Q&A: The Goddamn Hustle's Ashley Reda on Growing Up and Apathy Swag
Full disclosure: I've known the Goddamn Hustle's frontman, Ashley Reda, since I was 10 years old. We attended elementary school and then high school together, and I used to watch him and his friends skateboard on our respective blocks. He played in bands the entire time. The Goddamn Hustle is the best one.
The band is bluesy, noisy, and jangly, good for whiskey drinking in the back of the bar or dancing toward the front of the stage, which their crowds are wont to do -- they've become Poor House regulars. Their self-proclaimed "bluegazing garage pop" really does warrant such a label: They've got all the energy and grit of a garage band, the danceable accessibility of pop music, and -- well, we're not really sure about the "gazing" part, but that's OK. We'll take it.
New Times: You've been playing music since I met you. What bands were you in before this one, and how did everyone come together to form the Goddamn Hustle?
Ashley Reda: Before GDH, the only legit, show-playing, music-recording bands I was in were Madelyn, when I was in high school, and Chasing Manhattan, which was actually when Chris Ament and I started making music together. We moved to Gainesville for a while and started what eventually became this band. When we came back to Lauderdale, we started hanging out with Adam Guagliardo, who we knew of from school but never talked to. His bass was at Gold-N-Connection Pawn Shop with my guitar, and upon finding that out, I knew it was perfect. We came across Derek Jerome on a hunt for a full-time drummer. We found him on Craigslist, and he had some goofy picture, and it said he liked beer and some random sick bands, and after two days, he learned our set and it was done.
Tell me what random sick bands he liked! I'm curious about what music you dig, anyway, so elaborate on that.
As a band, we have superwide influences. Chris and I bonded over gangster rap and early '90s indie rock. I think we owe a lot of our apathy swag to bands like Pavement and Guided by Voices, because there is just something that all these high-resolution recordings can't capture. There is a certain heart and soul to those lo-fi recordings that I love. We all have widely varying tastes that mostly agree with each other -- old punk bands like the Ramones and the Dead Kennedys, postpunk like the Cure, New Order, Elvis Costello, and the Jam, and of course awesome, newer bands like the Strokes (I hated Angles, sorry), anything involving Jack White, the Black Keys, Smith Westerns, Yuck, and the Soft Pack. The list could go on forever. I personally couldn't survive without Pinkerton and the full-length Ambulance LTD CD, but besides that, I could sit here for weeks going on and on.
OK, please tell me about apathy swag (your love of lo-fi, right?)? Do you factor that into your recording process?
Apathy swag... Ha ha. Well, I guess in actuality that has a lot to do with our approach as a band as a whole. It's minimalism in essence, cutting out all that extra shit (pardon me) and leaving what's really meaningful exposed. It goes into our songwriting and recording. Even though we're into all sorts of space noise and weird layers, we try and cut to the core of what we are trying to put out. We try hard to re-create live shows in the studio because we love our live shows. Live music is what we are really all about. It really comes down to the act of not caring at all while also caring a bunch about what we feel is important. We aren't gimmicky; we don't pretend to be people we aren't. Our music is something that we play because we believe in it as much as possible. Every single word you hear, we stand behind 100 percent, and it's that heart and soul a lot of modern music has really given up on.
Every single word I hear is true? Tell me what inspires the lyrics. Who writes most of your songs?
As a band, we try to keep it as much of a collaboration as possible. Most of the songs start off between me and Chris. Chris and I have some sort of awesome bond where ideas can flow really naturally between the both of us. As far as the subject matter, I try and write lyrics not just about one thing at a time but almost as a snapshot of a certain moment or group of moments in my life. It's a lot easier for me to not feel repetitive if it's a specific moment described in kind of vague, general terms. I like people coming up and telling me what they thought the lyrics meant to them and for everyone who hears it to be able to relate and apply it to their own lives. That has always been what is so beautiful about music, in my opinion -- a song can have so many meanings to so many different people but affect them all just as much. Our new record deals a lot with trying to remember who you are when you've become something completely different without realizing it. It's a lot about growing up and dealing with things not turning out the way you want. For me, it is the realization that people and situations will never stay the way you want them to forever, but that is all the more reason to enjoy what's going on while it's happening. We love having fun, and although sometimes the things we are talking about are dark and honest, it's not about harping on what could have been but trying to be happy no matter what comes at you.
