*Life at 32
*Brandon’s relationship with his fans
*Much, much more!
Brandon Hardesty is one of the realist people we’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. His honestly and authenticity shines through in his lyrics, in his sound, and at his shows. Brandon is ¼ of the band Bumpin Uglies. He plays alongside the insanely talented Dave Wolf on Bass, TJ Haslett on drums and Chad Wright on the keys. Bumpin Uglies, coming straight out of Maryland, have been blazin’ their own path and with their upcoming album release and tour you had better get on board! Reggae 360 was given the honor of talking to Brandon Hardesty about the impending drop, the upcoming tour, and life in general. Take a moment, read the interview, and catch the vibe with Brandon and help us set the table so you can feast on Bumpin Uglies new release Beast From The East (April 6th)
Bumpin’ Uglies interview with Reggae 360
360 – You’ve got the upcoming tour, you’ve got the album release, outside of music, what are you excited about man?
Brandon – I have a beautiful wife and I’ve got a beautiful dog. My wife and I are trying to start a family, we’re trying to make a baby. It’s a cool chapter man. I’m 31 years old, I’ll be 32 in April and it’s just like, it’s all new shit and it’s just crazy to delve into something as unknown as that. But then to feel confident enough to know I’ll be able to handle it. I feel that I’m at a place in my life where I’m ready to step forward and it’s cool.
360 – A lot of the lyrics you write get deep on a philosophical level. You talk about enduring the grind, appreciating life for what it is, you have almost a stoic vibe… I’m curious man, where do you get your personal philosophy from?
Brandon – These days I just try to do what feels good and feels right. There wasn’t really any foundation that it was built upon other than observing that the best things in life tend to be the ones that felt right as opposed to the shit you try to force. That’s the approach I try to take with my song-writing too. I don’t try to force shit. If it’s not working I just bail on it.
360 – Talking about some specific songs off your new album, The Waiting Game, Optimism in F#, these songs touch upon things like mental illness, depression and anxiety. From your perspective, how important was it for you to include these issues in your songwriting?
Brandon – It would’ve been totally fraudulent for me to not talk about that because it’s something that I struggle with on a daily basis. I’ve struggled with it my entire life. That’s why my songwriting is so important for me because it’s getting my thoughts and feelings out. I try to do things that make me feel good. I try to surround myself with people who give me a good vibe, good energy. I feel like I have a good radar for good people and I try to surround myself with those good people.
360 – To piggyback off that on Instagram post from March 14th you shared a fan email and directly quoted was “no music has ever helped me stay as positive and motivated in my life this music has helped me find purpose.” can you speak on how that makes you feel? To connect with somebody and actually helped them through something in their life.
Brandon – It’s incredible. I never imagined that that would happen like that. It’s funny for me to think a lot of these songs are being seen in a positive light because they came from such a dark place. I feel like that’s something that I just started doing recently. When writing about the dark stuff I’ll keep an optimistic undertone. I feel like a lot of my early shit like White Boy Reggae is so, so morbid. For people to find hope in that, it’s incredible to me. It’s beautiful and it’s powerful, it’s humbling. I felt like that with guys like Bright Eyes and Elliot Smith. I guess the same could be said for their music, where it’s super depressing and it’s coming from a dark place, but I guess it’s that feeling of community which makes it comforting. That’s the fucked up thing about depression and I think that what really gets people is that it’s this sense of being totally alone and you don’t think that anyone feels like you feel. Maybe that’s where that comes from but it’s incredible man, there’s nothing that really compares to that.
360 – On a lighter note, Howi Spangler of BALLYHOO! , he’s featured on the album, you’ve toured with him, you guys both rep Maryland, he’s produced music for you. Can you talk about that relationship with Howi? What’s he like in the studio? What’s he like to work with?
Brandon – He’s ridiculous man and he’s super serious about it and its really impressive to me. Howi takes his craft and his music more seriously than most people take anything. All he thinks about is music and it’s dope man. We linked up with them being from Maryland and playing reggae-rock. They took us on a tour back in 2014 and then we did the album “Keep it Together” on their label so we started working together doing business and shit and just got to know each other better. Honestly I’ve never really given a shit about the studio game until this record and I’ve really learned so much from working with him because that’s his thing, that’s his area of expertise and I think it really shows on the record. Especially with this genre with all the dub elements it’s all about the backing layers. That’s one of the things that’s so impressive about a band like Stick Figure. Every time you listen to it you hear something you didn’t hear the previous times. It’s so well mixed and tones are dope it’s just cool. Now that I’ve been a part of that process I have a better understanding of it and a lot more respect for it.
360 – Yeah man in the new album you can hear it. That shit is polished so if there was any influence from that on the new album it’s definitely tangible. You can hear it.
Brandon – When I’ve been talking to people about the new record I’ve been trying to explain to them that it’s the best version of what we’ve always done. I don’t think it’s really that different, I think it’s way more complex and there’s way more flavors to it. And that’s all Howi. That shit wouldn’t have happened without Howi. He’s the one that made that shit a reality and it’s incredible. I’m so thankful to have worked with him to make this record.
360 – A lot of songs you guys have released throughout the years have resonated with me including earlier songs like Morning After and Bad Decisions and some of the newer songs like City By The Bay and Optimism in F#. Are these songs easier to write knowing their coming right from the heart or are they more difficult for the same reason?
Brandon – At this point those are the easiest to write. I wrote Optimism in F # in like 30 minutes. Last summer I was home from a tour out west to go to my buddy Joe’s wedding and that song just poured out of me. City by the Bay too that just poured out of me.
360 – You did songs from the basement on youtube, live streaming on facebook any plans on bringing songs from the basement back?
