Laughing, music, more laughing, and talking about the struggle that will last until the old folks home. H.R. Rustica is up and they don’t disappoint.

This still somewhat small fawn of a band is from Armada, MI and is made up of Donald Goulette (Guitar), Michelle Wolf (Vocals), Jim Olson (Drums), Cecelia Goulette (Bass), and Bill White (Guitar).

They are quickly gaining a sureness of footing and looking to lock horns with the big boys. Getting set for their first Dirt Fest appearance, Don from H.R. Rustica sat down with us to talk about their influences, what to expect on stage this year, and how some people won’t go down without a musical fight.

NRR: What’s been going on with the band in the last year?
Don Goulette: This is our first year playing Dirt Fest. This time last year Don had just come back from studying in France and we were just getting [our] feet back under us, just trying to find venues and shows to play on. Since then, we’ve moved from local venues to playing on some larger shows with national acts as well as booking our own shows with bands we really like. We also recorded our debut EP, “Waiting,” over the past winter, and are busy playing out in support of it.
NRR: Hopefully you guys have a great time on stage this year.  Are you looking forward to anything in particular at Dirt Fest 2015?
Don Goulette: We really want to make sure we embrace the whole scene for our first time there as a band and take the time to see as many acts and meet as many people as we can. It’s such a bad-ass opportunity that we don’t want to be so overwhelmed by playing that we kinda miss out on the whole experience, you know? Obviously, just getting on stage and seeing it all from that vantage point will be what we look forward to the most, but we don’t want to lose the rest of the day for that short, but blissful, moment on stage.
NRR: What are some of the artistic influences that make your sound distinctively yours?
Don Goulette: We draw from such an extremely varied list of musical influences that it is always really hard to say where our sound came from. We have members with backgrounds in everything from classical music, to jazz, and even ska music. But we also have a lot influences from hard rock and classic rock, such as Led Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult, and even Alice Cooper. Of course we’ve other influences that are more modern and even many from within the Michigan rock scene. We really just write what comes out organically, so we don’t sound like fakes or a rip-off band. These basic songs just take on our sound as we work through the arrangements. It’s very natural, very organic – and we just play what we feel. We’re less metal than most of the acts on the bill, more of a hard rock sound than metal, be we can hang with the big boys for a set, (laughs all around the room)!.
NRR: Are there butterflies when going in front of an audience still or is a large bunch of eyeballs all on you no big thing anymore?
Don Goulette: There’s always a little bit of nerves before a show, but that kind of lifts the energy level too, you know? If the butterflies ever leave totally, the shows might end up coming off a little flat, or forced. There are so many things that can go wrong, and usually some of them do, that we’re usually more nervous about what sort of shit might happen, with equipment malfunctions, and sound, and lighting. We are about the audience who we love to interact with. I don’t think we’d have any trouble performing with any size audience at any venue.
NRR: I know you play a mix of covers and original material. Will there be any new tunes from the arsenal for a rowdy crowd of captive, sonic worshipers?
Don Goulette: We plan on hitting hard with originals at Dirt Fest, although a cover might sneak into the set if we think it fits the vibe. The right cover in the right spot can be useful in a festival, or any show for that matter. It grounds your music with something the crowd knows. We are an originals band and we pride ourselves on our own material. We are working hard on some new songs which is tough during the festival season. We are playing out a lot as well, and so rehearsals get tied up with just prepping for the next show, and then the next… But when Bill joined the band, he brought some new ideas with him, which brought some new energy to the writing process. From that energy, I also started with some new ideas. So, if we have time to get anything show ready, there may be a new song or two on the set.

