Nancy’s Raygun loves Nicolas Cage

Garage rock duo hijacks Minneapolis using the power of friendship.

Guitarist Daniel Hughes and drummer Mauricio Hernandez of Nancy's Raygun rehearse on Sunday in Minneapolis.

Juliet Farmer

Guitarist Daniel Hughes and drummer Mauricio Hernandez of Nancy’s Raygun rehearse on Sunday in Minneapolis.

Mary Reller

If Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro had a band, Nancy’s Raygun would give it a run for its money — the band’s members even exchange a best-friend handshake before every show.

“If you saw us walking together you might think it was kind of an odd friendship,” drummer Mauricio Hernandez said. “I used to have a crustache and Daniel has Moon Boots.”

Hernandez and his partner, vocalist/guitarist Daniel Hughes

met in the first grade, but Hernandez hated Hughes until they bonded over his Jurassic Park temporary tattoo and affinity for Dragon Ball Z.

And Hughes said the band mates have been like brothers ever since.

Before they were Nancy’s Raygun, they were a middle school cover band called the Bees Knees — a reference to the movie “School of Rock” — during a time when they learned another friend handshake.

The Bees Knees had one original song about getting chased by Bigfoot, called “Bigfoot,” which Hughes wrote with his brother in fifth grade. Their other song was a punk-rock cover of Raffi’s “Down by the Bay.”

In the sixth grade, the Bees Knees started playing White Stripes songs together on mini, low-quality instruments in a water heater closet in Hernandez’s aunt’s basement. They practiced there for years.

“It was really small, but it’s where we spent most of our rocking days. It was just the [drum] symbol keeping us apart,” Hernandez said.

“When we released our first EP people were calling us a blues-rock band … but I think the sound we’ve evolved into is more garage rock,” Hughes said.

“Or water heater closet rock,” Hernandez said.

A few years ago, the Bees Knees became Nancy’s Raygun.

“Once we started getting more serious about it and had a single recorded, I was like, ‘All right, I want to put this out. We need a name and it can’t be the Bees Knees,’” Hughes said.

Hughes’ girlfriend, Sophie Ballman, designs the artwork for the band’s fliers and CD slips.

“My girlfriend keeps us in check if we’re getting too rowdy,” Hughes said.

If Hughes and Hernandez are Napoleon and Pedro, then Ballman said she’s Uncle Rico. Ballman and Hughes have dated for two years, but she has known Hernandez for longer.

“I’m more of the third wheel,” Ballman said. “They’ve got quite the friendship. It’s always interesting being with them because they’re always playing off each other. It’s kind of like watching a movie that uses quotes from other movies. When they play together on stage they have a really great chemistry.”

The band now practices in Ballman’s mother’s basement. The two alternate bringing snacks to each practice.

“The house is actually an at-home day care during the day, so we don’t get to practice a whole lot down there, but they’ve had some good night practices,” Ballman said.

Hughes and Hernandez had been Nancy’s Raygun for about a year before Ballman knew them, but she said they have made huge strides since the band’s start.

The band mate’s biggest obstacle has been dealing with people who want them to add a bass player, but they said they have no plans of caving in to pressure.

“It makes us [try harder] to sound good and have a fat sound,” Hernandez said. “That’s what sets us apart. We don’t sound super full but people still like our sound.”

Before the duo hit the dusty trail together on their bikes last week, they exchanged thoughts on their shared fascination with Nickelback and Nicolas Cage. Hughes made a reference to “Ghost Rider” and Hernandez laughed hysterically.

“Someone once told us our music sounded like a bicycle crash, and I think that’s pretty cool,” Hughes said. “I’ve crashed my bike once or twice, and it’s a thrill … It hurt, but I’m glad it happened.”


What: Human Kindness release show with Nancy’s Raygun and Gloss

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Turf Club, 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul

Cost: $5

Ages: 21+