BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
Love and a .38 might be based out of Los Angeles, but don’t even think of comparing the band to the Hair Metal groups that once roamed the infamous Sunset Strip and the like.
“Actually, I was into the 1970s rock growing up, not the 1980s,” noted Ryan Hudson, lead singer of Love and a .38. “I’m talking old Aerosmith, Queen, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Anytime you hear a rock band that makes noise out of Los Angeles, it’s immediately compared to the Hair Metal bands of the ‘80s. Don’t get me wrong, I love Motley Crue and Guns ‘N Roses, but we never embraced that type of image for Love and a .38. We figured out who we were before geography automatically tried to define us to the industry. We were fortunate in that respect.”
What Love and a .38 is, exactly, is a straightforward, rock and roll band consisting of Hudson, Guitarist Domo Domaracki, Bassist Justin “Junior” Emord, and Drummer Clark Skelton, all who wandered to the West Coast from various parts of the United States. Since its formation in 2009, Love and a .38 have managed to blow its own way into a competitive and sometimes unrelenting music industry, one that gives success to few and failure to many.
Hudson himself is a native of Oklahoma. As with most young musicians, Hudson was playing in bars since he was 15 or 16, making plans for leaving the state upon graduating from high school.
“I was a big-fish-in-a-small-pond-type of thing,” Hudson stated. “I felt that I already ran out of musicians to play with. I really just wanted to find something different.”
New York was immediately ruled out. Austin, Texas was a close second before Hudson decided that Los Angeles was the winner, and basically for one main reason: the warm weather.
“I’m not going to lie,” Ryan laughed. “I will forever be an Okie in my heart, but growing up in Tornado Alley…I decided to take my chances on earthquakes for warmer weather!”
Everyone in Love and a .38 comes from different musical backgrounds, but not so much that the diversity doesn’t disengage from the cohesive core of what the band is.
“Domo,” Hudson said, “is literally a sponge when it comes to music. He’s just really good at picking up and learning whatever comes his way. He’s taken us in directions where we might not have gone previously and is very diligent. We can always count on him if we’re stuck on an idea to sort of throw a curve ball at us, leading us to where we might not have expected.”
“Clark!” Hudson continued. “It’s like having a drum-sampling machine that’s actually a guy, which is fantastic when you’re trying to write songs. We’ll explain a song to him and he just leans right into it, he’s a very confident drummer. He’s a basher, someone who’s always holding it down. He gives us so much energy to whatever it is we are trying to do.”
Then you have Justin, a.k.a. “Junior,” who brings a solid presence to the band, onstage and off.
“He’s the baby,” Hudson laughed. “He and Domo have gotten really good complementing each other over the years of writing and performing together. Justin has always done a good job in ensuring that Domo always has something to play off of, and vice versa. He’s an excellent performer on stage and he’s very useful in engaging with fans.”
“What I bring…” Hudson pauses reflectively. “Hmmm…I’m the lead singer. That’s all I got!”
‘ROLE’ WITH IT, BABY
Hudson, of course, is downplaying his multiple roles of not only being the band’s lead singer, but the guy who does all the recording, tracking, mixing and one-quarter of producing the music, an admirable and exhausting feat that he didn’t necessarily sign up for.
“For me, when I was younger, things came along really easy for me at first,” Hudson said. “It was an adjustment for me when things didn’t go right later on. You find out that it’s not what it seems – people aren’t just handing out record deals. People aren’t begging to help you produce your record. At a certain point, we learned we had to stop relying on other people and get things done ourselves.”
Love and a .38 released a self-titled EP in 2010 and several singles before deciding to record a full-length album that was to become Nomads in 2016. In its self-built Blushing Cad Studios, Love and a .38 began the process with nothing but the band behind it.
“Over the course of the years, we flirted with a lot of record labels and a lot of big management companies,” Hudson revealed, “but nothing came along that felt right for us. We went for it with Nomads, not knowing what was going to happen to it. We didn’t know if it was going to turn out good, if we were going to fall flat on our faces. But we felt that we had to do it.”
It was “late nights and early mornings” for the band as Nomads took shape.
“It was certainly the most difficult time for the band,” Hudson said. “We had a lot of issues and setbacks. For me, it was the biggest undertaking I had to tackle as a musician. Trying to self-release the entire record from scratch, by ourselves, with no help…good Lord!”
