Sly Fox and the Hustlers: A Band of Frontmen

Written by on May 28, 2021

If you’re not a musician, it’s hard to explain just how it feels to find the right people to form a band. It’s not quite like needing a group of workers. Because it’s not just a job to be filled. Every prospective band member brings a talent and a sound that can shape the direction of the band itself. And when you have everybody you want, just how you want them, nothing beats it.

Sly Fox and the Hustlers are a stellar lineup, and their journey in music is an actual journey through the highways and byways. And sometimes they come back home for a little something.

I talk with Sly Fox for a breakfast chat.

Photo by Bryan Lasky.

RRX: Sly Fox and the Hustlers started with tough times. Namely, your tough times, and your decision to write them out. When you were going through it, when you were writing, were you trying to write songs specifically? And if so, is it any different to write songs now in, presumably, better times?

SF: When I was first inspired to write the songs that became the basis for the band and first CD I was still kind of in the middle of going through some hard times and it pushed me to write down lyrics. The lyrics came with melodies that I turned into songs. Writing now in better times by comparison I find myself inspired on a regular basis to write about things that are important to me. I say it’s still a pretty good mix of storytelling, some based on myself and some based on things I see around me in the world.

RRX: Another step toward the formation of the band was Dylan Storm; namely, his finding the bass. His sound on that instrument is what really backs up the sound. And Dylan wasn’t a bass player to start out. Do you think other bands in history could’ve benefitted from their players X:switching up?

SF: Yes, Dylan is definitely a big part of the sound, we had been friends and jamming together before the band got started. He was in another band playing guitar and singing and when that band split up it freed up Dylan at the same time I needed a bass player. So, it was a natural progression to slide him into the lineup. He’s a great talent, proficient on many instruments and a great voice. I definitely think any band or musician can benefit by switching up instruments the more you understand music overall and how all the parts are related via the different instruments of the band it gives you the big picture over view rather than just coming at it from just one angle. I also think it’s important to sing, even if it’s just a bit to have a full grasp on melody and pitch.

RRX: With drummer Sean Ireland, all the pieces were in place. Sly Fox and the Hustlers were born. Whenever this happens, it’s a thing worthy of celebration. Do you remember what you did to celebrate the moment you realized that you all had it? Did you celebrate at all, or did you tuck your heads down to do the work right away?

SF: Once Sean was on board he really filled out the sound perfectly. He is another multi-instrumentalist he sings great and plays guitar and also a killer drummer. I often say we’re band full of front men. We hit the ground running as soon as Sean came on board because we had shows lined up and some big ones with Kenny Wayne Shephers and Robin Trower so I would say the gigs were the celebration! After those first few shows together we really knew we were cooking and then from that point forward we just wanted to get in the studio and capture the sound.

RRX: Your music has an interesting mix. You got blues and funk and soul with a hard edge to it, something you don’t always hear. It’s a great sound, but is it hard to place yourselves in a category when, say, some streaming service requires it? And did you have a tough time figuring out things like the best venues to shoot for?

SF: Yes, I am not big on categorizing music but I do understand how it comes in handy in people searching for new music… I consider us blues-rock. We are a rock and roll band and therefore we play a mix of roots music funk blues soul even a little bit of a punk edge being here in New York I am sure. My true love musically is the blues. That’s where I always feel at home and I think it comes across in my singing and playing. So even if I were to do a song from a different genre, I feel it would come out a bit bluesy so I do think that the label fits and it allows us to fit well in many clubs, fests and events.

RRX: You all travel a lot, you probably mostly travel, with a few big stops at home. It’s different to play home versus out there, but has it gotten to a point where home starts to feel like another stop? Or will home always be home when you show up and take the stage?

SF: I think a hometown show always has a little something extra to it, something special for sure! At the same time, I love playing new places and meeting new people and traveling in general. We are so excited to be planning a lot of touring to accompany the CD release this Fall with some big hometown shows as well!!

RRX: You play a music that makes people happy to be in the moment. And music can do two things well: make you enjoy the moment, or make you remember the past. And it’s probably no more of an effect when you hear the music than it is when you’re playing the music. When you sing, can you feel past and present, or do you favor one?

SF: Some of the more personal songs may bring up a memory from the past and I’m OK with that but as a general rule thumb went on playing I try to be in the moment as much as possible. I can be feeling the emotions of the words but in general I’m trying to channel some energy and share with the people in front of me and kind of bring us all to that level together that you only get to be at a live show.

RRX: This is where you answer the question I didn’t ask. Road rules for the tour bus? Best greasy spoon? Educate, enlighten, emote – the floor is yours.

SF: Funny story, we’ve been driving forever in this beat up 15-year-old van and we finally upgraded to a beautiful new black E350 Ford Transit 15 passenger van with a high roofline. It’s like our dream Viking or pirate ship lol. We took the seats out the back so we can fit all the gear without a trailer, it’s perfect. Only problem is we got it the last week of February 2020. Two weeks later the whole summer lineup of shows we had planned for disappeared. So, this new van has been sitting in my driveway for over a year. We are planning to release a new CD that we’ve been working on throughout the pandemic and are just wrapping up. And I cannot explain how happy I am to be booking shows all throughout the United States For 2021 and to know that we are finally going to be able to set sail in our beautiful new ship!!

Thank you, Liam and Artie!!

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