwest in a really conservative family. She was the one in her family that got out you. She was the one that wanted to move to New York and be an actress and sing in a band. It is really interesting how as liberal as she is and strove to be as forward thinking as she tried to be in the way that she raised me, she was in some ways still just that little Kansas City girl. I owe so much to my Mom. The fact that I’m as outspoken about my politics as I am and I’m as liberal and that I believe in women’s causes and that I’m a proud feminist, all of that stuff is from my mom.
You’re really lucky your mother was able to imbue you with that.
I’m now the same age my mom was when I was 13. I don’t have kids so I’m allowed to, in some ways, just act like a grown up child. When I was 13, I thought my mom had it all figured out. I almost wished she’d opened to me more about not. I think it would have been an interesting conversation for us to have. I still feel I learned a lot. I wouldn’t make the same mistakes but in essence I still feel like the same girl. I think it would have also been interesting to know not to expect to just have everything click into place in the world make total sense. And for me to have a game plan all the time, know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Of course you sort of just figure all those things on your feet. I don’t have it all figured out.
I don’t think you ever figure it all out.
I don’t think so either.
How did you end up learning about sex?
From my mom. She got me a book. She knew it was the right thing to do. She knew as a feminist that she had to tell me about sex, that she had to educate me about it. I was eight when she gave me Where Do Babies Come From? I remember when I got my period, my mom acted disappointed in me, she didn’t want me to grow up. She didn’t want me to be sexual, she didn’t want me to be a woman. In a lot of ways, she wanted me to stay a little kid.
That’s pretty progressive.
With every generation we get more open talking with our daughters about stuff. I’m so curious to see who this new crop of women are going to be that are slowly being raised with a more open-minded way where we talk about things, where we talk about sex.
Are you an only child?
I’m the only daughter. My brother is much much younger than me. My mom, as wonderful as she was, when she was raising us, did a lot of the you-don’t-understand-how-much-of-a toll-it-took-on-my-career-to-have-you-guys. I admired her and she was a nurturer but she did not put any rosy coloring on that part. She was an actress, she would take time off to have a kid, and the industry would forget about her. She would have to claw her way just to get back to where she was all those months where she was too pregnant to work or had an infant so young she wasn’t going on auditions. She was losing ground every single day.
It’s so tough to be a woman who’s pursuing a career, who’s raising a family, who’s found love but still feels she’s missing something.
Yeah and I didn’t know that. I had made so many mistakes and so many rotten choices. For a lot of reasons, I wasn’t sure I would find that thing in a way that you dream about when you’re a little girl. I feel now I have found that, it’s funny and surprising and a pleasant surprise.
How has your approach to feminism evolved over your lifetime?
I used to be a lot more outspoken about feminism, about everything. Like a lot of young people, I went to college and I took my first women’s studies course and my first sociology course and I thought I knew everything. I would say my approach to feminism has changed. I used to be more like wanting to correct people, more wanting to call people out. We’re very much in a call-people-out stage in politics right now. I’ve actually moved really far from that. I recognize my younger self in a lot of my younger friends now. I see them kind of wanting to call everybody out about everything and I just kind of smile and shrug my shoulders. I’m like, “Yeah, I remember wanting to do that.” I don’t really want to do that anymore which I don’t think makes me not as strong a feminist. I used to need to just school people and chastise them. Maybe as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown maybe a little more cynical about my ability to change individual’s minds. Maybe that’s sad but I don’t know. I try to be active politically. I call my senators, I show up to rallies, I show up to marches. I don’t necessarily need to have confrontations with my family or people I encounter that I disagree with. I used to think I could change people’s minds and that something positive would come out of that; I don’t think that anymore. I prefer to keep my life in a more peaceful state than I needed when I was younger. I prefer not to have that kind of conflict in my life anymore.
Social media makes it easy to be baited.
If younger-Hallie would have been on social media, I would have been picking a fight with everyone. I feel relieved I didn’t have access to that. I actually draw a direct link to major life events—I lost my dad at 19, I worked so hard to have this career and it just disappeared on me. When I was a younger woman, I was more strident about everything because I thought I had everything figured out. I no longer have that illusion anymore. Because I had gone through crazy crap like losing my dad, I don’t invite calamity into my life. I have a healthy sense of knowing those experiences lead to a lot of growth and reflection and you always come out the other side of it.
Losing your Dad at a time where you’re feeling righteous about the world is the most sobering experience.
Right around the time my dad died, I was my most outspoken and judgy about everything. I came home from my freshmen year in college and I lectured my parents on this or that. I was really impossible to be around. Literally the last conversation I had with my father in person, he was basically just asking me to chill the fuck out. Losing him was the thing that actually snapped me out of that the quickest, that same feeling of, “Oh yeah, I don’t know shit.”
How do you define work?
Work is the stuff I make money at. But also work is the stuff that I’m planting seeds so that one day that might make me money. I worked on this Gethard show for free for three years before that turned into a job. I believed in it and I believed it was going somewhere, so yeah I showed up every Wednesday at the Manhattan Neighborhood Network to do a public access show with my friends. In a lot of ways, I considered it work because we were building something and sure it enough it paid off, that did turn into a job.
How do you define relaxation?
I find it very relaxing to do the things I love. I find songwriting very relaxing. That to me is almost like meditation because its something that I enjoy so much. They say when you’re doing yoga or you’re meditating or you’re trying to get to that place of mental focus, there’s all these things. I think they call it the “vriti,” which are these little outside thoughts that are always plaguing you—“Oh I forgot to get that thing at the grocery store,” or “Oh, I forgot to give my mom a call”—all these things that take you out of your present moment. It’s part of why I love dancing so much, because that kind of dancing I did was so taxing, my whole brain and every single cell of my body had to be engaged. It felt like mediation for me. There was no room for daydreaming, no room for worrying about outside things for that 90 minutes I was onstage. I was just there in the moment doing that exact thing and nothing else. My brain is engaged in the same way when I’m songwriting. I find that very relaxing to just have that constant inner monologue of worry or stress that has to go away when my brain is engaged.
It’s nice to take a break from life.
Everyone says this everyone knows this but I’m just going to say it anyway: I just don’t know why we can’t assign value to taking a break. We just can’t do it. It’s so valuable. It’s part of, I think, why my injury was able to get so out of control. Because I kept doing physical therapy. I was so used to attacking a problem by doing it all the time. Now in retrospect, I should have been doing nothing. I couldn’t see doing nothing as active but in that case it really would have been.
Hiccup’s Imaginary Enemies is out March 24. You can pre-order here.