Mellow electronica is a tricky musical area to tread. Too heavy or erratic and you run the risk of confusing ears like Stravinsky’s famous “Rite of Spring” debacle, but too mellow and you might lose the collective attention of the crowd. Hailing from the great northwest, Hustle and Drone are walking the fine line betwixt the two, and have recently finished their debut self-titled EP, available for free download online. Comprised of Kirk Ohnstad and Ryan Neighbors, the duo is now embarking on a west coast tour to showcase their new work.
Neighbors recently decided to leave the band Portugal The Man, and his renewed enthusiasm for creating music is entirely transparent in this new project. With strong electronic influences softened with dulcet vocals and harmonies, their sound is engaging yet smooth. Hustle and Drone are just getting started, yet definitely a band to keep your eye on in the coming months. Synthesis caught up with these two and discussed Neighbors’ departure from Portugal The Man, power animals, and chicken wings.
How did the band come to be?
RN: Kirk and I played music from about 2004-2007 in a band called Shepherds of Ontario. Our musical tastes have always gelled well and we were sitting down for chicken wings in February, started talking about starting a new band, and pretty much wrote “Index” the next day.
KO: Ryan and I ate fried pickles, nodded in agreement, and decided to be the greatest ever.
What’s your creative process like?
RN: We both write most of the parts together, whether it’s drums, keys, bass, or vocals. We are writing and jamming together and very vocal and outspoken about parts. There’s not much bullshit between us as we have a musical history that goes back ten years. He’ll say, “Ryan you sound like a loser,” and I’ll say, “No Kirk, YOU sound like a loser.” I wouldn’t have it any other way.
KO: We are generally more conceptual songwriters…starting with vivid imagery or a single feeling; our songs seem to start naturally about an idea.
Ryan, you recently chose to leave the band Portugal The Man. How is the experience of playing for H&D different?
RN: It’s completely different. I went from playing keyboards for someone else’s songs, to writing and singing for a band. Doing all the work between three people (we have a live musician named Ryan Moore who’s tremendous), booking our own shows, paying for flights. I kind of forgot that I didn’t have to worry about that stuff before. I have a job now.
What’s the most interesting thing about you?
RN: I can’t read.
KO: My power animal is the squirrel.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
RN: Doing our eyeliner.
KO: We do bible readings… Job and Isaiah mainly.
In the ongoing battle between those who believe music should be available for free download vs. people who think it should be purchased, where do you stand?
RN: I say buy it if you want to. I buy on iTunes because it’s convenient. I buy music on vinyl when I live in a house with a record player, and take music for free from people’s computers. I would rather someone have my music for free, than not have it. Here is a link to our EP for free: www.hustleanddrone.com/ep
KO: Make it free. You can’t stop the Internet.
If you could tour with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose?
RN: Radiohead. Or Harry Nilsson.
KO: Jimmy Carter campaign.
Are you optimistic about the direction that the music industry is heading?
RN: Not really, but it’s hard to say. I’m comfortable with it.
KO: I’m interested, but not necessarily optimistic…
What song exists that you wish you’d written?
RN: “Idioteque” by Radiohead.
KO: “Air” by La Femme D’Argent.
If you weren’t musicians, what would you be?
RN: NBA player or Quizno’s Sandwich Artist.
KO: Nobel Prize winners.
I’m an average denizen of Chico. Convince me to come to this show.
KO: We love dudes, even though we’re not gay. Ladies, don’t be intimidated by us, we’re here for the bros.
RN: We are probably the best new band in America.
Well kids, there you have it. Don’t miss Portland’s Hustle and Drone on November 3rd at Café Coda. Show starts promptly at 8 p.m. and will set you back a mere $5.