Ben Ngyuen from Radio UTD recently sat down with The Lewd Dudes, the five-man Austin-based Rock band. They cover everything from old hits and surviving the pandemic to their new album and Quaaludes.
(This interview has been edited for clarity)
Ben Ngyuen: This is Ben. I’m here interviewing The Lewd Dudes. How’s it going?
Riley: How’s it going?
Andrew: Thanks for having us.
Ben: Of course, and can I just get your names down the line?
Riley: My name is Riley Sklar and I play the bass guitar.
Scott: I’m Scott Morgan. I play keys.
Andrew: I’m Andrew Riefenstahl, and I play guitar and sing,
Rankin: Rankin Fetzer. I play guitar and sing as well. And then we got Jordan who’s looking after the tour bus.
Scott: We left him in the car.
Rankin: He’s a drummer, he’s keeping an eye on… he’s on duty.
Ben: He just didn’t feel like coming in?
Andrew: He gets stage fright, which is kind of difficult since we’re in a band and we go on stage. Yeah, he was nervous. He didn’t want to be on the interview.
Ben: That’s alright, that’s understandable. So I guess, you know, kind of obvious question, in a way. How did you guys startup? How did you guys get together and start this thing?
Riley: Um, when we first started out, I was actually sort of like, I had been a musician. And I was kind of like getting out of it and just like, and then all of a sudden I got the call-up, and a friend of mine asked me to go on tour with them and to play bass. And actually, Jordan, our drummer was also in that group. And we basically were touring with another group from Austin, Texas. And then while we were out on that little tour through the Southwest, you know, it just sort of like, reminded me how much I love music and how I’m like, I’m a pretty good performer. So, I decided that when we get back to Austin, we’d get some guys together and we would start a band that was rock music.
Scott: Yeah, we uh, you know, a lot of us we grew up together in Grapevine and the Dallas area, and we’ve been playing music together since high school in Andrew’s backyard, we would go shoot hoops and play music in his barn back there. So we’ve been playing together for, you know, well over a decade before the band even formed.
Ben: All right, sounds good. And so I guess you know, obviously, the pandemic was pretty shit. I think we can all say and agree, can confirm. I think you guys made a song, It was literally just fuck 2020. So throughout the quarantine, how are you guys faring, and were y’all up to?
Rankin: I can’t believe you’re referencing that. Jordan and I made that in one day. Our drummer we kind of just I was like, Hey, I got this beat. And then we just started rapping on it. Yeah, that’s that. I haven’t thought about that song in so long. But that’s real, like fuck 2020 for sure. I mean, I had a good time, but it sucked like we initially had a tour planned for July of 2020 and that got canceled so we’re finally getting around to do it, you know, in August or September now of 2021 It’s so that’s crazy, but we’re still doing it.
Scott: Yeah, we came out with our last album Malbec it came out pretty much like a couple of months before the pandemic happened. So we were like, riding this high with that like, feeling good booking shows, and then all of a sudden it was just like, boom like nothing’s happening at all.
Riley: Yeah, the last show we played was March 12th. At Stubbs and we had a run of shows for South by Southwest 2020 we’re about to play and then where it came through that everything was shutting down. And basically, it took a toll on everybody and throughout the pandemic, we spent about a year and a half recording our new record Habitable Zone which just came out last week.
Scott: Yeah, we’re fortunate that Andrews invested a lot of money into a home studio so we were able to record everything like within our own space without any like other people around just us and that was really nice.
Rankin: Yeah, I got lucky enough to do a few shows during the pandemic too like there’s some really cool venues in Austin that had some really awesome setups socially distance you know and like “Far Out Land” is a place I would always think of it like they were doing rock and roll says during a pandemic like pretty much the only way you know very socially distanced. You kind of like get a table and then it’s masks you know required if you’re not seated so and they were like strict about it and that was really cool.
