Hello there fine reader! First off, let us, Logjam Presents, welcome you to our premiere of The Seed — Logjam’s blog dedicated to all things up and coming artists, both local and regional. Here, we’ll feature local band interviews, videos, special projects, new music releases, and more. We’ve been doing a lot of these blogs lately, so we thought it was time to finally come up with a name for them.
With that said, we’re happy to feature Montana-bred Americana rockers, The Hasslers. A fitting man to speak to upon the band’s behalf, lead vocalist and guitarist, Matt Hassler, detailed us on what they’ve been up to since their move from Missoula to Seattle a few years ago. It sounds like they’ve had a fruitful time in the big city, but there’s no doubt that they’re excited to return to the Top Hat on May 25th for another rowdy show filled with “palpable mischievous energy.” You can read the full interview below.
It looks like you still have most of the same lineup as when you first started. How did you manage to coordinate the band moving to Seattle and staying together? Can you tell us about new members/lineup changes?
This is a great question. We started in the Missoula scene at the perfect time. People were really into bluegrass at the time (Let’s be real, they still are), and when emerged onto the scene, I was playing banjo, we had a fiddle, upright bass, lots of fast hooks. But the songs really weren’t bluegrass. They were folk songs, mostly lyrically driven. We won a couple of contests and rode the wave, but really, we wanted to play our own music our own way. The timing worked out perfectly, as several of us had just finished school at U of M and already had our sights set on a bigger city. Nobody needed much convincing, we mentioned it at rehearsal, and within a year, we’d gone from 4 people living in a nasty 2 bedroom house in Missoula to 4 people living in a nasty 2 bedroom house in Seattle, for about 3 times the rent.
What are a few of the band highlights from the past couple years?
We went on our first long west coast tour, which we booked ourselves. It’s a real pain in the ass, booking a tour, but we learned so much from it, and got to see some really cool towns and play some really great venues we probably never would have seen otherwise. Owen and I got to open for Robert Earl Keen at the Wilma, which was a dream for me, as he’s one of my songwriting heroes. He even let us take a cheesy picture with him. We got to be a part of Paul Allen’s first and last Upstream Music Festival, and we weaseled our way into Monterey Cowboy Festival. We also got to play NW folk life main stage a few years in a row. We’re actually skipping that this year to come back to MT and play some shows. Otherwise, just navigating the city scene and writing new music as often as we can. It’s a great grind, we all have a lot of fun with it.
What’s the best part about being a band in Seattle? What’s the most difficult part?
The best part is probably being surrounded by other musicians working just as hard as we are, and having such a vibrant musical community at our fingertips. We learned very quickly that pretty much everybody playing music out here is serious about it, they want to do it as a career. So they’ve got chops, and you have to be competitive. It’s made better players out of all of us. The number of venues and proximity to other hubs is great too. Every time we do a show at a new venue, we get a new crowd, and if we need to take a break from a particular neighborhood, or even the whole city, it’s a breeze to zip down to Portland or Olympia or up to Bellingham for a weekend and immerse ourselves in a whole different market.
The most difficult part is getting people out to shows again and again. Missoula is one of those really special towns where basically everyone there wants to see live music all the time. In Seattle, you have to hustle a little harder, and sell yourself a little more. It’s been a humbling learning experience, and I’ve learned a lot about self-promotion, but we’ll always miss those Missoula crowds, and how much they truly love the live music experience.
What was the most notable difference from being a band in small city to a band in a big city?
Probably just the same difference you notice being a resident of a small city compared to a big one. You don’t see the same people every day in the big city. Every time we play a show, there are people at the venue who’ve never heard of us, never seen us, have no idea what we’re about. It’s great for building a new fan-base, but we certainly felt like tiny fish in a very large pond for the first couple of years.
Have you learned any valuable lessons the past few years?
I used to say I’d quit playing music when it stopped being fun. When I left Missoula and started looking at this band as a career path, I learned that it isn’t always going to be fun. There’s a lot of rejection, a lot of paperwork, a lot of hours on the road and in recording sessions when it really feels like work. But it’s rewarding, and at the end of the day, we’re making something we’re proud of, and we get to share it with strangers. Sometimes they even pay us.
Any words of wisdom for other local Missoula bands who are debating a move to a larger city?
Downsize your gear, set realistic goals, and bitch be humble.
Is there one thing about The Hasslers that still stands out as Missoula/Montana?
If you come to a Hasslers show in Seattle, you would be surprised at the turnout of Montana ex-pats. Somehow, we have amassed a following of ex-Montanans, folks we never knew when we lived there. Montanans stick together, as we all know, and I like to think we’ve created something that sounds like home. Most of our songs are still about MT, Lewistown in particular. Every song has to have a setting, and MT is about the most picturesque one there is, so we’re lucky that way.
It’s been awhile since you’ve played at the Top Hat? Is there anything out of the ordinary you have planned? What can people expect?
We’re not doing anything fancy like a horn section or a light show this time around. We want to focus on the new songs we’ve written, and show off how we’ve honed our sound since we last played the Hat. Think stripped down, but beefed up. Also, watch out for a 4 minute guitar solo from Owen Thayer and a Norah Jones rendition of a Willie Nelson tune from Kate Dinsmore (our new vocalist, with the actual voice of an angel).
What are you looking forward to most about coming back to Missoula to play?
It’s our hometown. I’m personally from Lewistown, and a lot of the songs take place in Fergus county, but Missoula is where the band started, and the people of Missoula have been so supportive and amazing from the very beginning, something like 7 years ago now. I think we’ve garnered sort of a reputation for throwing some rowdy parties at our Top Hat shows, and every time we get on that stage, there’s just this palpable mischievous energy that I haven’t found anywhere else.
Do you have any new projects in the works? What’s your tour schedule look like in the coming months?
We’ve got a new album in the works, it’s about halfway done right now. We’re looking at an early fall release date, and we’re really excited about it. Up til now, we’ve recorded everything ourselves, but we finally decided to use some of the amazing resources Seattle has to offer, this one being Ground Control Studios with our friend Tom Meyers, who is a really incredible engineer and producer. So be on the lookout for those new songs. After this tour, we’ll be finishing the record in June and July, then in August we’ll be touring back through Montana for 2 weeks with Miller Campbell, playing some of the more rural parts of the state, and leaning into our country side. In September we’re doing another west coast tour which includes a lot of dates at the McMenamins properties, mostly in Washington and Oregon, but we’ll likely dip into Northern California for a few dates as well.
I’m gonna plug my new side project here too. Be on the lookout for some loud rock and roll coming your way in June. “Hi Wasted” is something I’ve been working on with some Seattle friends for a year, and our EP (recorded with the legendary Steve Fisk at Soundhouse Studios) will be released around then. I got to play through Kurt Cobain’s twin reverb, so that was neat.
What’s the end goal for The Hasslers?
I wouldn’t say we have an end goal. Our constant credo is to keep creating interesting music, keep being true to ourselves, and to have fun doing it. If there’s a goal, it’s just to keep that up, and keep gaining fans in the process. We’re out here doing what we love, and if we can keep the current pace, we’re just gonna keep moving up.
What can fans do to ensure that have the best time possible at your show?
Put away your phones, get a whiskey and a beer, dance to the fast ones, sway to the slow ones.
Any final words?
The biggest thing you can do to help touring bands is to just listen to their music. If you have fun at the show and you hear a song you like, put it on your summer playlist, show it to your friends and family, blast it at work. The second biggest thing is also the most annoying, and that’s to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Spotify, even just add yourself to our email list on our website. We want you to know when we release new music or plan a tour near you. We also like giving away merch, so get on it!