Local Waves, Episode Three: Brandon Hardesty

Bumpin Uglies tour SurfRhythm Music
Brandon Hardesty,
Brandon and his soon to be wife, Sophia. Photo Credit, Sophia Tobin (Facebook).

On Friday, June 19th, I had an opportunity to continue my search for learning about the history of popular music in Annapolis and the experiences that the musicians share. This local wave proved incredibly radical, giving me new insight into the experiences of a more recent and extremely popular local group, Bumpin’ Uglies. On the night of their new CD release party, I was able to sit down with their lead singer and guitarist, and our local wave being featured today: Brandon Hardesty.

Another big time local player, Brandon has been working tirelessly for years both by himself and with his band to promote themselves as a huge part of the Annapolis music scene. And it has definitely paid off. While somewhat of a new convert to surf music, every time I see the Uglies, I enjoy their work more and more, thanks to the effort put in by Brandon, as well as musicians Dave Wolf on bass, and TJ Haslett on drums. If you are in the area, you should not miss this group.

Like always, the views expressed by the artist are only those of the experiences that they have been through. Any younger readers, who happened to stumbled upon this, now would be the time to talk to mom and dad if you can’t handle expletives. Otherwise, sit back, and get ready to ride.

Brandon Hardesty Eastport A Rockin
Brandon performing with his band, Bumpin' Uglies at Eastport A Rockin', 2015. Photo Credit, Matt Frye (Facebook).


Henry Pazaryna: So recently, I have been doing some interviews talking to local musicians and their experiences in Annapolis. Do you mind talking about your first music experiences, starting off with Bumpin’ Uglies, and then go from there?

Brandon Hardesty: Yeah man. I started playing guitar when I was seventeen and me and my friend who I initially started the band with, back in the day, before there was even a thought of the band, we were seventeen and would just go down to the harbor and he played djembe and I would play acoustic guitar. We would jam, just like busking, before I even knew what that word meant. We would just go out and play for tips and shit. We would just play until we made enough money to get a thirty pack, and we would go to the liquor store and get one of the dudes out front to buy us a thirty pack, and then that would be the end of that. Then we would go to a party, or whatever, and rinse, wash, and repeat. But instead of tips, we were looking for girls. I did that for a while and kind of lost it for a minute, but then I turned twenty one and I started doing open mics. There used to be an open mic at Acme that Jimi Haha ran, and I would hit that. That and Stan and Joes were both on Mondays, and the Whiskey did one on Tuesdays, and I would just do that, over and over and over again. I was like, “Man, I really like doing this.” I really liked doing this, you know? I put the band together and started doing it. Then it was all downhill from there (chuckles).

HP: So what year was this around?

BH: It was 2008.

HP: How old are you now?

BH: I just turned twenty nine in April.

HP: You’re twenty nine? Man, you look like you are twenty two.

BH: I just shaved, so… (laughing).

HP: It must be a surfer mentality or something.

BH: It’s funny. My little brother just had his twenty eighth birthday, and he was giving me shit. He said, “You know, everyone thinks I’m older!” And I said, “Dude, all right.” That’s not a compliment any more, but I’ll take it (laughs).

HP: That’s funny. So this is 2008. At that point, what was the band’s first venue?

BH: The Whiskey, man. The Metro didn’t even exist.

HP: So you must have been pretty bummed when they destroyed the Whiskey.

BH: Dude, I cried my eyes out. It was one of… I could count on one hand the number of times I have cried post puberty. That was one of them. I lost it. I was there on the last night. It sucked. It was just awful. I put my band together at that place. Like I said, initially it was just me and my friend Zach, and I would do that open mic. My first drummer was a guy I went to high school with who I hadn’t seen in years, and I just ran into him. And I was like, “Dude, I play guitar now and I do this thing.” And he said, “I play drums. Do you have a band?” And I said, “No. Let’s jam.” My bass player, Wolfie, that I have played with for five years now, he was in a band called The Cheaters that played there all the time, and he used to just hang out there. Every Tuesday night was like a thing at the Whiskey, back in the day. It was the shit. Everyone was there. At one point I had a six piece band. I played acoustic guitar, had an electric guitar player, I had a saxophone player, Zach played congas and shit. All that shit. Every Tuesday, we would do the Whiskey open mic. That was just the shit. Our first three album releases were at the Whiskey. When they tore that down, it sucked. It was a dagger to my heart.