Scott: Which is a really weird way to play shows if you’re this like really like a very high energy rock band like we get out and we dance in the crowd and we like to put on a show. And it’s so weird to play a show where everybody’s just sitting down like politely looking at you and then it ends [imitating clapping] and it’s like “okay, I think I think you guys are like, I like it”.
Riley: But after you know, rotting inside for a year, be able to get outside and play live music to our friends, even if it was in that setting, It was really relieving. And it actually propelled us to want to like finish out the record, put it out, and then book the tour as soon as the vaccine came out. Although shit is still crazy you know having the vaccine does kind of give you a little bit of hope that at least we can go on tour and rock and roll.
Ben: Yeah I remember it was really funny. So I was in like high school and like this German like hip-hop group I was like coming over on this like this huge like educational thing they like put out like this rap music It was pretty clean, but it helps you like try to learn German was like the point of it. Yeah, it is wild. But the really funny part was all these like nerdy high schoolers. You know, they come out to this like concert hall thing where they got them set up, and then all the teachers like, “Okay, everybody sit down, you know, sit down politely in the rows”, and the group goes on, they’re like, “what are you doing? This is a concert! Get up, get out of your seats! Get dancing!” And so it’s, you know, it does make the point. It’s really weird, I guess, especially you guys to have like the kind of, okay, is a really cool show. Very nice. Very nice.
Riley: Yeah, I think you know, the shows that we have lined up on this tour are gonna be kind of like in your face, rock and roll. And if we had any sort of ability to guarantee vaccines at the door, we would but you know, it’s just not possible at this point. So I think we’re doing the best that we can in terms of being safe and wearing masks when we can and hopefully the people wear masks inside and get vaccinated and get vaccinated. If you’re listening to this and you’re not vaccinated then (bleep) you yeah unless you can’t, some people can’t but…
Ben: So I guess I’m just curious, so why rock and roll for y’all? It obviously works You know, that’s, that’s the band. But what led you guys to rock and roll instead of, I don’t know some other genre?
Andrew: I think, well I grew up in Grapevine, Texas, which is a part of, you know, the DFW Metroplex. And I just remember, like, I can’t remember what it was, but like 102.1 “The Edge” or something like that. 97.9 “The Bone”. It was just always playing Rush or it was playing Def Leppard. Or as we’re driving in here, we heard Tom Petty and we heard the Dire Straits. So there’s like a lot of the Dallas radio sound really resonated with me a lot. And then my dad also played a lot of The Cars, Genesis, Phil Collins, just like your classic bread and butter, like 80s rock music, and they’re really talented and it just has really stuck with me.
Riley: Yeah, I think we all kind of have different influences. We all bring a different like flavor of music to the table. My first favorite band growing up is the Grateful Dead and I listen to a lot of like punk rock like anti-flag and the casualties during middle school. But then I kind of mellowed out and listen to a little bit more easy-going music, I guess now, but everybody has a different style, different influence. And we all bring that to the table and when you mix it all together, I think that that’s where you get kind of like the solid rock and roll sound that we have.
Rankin: Well, I think well I think like with all of us, too, and in our influences, I think we all like different kinds of rock… And like Andrew was like classic rock, Riley’s into punk rock, Jordan, I don’t even know Jordan is into punk, he’s in these into just kind of everything and then you know, I’m like very like blues and funk. Which like I mean, where did rock and roll start but from the Blues. So you know, I think when you when you just put us all together in the same room rock and roll is gonna come out just because we’re gonna fucking rock out.
Scott: You can see that influence when you go from one song to the next like our songs. Like doesn’t, there’s a lot of albums you listen to and it all has like this very, like, it sounds very much the same, you know, but our songs can like change from one to the next. And like some are like really emotional and some are like really excited and happy and others are heavier than the next one. So it’s like every song on the album is a little bit different. Yeah, I
Ben: I remember I was listening to some of your tracks. And like at some point, it was like a saxophone. I can’t remember it was like cracking a cold one or another one on that album. But he really stuck out to me. I was like, damn, like, they got a sax on this thing. It sounds really good too. So I guess, what, kind of, influences your instrumentation?