As an aside, when did you and Chris meet?
Chris and I met in some peer counseling class in middle school, and we both skateboarded, so we hung out there with some kid whose dad had a ponytail. We started hanging out all the time when he moved back from Montana in high school and, like I said, bonded over an ultrasimilar taste in music and fun times. We hung out every day, made some Get Up Kids-sounding band for a couple years, then got really jaded about the people in the music scene when we moved to Gainesville. We kind of became hermits because of how fake and stupid lots of the people we were meeting were.
I remember you guys hanging out a lot at school. Anyway, I think the theme of your new record is great. Does it kind of characterize what you're going through as a young adult? You don't have to get too personal, of course...
As far as the record goes, it corresponds with a definite chapter in my life where there was a lot of personal growth. I'm probably at the end of that chapter right now, actually. It's way easier for me to write about something from a hindsight perspective because it's easier to have a more level idea of the situation you're trying to describe. If I write during certain times, I don't even know how I really feel and I'm superinfluenced by what's going on around me and my immediate response. When we were younger, the songs were about girls breaking our hearts or stuff like that and how it immediately felt; then we got a little older and realized how often that happens and eventually stopped caring. We realized that some things will make you feel some ways, but the best part is saying "fuck it" and being a little tough and putting on "It Was a Good Day" by Ice Cube and having fun through all the more unpleasant stuff in life. That's what I've learned, at least.
So you've grown up, for sure, and I think the Goddamn Hustle is a really good representation of that. It's definitely more mature. When did you move back here from Gainesville? Were you playing any music up there?
GDH actually started when Chris moved up to Gainesville to play music with me. We started writing really different music, got a different rhythm section that lived in Gainesville, and worked on a lot of songs up there. It was an awesome and terrible time. We had really good friends in other bands, namely Planet Canvas (RIP), and we had this super-cool period of just producing art and hanging with friends. We lived like a bootleg Kerouac novel, and for a while, it was pretty positive. But after a while, everyone got real jaded and hooked on drugs and it got real bad. Chris and I came down here on vacation and stayed to get away from this tortured, strung-out indie-band life we had made. It was hard to make anything of substance. It was definitely a formative time for us. It was amazing to meet new people and musicians I love and respect, but it also was sad to watch great minds of our generation piss away their talents over dumb shit.
Wow. I heard stories about that house, actually. Moving on -- you've got some live recordings. What are you working on in terms of an EP or an album?
We put one lo-fi live record from a show in Gainesville called Live! At Chris's Ex-Girlfriend's House, which had terrible quality but allowed people to judge our sound. We have an eight-song album coming out at the end of October called ...Ruined My Life that we are superexcited about. We recorded most of it in a warehouse with our friend Phil and mixed it with him down at Sunflower Studios in Hollywood. Jordy Asher, a friend from one of my favorite bands, Young Circles, is mastering it. We took a very DIY approach to it, but it's awesome to produce something completely with friends, and I'm really, really happy with the product. We just put out a promo video for our first single, "Bodies." Our manager, Andrew Urban, who also does badass photography, did this sick stop-motion video he filmed at one of our shows. He put together like 5,000 photos. He takes care of business. So as you can see, we've picked up productivity a lot since Gainesville.
When can we expect this upcoming album, and when are you guys going to play next?
We are shooting to release the CD physically sometime in November and have our release party for it at Fat Cat's. We hang out there a lot, and the dudes who work and own that place have always been supercool and supportive of us. We just put a video out for the first single, "Bodies," and are working on another video for "Dirty Little Pet Names" now with Andrew Urban and B.J. Golnick.
The Goddamn Hustle. With Suede Dudes and Atlas Complex. 11 p.m. Saturday, October 8, at the Poorhouse, 110 SW Third Ave., Fort Laudedale. No cover. Click here.
Swarm 666. With Astronautalis, Astrea Corporation, the Goddamn Hustle, Rickolus, and more. Saturday, October 29, at Swarm Warehouse, 500 SW 21st Terrace, Fort Lauderdale. No cover. Click here.
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