HUSTLE AND DRONE are so new that bringing them up in conversation typically results in shrugged shoulders. Ears perk up, however, when the duo's musical pedigree is described.
It's the kind of buzz that keyboardist Ryan Neighbors (formerly of Portugal. The Man) and bassist Kirk Ohnstad (Hello Electric) are hoping for during these formative months, even as their new band creeps along only a few shows removed from the cloak of their previous projects. Anchored not by buzz but on the duo's stratospheric talents, their self-titled debut EP is set to drop Friday, July 27, on Bandcamp and iTunes.
In a nutshell, Neighbors left his post as keyboardist for globetrotting psych-pop group Portugal. The Man in April. Ohnstad's touted Portland trio Hello Electric went on an indefinite hiatus following their drummer's move to Austria around the same time. The stage was set, and the duo immediately began fleshing out their collaboration, releasing three songs digitally on the same day Neighbors announced his departure from P.TM.
"Without really talking about it, we both just knew [we wanted] a duo with electronic drums,'" explains Neighbors. "We were both on the same page without ever having to talk about what that page was."
Mining the prescient electronic-based indie-pop of groups like TV on the Radio—and to a lesser degree the space-age synth gleam of Air—Hustle and Drone transmit an inspiring blend of sounds, most notably on "Index," which writhes within washes of big beats and slick keyboard accompaniment. Experimentations with tribal rhythms peek out on "Echo," while the moody, soprano-vocal slowpoke "Bobby Wish" employs the duo's pseudo-'80s ballad mien to perfect pitch.
Typhoon's Paul Laxer mixed the EP, under close observation by Neighbors and Ohnstad. The duo's hands-on game plan for the group is evident in virtually everything they've done so far, including their upcoming music video. Most importantly, the group's musical talents mean their live show is no iPod-backed affair.
"We are a band," says Neighbors. "We want people to know we can play our instruments. It's not just a backing track running the show for us while we dance around."