Hayden Gilbert is the vocalist and guitarist of Hayden Gilbert and The Ruckus, an Akron-based band that delivers “soulful, fast blues-rock” and “croons that morph into primal walls.”
Kyle: So, you guys are a pretty “new” band, at least in terms of recording, since you seem to only have one song floating around the Internet. “Sugar High” is crisp, funky and, in a surprising turn, nosebleed heavy, the kind of song that makes me think you guys have been playing together for awhile. How long has it been since the band formed? And how did you guys meet each other?
Hayden: John BonTempo (bass), Ben “Roxy” Gravatt (drums) and I have been playing together in this particular band for a little less than a year, maybe nine or 10 months. So, yeah, pretty new!
John and I went to the same high school and both of us participated in performance art stuff like band and theater. One of the first times we really started talking about music was when John and our previous drummer, Joe Santin, played an impromptu gig in my English class. Once I saw them play I was like, “I’ve got to make music with these guys.”
“Hayden Gilbert and The Ruckus” is an older name. We were Rogues’ Gallery, but just recently changed it back. It always feels like the band is “new” or transforming, because we are constantly inspired by so many categories of music.
Kyle: Can you name some bands and/or songwriters who’ve directly influenced some aspect of your sound?
Hayden: Jimi Hendrix is the entire reason why I picked up a guitar 16 years ago. That man, in my opinion, is the most important person in terms of writing music and the potential of that instrument. I am obsessed and not embarrassed about saying it. My fretting, guitar lead work, and song writing are all heavily influenced by him.
The sound of the band is rooted in blues, blues-rock/garage and funk, but we mix all types of sounds together. That’s kind of why we’re called Hayden Gilbert and The Ruckus – an amalgamation of genres fused together loudly.
In terms of singing and songwriting, Nina Simone, Big Mama Thornton, and all of the old-school blues cats like Skip James and Blind Willie Johnson fuel the soul. Punk in general has really influenced Ben and me. Groups like DEATH, Misfits and Bad Brains influence our sound, though I’m outspokenly critical of the prejudice that was, and still is, present in that scene. A lot of black artists in the hardcore, garage and early punk scene have truly inspired me, honestly, especially The 1865, DEATH and The Gories.
As a 28-year-old black man living in America, playing music that, to the uninitiated (or just plain ignorant) is considered “white,” conjures up some pretty frustrating feelings that mirror what members in those groups felt. The history of the music I write speaks for itself. However, I think it is important not to ignore the politics, racism and prejudice of all kinds that is still prevalent in the music, whether it’s the mainstream scene or the DIY scene. John, Ben and I play a lot of fun songs. However, I also can’t help but create music based on my experiences and observations, like the groups previously mentioned have done. There’s no divorcing that influence, and I’m so lucky to play in a band with such talented people that feel the same.
Kyle: Do you have any other recorded material hidden away somewhere? If so, is it going to be released sometime soon?
Hayden: We are in the process of recording an EP, which I would like to finish up by the end of summer, if not earlier. Two songs, “Stutter” and “Street Lamps,” are on my old Hayden Gilbert personal SoundCloud, but they were recorded with a different drummer years ago. We plan on re-recording those in addition to other songs with Ben on drums, adding some changes, and releasing them, because we still play those songs all the time at live performances. We also sometimes perform with our good friend John Chaplin, a fantastic saxophone player in town, so there are a few songs I’d like to record with that sound. A podcast on culture and music is also in the works.
Because we are still working on recording the EP and getting content out there, we try to document as many of our live shows as possible, so people can still hear the music and see what we are all about. The Ruckus shows are very energetic. We move a lot. Our videographer/photographer, John Aylward, comes to most of our shows to document everything and make us look pretty, so we consider him the fourth member of the band. There will be footage from a recent performance we did at the Matinee and other venues coming out soon, but there’s still video footage on YouTube and our website from past shows.