FOCUS: Good Hustles

Since being crowned Nottingham’s 2019 Band of the Year, the infallible alt-rock outfit Good Hustles have continued to excel themselves in ways one could only imagine. After a significant re-structuring of both band and sound, the troupe are back, accompanied by two colossal singles with titles far sweeter than their grungier, cavernous sound Smile and Coffee. In the bubbling wake, the foursome caught up with Matt Andrews for this week’s Nottingham FOCUS feature.

Nottingham is a city of undeniable musical talent: a scene that is, on almost every level, from open mics to arena shows, saturated with excitement and promise. Good Hustles, the four-piece that define the highs and lows of the alternative-rock genre in the local circuit, are back, sharper, bigger, and frankly, better than before.

A lockdown-induced re-structuring has seen changes not only in the band’s sound, but also in their approach to the composition and production of the burning guitar music they put out. Operating in a genre that they acknowledge as presently “expected to put out the same sort of thing,” and retrospectively realising their own past tendency to be “formulaic” in their approach to music, the band are moving forward in pursuit of innovation, something which is undeniably noticeable.

“There’s essentially a narrative that runs through the three tracks. So there will, in other words, be a third single soon.”

The band, having quickly found their feet, though perhaps on new and unfamiliar ground, maximised productivity throughout lockdown – “we had a really good thing going in July/August time. We’d just hop on a Zoom call and Nathan would have a project open on his computer and just share his screen and audio. I think we ended up writing ten songs in the space of two weeks with that sort of set up which was super fun.” After pausing to reflect on the effectiveness of their new processes, Morton (vocals and rhythm guitar) admits that “it was really important for us to experiment with any sounds we could, taking influence from different genres and finding out which direction we wanted to go in, especially considering we’d lost a member of the band.”

Besides harvesting a novel perception of their own music and how it comes about, Good Hustles have

used the lockdown to enlist ex-Fading Blonde drummer, Harvey Duddles: “We met Harvey through Fading Blonde. I remember seeing their gig, we opened for them at The Bodega, and we all just sort of stood there like, ‘that drummer’s sick, let’s try and work with him.’” With the recruitment of Duddles came an injection of energy, a certain clarity in terms of the drive behind their music – Morton recalls, “we called him up and had a jam in the studio – within twenty minutes of being there we knew what direction we were going in; it was unanimous.” This new “direction” that Morton alludes to is unavoidable in the band’s recent releases, Smile and Coffee, an ineffable scent that lines the tracks, subtle yet unavoidable.

Smile was the first track to be fashioned by the new arrangement and, as such, is telling of the band’s newfound energy. With a zealous Morton Piercewright at the helm of crashing drums and gritty guitar lines, the track carries forward many of the Good Hustles sonic tropes, minus the excess. Every aspect of this, the first of many coming single releases, is sharper than that which came before – it truly lives up to its status as “the first comeback single.” One unavoidably successful aspect of this particular track is the band’s manipulation of the relationship between instrumentation and lyricism – they seem to place a huge double-sided mirror between the two – when one becomes more animated, more provocative, the other tracks and follows, attentively; it’s a fascinating demonstration of the strikining four-piece’s understanding of their own music and how it functions as something not only to listen to, but to mimic, internally, emotionally.

Despite its standalone value, Smile belongs to a wider body of work, the latest instalment of which, Coffee was released unexpectedly on November 20th: “Smile and Coffee are part of a wider three-song structure. All of the singles are linked, all written about the same thing, we’ve got the same photographer and model for the cover art etc… There’s essentially a narrative that runs through the three tracks. So there will, in other words, be a third single soon,” Piercewright explains with a smile.

This is a band that is transcending genre and, in doing so, prioritising sound. Prioritising that ineffable feeling that only a certain breed of music evokes.

Driven by a heavy, pressing rolling bass and scratchy rhythm guitar, Coffee is Good Hustles’ grungiest

work to date and is, as a result, perhaps the most telling of the aforementioned sense of innovation in their recent music. Drawing attention to this, Piercewright described the creative and composition processes of the track, all of which took place over lockdown: “Everything was different. As well as having Duddles as a new contributor, we worked with a new producer, a guy called Callum Benson from Steel City in Sheffield who’s absolutely ridiculous. He has a really good understanding of how what makes things sound bigger, more epic, and that’s something that we’ve been really looking for.”

Piercewright made sure to give notable credit to Benson and rightly so; the general cleanliness and feeling of the track is something as of yet unheard in the band’s discography, and is all the more welcome for that. The band intends to make working with Benson a custom as their perpetual backlog of music continues to reveal itself into the backend of the year.

In light of the band’s recent releases, and perhaps equally important, the circumstances from which they have come, it is clear that Good Hustles are here to stay. Moving forward, the four-piece will continue to practice the following philosophy: “we’re not sticking to one genre at all. We’re working with a bunch of different influences at the moment, and, where our music might have been somewhat formulaic in the past, we’re evolving to keep fans on their toes.” This is a band that is transcending genre and, in doing so, prioritising sound, prioritising that ineffable feeling only a certain breed of music evokes – as a listener, it’s hard not to feel inclined to do the same.

Written by: Matt Andrews

Edited by: Olivia Stock

All photos courtesy of @jadekmedia via Instagram.