A stellar night of Bumpin Uglies

I hit the photojournalistic jackpot! What started as a simple photo pass request to shoot the final west coast show on the Bumpin Uglies’ Mid-Atlantic Dub Tour resulted in an exclusive interview with frontman, Brandon Hardesty, access to the VIP meet and greet (including a B-Hard acoustic set), plus all access– meaning they allowed me to shoot from the stage for the ENTIRE set. This is UNPRECEDENTED. Opener, Kyle Smith, too. The guys basically told me to have at it and I am forever grateful for the opportunity, inclusion and hospitality. 

Doors opened at 6:00 pm but I arrived around 1:30 pm for the interview, since the guys had to catch a red eye to Florida for the Florida Grooves Festival immediately after the set. That’s right, coast-to-coast sets in less than 24-hours!

No matter how many times I do this though, the nerves never settle. Jittering from anxiety and overindulging in caffeine, I headed into the venue where Hardesty and I got down to business.

All right. What’s the strangest thing that’s happened on tour so far?

  • Brandon Hardesty: Um … Yeah, I don’t know. Immediately what comes to mind is that our videographer, Kyle, he follows us around and well, he’s developed a taste for, shitting in plastic bags. We’re in an RV and yeah, it has a bathroom but you can only piss in it. So somehow that just led to him shitting in bags all over the country.

Welp. there you go… I’m sure he’ll love that in here, haha. If you had to describe your band as a midnight snack, what snack would you guys be?

  • B-Hard: Oh man, we’re a pint of Cherry Garcia.

Yeah, I can see that, for sure. How about the craziest fan interaction you’ve ever had?

  • B-Hard: Oh, hmm … there was one time when this one dude cornered me in the bathroom. Like, he followed me into a stall and propositioned me. It was pretty fucking weird.

Is that also what you consider to be your, “I’ve made it moment”? Haha.

  • B-Hard: No, that was like my “I should always have a knife on me moment” haha.

Yeah, that’s fair. How did you guys all find each other?

  • B-Hard: Wolfie and I started playing together first. I’m from Annapolis and there was a local open mic night every Tuesday, we would play there a lot when the band was starting off and he would hang out there. He ended up leaving his previous band and I needed a bass player. So that’s how we linked up. TJ was in a punky reggae band out of Philly called, The Mahlors. We just saw them around the circuit like the east coast circuit and linked up with him. Ethan, we got introduced through a mutual friend when we were doing a tour in 2018 around the time the Beast from the East record came out and I wanted a horn section for that. He plays trombone so we brought him on and then when I needed a keyboard player, well, a new keyboard player, he mentioned he also plays keys as well. So, originally when we brought him on for the trombone thing, that was only supposed to be for like a week, you know, but we needed a full-time guy. So he became our full-time guy. And then Will, we met just from playing around the area. He was actually sitting in with our boys, Joint Operation. He was playing sax with them. And I was looking for like a full-time horn player. It really just all worked out.

Awesome. Compatibility-wise, how do you guys get along?

  • B-Hard: It’s good. I mean, it’s just like anything else. If you get a bunch of grown men together, or people in general, they’ll bicker and shit, you know? Overall, I think we do it pretty well. We’re always working; on music, on communicating better, on awareness. I think we’re all really aware of what works. So, yeah, it’s good.

What comes first the band or the friendships?

  • B-Hard: I think it varies from person to person, you know what I mean? I’d say, the band brought us all together so it’s because of the band we have the friendships that we do. And now, we all live in different areas and we have families and shit. Honestly, we don’t get to hang out a lot outside of the band performing and touring. TJ is one of my best friends though. He spends time over my house and he hangs out with my kids and shit, but other than that, you know… I mean, we’re all friends but this is work.

Is that ever challenging? Keeping things separate? They always say, “never mix business with pleasure” but that seems almost unrealistic when touring nationally and internationally for weeks or months on end.