HP: So now that it’s gone, and I know that you guys have done some touring, locally, where are the biggest places that you play? Nationally later, but locally in Annapolis: what are the best venues that you guys enjoy doing?

BH: The Metropolitan is the spot, now. That’s a good show. Ram’s Head is cool, but it’s not our kind of venue. It’s sit down and dinner crowd. Our shows are kind of rambunctious. Armadillo’s is a lot of fun, but it’s kind of weird right now with what they are doing, but I have always really liked playing Armadillos because it’s kind of like punk rock. It’s really tight, sweaty, and drunk. It’s fun. I like playing there a lot.

HP: Every time I have been to Armadillo’s, there has always been a DJ there. I guess I have just never been around on the days the bands play.

BH: Dude, back in the day, back when I was sneaking into bars and shit, they didn’t even have DJ’s or whatever. It was live music. Bands every weekend, and it was like this awesome environment of all the musicians. They would all hang out there. It was like what the Whiskey became, kind of. And then, they started doing DJ’s. Even then, it sucked. It was all downhill from there. Even when they have been doing DJ’s, they still would have shows upstairs every once in a while. They did it as much as every weekend for a while, and it was awesome. It was just crazy and wild.

HP: Would you be willing to talk about your experiences seeing Annapolis as it’s changed over the last couple of years? As a local guy, I have definitely noticed how, not “yuppy – fied” its become, but it’s definitely different than what it was.

BH: Yeah, I guess. It’s grown. I’ve lived in Annapolis my whole life and a running joke, a running shtick of mine is “I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’m going to live here as long as I can afford to.” I truly believe. I love this city. I will live here as long as I can. And it’s grown, a lot. It was a town at one point, and it’s a city now. I remember being a kid and walking into the Market House. You could smell the fried chicken.

HP: Dude, I miss that Market House. Getting cups of Cream of Crab soup? I would demolish those.

BH: Yeah, man. I have waited tables for years at Middleton’s. You would walk over and get a donut before your shift. It was awesome. I feel like that was really the first nail in the coffin of the town that was Annapolis. Now it’s a city. And it is what it is. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, because it’s preserved its integrity and the character that makes it what it is. It’s just more people, you know? It’s good for the economy. You get your chains that come in and the crazy yuppie shit, but there is a lot of character. There is a huge art district here. I have been all over the country and I swear to god that Annapolis has one of the best music scenes I have ever seen. And I don’t just say that because I am a part of it. I couldn’t give a fuck less. It doesn’t matter. I don’t need to justify what I’m doing. But it truly does have the most talented and diverse music scenes. Part of that is because there are so many bars here that have live music. I can speak from personal experience – you can be a musician, and be a working musician around here. You’re not going to have a lot of luck, unless you are like… like Pressing Strings. Jordan Sokel and Pressing Strings kill it playing his own work every night, because he is the fucking man. I personally play six or seven nights a week a lot of times, and I do a lot of cover stuff during the week, but it’s awesome. I don’t mind it, because it’s work. It’s better than waiting tables. It’s better than fucking not making money doing something that’s not music. There are a lot of cities, most cities, you would have a hard time finding an atmosphere and businesses that allow you to be a working musician. That is something that is great. And I think Annapolis has always been like that, but it got better with the growing economy. It kinda sucks, because it has lost a lot of the character. Like I said, I have waited tables here since I was eighteen, and one of the things – it’s like a double edged sword. Every summer, it’s the busy season, but it’s tourist season, and it’s just dumb. Getting crab cakes and tipping ten percent. Whatever. But it keeps me alive. It could go the way of Detroit and totally collapse upon itself. It’s very important to our city.

HP: So aside from Annapolis, where are the most favorite places that you guys have been to, nationally? And even internationally – have you done that yet?

BH: As far as international, they only thing we did was the British Virgin Islands. We did fly to get there, so that was cool.

HP: So nationally.

BH: Nationally. I love St. Augustine and I love San Diego. Specifically Ocean Beach. If I had to move somewhere, those are some of the places I would move. It’s cool. Good environment, same vibe, good music scene. Laid back. St. Augustine, way more so. It’s very small and has a beach vibe to it. Small town vibe. It’s actually, St. Augustine is going through what Annapolis went through probably ten or fifteen years ago, where it’s like people are finding out about it, and they are just invading. But, you know, whatever, it’s good for their economy.