At a CD release party held in February of 2016, Love and a .38 found the band had nothing to fear. Fans came out in droves to The Viper Room in West Hollywood to celebrate in the band’s success.
“It was a really good feeling,” Hudson stated, “that we made the right decision. It was years work that finally came to fruition. Scratch that one off the list!”
GETTING THE FANS IN THE DOOR
Those who are old enough to remember The Sunset Strip and surrounding areas can recall a time when the 1980s and very early 1990s was a Hair Metal Heaven, with clubs and record industry-types in plentiful supply.
Now, in 2017, there’s fewer clubs. The House of Blues and the Cat Club are gone. The Roxy Theatre is still there, as well as The Troubadour, The Viper Room, and the Whiskey A Go Go. All have maintained their presence throughout dour economic times and fortunately still allow local talent to play and make their case.
“Five years ago,” Hudson stated, “on a Friday night, you would head down to The Sunset Strip and would be able to find five or six cool rock shows, all within walking distance. You would be able to pop in and out of each one to see the bands and just hang out. For money-driven reasons, a lot of those places are gone. You can still find a lot of cool acts, but it’s a lot more spread out now. Nothing is really centralized anymore.”
Of course, Love and a .38 never depended on the folklore of these infamous clubs to carve its niche in the music industry. The band has extensively toured throughout the southwest of the United States as well as up and down the West Coast. Along the way, Love and a .38 have managed to build interest and a solid fan base throughout the United States and even internationally if only via the band’s recordings.
“Location is totally and completely irrelevant at this point,” Hudson noted. “With the Internet, you can basically reach everybody with the click of a button. You can have a base of operation anywhere. I’m still trying to convince the guys to move with me to a cheaper house in the middle of the country! It would be easier to tour from there as well. But, so far, they aren’t budging!”
Hudson admitted that it was still “pretty cut-throat” in getting people to come to the show.
“Our very first show was at The Viper Room,” he said. “It was packed, shoulder-to-shoulder. But, we did a lot of leg work promoting it. And to this day, you have to stay on top of things, always be active, always be doing something new in keeping your fans engaged. You have to put on a great live show. Make people want to come out and see you instead of just listening to your music at home.”
“We pour blood, sweat and tears all over the stage,” Hudson exclaimed. “You cannot imitate that human connection of someone just giving everything they’ve got on stage. If you can do that, you can grow. We are just blue collar rock and roll for people who love rock and roll. There’s no shtick, there’s no catch. We just want to play good rock and roll music, because there’s just not enough of that.”
KILLING THEM SOFTLY WITH THEIR SONGS
In addition to constantly playing shows, Love and a .38 are currently writing for its new album. While not divulging any themes or ideas, Hudson said he guarantees to rock the socks off.
“I want our music to just stand for the power of rock and roll,” Hudson stated. “We’re not trying to prove that there’s territory left unexplored, ‘cause there’s not. Like Keith Richards said, there’s only one song and we’re all just taking bits and pieces from it. What we’re writing now is not necessarily going into one direction or another. When we wrote our last record, we only had two questions: Does it rock? Yes, it does. Is it good? Yes, we think so. Okay, so we’re going to use this song then. That’s basically going to be the formula for this upcoming album.”
One thing that will be guaranteed from the band is the emotional response from its audience.
“Sometimes we want to convey hope, sometimes we want you to feel sad, angry, or remorse,” Ryan shared. “The point is, we want our music to make you feel all these different things. Music is nothing except the physical representation of emotion. We’re just trying to make people feel something. If we can do that, we’ve done a pretty good job.”
Any musician will say that the ultimate goal is to support themselves while continuing to do what they love. But Hudson is quick to point out that the smaller successes count just as much.
“Keeping this train moving, keeping this machine going all the time, we’re a lot more fortunate than some bands out there who have crumbled after one album, or just gave up,” Hudson said. “We’re happy to be making music together and to continue to do all this. I really don’t think true success is ever really achieved. Because you just then get lazy, fat and happy. You have to always have something to go for. To be really successful, you have to always have goals.”
For Love and a .38, that means looking forward while remaining flexible.
“It’s really exciting and terrifying at the same time,” Hudson said, “because no one really knows what’s going on, what’s going to happen. It’s tough to plan in the music industry. You have to be fluid, because you’re going to get some curve balls thrown at you. As long as we don’t stagnate, I believe we can keep moving up, level to level.”