Riley: Well, we had a sax player, you know, for about two years or so years once we started up and he left the band to kind of do his own thing. He’s playing a lot of shows in Austin, and that kind of influenced our early sound but as soon as we lost our sax player, Scott kind of stepped up and fill the role of that lead melody, you know, kind of driving factor and you’ll hear that on our new album Habitable Zone is a lot of the lead melodies driven with the synthesizer. But I mean we kind of use all different types of arrangements and instrumentations. For example, we have a song called “Florida Konya”, which is about a realm from Nicaragua and it has a very much Latin rock feel to it like a Latin rhythm and a Latin rock and we use some timbales and congas as the instrumentation for the end of that song as well so we try and diversify as much as possible.
Ben: Alright, and I guess so whenever you’re making your songs like whenever I’m listening to them it always just feels like something I can relate to in a sense like they’re really cracking a cold one but then more recently on a video from like “Monday morning” it was just like I saw you guys were like I reporting online we hit all the way that like “Monday morning” we’re still working on the track. So what inspires a lot of your songs and what are some of your favorite songs?
Rankin: Well I guess for “Monday morning”, I guess I kind of came up with the initial inspiration for that song kind of brought the guitar in like one verse and like the chorus to the guys I was like, Y’all, I think I got some cool. And then Scott helped with verse writing. And then I think Andrew wrote the bridge, a little turnaround, little breakdown. And then you kind of just, it’s the song is essentially just verses and choruses as far as the songwriting process on that one, it just kind of like everyone kind of chipped in a little bit. That song, actually, I wrote it, what I wrote it about is, it’s kind of like my love song to music. Because like, you know, no matter if you’re waking up with someone, or not waking up next to someone, or if you miss someone that you fell in love with, like, no matter what you always wake up and music is still there. And I don’t know if most people listen to it and get that message. But that’s actually what the song is about. So I mean, that’s kind of just the love song to music, but we have so many other songs that are proud. Yeah, we have so many other different subjects.
Andrew: And we have a lot of strong lyricists in the group people you know, and they bring their own creative touch to it. And then also we kind of write generally from like, or at least I do, I try to push for more of a storyteller, like show don’t tell. And by having a narrative driving element to your song, it really makes writing verse one verse two verse three verse four, you know, you’re really just taking the listener on an adventure and you have these chorus tags that just you know, they keep bringing them back and so I really enjoy that storyteller element when I’m writing lyrics and I know that Jordan our drummer is a really great lyricist and Rankin as well and we all you know like we’ve heard a couple of times there we all do it all together.
Scott: And I think too on this album you know, you see a lot more serious themes and maybe we had in the past like you know, old songs, “Crackin’ a Cold One”, “69’n on the beach”, like they’re fun songs and like we love them we still play them and everything but like, I think this album, in particular, is a lot more of a reflection of the time in which it was written like it was all written either right before or during the pandemic as well. So I think this album in particular took on some more serious themes, while also still trying to keep that levity that we have as our as this like, party rock fun band.
Ben: All right, two more questions. Just two more. Okay, number one, I should have asked it earlier. But why the lewd dudes?
Andrew: That is a really great question. I remember when we were on tour with our friends’ band from Austin. They’re called The Watters shout out. But yeah, two T’s on that The Watters. But when we were over there, I just remember like we were in the back of somebody’s place and we just played a show and we were having a great time. And it just sort of like came up like because we were we’re kind of like goofy guys. And so what’s funny and I tell this to everybody now is I feel like maybe at that particular moment, I did not have the exact definition of lewd 100% correct. I had throughout my life. I think that I think it’s the connotation that I had heard it in was like sexual in a funny nature, and so lewd to me is about like You know, sexy, funny, Goofy, exciting, but then when it was you know a couple of months later after we’ve written several songs, I decided to crack open a dictionary and it’s like “offensive in a sexual nature” and I’m like it doesn’t say anything about funny in here? This is supposed to be like a light-hearted word. Because I’d always heard it in that context. So that’s kind of like how it hit and then people resonated with it and it’s memorable and it’s a fun light-hearted thing especially when you meet us you know, I think and you hear our music it changes your perception of what lewd is.
