Brooklyn’s Little Hustle just released their long-awaited debut album, Notepasser. The local quartet put a significant amount of time, effort, and love into this release over the course of the last half dozen years, and it shows.
The songs on Notepasser are finely crafted, reflecting a strong urge to get listeners grooving and moving, but without pigeonholing their sound into your typical synth-driven dance-punk act. Instead, Notepasser embodies the creative impulses of all four members, incorporating elements of classic indie rock, riot grrrl, psychedelic-pop, and even shoegaze, to create a varied, yet cohesive album that’ll both energize and challenge its listeners.
We recently caught up with lead singer/keyboardist Rebecca Keith and drummer Mike Morini (who are real-life husband and wife), to chat about Little Hustle, the making of Notepasser, and the project’s history:
Congrats on your new record! It took you some time to release your first full length. How and when did Little Hustle start?
Mike: I started a band called Butchers and Bakers a while ago. We were looking for a new singer, so we auditioned a few people, including Rebecca. Originally, we decided on another lead singer for Butchers and Bakers, but that person wound up quitting a few months later. So at that point, we asked Rebecca to be the lead singer. However, by that time, we went through a few member changes and realized it was a new project. So, we formed Little Hustle with Rebecca as the frontperson.
Tell me about your new record, Notepasser. How long were you working on it? What was the writing and recording process?
Rebecca: Back in 2014, we were thinking, “let’s record some stuff so we can put out some singles.” So we did that and began the mixing process, but we also sought the input of our friend Danny Taylor, who runs House Under Magic. We wanted a different ear to help us mix it. He let Eli, Mike, and I go in there and nitpick things. We kind of thought it was done, but then our friend Jon Cohrs who mastered it made some suggestions. We toured when we released Hall of Gems back in 2017, which is the first single and video on the album. Then we put a pause on making the album because we put a lot of work into that video.
Mike: The recording process was about two years, mixing was a year and a half. We worked on it for a few years. We went back and forth about different sounds. Yeah, we definitely put a lot of work into the video for Hall of Gems.
What are some of your sonic and thematic influences on Notepasser?
Mike: Sonically, I think we all come from different backgrounds which made the sound what it is. Eli is a big Guided By Voices fan. Marcus comes from a punk background. Rebecca and I are influenced by similar stuff, her riot girl, me more ’90s college rock. More recently, we were listening to Black Mountain. All of our songs come out pretty organically out of jams.
Rebecca: Some of the songs on the record are poppier and have a Le Tigre bite to them. I would also say St. Vincent and Helium as well. Thematically, I think it focuses on a lot of life stuff. I was in a job transition period at the time, so some songs focus on the idea of finding your place as an adult. The album, and the title Notepasser, also deals with the competing themes of analog vs. digital. I’m a writer, so that’s how I communicate. Also, the old practice of passing notes and how people communicated in the analog world. Back when we were kids, that’s how we communicated. Now we use phones a lot and nobody passes notes anymore. Some of my deepest friendships were formed through written media, things like zines and writing letters. It required thought and work, but now we don’t do those things really anymore.
What’s next for Little Hustle?
We’re touring along the east coast in July. We have a couple of music videos for the album that we’re working on. Then we’ll finish up some other songs and go back into the studio this summer. Those will hopefully come out as singles later this year.
You guys put a lot of effort into making music videos. Do you find it’s important for the band to have that visual element to accompany your music?
Mike: I work in the film industry, so I feel like it’s a creative outlet for me. I do miss the idea of watching MTV and watching amazing music videos. I did that for year and years. That’s important for me to recreate that.
What Brooklyn bands are you currently listening to?
You can purchase Notepasser on Bandcamp. The album is also available on all streaming platforms, including Spotify.
You can check out the incredible video for Hall of Gems.
Images courtesy of Little Hustle.
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