Brandon – I did start to bring those back about a month ago. I didn’t do them for a while because I was preoccupied. The live streaming kind of replaced the songs from the basement series for a while, but I’ve told myself “once per month I will do a new songs from the basement” just to keep that series going.
360 – You guys are not shy of playing acoustic music. Do you have anything planned for another acoustic album?
Brandon – So we’re actually talking about that now. I don’t know when it’s going to happen because if we get an offer on a cool tour we’re gonna take that and stay on the road, but if nothing comes up in the fall we’ll probably hop on that. What we’ve been thinking about is right when we get home from our summer tour I want to get back in the studio. I have about 30 songs written and there’s about 7 or 8 of them I want to do full band acoustic. It would be very organic sounding. There wouldn’t be any digital production on it. In my head I picture people sitting around a fire outside drinking some beers or chilling with their friends on the beach. I want to do that and I want to do a full record of dub/reggae, ska/punk with some hip-hop.
360 – Any bands out there that you’ve been vibing to lately?
Brandon – I really like The Skints and Leilani Wolfgram. The Skints is one of my favorite bands, they’re one of the coolest bands in the genre to come along since Sublime. They are just fucking dope. And once again I love rap so to hear a band blend that shit like they do is incredible. Leilani is dope because in her songwriting I hear her writing a lot about the same shit that I do. She’s honest as fuck, just some real, real honest shit. And she sings like an angel. She reminds me of Amy Winehouse more than anyone I’ve heard since Amy Winehouse. The passion she sings with and she’s got a beautiful voice on top of it. It blows my mind that she’s not bigger than she is because I think she’s the shit.
360 – What about any up and coming bands that many people may not know about?
Brandon – Trop. Tropidelic is the shit. The Ellameno Beat down in Florida they’re really dope.
360 – You represent East-Coast reggae-rock, what’s been the difference for you touring the west coast vs touring the east coast? Are there different crowds? Is there really a difference between east coast and west coast?
Brandon – It’s hard to tell because at this point we obviously do better on the east coast than we do on the west coast. We do really well in northern California which is surprising because I’ve always put the emphasis on going out to southern California but the shows out there have never really been that wild for us. But northern California like Sacramento and Oakland kill it. One of the first places I ever saw someone have my shit tattooed on them was in Oakland California. This girl I’ve never met before came to the show and was losing her mind and she had lyrics from White Boy Reggae tattooed on her. To me it’s like apples and oranges. I think that there’s the California vibe and I think there’s an east coast vibe. It’s like apples and oranges it’s hard to tell.
360 – How would describe the experience to someone that’s never been to a Bumpin Uglies show? How would you describe what they’re in for when they buy a ticket? What experience are they getting?
Brandon – I say the same thing every time and it’s “bring a diaper.” I think we’re a pretty dope live band, I think that’s where we thrive. Especially in the past year after picking up Chad. We did the power trio thing forever and I felt that we were cool then but with Chad now man it’s dope. There’s a bunch of different shit that we do. We do three part harmonies, we do harmonized guitar licks and dueling solos, we do the dub reggae, we do the reggae love songs, we do the ska punk, we do the hip hop, it’s just a high energy live show. And ultimately if we get to the point where we are crushing venues like selling shit out everywhere we go, I want to get to the point where we do like “An evening with the Bumpin Uglies”. We could do a whole evening of all the different shit that we do.
360 – Even though you guys are blowing up you still meet fans. You’ll actually hang out before or after a show and talk to people.
Brandon – I will always do that shit. It’s so lame when artists aren’t trying to acknowledge their fans or act like their support isn’t the reason they’re doing what they’re doing. None of us would have jobs if it wasn’t for people buying tickets and buying t-shirts. I will never take that shit for granted. Maybe I just don’t understand it because I’ve never been in the position of having hundreds of people at the show rushing me but my goal is to always make myself available. I just want to be able to talk to people and have honest conversations. And most of all to express how thankful I am for the support that people show us to allow us do what we do.
360 – When people meet you Brandon what kind of shot should they buy you? Or are you a beer guy?
Brandon – No I like my shots. These days I’m really into tequila. Espelon tequila is what I encourage people to try if the bar has it. Jameson is always a good go to. For beers I really like stouts and pilsners.
360 – At one point you were in school going for a finance degree, and thank God you didn’t finish. But I’m curious if you did get that finance degree what would you be doing right now?
Brandon – Probably something with finance (laughs). Probably restructuring peoples loans or some shit man I don’t know. When I was doing that I was still playing in a band too, which was night and day. On one hand something made me feel more alive and more OK about myself than anything I’d ever done and on the other hand I was just forcing myself every fucking day to show up. In every aspect I was forcing myself. I was like oh my god this is not enjoyable I’m doing this just for security like it’s a safe bet you know? But the grass is always greener. Now I’m healthy, I’m doing what I want and I’m working towards something and I think I’m making good moves. Most important thing man, is I’m happy. I’m happy with what I’m doing. I feel like I have a purpose.
360 – Amen man. As long as you’re happy in life that’s all that matters. I have a feeling that this album is going to bring a lot of people happiness as well. Personally I can’t wait to pick it up on Friday. I know you are waiting to go rock a show so we’ll let you go but thank you for talking with us. Much appreciation. Peace Brotha!
We appreciate the time Brandon spent with us. He speaks from the heart and that is evident throughout this interview. Want to hear more realness from Brandon? Well go get your copy of Bumpin Uglies newest album “Beast From The East”! You don’t want to miss out on this one! Thank you to Brandon for the time spent with us.
Nothing but love for the Uglies!