  • B-Hard: No, I think it’s important to establish boundaries. When I was younger I had a different mentality. I did try to treat it more casually and less like work but that complicates things because then you start making decisions that are not necessarily best for the band and the business; shit gets clouded. I think establishing and setting boundaries is one of the most important things to do in any relationship including business. Running a band is very, very hard. It’s not a 9-5. It’s a hard way to make a living and tough decisions need to be made. Sometimes not everyone agrees on the decision but boundaries help keep everyone’s drive aligned.

Creatively, do you hear the lyrics or the music first when writing a song?

  • B-Hard: Usually the lyrics.

What has helped you grow as a lyricist? I think your lyrics are beautiful by the way. They consistently resonate with me. *Shameless fangirl moment*

  • B-Hard: I just, I don’t know, haha. I always tell people it’s like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the better you get at it. I try to always write from a place of honesty. I don’t want to pander, you know, so, I think that helps a lot; being open and honest. But then also, listening to music myself and hearing stuff that moves me and thinking ‘Oh damn, it sounds like a really cool way to say that’ and then I try to think of it in my own words. Also, keeping a fresh outlook on things and life helps, you know, as opposed to finding one thing that works and trying to repeat it. I like telling stories. There are only so many ways to tell the same story before it stops being relevant. So I’m constantly looking for a new story. I think it gets easier as you grow and evolve because every year you’re experiencing new shit.

Yeah! You can really hear that in the progression of your albums too! A lot of your earlier stuff starts off with your childhood stories and high school stories and, you know, now you get a little bit more family-oriented, you talk about your kids a bit. And so like, it’s, it’s cool to kind of travel with you throughout your life span. Who’s your dream musician or band to collaborate with?

  • B-Hard: I really like The Skints. The Skints is probably my favorite band in this genre. And I’d love to do a tour and do some music with them down the road. Um, I love Slightly Stoopid. It’d be cool to link up with them. I’m hoping that happens one day. Atmosphere would be cool to do some shit with.

I’m on board for every single one of those. So dope! Anyway, your love and loyalty to the east coast is no secret. Why do you think the mid-Atlantic region doesn’t hold the same legacy as NYC, LA or even Nashville?

  • B-Hard: Because we’re building it right now! This whole genre came from Southern California; it is absolutely where it started from and it’s always been this thing where people would see that and be like ‘Oh okay, I want to do this, so I guess I’m going to go to Southern California.’ But recently we’ve been seeing a new generation of bands that are coming up and are just like ‘No man, we’re from the fucking east coast!’ It’s not a Maryland thing, it’s not a Mid-Atlantic thing, it’s an east coast thing. Personally, I think a lot of the hotter, more innovative acts right now are from the east coast. We’re starting to see more and more people just be like, ‘I’m doing my own thing. We’re going to do our own thing, you know, and we’re doing it from where we’re from.’ I mean, you see the same shit in hip hop, you know what I mean? Like, I think about that a lot, hip hop started in Brooklyn and then fucking like west coast hip hop blew the fuck up and the east coast was just like, ‘damn, they’re fucking taking our shit!’ It’s just like, that’s how music evolves. But overall I think it’s a true testament to how popular this genre is and how loved the sound is. There are people all over the country that love it and they’re just kind of doing it in their own way.

I love the mix of genres we’re starting to see more and more now too. You know, you guys have your punk-reggae-ska sound. I think we’re seeing more and more of that blending, which is, honestly so cool. It’s always uplifting to see or hear art transcend the parameters we put on it.

  • B-Hard: Yeah, I like doing different shit. Especially as a songwriter, every song has a different, sonic kind of fingerprint to it. As a listener, I don’t want every song to sound the same. As a writer, I don’t want everything to sound the same. When you write a party song, it’s going have more of a boom bap, like fucking Sublime feel to it. And then if you write like a ballad, it’s gonna be more of a folky kind of thing, you know, and then something angry, it is gonna be like a punk scorcher, you know?

I love that. What’s your favorite song to play?

  • B-Hard: Um, it varies. I like playing the new shit. I’ve been playing some acoustic shit like during the encore that I wrote over the winter. Any time we’re doing new stuff, it’s fun for me.

When you’re 80 years old and looking back on your time in the band. What story will you tell your grandkids?