Riley: Yeah, I think our if anything, besides rocking and rolling our goal is to change people’s perception of the word lewd, make it more widely acceptable. So, if you ever hesitated when you’re gonna say something’s lewd, then just think twice because the lewd dudes are all about rock and roll.
Rankin: I think some people will think it’s we’re referencing quaaludes. And, like, our music might make a sound like we’re from the 80s or 70s but like, we’re not? Like this is (I’ve been asked that) 2021 and it’s L-E-W-D, not L-U-D-E.
Riley: I think it’d L-U-U-D or something. I don’t even know.
Rankin: Yeah, I don’t know the exact spelling.
Riley: They don’t make Quaaludes anymore.
Rankin: But if they did…
Riley: —if they did, we need a sponsorship.
Rankin: We got a question for you. What’s your favorite Lewd Dudes’ song?
Ben: What’s my favorite Lewd Dudes’ song? I dunno, I just like, you know, I like the whole gamut of it and whenever so they were basically like, Alright, alright, Ben, you got to do this interviews, like some hard party Rockers, elite dues. I don’t like what’s going on here, guys. I’m just like this, this huge nerd, just like sitting in a corner, like doing my work. And they’re like, you got to interview these guys read the website. It’s like, Alright, you know, beer and have a great time. I’m like, Man, I’m 20. We didn’t even get there yet, right? But I think like listening to the whole gamut of the sides is really awesome. I really like the sound and like just the way that it can sound unique, you know, in rock space, where we had sent in, in Radio UTD, we had sent in all these CDs, right from all these promoters. And they’re like, “yo, please, you know, take these CDs” and they all put on these people were like just sending us USBs. It’s 2021. We have like one CD player. And it’s one guy, his boombox, he brought them home. But when you guys sound really is unique is it. It has a lot of different sounds and themes and everything. You can go from like cracking a cold wine to the latest album Habitable Zone. And it’s just really, really interesting. And I like listening to it a lot. But I guess I actually did like “Monday Morning”.
Rankin: “Monday Morning”. reasonable. Yeah. Awesome.
Ben: So last question before I let y’all go. What’s the future? The Lewd Dudes, where are we going? What are y’all thinking?
Riley: Yeah, well, depending on when this airs, we have a show tonight at Three Links. It’s Friday, the second of September, or Thursday. And then tomorrow, we go to Houston, and then we go off to Florida on tour for our first national tour. So ideally, we would like to continue touring. And as soon as we get back, start thinking about the next album that we’re going to record we already have, you know, the pandemic left us with a bunch of time. So we have a lot of songs in the bank that need to at least be demoed out. So I think the future looks bright, we as long as you know, the world can figure its shit out. And we can keep touring and playing rock and roll shows. We’re gonna keep on keeping on and writing more music and playing bigger and badder shows.
Andrew: Yeah, I think we haven’t really talked about it too much. but like we do all of our own recording and sound engineering. And then once we do that all in house, we then bring in or we contract professionals to do the mixing and mastering and so one thing that we’re all looking forward to in the future and that we just continue to get better at is the songwriting process is the sound engineering, you know, using all the hardware, whatever we need to do to get the right performance. So for the future. For me, it’s just continuing that journey of producing higher-quality audio and better songs.
Ben: All right, thank you very much for the interview.
Riley: Thank you, Ben.
Andrew: Thank you very much.
Scott: Pleasure. Yeah. Appreciate you.
Listen to our interview with The Lewd Dudes on the RadioUTD Youtube below!