Bug Hunter - The Rough Draft Advance Review
I am primarily a fiction writer, and I am almost three weeks into National Novel Writing Month. That means story structure has been on my mind as I am making that hard push to the final climax after hitting anthills, road bumps, and the rolling hills of southeastern Ohio. Multiple moments of rising and falling actions. Tension and release. I am telling you this because I think that a band like Bug Hunter, with an album titled The Rough Draft, can appreciate it.
Being brand new to this Seattle band, I did not know what to expect. However, “Dear McCracken” introduces new listeners to their sound immediately. Musically minimalistic, the bands’ lyrically heavy sound storyteller abilities reminded me back to the strong 90’s pop alternative bands Oasis, Barenaked Ladies, Green Day, and Weezer. I liked the sound, and I had a feeling I was going to enjoy the album.
The second song reminded me of Frente!, an Australian alternative band that people knew for the remake of the New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.” (I was a fan way back when because I loved Angie Hart’s voice.) Titled “Point to Prove (I was an Ugly Child),” this song hints at the complexity of the self-deprecating humor that is pushed throughout the album. Is it a sad song or is it an inspirational journey of the narrator’s climb out of his younger, basement-dwelling status? I choose to believe the latter, and I think the music backs up. Especially when it is followed by “Piano Teacher.” If you can’t laugh with the band, you are missing the whole experience. “I’m not the next all-start/I’m hardly an artist.” However, there are “No signs of stopping.” And I don’t want them to.
“Go with the Flow” is another catchy song with a pop sound that reminded me of Cake from the 90’s.
“Disco! In the Panic Room” is the song that gets me dancing at a show. A harder sound that is post-punk, post-post-grunge with a little James Murphy lyrical humor. I imagine looking up at the stage as Bug Hunter plays. It is supposed to sound slightly angry, but I can’t help smiling at the frontman having too much fun singing. It is definitely my favorite song on the album.
“Baby Teeth” brings us back into the 90’s sounds that will attract those twenty-some adults who remember listening to their parents’ music. “Be Glad I Love You (Go to Bed)” is a sweet song, and “Listen to Your Mom” is a powerfully climatic song for the album. Pay attention to the lyrics. It gives all of Bug Hunter’s humor substance.
Although we are given two bonus songs, “Deserve Me” is the official last song of the album. The goofy lessons from earlier in the album culminates in a reflective that no longer uses self-deprecating humor. “I’m finally ready to admit.”
The last two songs add to the enjoyment of the album. “Gulf Coast” is a little angry with some Spanish flare, and although I legitimately like all of the songs on the album, it might be my second favorite, at least in my early listens. “Boogie Pete” further showcases the band's storytelling ability. It reminds me of a song that a Phish Phan would write for their favorite band. (I am a Phan, so that’s a compliment.) A funny song that an audience can dance to.
Closing Thoughts - On a day when I decided to take a break from my NaNoWriMo project, I’m glad that I did something productive and listened to this album. The Rough Draft is a well-crafted and captures the rising and following action that audiences seek. I will be playing this at work and while I work for years to come.
Rating 4.5 out of 5
-Jesse R. Stowe
Artist Spotlight Bug Hunter
1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it?
"I didn’t get into music until I was older – almost 22 when I bought my first guitar. So that’s just over 5 years. I used to write a lot of poems and stories when I was a kid, but never considered learning an instrument or singing (especially singing!). Being a musician never crossed my mind up until my third year of college, when a bunch of my friends played guitar and wrote songs that they’d share at dormitory talent shows. So I took music theory 101, learned the major/minor scales, and started writing songs on a bass guitar. When I moved to Seattle a year later in 2014, I had about 70 songs written that were mostly garbage, but I jumped into the open mic scene and here I am, 4 years later".
2. Could you walk us through your process of writing music?
"I am always writing music. I consider myself a songwriter before anything else, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t write down something that I will try to use later. It could be an interesting thing I saw, a clever line I thought up on the bus, an odd phrase that might be a killer chorus-ender. My friends are used to me having to pause and type something out on my phone quickly before I forget. When I get a chance to sit down with my guitar and come up with melodies, I reference these notes and try to put things together.
For example: my song “Dear McCracken” is 100% based on a true story. I still have the note on my phone that I typed as I was getting off the plane. About four days later I sat down and started writing: “I just stepped on a plane, my bags on the shelf…” and told the story, essentially word-for-word.
Not all my songs are so narrative, but I always get a kick out of scrolling through these notes and seeing how they manifest into finished songs – sometimes exactly, sometimes as loose inspiration".
3. What artists have inspired you in your career?
"When I first started making music, Dave Grohl was such an inspiration. The fact that he played all the instruments on the first Foo Fighters album was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. I moved to Seattle and didn’t know anyone, so I figured I would record every instrument, produce and mix my whole album. The problem was, I was pretty bad at all of those things! I’ve come a long way since then, and I figure that’s why. I had to be bad at something for a really long time and shoot for the stars until I became better at it.
In the past few years, as I’ve pushed myself further into the music scene, I’ve been really drawn towards bands like The Front Bottoms and 21 pilots. I’ve always been insecure about my voice, and these bands that lean on lots of complex lyrics and phrases have made me feel like I don’t have to be an “American Idol” contestant to make good music".
4. Do you have any favorite music gear (guitars, amps, effects pedals, keyboards, etc.) that you love to use? If so, what’s the story on them?
"Oh god no. I have an acoustic guitar and I plug it directly into the board when I play a show. Give me a DI cable and let me play. I’m a songwriter, and don’t feel the need to dress up my lyrics in effects and reverb. My first guitar was a Walden, and I loved that guitar. I recorded my first two albums with it, but dropped it a few years ago and cracked the face. I still have it around, but it’s not realy playable anymore. I also have a baritone ukulele that I like to pull out for one song per album, just to mix things up! I’ve never played it live though, I might need to try that".
5. Can you describe the vibe at your live shows? Also, what do you enjoy most about a venue when you do a show?
"When I play solo, I’m at my best with a small attentive audience. Yelling my lyrics over the chatter at a bar will never be fun for me or the audience. I rely too much on people paying close attention to my lyrics to have success as mood or background music. Solo shows don’t have much dancing, but definitely singing along if people know the songs.
The full band show definitely has more of a rock band vibe: Pounding drums, guitar solos, and subtle but brilliant basslines. I always try to make sure the lyrics and the emotion come through despite all the noise. Some songs work better as a full band, some work better stripped back, and we try to do a combination. “Dear McCracken” gets the djembe treatment, but “Who I’m Singin’ To” gets the full kit".
6. What is one thing that you want the public to know about your music?
"I want people to hear my music, hear my story, and hopefully be inspired to create. There’s a billion things to consume, and watching the world succumb to Netflix marathons and hundreds of hours logged on video games makes me nostalgic for when I had nothing but my imagination and some Lego bricks to entertain myself. I got into music because I wanted to be a creator, not a consumer. So I hope the people listening to my music take it as a kick in the butt to get out there and create something. Learn a skill, pick up a hobby, and make something that didn’t exist before. And don’t worry about getting an audience. Just find a passion and share it".
7. Do you have any upcoming projects you would like fans to know about?
"The Rough Draft is an album I wrote this year and recorded with my bandmates (Moe Hussein, Marcus Alcantara and Jesse Gallaway) at 1-shot Studio. We have our album release show on December 8 at The High Dive w/ Happy Heartbreak and Stephanie Mae. We’re all really proud of it and think folks are going to really like the message and music we’re putting out there".
FMI on Bug Hunter visit their website.