Bumpin Uglies knows all about hustle. The Maryland reggae-rock band had spent more than a decade on the road, starting with local open mics and backyard parties and growing into road warriors, building an ever-expanding audience with sold-out shows in clubs and prime spots at festivals from coast to coast, on one national tour after another. Then the pandemic hit, and touring shut down.
After being in motion for so long, singer and lead guitarist Brandon Hardesty wasn’t about to sit still, even if he couldn’t be out on tour. In fact, Bumpin Uglies never really stopped working — they adapted. The group returned to playing backyard parties around Annapolis, where they’re based, and added socially distanced concerts and full-band livestreams. In the fall of 2020, they also started releasing a new song every month as part of a project called the Never Ending Drop.
“We felt like prospectors going out and trying to find gold — it was just uncharted territory,” Hardesty says. “We had to figure out a way to make a living. That’s kind of what being a musician during Covid has felt like to me. You can do it, but you have to be bold.”
Hardesty has been bold from the start. He was waiting tables when he started the band in his early 20s. With an ear for melodies and the determination to succeed, he poured his time and energy into making Bumpin Uglies a success. For years, the band did just about everything themselves, from booking shows to releasing their own albums, building a sense of momentum along the way that eventually became self-sustaining, and then Hardesty wasn’t waiting tables anymore.
No surprise, then, that a musician with his strong work ethic found a way to take maximum advantage of the sudden surplus of time at home. For one thing, he got to hang out with his toddler son, and he and his wife welcomed a new baby. He also wrote a ton of songs. For the first time, Hardesty approached songwriting as a discipline, dedicating time to working on new music rather than waiting for inspiration to strike and then jotting down ideas in the back of the Bumpin Uglies van on his way from one gig to the next.
“I just woke up every morning and I made a pot of coffee, and I had this running list of ideas in my phone for hooks and riffs and progressions,” he says. “I sat down every day and made myself write a song, and 85 percent of them were pretty good. And it was awesome. I really, really enjoyed the process.”
The result is the band’s seventh studio album, Mid-Atlantic Dub, which they recorded in 2021 and plan to release this fall. After showing the breadth of Bumpin Uglies’ influences on the Never Ending Drop, from folk to classic country to hip-hop, Mid-Atlantic Dub brings the group — also featuring Dave Wolf on bass and vocals, Ethan Lichtenberger on keyboards and TJ Haslett on drums — back to the core of what they do.
“It’s very groove-focused,” Hardesty says. “It’s very hooky, very vibey. It’s very accessible, but there was no compromise on the storytelling or the lyricism.”
In fact, Hardesty had a lot on his mind while working songs for Mid-Atlantic Dub. He had recently lost his own father while he was stepping into being a dad himself and letting go of the vestiges of childhood, all during the uncertainty of a global pandemic. It’s all there on “Slow Burn,” featuring Jacob Hemphill from SOJA. “Before the oak you got the sapling and the seed / Before you triumph you will swallow a defeat,” Hardesty sings over unhurried upstroke guitars and a beat laid back into a deep pocket.
“I was doing a lot of growing up during Covid,” he says. “It was very much like a survival thing, and when you’re in that kind of mode, it forces you to cut a lot of bullshit out of your life.” What’s left, in Hardesty’s songwriting as in his daily life, is what’s real, and what’s real stands a solid chance of connecting with an audience that appreciates openhearted lyrics paired with a tight reggae-rock vibe.
“For me, it’s just all about honesty,” Hardesty says. “That’s what I listen for when I’m listening to music. I want to feel like whatever the author’s saying is honest.”
“Every single second is a blessing if you count them all,” sings frontman Matthew Roads. You can hear the sincerity in his voice; the joie de vivre that oozes from everything Tropidelic does is apparent. When they take a stage, their synergy flows member to member – horns blow, knees kicked high and grins are passed from one man to the next. Almost immediately, it spreads to the crowd, lifting hands in the air as their feet begin to move. The pulse collectively becomes that of one.
The six-piece band from Cleveland, Ohio may be far from any tropical islands, but that doesn’t stop them from dishing out an interesting mix of reggae, hip-hop, and high energy funk for audiences across the country. Unapologetically original, Tropidelic has a deep and widespread appreciation for music that can be heard in each note. Some of the members are hip-hop heads, while others are into metal, funk or reggae. Each of these genres lends something to their collective sound. “We pride ourselves in being original in our musicality and personality as a band,” says Roads, “but also in not taking ourselves so seriously that it ruins the fun.”
Quickly elevating themselves in the live circuit, Tropidelic can be found spreading their soulful sound across the country in both intimate venues and music festivals, having shared the stage with and supported such acts as 311, Slightly Stoopid, The Dirty Heads, Pepper, The Flobots and Wookiefoot. Previously, Tropidelic has been featured at Electric Forest, California Roots Music & Art Festival, Reggae Rise Up, Warped Tour and 311 Caribbean Cruise, as well as the host of their own annual Freakstomp Music Festival.
Following on the success of their 2019 release, Here in the Heights, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard reggae charts, Tropidelic has released a series of impressive singles featuring guest appearances from Dirty Heads, Matisyahu, Devin the Dude and Shwayze. These singles have amassed over five million streams in 2020, and they are featured on their latest album, Of Illusion, which debuted on November 13th, 2020. Of Illusion was released on Billboard’s number one reggae label, Ineffable Records. Tropidelic has put in their ten thousand hours, and they have arrived on the national scene to the delight of their ever growing and rapturous fans.
Joint Operation is a powerful rocknroll band from Baltimore, MD. This explosive four-piece has made quite a presence up and down the East Coast and through out the Midwest. JO has been billed with some of the biggest names in the genre.
WELCOME TO THE CIRCUS.
Looking into the core of their music, you can hear influences of bands they all grew up loving. A little like the musicianship of the Beatles mixed with the funkiness of RHCP, throw in some Devo stage action, and you got JO. With the filling sounds of Josh Lewis’ powerful vocals and Mike Busch’s savory guitar licks, you will be up and feelin’ the music in no time. Accompanying them, is the rhythm section made up of Daniel Gallagher’s funky bass hits that are always right in the pocket with drummer Fabrizio Scotto’s hard-hitting fills and snaps. Joint Operation values the idea of connecting with others through their music, while giving the audience a live performance they will never, ever forget. The band hopes to create music and play live shows to help others forget the struggles of life, while screaming out their problems at the top of their lungs. JO brings feeling.
Their debut album, “Scuffed” was released on July 27th, 2019. Gaining over 26,000 streams in the first week. Now reaching over 148,000+ streams less than a year later. Accompanying this release was a SOLD OUT album release show at the 8×10 in Baltimore, MD. This record focuses on talking about life, happiness, and struggles, while bringing in the party with the lively music of their mixed genres.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the band took to the studio and wrote like never before. On December 4th, 2020, the single “Overlooked” dropped from their upcoming record. Gathering 46,000 streams within two months. February 19th, 2021, the group dropped their sophomore release “The Thrill of Stress”, gathering 88,000+ streams on Spotify alone in less than a month.
Joint Operation is about expressing yourself, making what you love, and not giving a damn about the naysayers. JO is always trying to be greater. With huge performances, and countless tours under their belt, they are ready to travel farther out and share their music with others. They hope to push themselves harder and celebrate music and art with others all over the globe!