(EDITOR’S NOTE — Call it a reunion, call it a resurrection, call it an album-release party three years after the fact. Whatever you want to call it — and we’ll call it really, really good news — Rust Belt Brigade is playing for the first time since 2020 this Saturday, Nov. 18, at Mohawk Place. It’s their first show since the release of their album ‘Howdy Hallelujah, Here’s the Thing’ three years ago. Band member Trevor Jennings was nice enough to speak with 1120 Press and tell us all about what happened then, and what’s happening now. Please read our story below. The Rust Belt Brigade is: Victor Castillo - Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals; Brandon Mueckl - Bass, Guitar, Vocals; Jeremiah Franco - Banjo, Vocals; Trevor Jennings - Cajon/Percussion, Vocals. — Photo by Meredith Snow/Snowfall Photography.)
1120 PRESS: Thank you so much for speaking with us. Straight up, this is the first time we’ve ever spoken to a band about, essentially, having an album-release show three years after the album was actually released. Before we get into the back story, how does it feel just to have everything behind you and to finally be hitting the stage again?
TREVOR JENNINGS: Thank you so much for having us! It feels great to have everything behind us and we couldn’t be more excited to be playing live once again!
1120: Ok, so let’s take a step back: You recorded the album “Howdy Hallelujah, Here’s the Thing” at Mammoth Recording Studio back in 2020, the year the world stopped due to the pandemic. The album — and by the way, it’s a remarkable piece of work — was released in September of that year, and then things imploded a month later. Can you take us back to that time and tell us all that happened?
TJ: Thanks for the kind words! First off, I want to give a huge shoutout to Mammoth Recording Studio because they were amazing to work with and I highly recommend them to everyone! We had a blast recording the album with them and it’s something we are all really proud of, largely due to our experience there.
Right when we finished recording the album, the pandemic was in full swing and like everyone else, we really didn’t know how long it was going to last. We knew we weren’t going to be able to plan a release show anytime soon and on top of that we got news that Victor was going to be moving to Colorado. We were still stoked to release the album because of how great it turned out, and our plan was to do a vinyl release, as well as a show, when things turned back to “normal”. Fast forward, we released the album online with great reception and planned on keeping things going remotely since one of our members was now so far away. We quickly learned that it wasn’t really going to work out that way, so instead we all made the hard decision to call it quits/go our separate ways musically for the time being.
1120: On the band’s social media, there’s an Oct. 2020 post announcing the discontinuation of RBB “in its current form,” and in that post it stated among other things that “the passion and drive” faded. That period was an especially challenging time for everyone, bands included. But now, here we are, the band is back, playing its first live show in three years and celebrating “Howdy Hallelujah…” What reignited that passion and drive? What led to the decision to get back together and how’s it going?
TJ: The first major thing was Victor making the move back to Buffalo! Like I stated before, our original plan was to try and keep things going remotely but that just wasn’t going to work for us unfortunately. Hence, the “passion and drive” just wasn’t there to keep things going in that form. Once Victor moved back, the conversation was started on putting a show together and none of us hesitated on doing it. It felt great to get back in a room together for practice, and so I quickly contacted Mohawk Place as well as our two openers on the bill and it all came together rather quickly!
1120: What is the state of the band now? How does it differ, if at all, in both makeup and in philosophy/approach compared to before?
TJ: Right now, we are just focusing on this upcoming show and getting all the songs we haven’t played together back to how we left them! The biggest difference I can see now is that our previous philosophy/approach was to play as many shows as we could handle and rarely turned down any offer. For a short period of time, we would bill ourselves as the “Bible Belt Battalion” to avoid trouble with proximity clauses from promoters and play our songs on electric instruments instead of acoustically. They ended up being a lot of fun and inspired us to do half of “Howdy…” electrified. But back then, we were trying to pool as much money as we could to fund the record, a lot has changed since.
1120: So, where does RBB go from here?
TJ: Right now, we are just excited to get back to playing a live show again. We have no firm plans for the future but if all goes well, I could definitely see that changing!
1120: Thank you very much for speaking to us, and most importantly, welcome back! Is there anything else you want to add that we haven’t touched on?
TJ: Thanks again for having us! I just want to give a huge shoutout to Tyler Westcott and Shoot Ya who are joining us for this! We are very excited to have Tyler Westcott opening the night. He is an amazing singer-songwriter and a staple in the Buffalo music scene. He is also the organizer for a remarkable festival called ‘Folkfaces Fest’ that I highly encourage everyone to check out. It’s one of those festivals that anyone can go to and you’ll immediately feel like family and fall in love with all the artists he brings there. In short, its magical!
Shoot Ya is Cody Barcroft’s “Trash-Country” group that features a Buffalo all-star lineup (Sean McNamara, Patrick Jackson, Ryan Campbell, Jamie Sunshine). I love this band so much! Cody has been a huge part of RBB — back to when we used to do a residency at Mr. Goodbar we would frequently have him open the night as well as play songs together. I caught Shoot Ya’s CD release show at The Cave back in 2021 and I’m beyond words on how to explain how truly amazing they are.
We are also very honored to have Sally Schaefer joining us for roughly half of our set as well! She recorded on half the record so we are excited to have her there to do the songs justice! I highly encourage everyone to get there early because we are sharing the stage with some mighty talent!
Also if you want to learn more about the other projects we are all in be sure to check out “Victor A. Castillo” (Victor's Solo Project), “Heart of the Dog” (Jeremiah & Brandon’s Project),“Do it With Malice”, “Captain Tom & The Hooligans”, and “Bobby & The Pedestrians” (Trevor’s Projects)