Q&A with Hobo Graffiti

Syracuse-based band Hobo Graffiti will perform at the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St., beginning at 9 p.m. Friday.

Although the band is a “side project” for Brand New Sin, these seasoned musicians are stretching their musical muscles and have brought together a raw rock feel, while adding a female vocalist and guitarist, Heather Jones, to the mix.

Hobo Graffiti also includes Kris Wiechmann on guitar and vocals, Tommy Matowski on lead guitar, Chuck Kahl on bass and Kevin Dean on drums.

The Sun-Gazette had the pleasure of catching up with Dean, the band’s drummer, to chat a little bit about influences, Hobo Graffiti’s birth and their exciting gig of hosting a bi-weekly open mic night at Mac’s Bad Art Bar in Mattydale, N.Y.

BETHANY WIEGAND: How did Hobo Graffiti start? Your bio said it’s a collaboration. So what was the beginning?

KEVIN DEAN: Kris and Chuck started a hardcore-metal band called Godbelow 15 years ago. They did some touring and got picked up by a record label just as they were splitting up with their singer and drummer. They calmed down a bit and started writing more commercially acceptable hard rock and metal and called the band Brand New Sin in 2001. I joined the band four months after the first album was released. We’ve toured the country numerous times with bands like Motorhead, COC, Clutch, Saliva, Slash, Black Label Society, Mushroomhead, The Cult, Type O Negative, plus we toured the UK, we were on MTV with three videos, we signed a few record labels, we released five CDs and an EP with worldwide distribution, our music is in video games and a movie: “The School of Rock” with Jack Black (we had a small cameo appearance), we recorded the theme song for the WWE wrestler The Big Show … etc., etc. I could fill your head with details for months, but you get the idea.

BW: Your bio says you host an Open Mic Night. What’s that experience been like? Have you met some local undiscovered talent? How did you get that opportunity?

KD: We have hosted open mic nights on and off for the past seven years. We came up with the idea as a way to keep busy when we weren’t on the road. We pitched the idea to a new bar owner and he loved it. It has, without a doubt, made us more adaptable, creative and versatile. It’s different each night, rarely boring and always fun. It is one of the best ways to unite and bond with the musician community a well as music fans of almost any genre. Yes! We get new talent all the time. It’s how we met Heather.

BW: What is the writing process like for Hobo Graffiti? Do you all collaborate on that or is it just one individual?

KD: Kris is and has been the main song writer since I joined a band with him ten years ago. He’s not a music geek like me. He can’t sit down and work on scales and shit or learn guitar technique on YouTube and practice like a normal human being. He plays two notes and he flips into producer mode and hones in on the mission to finish the riff, the next part, then the drum parts, lyrics, bass, solo etc. Chuck is the sleeper; doesn’t talk too much and let’s Kris or me bully him around until he eventually speaks up and becomes the structure and transition advisor, groove guy, occasional songwriter and therapist. Tommy goes with the flow usually. He adds layers of harmonies and textures we normally wouldn’t have thought of. He’s the young blood. We’re old school but we’re not out of touch. Tommy’s an old soul and we all get each others’ vibe. We know what sounds good and we all agree 90 percent of the time (on the musical direction that is).

BW: In your bio, you discuss the rawness in your music, saying one your band members referred to it as “in your panties” and that is evident in the tracks you’ve posted. What has made you stick closer to the rawness and acoustic sound?

KD: Hilarious. To bring the metaphor into context, that was a way of saying we aren’t able to hide behind the big drum set and monster guitar stacks – wall of sound -from all the hardcore and metal bands we’ve collectively been in. This kind of music requires much more maturity and discipline to perform [with dynamics and emotion] than just shredding through guitar riffs and testosterone-induced drum and bass thumping.

BW: What are some musicians that inspire you?

KD: John Bonham, Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, Evelyn Glennie, Dave Grohl, Jimmy Page, Gavin Harrison, Bobby McFerrin, Chris Cornell, Terry Bozzio, Matt Cameron (the extremely short list).

BW: With a female vocalist added into the mix, has that changed how you guys write or perform? What does Heather Jones bring to the table?

KD:Yes indeed. She’s what this band needed. It’s rare in these parts. There are a few bands that have both sexes but I don’t see many that sing entire songs in harmony or switch lead vocalists. Heather also leads the band on guitar quite a bit so that allows Kris and Tommy to expand, embellish or get out of the way using dynamics and tones that aren’t easily done with two guitars. She has tenderness, power, aggression, swagger, and she captures the crowd. She really shines on lead tambourine.

BW:What is Hobo Graffiti’s hometown? Is that where everyone is from?

KD: Syracuse, N.Y. Kris, Tommy, Chuck and I all grew up in the city or suburbs. Heather’s not from Syracuse. She’s a gypsy.

BW: Is this a full time gig for all of you?

KD: I am a full time drummer, drum teacher and musician however, this band isn’t quite supporting us yet. That is the prime directive.

BW:What can audiences at the Bullfrog expect if they aren’t familiar with Hobo Grafitti?

KD: Dancing, drinking, laughing and rocking with a rowdy band that is a hybrid of acoustic, electric, blues, rock, alternative, punk, rockabilly, and dirty rock n roll.

For more information on Hobo Graffiti, visit their website at hobograffiti.com.