By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
Folkloric Feel, the 2004 debut by Canada's Apostle of Hustle, drew critical praise for its use of Cuban musical elements. So naturally, the outfit's captivating new disc, National Anthem of Nowhere, is being discussed in similar terms, even though its influences are quite different. As a result, head Hustler Andrew Whiteman, a guitarist/vocalist who's also a member of the acclaimed Broken Social Scene collective, is irritated by allusions to Cuba that keep popping up.
"I have this weird peeve about people who talk about records and drop these names," he concedes. "Motherfucker says 'gypsy' this or 'Cuban' that. He wouldn't know a Cuban song if it came up and bit him on the ass."
According to Whiteman, he first fell for Latin grooves in the living room of his boyhood home in the Toronto area, when fellow adolescents at a party he threw while his parents were away put on his dad's Stan Getz-João Gilberto album. "The vibe of the party changed. Instead of just being wasted teenagers, people started dancing," he recalls. "People were doing the twist on the table, and I really felt that." Even so, he's never had an interest in simply reproducing such music. As he notes, he didn't name the first Apostle album Folkloric Steal.
Anthem, which he made with drummer Dean Stone, bassist Julian Brown and a slew of helpers, is even more eclectic than its predecessor. Whiteman says he drew his musical inspiration in large part from "the axis that starts in the south of Spain and then goes to Morocco and northern Mali," not Havana. Lyrically, meanwhile, tunes like "The Naked and the Alone" and "A Rent Boy Goes Down" sport a pulp-fiction feel. He didn't premeditate these themes, he says. In his words, "The songs started speaking to each other and then talking to me and telling me that there was an actual sort of thematic thing going on with the record, which I wasn't conscious of up to that point."
Whiteman isn't the only Broken Social Scene player to venture beyond the band. Founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning have each made solo discs, and, Whiteman says, "I've been trying to push those guys to package it together, like OutKast." He's not sure if these outside projects will energize the next BSS recording, but he thinks it will be "super-interesting to find out."
Until then, Whiteman is focusing on Apostle of Hustle's music, not the often misguided reactions to it. Shortly after its release, he happened upon what he considered to be an amazingly prescient review: "I was like, 'Wow, man, people understood!' And then I read a couple more, and I was like, 'No, I guess they don't.'"
For more of our conversation with Andrew Whiteman, visit www.westword.com/blogs.