Interview With California Indie Band New American Hustle

by tonedefsound

Rap rock, fuzzy guitar riffs, sampled beats and turntable scratches straight from the Sugar Ray “Fly” era… what?? We’re back in the #90s boi! Wait, hashtags weren’t a thing back then, were they? It was called a pound sign. But whatever, girlfriend! We’re rehashing the best of the 90’s and leaving out the trash (this includes but is not limited to JNCOs, No Fear t-shirts and Spin Doctors). 

With a resurgence in all thangs 90’s, it’s time to bring up New American Hustle. Destination Go-Go is the latest brainchild album of Mr. Ian Smith (quite a 90’s name indeed!) serving as songwriter and composer in a medley of sounds and genres spanning across his nine-track album and performed by studio musicians. 

We know what you’re thinking, “studio musicians.” Bleh. Anyone with a bulging back pocket can hire studio musicians to “add a cool guitar riff here” or “throw in a thumping bass and drum solo there” but it takes a different kind of artist to compose and transcribe the workings of a brain to a digitally manufactured masterpiece of 90’s sounds with a face-punching, modern twist. 

In songs like “Rum & Coca” you “got milk?” errr you got summer-y, chillin-wit-da-top-down-while-driving-to-the-beach, kinda-rock vibes coinciding with The Streets styled Brit-rap mixed in with offbeat female-fronted mumble-rap thrown in for good measure. It sounds like it could be chaotic, but it’s anything but. The pieces blend together like a fine wine with hints of rock, rap, electronica, dub and trip-hop all bound together by a steady, kick-ass groovy beat and a rotating cast of vocalists. Give it a listen and try not to bop your head or knee along to title track “Destination Go-Go” or the chilled out “I’ll Be F*cking Drunk Today.” We double dog dare ya! 

Ian spares a few moments reminiscing of the Clinton-era to sit down and answer a few questions with us! 

Ian, how did you begin your music career and how did you eventually progress to composing these catchy-as-hell, yet eclectic songs? Ironically, I started a band in the 90’s just for fun – seems like everyone was “in a band” back in the 90’s. We never gained much traction so by the early 2000’s we called it quits. Fast forward to 2019, I was stressing out while writing my master’s thesis and needed an outlet. I started fooling around with GarageBand and all of the sudden, twenty years worth of songs started pouring out. All the musicians shared their parts via the internet, collaborating through platforms such as Airgigs, Instagram and Facebook. These musicians ranged from seasoned studio veterans to enthusiastic newcomers. I merged all these diverse musical elements virtually to produce this new music. 

Your inspiration is clearly the 90’s. What were the best and worst aspects of that decade and which are you hoping to enhance through your music? The album references everything from Radiohead, Portishead, Tricky, Beck and Weezer. Growing up with the music 

of the 90’s was like surfing the last great wave of the twentieth century. Before cellphones and the internet revolutionized pop culture, bands still truly experimented and pushed musical boundaries until nostalgia and irony started to set in. Songs like “I’ll Be Fucking Drunk Today” and “16 Hours On Cocaine” dive into the drug culture, while others like “Destination Go-Go” and “Flexxx For You” celebrate the melancholy and jaded optimism of Generation X. If you grew up during those times or are curious to hear what the music was all about, then get ready to trip on this album. 

What are both the benefits and challenges of using studio musicians to record your music? Is it difficult to convey the soundtrack in your head to the musicians? I generally write all the songs using a combination of pre-recorded loops and live instruments. I send out a rough mix to the vocalists and then send it all to my engineer for the finishing touches. With the pandemic, it’s been a very fortunate and necessary way of collaborating. 

Do your musicians have some range of freedom to give their input into your songs or do you have a clear cut idea from start to finish? Yes, I want them to improvise and bring their own favor to the sessions. It usually works out perfectly. If it goes too far off the rails, I’ll ask them to pull it back a bit. These musicians are so talented, they make my job really easy. 

How has the recent pandemic both influenced and hindered your creative outlet of musicianship? Since the musicians are technically never in the same room together, we are a pandemic-proof band! I think we can still be spontaneous and have a “live band” feel, since the style of songs supports that vibe. Even though we are a “virtual band”, I want the music to have a loose vibe. 

When can we see a live incarnation of New American Hustle and what will be your role in these live sets? Hopefully once live music starts up again, maybe you’ll see us playing together in the summer 2021? I play many different instruments, but I’m not the absolute best at any one of them. I’ll probably have more of a supporting role on stage, 2nd guitar or bass, maybe keyboards here and there. I can also be the “tambourine guy” too!

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