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Fuel the Funeral Entertainment

In Louisiana, thirty-seven miles from the Gulf of Mexico, lies the town of Cut Off, the place where Hunter Bruce was born and raised. At that time (and still to this day), it was the type of place with nothing to do. You could find Hunter with friends hanging out in the parking lots of Sonic or Wal-mart. And the music scene… well it didn’t exist there. Experience with music for him at that time was whatever played on the radio. Streaming could only be found on Pandora and music in his household wasn’t a focal point. It wasn’t until Hunter graduated high school and moved away that he got to actually see live music. His first experience was on a grand scale and it would change his life forever.

On June 27th, 2016 the Warped Tour made its stop in New Orleans. And Hunter was one of the thousands in attendance. With most of his friends off to the military, he went to this event alone, and would spend most of that day at the smaller Full Sail University Stage. He affectionately recalls, “I saw Bad Seed Rising, incredible. I wish they would’ve never broken up. I saw Palaye Royal. No one knew who these guys were. There was like twenty people standing in front of that stage with me. Now these guys are touring the world and that’s so awesome to see.” He was later spotted and stopped by the guitarist for Palaye Royal, who signed and gave him a CD, thanking him for coming to their performance. He still has that CD to this day. And he’s kept a record of all the bands he’s seen over the years. Later that same year Islander, whom he was unfamiliar with, would headline at The Varsity Theater in Baton Rouge. He remembered Bad Seed Rising from the Warped Tour, and they were on the bill along with local supporting band Ventruss. That night, he became a fan of Ventruss and would see them countless times in the future. “The guys from Ventruss came, ‘aw dude thank you so much for being here’, you know, shook my hand. ‘Oh man we really appreciate it.’ And whenever that kind of stuff happens, you start realizing; man, this is really a tight knit community. You know, it feels genuine. They’re not just trying to sell me a CD or something. They actually appreciate you being here. That’s a really cool feeling.”

I can’t help but draw attention to the idea that, just like Hunter came away with a good feeling from his interaction with the band, the bands exist in that moment on stage drawing their feeling from the crowd. When the energy and excitement is projected from those in attendance, they witness a better performance. For many, these shows also become a new source of friendships. Regular attendees recognize one another from previous shows and began to strike up conversations among one another. And speaking from personal experience, I can say that a band grows in their appeal once you have some sort of personal vestment in them. Gaining friends with mutual interests, meeting members of the band that just blew you away on stage, and perhaps coming away from a show with a memento of some sort all make people feel connected and a part of something greater and more relative. These experiences also help to quell the overwhelming nature of today’s uber-convenient paths to new music. We have the world at our fingertips when it comes to new music. But there’s just so many options that make all too easy to get lost. Indie bands in Louisiana, for instance, often times get drowned out by all the other music with which they have to contend globally. Neworleansmusicians.com has focused on the niche of Louisiana bands, in part, for that reason. Bands who join our site intermingle pools of fans, helping to lift one another up. Likewise, when a booking agent does their job well, you can show up because you recognize one of the bands on the bill, and walk away gaining interest in new ones. In his present-day capacity as an entertainment company owner, Hunter recognizes and has been able to lend his services to bands in the Gulf Coast region, an area that he paused to recognize in this interview as rich with new talent. This is a pleasant surprise, given the havoc that Covid wreaked on the live music community as a whole.

