In “Family Economics” lead singer Rick Ballard sings: “I’m gonna ride in on the top of this tide” and man, what a tide it’s been for Gentlemen Husbands.
They seem to be cruising this year off of rave reviews from the 2008 EP, a growing fan base and a many talked about shows throughout the country. They’re on top of it. Their August 19th show at Lee’s Palace is still on the lips of many city dwellers who were amazed at their professional sound, grand anthems and toe tapping hooks. Hours before their unforgettable show, I met up with the entire band (lead singer and guitarist Rick Ballard, guitarist Ryan Hutcheson, drummer Dan Farrell and bassist Jed Atkinson) and a couple stray cats on a balcony close to Lee's. I just had to get to know these guys better. Are they really as genuine and friendly as everyone says they are? Nothing led me to believe otherwise. I'm sure even the cats would agree.
Sticky: You guys have a hectic schedule, especially with all the travelling to and from Cobourg. How do you make that happen?
Ryan: My mom’s minivan! We have done some pretty rough drives in it.
Sticky: For NXNE this summer you’ve played about 4 shows. What were some of the highlights?
Ryan: The best one was probably the Cadillac Lounge. We didn’t have the highest expectations for it but it ended up being totally packed, an awesome crowd. We had a 1 am time slot. And, it was on Saturday night. That was by far the best part about it.
Sticky: Some of you guys have played in hardcore bands. It’s great you guys have evolved your sound. What do you think of the hardcore scene now - is it dying down?
Ryan: It seems like it is but it’s probably not. I think it’s because we’re too far removed from it. I know that I went to see a few hardcore shows in the past couple of years and they don’t seem to me now what they seemed to me then. But, I bet if you were 16 and back in high school it’s still going strong.
Jed: The hardcore scene was a very fun thing. It teaches you a lot about the principles of being in a band. Especially at a young age. It makes the transition a lot easier.
Dan: Survival on the road, especially.
Ryan: The transition wasn’t that difficult. Literally from one day to the next day: we’re a hardcore band, we’re sick of it, let’s start a folk band. And when we started it was really folky.
Sticky: A lot of people have used the words “professional sounding” to describe you. Do you take this compliment to heart?
Ryan: Definitely. We’re not the type of band that wants to sound grimy and raw. We take pride in being and sounding professional. It’s something we spend a lot of time on. We want to be tight live.
Sticky: I have to say a lot of your songs like “Family Economics” is really catchy, you can’t deny it. Do you try to make such catchy hits or focus strictly to content?
Ryan: He [Rick] focuses a lot on content because he writes all the lyrics, so we have no say. He takes a lot of pride in his lyrics so we don’t interfere with it.
Rick: it’s true. We do try to make the songs catchy. If you want people to latch onto your music, you have to catch their ear. In some scenes it’s all about making it as uncatchy as possible. We like our hooks to be apparent.
Ryan: We like and appreciate pop music for what it is and there’s a lot of bands in our scene that don’t like it as much, or at all. We genuinely like catchy music.
Dan: Put on some Usher or Michael Bolton!
Jed: We do love Michael Bolton.
Sticky: You know which Michael Bolton I love? The one in Office Space. That’s one Bolton I will stand behind!
Ryan: The whole time we were recording “Family Economics” we were listening to him.
Sticky: I dig when a band isn’t afraid to be open with the music they like. On your days off, have you checked out any new bands you’re digging right now?
Ryan: We’ll go support our friends’ bands in any big festival. We try to catch Clothes Make The Man, Birthday Boys or Dinosaur Bones. Teenage Kicks is another good one. We’ve gone out of our way to see Hollerado a few times. We once drove up to Peterborough to hang out with them.
Sticky: So it’s important to you guys to have a community of other musicians supporting each other?
Jed: We’ve been developing that more and more. If everyone shares the secrets and is honest with each other, it makes it easier for everyone to get bigger, to know if you’re not doing well. If you have a band that comes up to you and says “that’s an amazing show”, you don’t necessarily learn from that. Whereas if you have a band that’s a good friend, they can come up and say “this wasn’t good and this wasn’t good”, you can fix that and change that right away. Being closer friends with bands enables you to do that.
Ryan: I feel like majority of bands get their shows through other bands. You deal with promoters every now and then but lots of the time bands say “hey do you want to play this show with us?” You can build mini tours with them. Playing with bands you actually like is more enjoyable.
Sticky: Who did you guys play with when you did your East Coast tour?
Ryan: The Bad Ideas. It was a lot of fun. We never met them before. I messaged them on MySpace and asked if they wanted to do shows together. They asked if we wanted to come on tour. That’s another example of bands being kind to one another. They’re really good friends of ours.
Dan: Some of them will be here tonight.
Sticky: Do you have any long term goals as a band or do you take it one day at a time?
Jed: It’s planned out and calculated. I’d say the most immediate goal is to get the new EP out and do a series of release dates for that, and then hopefully use that as a platform to get a manager and a label and all that kind of stuff. We’re totally independent right now.
Dan: We don’t want to work shitty day jobs anymore.
Sticky: Speaking of the EP, it’s going to be called Mirror Doll Business. How did that title come about?
Rick: It’s talking in circles. There’s a story to it but it’s not one to get into.
Sticky: So it’ll be out in the fall?
Ryan: We’re thinking September. The big release show will be at the Horseshoe in October. We love the Horseshoe, it’s a top venue. It always sounds good and there are always good people there. So, [the album] has been done for a while now. We’re just getting artwork done and all that stuff.
Sticky: The show tonight should be good. You have an unlimited guest list, which is nice. Not that many bands do that.
Rick: We don’t want people paying for music they don’t know. We’d rather give it away and they’ll know [us].
Ryan: We’ll give away CDs for free, shirts for free. We don’t like being stingy.
Jed: Just keep people in the room.