HP: Listening to your music: what kind of influences did you draw from when you were writing? Is there anything that you can compare yourself to, or are you just trying to do your own work?

BH: Musically, like melodies, guitar chords, and rhythm patterns and shit, Sublime is what I am trying to do.

HP: That’s a big inspiration for you?

BH: Yeah. I’m not really a good musician at all. I’m a songwriter and a singer. Not a great guitar player. I have never claimed to be a great guitar player. But I love Sublime. When I started this band, that’s what I wanted to do. It’s what I enjoyed playing at the time. And it’s working. There is a lot to be said for branding. That’s what this band does. We do the ska – punk, reggae dub thing, and I love playing that. I grew up listening to Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, Neil Young, storytellers. The Avett Brothers is one of my favorite bands. I love Bright Eyes. Lyrically, that’s what I try to do for Bumpin’ Uglies. I try to take the Sublime grooves and the dub reggae ska punk shit and make these songs that have stories. Real stories that I have gone through, and my friends have gone through, or stuff that I have seen or something I think is clever. Either way, I want it to be clever. 90’s Hip Hop too, that was a big influence of mine, lyrically. Eminem, Big L, Tupac.

HP: Finishing up. In the next couple years, you said you will stay here until you can’t afford it. Do you see yourself going anywhere else, or jut bopping around?

BH: Hell no. Dude, if I go anywhere else, it’s going to be Arnold or Edgewater (laughs). I’m getting married in a few months. We are looking at houses right now. I have been saving since I was eighteen to buy a house, and my girl is pretty good with money. She is better than I am with money, honestly. We are trying to buy a house, and we have saved up a decent amount. We really want to get something in Hillsmere. It seems like the community is great, and the property value isn’t crazy expensive. Even if we don’t do that, we will still stay a hop, skip and a jump away. I’m not leaving. Unless I have to.

Once again, very special thanks go out to Brandon for sitting down and talking with us at SurfRhythm. I would very highly recommend catching Brandon as a solo artist or Bumpin’ Uglies as a band. If you are looking for a great time, check out the information below and look no further. As always, thanks again for reading, and catch you soon for the next installment of Local Waves.

Bumpin Uglies tour SurfRhythm Music
Bumpin' Uglies newest release, "Freakout Hell Bus" tour dates.

Bumpin’ Uglies website: http://bumpinugliesmusic.com/

Vacationer – “The Wild Life” (video)

Music and surfing, surfing and music…like a coach and a team, peaches and cream, etc. They go insanely well together.

Vacationer - The Wild Life - Official Video
Kenny Vasoli of Vacationer

I’ve recently been doing a series of interviews with musicians that surf, mostly because the conversations flow when the common ground of surfing is the topic. To add to that, I genuinely like the music my interview subjects produce; maybe even more like love.

It may be because their water experience flows into their music and resonates with me. Though I’ve not met or interviewed Kenny Vasoli, lead singer of Vacationer, as of yet, I decided to post up the band’s latest single and video, “The Wild Life”. It’s off their album Relief, which was released on June 23rd.

Kenny’s a surfer, see, and though their label describes this song as “[mixing] the influence of The Beach Boys, J. Dilla and LCD Soundsystem into a sonic mai tai,” throwing down comparisons simply puts mental walls around the experience of a first listen without the influential notion of trying to pick out other bands’ sounds and musical styling.

Plus, I have a fundamental problem with the Beach Boys comparison. At least give Kenny some credit, he actually surfs, while the band once dubbed “America’s Band” only had one member who ever even set foot on a board, and only casually at that.

I might be using logic that only surfers will understand, but the surfing aspect of life, once taken root, shows through in the music. Hence the reason that while The Beach Boys were embraced by the mainstream and labeled “surf music” by the clueless masses, it was never considered surf music by real surfers of the day; an era of surfing defined by counter-culture rebellion, when surfers were outcasts. We’re not outcasts anymore (most of us, at least), but the essence and attitude of surfing still remain. It’s a drug, it’s addictive, and it teaches us things about life that simply can’t be learned elsewhere.

While “The Wild Life” isn’t a song I fell immediately in love with, it’s clear from the video imagery that Kenny has been to many places similar to where I’ve traveled. That tropical and carefree attitude is palpable in both the song and video, and I can sense that song coming to him on a trip somewhere in Central America, where the pace of life slows down considerably, allowing for freer, right-brained type of thought.

