CULTIVATING CREATIVITY: Getting personal with Long Range Hustle

By Andrew Gray/Quinte Arts Council

It’s rare and beautiful when music reaches you at just the right time. Long Range Hustle have released three enigmatic singles from their upcoming album and they are a balm for the soul.

Comeback Kid and American Cash have been making their way onto playlists across the interwebs this spring, building anticipation for the full release this fall. With verses about killing time in the living room” and choruses sardonically lamenting the inedibility of new ideas and designs,” these new tunes cleverly speak to a sense of melancholy and angst many of us can relate to these days. But rather than wallow in despair, they articulate nuanced emotions and burst with infectious energy. Their latest Wait For Me captures their particular brand of what I like to call sweet sorrow pop.

For many in the Quinte Region, Long Range Hustle (LRH) needs no introduction. Hailing from Stirling, Madoc and Tweed, lead singers/songwriters Paul Brogee (strings) and Jay Foster (keys) formed the band in high school with Pauls brother Mike (bass), guitarist Ryan Pritchard and drummer AJ Fisico.

They played weekends throughout college and by 2015, the five-piece indie rockers released their first album, From Seedlings to Saplings. In 2019, they joined forces with veteran Scottish producer Tony Doogan (Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai) and their sound hit the stratosphere with Town. Now with New York label AntiFragile Music their star is rising fast.

LRH are master builders of high-arching rock ballads that move from the intimate to the expansive. The slick design of atmospheric soundscapes and warm harmonies, lyrical imagery, eclectic arrangements show the breadth of influences from a group trained in classical, jazz, folk, and of course rock n roll.

And yet there is a distinct small town Ontario charm and attitude in their songwriting. Beyond the imagery of salted roads, ice hanging off the trees and the wry wit of descriptions like “A town even Timmies forgot,” you can tell the tight-knit group are having a good time on every track. The camaraderie is on full display in their Christmas-themed video as they harmonize and hold microphones on hockey sticks for each other. There is a good-natured authenticity in their stories that grounds them even as the instrumentation often lifts the sound to more fantastical realms.

An evocative line from Comeback KidI am alive, only if you say I am” feels like an allusion to the strange predicament performance artists have found themselves in under the thumb of COVID-19. Foster speaks to the difficulty of maintaining a sense of identity and being creative away from the stimulation of crowds during the isolation of the pandemic:

I’ve always thought of us as a band who plays in front of people. We definitely miss the thrill of performing on stage and interacting with an audience.”

With perseverance, LRH met the challenges of recording an album during the pandemic at Tony’s Bathouse Studio near Kingston, while corresponding remotely with the Glasgow-based Doogan. It was a pretty crazy time,” says Brogee. Discussing the production over Skype forced us to really hone in. It went smoothly, but there was less margin for error.”

Doogan is known to be fastidious and frank. You’d get feedback over Skype [with Tony] and then you’d have a few weeks of anxiety, just sitting with blunt criticism,” says Foster. Brogee summarizes it as, More time to write but also more time for dread.”

During one tense moment during the production, Doogan thought one of the songs was too long so Brogee said to himself, Okay, it is super songwriting time!” and headed to the kitchen with an acoustic to work it out. It was nerve-wracking but it was also an exciting pressure to be under.”

LRH describes their latest collaboration as full of emotionally-turbulent lyrics, piano driven hooks, striking drums and bass, lush synths, ear catching guitar riffs and unforgettable four-part harmonies.” But its more than that.

Every album is a celebration of life”, says Brogee, and perhaps a form of emotional processing. On this new one we’ve become more comfortable being personal. While we do get into darker material at times, it is somewhat offset by the upbeat music. There is a through-line of hope.”

LRH will perform at Tweeds Beachwood Hollow Resort Friday evening as a presentation of Tweed and Company Theatre.

This article was originally published in the summer issue of Umbrella magazine, available now.