L&A checks the local music scene: Hashbrown hits the spot

“Aggressive funk,” “black rock” and a Sly & the Family Stone for our era – these are only self-descriptions aiming to grasp the seeming simplicity and the contemplative lyrics of up-and-coming local band Hashbrown.
On a cool night on Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, the group, who has opened for James Brown, Method Man and Fishbone, spoke to Life & Art about their live show, the banality of Korn and their favorite German lagers. Hashbrown’s latest release, Miles to Go (AxisBold Records), immediately signals to the listener its many elements and seeming contradictions: it’s simultaneously relaxed but intense, rambling but succinct, wild but moving, frivolous but pensive. While the music integrates elements of soul, funk, reggae, punk and rock in their sounds, the classic eclectic jam/funk descriptions fail to comprehend how this band creates and what it represents to its members and its growing legion of fans.
Guitarist/vocalist Duncan Cameron is pleasantly candid in conveying his inspirations and his preference for Fender guitars. His demeanor is quiet but passionate as he discusses his goal to make quality three-minute songs – a notion foreign to many traditional jam bands – and one day to create a record that allows him to be “satisfied with every cut from beginning to end [. . .], and it [then] has a feeling, for instance like [Radiohead’s] Kid A,” he says.
Miles to Go clearly conveys the band’s sonic intentions, as lead vocalist/bassist Jay Spencer points out. “It starts with a big boom, then smoothes it out toward the end in an introspective way,” he explains. “We’d like to encompass all the aspects of human emotion in every way that we can.” Cameron then adds, “We’re all really conscious about not being one-dimensional. For instance, look at Korn – how mad can you possibly be?”
“Yeah, how many times can your daddy touch you?” Spencer remarks to a chorus of laughs. “They should’ve worked all that out the first time! Get some counseling or something.”
The self-published band is hot off this month’s opening slot for Fishbone’s show at BillboardLive. The band’s carefree drummer, Rick Kanner, is especially adamant about Fishbone and points out their “definite influence” on him as he downs a Red Bull. The band shares approval of Spencer’s statement about Fishbone’s sound: “It doesn’t so much influence us as does their intensity and musicianship – we’ll definitely take that from them.”
Spencer then seconds the motion with a tribute to all music in its “raw and spontaneous art form, whether bluegrass, death metal or jazz.” A late arrival, the enigmatic fourth member, DJ Boogie (turntables/vocals), calls a tribute to “fine German lagers” and snickers at Kenner for buying “all those cheap Red Bulls.”
The band considers its live shows to be essential by consciously combining serious, moving songs and fun-loving entertainment. Hashbrown hopes that their dedicated followers are “getting the weight of the music, but also keeping their feet moving.” This tall order is filled by the band’s serious musicianship, and their penchant for keeping things quirky – including sharing the stage with a fire twirler at the Miles to Go release party at the Culture Room (Cameron notes: “That was pretty close to my head!”). Hashbrown feels a significant connection at college concerts; to the members, the crowds at these shows constitute an audience with an open mind, willing to try something new.
Plans for the remainder of this year are to enlarge and advance the band’s success to date. “We’d really like to expand our fan base to the West and definitely to overseas. Spencer explains. “We’ve done real well in the East and the Northeast, but I hear a lot of people in California saying how much we’d be loved out there.” He continues, laughing, “We’re also looking to make some money – we’re all whores in some way,” and Cameron agrees: “Money represents the freedom to travel, to do what you’d like.”
“You need to reach that highest possible level at whatever it is that you do, Kanner adds. “For us, it’s to always get better as musicians.” Hashbrown clearly is developing its strategy to realize these goals. While many bands boast passion, only some perform remarkably and others direct their development, looking to consistently combine sincere expression and timeless fun. Hashbrown fits the bill in all three manners – and, with their creative ingenuity and strong live shows, expect them to be in demand and climbing up more and more concert slots in the near future.
You can catch Hashbrown at the Miami 420 Fest on April 20 at the American Legion, 6445 NE 7th Ave., Miami. Call 305-573-6588 or hit up www.hashbrown.net for more info.

Alan Douglas can be reached at adouglas101@hotmail.com.