  • B-Hard: I like to think that I’ll be able to tell them that they can do whatever they want and that they can do it the way they want to do it. If you’re willing to just fucking work– make the hard decisions, keep your nose down, and work like a motherfucker.

Your work ethic is very admirable. How do you maintain your mental health in a relentlessly demanding industry?

  • B-Hard: It’s hard, honestly. Like, I’m fucking fried right now. I miss my wife and my kids. But I’d say that it’s just a matter of staying honest with yourself. Also, diet is key. I just recently learned that I have a gluten allergy. So, that’s been an adjustment; especially on the road. But I feel a lot better now that I’m on a gluten-free diet. And, you know, make sure you sleep, stay hydrated. I find that I get depressed if I’m not listening to music a lot and it’s really easy to not listen to music, especially when I’m writing. I get caught up in my own writing. I haven’t really listened to music on this tour at all because there hasn’t been much time for it. There’s not a lot of space for it either. Actually, just like a couple of hours ago, I was thinking about this exact thought so I sat down and made myself listen to some music. Just try to find time for yourself. I’m an introvert and I like my space and it’s hard to find that out here. But learn what winds your clock and then make the time for that.

Is the advice you’d give to struggling musicians similar?

  • B-Hard: Yeah, I mean, for struggling musicians, I would say you got to separate the art from the money side of it. A lot of people just get so caught up in trying to make a living out of this shit that they forget what they are doing it for. Of course, it’s cool to make a living out of it, but it’s not necessarily something that’s going to happen for everyone. You have to just keep the passion in it. Does that make sense?

It absolutely does. You’ve given me a lot to think about. To wrap up, is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

  • B-Hard: We have an acoustic record coming out later this year!

Awesome. Keep me posted, I’d love to review it. Thank you so much, Brandon. I appreciate your time, insight, and music.

  • B-Hard: Thank you. Are you hanging out for the show?

Oh, for sure. I’ll be shooting it.

  • B-Hard: Awesome! Thank you so much.

The interview concluded but there were still a few more hours until doors. Security was readying, merch tables were going up, and excitement was ruminating!

I just have to say, the camaraderie, support and friendship that has formed between the Kyle Smith crew and the Bumpin Uglies crew is incredible to witness.

They ooze the vibrations we are all seeking and gave us a night of it!

Anyway, BU offered a meet-and-greet package on this run. Ticket holders were given a tote bag, photos with the band, and an intimate 30-minute acoustic set by Hardesty. Hardesty asked the group what they wanted to hear and played request after request before asking “Is it okay if I play you something new?” to which the response was, “You don’t have to ask!” All parties were eagerly listening to Hardesty belt out a song he has never performed before. 

Kyle Smith, a rising star in the music industry, kicked off the night with an electrifying set that showcased his powerful vocals and impressive guitar skills. He, along with bassist Chris Nishida and drummer Scott “Scotty Beatz” Brown kept the crowd on their feet with catchy hooks and infectious melodies, leaving everyone wanting more.

After Smith’s set, Bumpin Uglies took the stage and delivered a high-energy performance that brought the house down. The band’s unique blend of reggae, punk, and ska had the audience jumping and singing along to every song.

The atmosphere was electric as the two acts shared the stage for an unforgettable encore. The collaboration saw them perform a cover of BU’s hit song “Addictive Personality” to the delight of the crowd.

The energy in the room was palpable, and no one wanted the night to end.

The success of the night was a testament to the talent and hard work of both Kyle Smith and Bumpin Uglies. The Observatory provided the perfect venue for this amazing night of music that will be talked about for years to come. Fans of both artists cannot wait to see what they will do next and look forward to the opportunity to see them perform live again soon.

If you missed Kyle Smith and Bumpin Uglies on April 15, 2023, you missed out on a momentous night of music. Their incredible talents and unforgettable performance at The Observatory in Santa Ana, California are a testament to the power of music to bring people together and create unforgettable memories. Check out the playlist from both sets below!

Bumpin Uglies Links: Website | YouTube | Spotify | Instagram | Facebook

Kyle Smith Links: Website | YouTube | Spotify | Instagram | Facebook

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