“There was a lot of bands that broke up, which is unfortunate. There’s a lot of bands that took that time and said, well we can’t perform right now. But we can write. We can go to the studio. We can record. We can really spend this time honing our craft and come out swinging. And I think once the lockdown stopped and people came back, you could really see who spent those two years just kind of sitting around waiting, and who spent those two years still diligently trying to hone their craft.” As anyone can tell by now, Hunter remained an attentive understudy of the local music scene throughout. From his break out from Cut Off, to a stint in Houma, to finally settling in Folsom, Louisiana, that list of bands he’d seen grew to over 300. And all of these places were and still are rather obscure when it comes to hotbeds of music activity. He was constantly driving out to see these bands play. So, when a new venue, the Hideaway Den & Arcade opened up near him in Folsom, he was elated to attend their first rock show. Pious, Thornprick, and Dead Machine Theory were on the bill. The venue was pleased with the turnout and Hunter, well he saw opportunity. He approached the owner about booking another rock show and they accepted. On the bill was Acala from Covington, 4Mag Nitrous out of Baton Rouge, and Dead Savage from Hammond. The three fit well and, barring the fact that he accidently booked it on his wedding anniversary, the show was a success. “From that show, we’ve expanded so much. We built out the stage. We brought in an in-house sound tech with a full sound rig. They’re looking to do more and more. Whenever they first opened up, they were like man, we want to be the Southport Hall of the north shore in the sense that we want to offer a wide array of entertainment.” In the past, many places in the north shore area have been accustomed to the safety of cover bands. Every so often a local act performs. But Hunter hopes to see more original talent performing in the area. And he hopes The Hideaway, where he has become the main talent buyer, sets the standard. His intention is to strategically mix local bands with regional, national, more widely recognized names. Shortly after approaching and booking his first show at The Hideaway, Hunter approached about twenty venues between Slidell and Hammond with the interest of booking shows. “I went to these places. You know, here’s my business card. I understand you don’t know me from Adam. But, you know, give me a chance. Let’s see what we can do. Everywhere turned their nose at me; slammed the door in my face. They didn’t want to work with me. I get it, you know. You don’t know who I am and a lot of these places, they have their in-house people already. But after that, I’m like alright I guess I’m all in on this place (The Hideaway). And I’ve been all in with them ever since. And I don’t regret it man, I never looked back. And I think now if one of these places that originally turned their nose to me came back and said, oh man we’ve been seeing what you’re doing for this place, maybe we can do something, I’d probably tell them no. They take really good care of me here. I’m all in over here.”

Reflecting on his start, Hunter couldn’t remember the last time he did something that brought him so much joy. From booking the bands, to doing the fliers, to the online promotion, he fell in love. He became a true believer in the old adage “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” So, unbeknownst to most, during his days booking, he spent four months registering, recruiting, and building his own roster. By its proper name, Fuel the Funeral Entertainment is now a booking agency with a list of developmental and promotional services, some of which include EPK one sheets, public relations, advertising, and website creation. Through dedication and diligence, Hunter hopes to bring to these bands what they have brought to him, loyalty. “There’s a lot of nights where you’re working until two or three in the morning.  behind the computer making sure that it’s done the right way. I don’t want to approach these bands and say hey, let me give you booking representation if I don’t know what I’m doing, you know? There’re enough thieves out there. I don’t want to be another one of them. And that’s what really lead me to starting this venture.” Before he began the process of forming this LLC, before he even had the idea, he was hired by an up-and-coming artist management firm that wanted to expand into booking. Though initially excited about the opportunity, upon working for the firm he began to notice business practices that he would only describe as a little less than reputable. “We’re taking these bands’ money and we’re not doing much for them. How are we justifying this? I just took a big step back and I’m like, I don’t want to do this. This feels wrong.” And just as one experience inspired him to book for The Hideaway, his experience with this company prompted him to forge his own path.

Since its inception, Fuel the Funeral Entertainment has been focused on transparency. The contracts come with personal advice from Hunter himself advising recipients to bring the documents to an entertainment lawyer. And I wouldn’t be surprised if honesty is the best bait out there these days. He’s been in discussions with bands that he’s had to turn away. Though he has confidence in his future ability to become more adept at the art, if what they’re seeking is outside of his level of current experience, he’s not above informing them. During our discussion, he stressed the importance of knowing one’s limitations and not embellishing upon them. This, coupled with his humility and true appreciation for what bands bring left a lasting impression that tells me his candor in business will take him far. You can view their list of services and submit works for review on the contact form at Fuelthefuneralentertainment.com.  

