Based in sunny Los Angeles, CA, HUDSON are a quartet that offer up some dirty, bluesy, swagger-infused rock and roll that’s as artistically crafted as it is addictive. The guys released their second EP, Cast Out, in October of 2015 and are currently supporting the new music as much as possible. With driving bass lines, chugging drumbeats, whiskey-soaked vocals, slide guitar, harmonica and more, we asked guitarist and producer Chris Llewellyn to help us to better understand this talented group and their music.
For those not familiar with your band can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Llewellyn: We’re a blues-based rock n’ roll band from Los Angeles. Our sound is a continuation of all the great rock n’ roll from the late ’50s through the early ’90s, with an emphasis on newer sonics on the production end of things. We are fully self-funded and self-produced (our bassist/keyboardist Brian and I are major label producers). We are a fiercely independent band at this point in order to maintain creative control of everything you hear and see from us. We tend to be very hands on with everything from our photos and visuals, to all of our recordings. If there is something we can’t do, then we seek out the best in the business and keep them close. We have a very passionate team of individuals that help us accomplish what we need done.
As of now, on the recording end of things, we work exclusively with Andrew Wuepper for our mixes and Joe Bozzi for our mastering. Our live photographer Bo Roberts brings a unique look to our photos, and graphic designer Chris Allio of The Hydrilla helps us with our album artwork. Whenever we need our string arrangements recorded we look to string extraordinaire Stevie Blacke. And as far as our music videos, director David Beier brings a very high level of quality from the storylines and actors he casts, to the shots he gets. We also have an endless list of amazing musicians should we ever feel the need for any unique instrumentation that we can’t cover ourselves. Our manager Jarrett helps us keep everything organized and moving efficiently. We feel that having this small team surrounding us helps us to maintain a cohesiveness and level of quality that we know is needed to succeed in this crazy business.
Check out the song “Cast Out” here.
Your new disc, Cast Out, has just been released. Now that it is complete how do you feel about it, and what has been the response so far?
Llewellyn: Cast Out is our sound evolving from our first EP In the Unknown. It is a bit heavier than our earlier work, and I think it reflects our energy and emotions during that period of our lives. We are constantly trying to evolve as a band, and I think that is definitely shown on this new EP. The production is tighter as we grow as producers and our mixing engineer grows as a mixer. The response from listeners has been amazing! It’s a tough thing to break through all of the noise these days with so many artists out there doing music, but it seems like we make progress every day that passes. We have recently started doing our own radio promo, and in the last week and a half have been added to 5 major rock radio stations nationwide with plenty more on the way. The majority of the program directors we have spoken with have loved the music and commended us for taking the long hard road in order to keep our creativity pure. With the way things have been going, by the top of 2016 we should be playing on a solid number of major rock stations around the U.S.
What is your writing process like?
Llewellyn: The majority of the time it starts with the guitar riffs, and then we get a quick demo together which we then give to David. If he feels inspired by the ideas we’ve come with, then he’ll write to it and bring it back to us. If we all feel it’s a strong song, then we take it into rehearsal and test it out live. Every now and again we may have David re-write a hook or a verse if we feel it isn’t strong enough, but with the chemistry we have at this point it usually all comes together pretty easily. Once we get in and play it together, Christian will add his own variations on the initial drum beats we laid down to bring it all together. We try to play a song live a good number of times before we finish the final recording, but a lot of the time we write and record the song all at once which ends up being pretty efficient.
When you write, do you do so with the live setting in mind or do you write a song just for the song’s sake?
Llewellyn: We tend to let the songs just flow out of us as naturally as possible, but we do keep the live show in mind as well. This is why testing out our songs before deciding what is going on our EPs or albums is imperative. We got to perform all the songs on Cast Out many times before we decided on which songs were going on it and which weren’t. When we first started the band and began developing our sound we did a residency at The Viper Room here in LA which really helped us get a feel for what people were reacting to.
What’s the story behind the name of the band?
Llewellyn: This band initially started as a solo project for our singer David Hudson. Brian and I were developing and producing him as an artist and he already had the name Hudson for his project. There was already a good sized online following around the project, so when it became a band we decided to keep the name and make it all caps (HUDSON). Finding a cool band name in this day and age is a huge task, and we felt HUDSON sounded like a good name to represent an American rock n roll band, so it stuck.
What is the story behind the name of the new record?
Llewellyn: Cast Out is the title track and first single of the EP. That song was inspired by a very traumatic situation that occurred about 7 years ago. Brian and I were just leaving Atlanta, GA to move out to L.A. to continue our production career and possibly start a band at some point. The day before we were going to leave he went out to celebrate with a friend while I went out with a different friend. Around 3 a.m. I got a call from the hospital saying that Brian had been beaten nearly to death by 5 guys. Luckily a taxi driver had gotten the license plate number and the guys were caught. To make a long story short, from there it took 6 long years to go to court. Through some blunders in the case and the rules of the court, all five of the perpetrators walked away scot-free. Our initial reaction was anger, and I called David and told him what happened.
By the time we had flown back to LA, David had written the song over the track we had given him a few weeks before. The line “if I had my way I’d break your face, but instead every day you’re gonna hear my name” perfectly summed up what we were feeling. We felt that taking a negative experience and using it as fuel for something positive was the best way to go about things. So out of this absolutely horrendous experience, we got this amazing song. Because of the power of the song and strong message behind it, we felt it was only right for it to be the title track and first single. On the front cover of the album is a sequoia tree seedling growing up from the aftermath of a forest fire. It takes the destruction of a forest fire to warm the cones of the sequoias so that they open up and spread their seeds. This EP was kind of like a rebirth, so that image has a lot of meaning behind it.
Check out the song “Rock and Roll” (Led Zeppelin Cover) here.
What do you think of the current state of the rock world?
Llewellyn: Not to be disrespectful to any other bands, but we feel rock n’ roll has been stale and outdated for a very long time. There have been a handful of cool new bands that play true rock n’ roll in the last 20 years, but guitar solos have been almost non-existent. We are trying to bring a new sonic edge to our recordings that hasn’t been heard in rock before, while still staying authentic. A lot of the producers on the rock side of things have a very purist attitude in regards to analog recording. We try to bring the warmth with analog techniques, while bringing a new sonic range with some of our digital production techniques. Brian and I were producing pop, hip-hop, and RnB records the last 10 years or so, so we try to incorporate a lot of those production skills into our recordings to give rock n’ roll an updated sound that the younger generation can relate to. Rock n’ roll is an attitude, and we are just trying to play music with some balls.
Do you have any rituals before you hit the stage? If so, what are they?
Llewellyn: Before we go onstage we always get together beforehand and warm up our vocals. We usually get together backstage and go through a couple songs acoustically while Christian taps out the beat with his sticks so that our harmonies are all on point and that we all get a chemistry going before we start playing. This has shown to be very beneficial for us and has helped us make our live show as on point as possible.
Do you have any touring plans in support of the new recording?
Llewellyn: Currently we are working on booking gigs, so you should see us hitting the road in early 2016. We’ve been super busy getting all of our content together, as well as working on getting our song on rock radio so that we have a nice sized audience when we hit the road. We do have plans to possibly be in Australia in early spring, so keep checking back for updates at www.HUDSONtheband.com.