Hard Working Americans
Hard Working Americans
Hard Working Americans is a mission as much as a band. Loose-limbed, freak flag waving specters caper inside this freshly minted but quicksilver evolving unit where the boogie politics of Haight-Ashbury canoodle with southern muscle, blue-collar understanding, and a bold rallying cry for true American individualism, freedom and community.
“The description of church I got as a kid – a joyous celebration of life and gratitude – was nothing like the reality of it, and I feel like this band is a spiritual outlet that lives up to the description,” says lead singer, professional scallywag and People’s Preacher Todd Snider. “I feel like I’m the small part of a bigger thing. I think the deepest thing music does is make people dance and Hard Working Americans is here to make folks move.”
Formed in late 2013, HWA comprises Snider, bassist Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), guitarist Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood), keyboardist Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi), drummer Duane Trucks and guitarist Jesse Aycock.
“We all agree it’s our job to challenge people. What’ve we got to lose? And it’s easy with this group of musicians,” says Schools. “We have these two young bucks, Jesse Aycock and Duane Trucks, who are just so in love with and dedicated to the craft and eager to try anything. And then you’ve got guys like Neal, Chad and me who’ve been through a million situations of varying levels of success, so we’ve got the point of view that we can get away with whatever we want in this band. Couple that with the enthusiasm of Jesse and Duane and it’s this potent creative engine with no boundaries. And Todd is just an overwhelming output of words and ideas. It’s a pretty ideal situation.”
The group’s self-titled debut was released January 2014 and featured 11 inspired, timely compositions by standout but often overlooked composers like Will Kimbrough, Kevn Kinney, The Bottle Rockets, and more. Part of the HWA mission is shining a light on the folks that get missed in the modern shuffle, and the way the guys crawl inside the songs brings each song to vibrant incarnation, a process that only accelerated more intensely once they took this bohemian revival on the road, something happily evident on the upcoming concert film & live album The First Waltz. Directed by Justin Kreutzmann, the film offers an insightful, copacetic-minded snapshot of the beginning chapter of this fertile new collaboration. But the title The First Waltz is telling. As anyone who’s seen HWA live, the longer this project percolates the more they discover “gears we didn’t know we could use,” , as Neal Casal observed after a recent late night festival barn burner.
“From the beginning, we all agreed to serve the songs and not do some rote bar band covers. The idea was to deconstruct the songs down to their essence and then build them up as a group,” explains Schools. “We made the first record and it was good but once we brought in Jesse and started tour rehearsals we knew instantly we had lightning in a bottle. The obvious question was, ‘What’s next?’ Prove our mettle with original material.”
“The transition to original music has been really easy because of how well and how quickly this band has gelled,” says Schools. “We finished the first tour in February and went directly into the studio in Chicago in the dead of winter, which was great because we were trapped in there [laughs]! We just started playing around with some of Todd’s ideas and Neal just poured out 20 years worth of riff-rock that he’d kept in some vault he’d forgotten about inside himself. So, it’s this sort of psych-rock, riff-rock, garage-y sounding thing with hints of Americana song forms.”
The clear flow and friendship in Hard Working Americans is easy to see, and the gravity of what they’re doing develops a stronger, more irresistible pull the longer they serve this mission.
“When music becomes almost religious it doesn’t need to be a show. It can be a real experience, where the gathering before and hang afterwards all matter to the whole thing, ” says Snider. “I think it’s the highest calling I can put my ability to rhyme orange with door hinge to. I feel like I’ve been preparing my whole life to rhyme words for Dave Schools.”