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

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Matt Rhombus of Totem

For Matt, the Big Bang occurred at the age of eight when he encountered a family member’s extensive music collection. From this single point in time, his melodic universe began with cosmic bodies like Korn, System of a Down, Slipknot, Weezer, and Alice in Chains. Ever expanding, his exploration has landed him in a galaxy filled with sludge, punk, and rock-and-roll. Bass-heavy grooves have charted his path on this journey and, over time, have become the dominant, more prevalent point of recognition for his vessel of worship known as Totem. While music itself was always at the core of his attraction, camaraderie surely enhanced his gravitation. Like many of us that play, we are inexplicably drawn to an instrument at an early age. And suddenly, the arduous task of finding ourselves as human beings is compounded with finding a sense of musical identity. For those of you that don’t play an instrument, I would liken finding one’s musical identity to getting your first apartment. You don’t have much to do it with. Still, you gather everything you have that you think you will need, and some of what expresses who you are, to establish yourself in this “new” life. Only you’re not sure exactly where you want to live, what you want it to look like, or what you can afford. I have always admired true musicians because not only do they face this head-on at a time in life when they are still unsure of themselves. But they do it out in the open, in front of everyone. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the court of public opinion can be bitter.

Unbeknownst to Matt, he was mentally preparing himself for this quest just two years after honestly encountering music for the first time. He found himself doodling band names on his binders while in class. And at thirteen, to some degree, it had manifested itself physically. His hair was spiked and his jeans had chains hanging from them. Soon his friends would be discussing the idea of starting their own band. He knew several guitar players and a drummer. So, he settled upon bass as his contribution to the endeavor. “I think it was like, a Crescent or something. I remember cracking that thing open on Christmas Eve. And it was just a little beginner bass. But man, I wore that thing out.” At that time, Matt knew the cost of a bass guitar. While he gave it a shot, he was almost sure he wouldn’t be lucky enough to get one. But in due time, he would come to know the value. And while he did dabble in rhythm guitar and drums over the years, he always stuck by his bass. Looking back, he affirms the experimentations became useful tools within his narrative. Because of them, if need be, he can pick up or sit behind either and play.

“Getting better at bass… I think that I actually haven’t progressed, like technically speaking, at playing bass. Like, I don’t think I’m an amazing bass player by any means. But I use the bass as kind of a tool to help me write songs. That’s been the struggle of my past ten years, trying to find my place in the New Orleans music scene in general. Being in one band, being in another band, I’ve decided that I’m not going to put my talent up to somebody else anymore. I’m going to spearhead everything. And that’s why our band right now, Totem, is very bass-heavy and very bass-driven.” Modesty would definitely be Matt’s namesake. And his tendency to cite things like tremolos from Steve Harris and other technical players in the field has perhaps contributed to this mental conflict within him. But his niche and true appreciation for the craft lies within getting into a groove and holding things down to propel the song. Pitting one musician’s take on things against another is misleading. But inside the minds of many musicians, this is sometimes an eternal conflict. Doubting one’s self is by its very nature, misleading. And there came a point in time where this combined with being kicked out of a band had Matt stuffing his gear into a closet and shutting the door. He credits his long-time friend and drummer, Gage Breaux, with forcing him to leave the questions behind and return to the things he loved about the art. Their bond and Matt’s second coming further cemented Totem in the rhythmic, bass-lavish landscape that has become their signature sound.

Sparking an alternate creative direction in Totem with a new guitarist, Max Bonnet, has aided Matt in dusting off the difficulties within him. And intentionally not sticking to one particular genre keeps things fresh. As he pointed out, Boris, The Melvins, and Neurosis have always been bands that inspired him in this vein. Max brings with him a penchant for the shoegaze genre. Which should bring about a balancing effect when paired with Totem’s already established driving bass and drum elements. “Max is like refined energy. And he knows how to put the right dynamics on certain strums and he has more technique. He’s got something going on with him. He’s got this shoegaze background. I don’t know, he was obsessed with shoegaze for a while. He’s got some pretty shit that is really going to help us open up a new door to the psyche-rock domain.” In the past, Totem has been a trio where the bass basically commandeered the responsibility normally taken up by the rhythm guitar; keeping pace in the groove and moving things along a plane. Their drummer, Gage, would reinforce this, adding highlights and directing the change-ups. In the future, much of that will remain the same. But this recent addition will accentuate those priorities while also pulling the direction into question. Totem’s recent EP, For What It’s Worth, can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp. And it will come to be a pivotal sonic example from the band. Because moving forward, a unique dimension via Max Bonnet will emerge. The newly minted trio is in the midst of writing several songs to add to their EP in preparation for their upcoming album. And in true Totem spirit, it will be exploratory, possessing artifacts of both prior artistic endeavors and future direction.