The parts that really hook me in and put a smile on my face: The feeling of being on a surf trip that the video evokes, and the lyrics, “No point in making plans, the wild life is human nature.” Go off the grid, get in the water, live life at its purest. Ahhh. I’m all for “The Wild Life”.

Check out Vacationer’s website and their Facebook.

Wounded Warrior Event – 2014 East Coast Surf Film & Music Festival – Sat. May 24th

GSN and the City of Norfolk Present MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND – Wounded Warrior Event 2014 East Coast Surf Film & Music Festival
OPEN TO PUBLIC – VENDOR VILLAGE + SURF FILMS at Nauticus National Maritime Museum Grant Austin Taylor Concert USS BATTLESHIP WISCONSIN

MC Dr. Bruce Gabrielson, Surfing Legend and Distinguished Scientist, Wave Trek Surfboards Among the many VIP guests Includes: Gen Mike Flynn, Director, DIA, Chuck Linnen, Surfing Hall of Fame and Walk of Fame, Scott Dawson, Outer Banks Historian, Mickey McCarthy and Brian Magletta, Surf Photographers, Shapers Mike Rowe and Allen White, and Surf Champions Barbara Redgrave and Brett Barley. Kicking off the music festival will be Grant Austin Taylor, award winning songwriter and guitarist. There will also be a special guest at the Endless Summer showing. There will be a private VIP gathering on Friday night at the Nauticus prior to the festival.


How the surf bug bit me – part 1

Jeff Schad, Surfboard, Natures Shapes, Long Island
Jeff Schad, Surfboard, Natures Shapes, Long Island
20 some-odd years after that first inkling to pick up a board

That title reads more like a junior level essay, but after counting up the months since I’ve paddled out for a session I started digging deep for a surfy post to write. Without any recent water time to recap, and with that deep itch starting to really need a scratch, my thoughts about surfing started getting more existential–i.e. I started going back in my mind, all the way to the beginning.

My adventures in surfing began most unexpectedly. I grew up a 30 minute drive from the ocean, so while it was never far away, my town was devoid of surfers or any type of scene… This was Long Island in the ’90’s, and even the denizens of our beach towns didn’t embrace surfing anywhere near how it is today, so living in a town that was not on the ocean made surfing even more of a great unknown. Most people where I grew up considered it a fringe activity for derelicts.

One summer day when I was 14, I drove to the Hamptons with my mom to spend the day on the sand out in front of a friend’s beach house. By that time I had started bodyboarding, learning a little bit about waves and the power of the ocean during our frequent family beach trips, but I had never witnessed surfing in good waves until that day in the Hamptons. It was August, and looking back now I realize that a solid hurricane swell must have been pumping that day, as the waves were a few feet overhead, and crackling nicely over an outside sandbar. Today I’m dialed in to the ever-changing conditions we get on the East Coast, but then I had almost no concept of waves and swells and where they came from.

Looking to the lineup, I saw about a dozen surfers frenzying over the substantial lines coming in. Seeing the speed and projection they got mesmerized me; realizing how much more fun they seemed to be having standing up compared to me and my belly-dragging sponge, I proclaimed that very day upon exiting the water that I would get a surfboard and learn to surf. I doubt my mom took me seriously, but I was locked on to this and didn’t let it go.

Several months later we walked into Bunger Surf Shop in Babylon, an iconic shop owned by the Bunger family–a part of the roots of Long Island surfing. With only the faintest clue about boards and my needs as a beginner, Tommy Bunger pulled a few out of the racks, and I settled on a wide, 6’10” Spectrum shortboard.

I already had a decent wetsuit, thanks to my bodyboarding bent, and now I had an amazing fiberglass craft that would help lead me to a feverish addiction that has gripped me to varying degrees for the last 24 years. But I still had to wait for the frozen depths of winter to  pass before I could take my board to the beach and paddle out for the very first time.

All I pictured and dreamed about in my mind that long winter was paddling out into fresh, crackling waves like I saw that day in the Hamptons. The thoughts were simple and sublime, and I had no way of knowing the adventures, lessons and good fortune that awaited me in years to come. All I cared about was that I owned a board, therefore I was already a surfer, right?

To be continued…