H.R. Rustica – Bada$$ Mofo

NRR: What can we expect from the H. R. Rustica camp in the coming days after Dirt Fest is a fond memory of a slumbering, metal giant, until 2016?
Don Goulette: We plan to keep playing out a few times each month right through the fall and into the winter, just to keep pushing the new EP and spreading our sound around the region. We’re emphasizing shows further from home, and with regional and national touring acts, including inviting those same regional and touring bands onto the shows that we book ourselves. But, because we’re also writing a lot of late, the plan is to keep working on new material as well. From time-to-time, we’ll sneak these new songs in on shows, along with those from the EP, just so we can audience test them. When there are enough of them that both us and the audience like, we’ll start working on our first full-length album.
NRR: Is there a band or bands on this year’s Dirt Fest line-up that you are looking forward to seeing as fans?
Don Goulette: Many! Where do you start with a line-up like this, really? But even with all the big names on this show, we’re maybe more stoked about seeing Taproot than most of the others, just because they’ve been away for a while. Critical Bill is a local hero band, and it will be cool to see them in this environment. And we’re pretty tight with Black Flower Blossom, so being able to hang with them AND see them play is very kick-ass. In some ways, we’re more stoked to see all our local faves in that environment, because they’re OURS, but it’s then again, it’s different out there at Dirt Fest, if you follow.
NRR: How important is selling merch for a band like H. R. Rustica at a festival like this, and is it a better way to fund band related needs then, say, an Indigogo or Kickstarter campaign?
Don Goulette: Well, selling merch is vital in the music scene these days, especially for the smart-ass, whipper-snapper, young guns, like us. And it’s better than Indigogo or Kickstarter in that [you’re] getting your name, your brand, your image, out there while possibly widening your audience. Online campaigns hit up the same peeps who already support you at shows and such. Or, they hit up good hearted friends and family that may not even like the shit you play. But these festivals, and especially this one, are full of musically minded people who, mostly, aren’t already your fans. If your set, or even just your shirt design, catches their eye and maybe they even grab your CD, then maybe others will see them wearing your merch, and ask about the band. It won’t raise as much money as fast, but building a fan base is more about working hard, putting in time at shows, and fully participating in the music scene.
NRR: For anyone that might not have heard your music before, what can they expect to get from you since you are such an eccentric band musical wise?
Don Goulette: Well, first it’s music that we really feel, so the audience feels that, too. We’re not trying to mimic or mock other bands. We play hard rock, but Cecelia’s bass line might get a little (or maybe a lot) funky underneath, or the guitar changes might steal a jazz progression. Our drummer, Jim Olson, can REALLY drum and our singer, Michelle Wolf, can REALLY sing, you know? They could play any style with anybody, if they wanted to. But, this sound is very much who we are, again, very organic while the lyrics are very literate, you know? We’re not writing the great American novel, but they paint a picture or tell a story, or bitch about something important from time-to-time. To sum it up we play what we write. We are not trying to conform to a metal scene, or a rock scene, or any scene for that matter. We are doing what we love to do: play.
NRR: If you guys woke up the day after Dirt Fest thinking you’ve done all there is to do now and quit music altogether, would you be able to handle “normal” life again, (laughing)?
Don Goulette: (Laughing), We all have different takes on this, (laughing more)! It’s hard to even think about this while we’re here in the middle of all this, trying to make this thing work as a livelihood. It takes some real commitment in time, money, energy, plus all the time away from friends and family.
Even thinking about going back to “normal” life is like breaking the “oath of servitude.” But, in reality, the answer to this one really varies member-by-member, as to how well we’d survive that kind of purgatory. We have working stiffs in the band who could continue to work and feed the family and all that stuff; and while they would miss the whole thing, they might be fine just jamming for fun once in a while. We have members who are still in “school” learning to do “professions,” and so who would probably make the adjustment okay, even if they went out kicking and screaming. They’d probably always play with friends for shits and giggles, but they’d make it through without being “all in.” Michelle? Michelle will do this. FOREVER. Seriously, she’ll be the one in the old folks’ home still asking all the other ladies if the know anybody with connections at a record label.

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About The Author

After getting the photo bug in the far, past days of black and white film, Erich continued to develop his eye for photography which lead to stops in the sporting, art, wedding, and eventually concert music worlds. Now, doing more writing for National Rock Review, he has entered into the journey of getting to know the artists and the industry, not just the faces on the other side of the lens.

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