- Kristen Black
The unfinished basement is reverberating. Here in this narrow room, the seven musicians are crowded in an oval, nearly on top of one another, playing absolutely boisterously. The breezy, Americana reggae-rock serves well as a soundtrack for the rest of the goings-on at the lower South Hill residence. At the top of the steep staircase, a gray dog surveys the scene. In the corner, roommates are washing laundry. The Rustics pay no attention to any of this. They're simply filled with enthusiasm for the full-bodied, joyful music they're ready to drop Saturday at their album release party.
The Rustics began in 2012 as just Ryan Miller and Mackie Hockett. While they had previously been in other groups, the Rustics project came out of wanting to write music as a duo.
"We were in Hawaii working on a farm for six months," Hockett says. "The songs just happened naturally with so much inspiration around us."
After moving back to Spokane, they would sometimes steal away to Seattle or Portland, to play in the streets. With the help of a loop station, Miller's guitar and Hockett's ukulele, the duo would make enough to pay for the trips in one sitting. That's when they knew they really had something.
The two have been friends since they were 7 and 8 years old, but it wasn't until four years ago that the relationship blossomed into romance. And while they don't put a title on it, the love between them is still palpable.
"There's a fire with these two," volunteers Scottie Feider, the bass player at whose home the group practices.
If anything, they're a couple who complement each other well. Hockett, 22, is tiny with a megawatt smile. Miller, 23, is tall and thin with a quiet disposition. They both wear dreadlocks, and their shimmery vocals weave together superbly.
Theirs is not one of those singer-songwriter duos where the guy does mostly everything, while the woman offers a little backup, seemingly an afterthought. Instead, the music is written together.
Mostly, their lyrics focus on the beauty of nature, family, love and reflect the group's need to live in the moment. All-around, they're positive.
"There's only so much negative you can hear," says Miller, whose sister is recent America's Got Talent finalist Cami Bradley.
"Open your mind/and face the fact that we should all live free/to feel peace," Hockett sings on the album's title track, "Be Here Now," a cut that cements the pair's hippie ethos.
"Having no expectation, there's a freedom in that," Hockett says of that line.
They didn't have much expectation when they began their Kickstarter campaign last year to fund an album. But by the end of June, they had surpassed their goal of $2,500. In July, they took up with Avast! Recording Co. in Seattle, finishing the six-track EP in October.
The tightly produced record is a stripped-down version of what the band will bring to the stage this weekend. Little by little, after playing shows like Elkfest and Gleason Fest, they've added musicians to performances, letting the loop station fall to the wayside. With the exception of Sam Stoner on drums, the rest of the group plays something from the string family: There's Cassie Kirkeby on electric cello, Griffin White on fiddle, Lucas "Bodhi Drip" Brown on guitar and Feider playing bass. All of them play in other bands as well. In the Spokane music scene that's how it is; musicians want to help one another out, live in the moment.
They've all been rehearsing before the sun went down outside. Loud, ringing feedback echoes over the space, sometimes not every note is completely dead on, but while working the kinks out, it looks like this is the most fun anyone here has had all day.
Kirkeby lends her cello's sound to the group for the first time tonight. But her instrumentation flows into the music seamlessly, like all of the additional parts.
"Playing music is kinda like having sex," says Hockett in between songs. "It just kind of happens."
The band members laugh in agreement, then decide it's time to strike up a blues jam. The room bounces once more. ♦
The Rustics CD release party with Cami Bradley, Hey! is for Horses • Sat, Jan. 18, at 8 pm • Bing Crosby Theater • 901 W. Sprague • $12 • All-ages • TicketsWest.com