Winter’s comin’ and I’ve got a debut…and what a night it was. Months in the making, Wyllys and the New York Hustler Ensemble made their first appearance ever at Sullivan Hall on December 30th as part of the Phish After Party series thrown by CEG. The gig blew all of our expectations out of the water and we can’t wait to do it again. We already have three more gigs in the books but that’s for another article.
[Photo by Laura Wainer]
I figured my column here on HT would be a great place to give the public insight as to how the project came together, our method of writing/rehearsing, and what we plan to do in the future. If you, the reader, thinks this reeks of shameless self promotion, you’re right. But who better to interview me than myself. ENJOY.
About two years ago I began collecting Nu Disco and Re Edit records when I lived in Chicago. My DJ partner Lax Class had turned me onto the genre and I slowly became obsessed with it. The style seemed to be what Dubstep is to Drum and Bass; a slower, funkier and more psychedelic version of its predecessor. I loved the tunes but couldn’t figure out how people were suppose to dance to it. It was a drastic tempo change from House but still had the 4-on-the-floor groove. The more I listened, I started to identify the main components of each record. Indigenous instruments and soulful vocals were on almost all of the tunes. I figured if I really wanted to play this style out in the clubs I would need to magnify these human attributes, and what better magnifiying glass than actual humans.
READ ON for more on The Hustlas’ debut performance…
My wife, the unbelievably talented Jennifer Hartswick, had been listening to me bump house for the last eight years and was more than happy to join the team as my band director. I chose Natalie Cressman and Peter Apfelbaum to join the horn section because the three of them had so much experience improvising with each other and I wanted improv to be a big part of our live show. It’s one thing to arrange a bunch of tunes and mix them together, but its an entirely different animal to take those tunes to places their producers didn’t think possible.
Jen and I took the month of December to bounce ideas off of each other, arrange a playlist, figure out the keys and put together what I call the “bones” of the set. After assembling the bones, I went into the studio and recorded the structure to distribute to the horn section so that they could get comfortable with the material, which entailed what key each song was in, where the breakdowns were and how long until I would start the mix into another record. We would also be gradually raising the tempo from Nu Disco to House as the night went on, bringing the party to a raging pace the way any dance party should progress.
After recording I sat down with the set and concocted three events (beginning, middle and end) that would happen to give it a rock show feel, not just a guy up there playing tunes and horns playing over them. Jen and I decided where our improv sections would be and who would lead them and scheduled a rehearsal for the 30th in Brooklyn at Peter’s house. Zac Lasher (UMelt) and Kevin Cassels (Mother Vinegar) would be our special guests for the evening but wouldn’t attend rehearsal. They were sent tunes before hand and were expected to be ready to go when they arrived.
[Photo by Jessica Coughlin]
That brings us to the show. You can stream and download it here for free. The show far exceeded all of our expectations and the crowd response was amazing. Sure, there are some loose parts and there is certainly lots of room for improvement, but you can say that about every band. The synergy of the live musicians, the girls singing back up and the track selection cruised through the night, clocking in at three hours.
I only left the decks for 15 min. All the “antics” went almost exactly as planned and certainly helped supply the rock show vibe. The horn section was all over every key change and slowly built their lines as the songs progressed. There were even a few TAB style breakdowns a-la Money, Love, and Change throughout the set. All in all, the set was a huge success and we’re already hard at work on our next set.
Thank you so much to everyone who came out to witness a truly unique musical endeavor come to life. The Hustlers can’t wait to come to your town and help you party down.
Credits: Audio mixed and recorded live by Mike Lawler. Post Production mixing by Brendan Twitchell