Cuba hasn't done much for us lately. Once the source of weekly news stories of sinister plots and diabolical dealings with those godless communists to the east, this tropical island hasn't lived up to its reputation as of late. Cuba may no longer be a political hotspot, but it continues to influence music as evidenced by the stellar debut from Apostle of Hustle, Folkloric Feel. In fact, Andrew Whiteman, the multi-instrumentalist and primary creative force behind the band, received the inspiration which gave birth to Folkloric Feel on an ill-fated trip to Cuba.
"I basically spent all of my time with the old and children, because something went down in old Havana on my first or second night there," Whiteman laughs. "I got wounded so I couldn't really move around too much until I bribed my way into a Cuban hospital a month later. That first month I just had to hang out. I didn't get to go anywhere and be a tourist. When I did finally get into the Cuban Hospital they x-rayed me with a Russian machine and the motherfucking thing was so big it took up the space of two hotel beds. I figured my leg would fall off."
Amidst this sedentary lifestyle and fear of potential lost limbs, Whiteman managed to absorb aspects of the local music for a truly unique album with Folkloric Feel. Seeped in Flamenco influences and the tres (a Cuban guitar-like instrument) Folkloric Feel digs out a niche entirely its own within the indie rock scene. Sounding like a mixture between Broken Social Scene (whom Whiteman is also a member of) and a traditional Cuban band, Apostle of Hustle provides Whiteman with an opportunity to explore sounds not typically found within the North American rock cannon.
"In Apostle of Hustle I get to play a lot of songs in the minor key, I seem to favour those a lot more," Whiteman explains. "I get to play with my compadres Julian Brown and Dean Stone, they're fantastic musicians and fantastic people. It's a whole different thing. We have a fourth member [Ilse Gudino] now and she's a flamenco dancer so that takes everything into a whole different place."
Since Folkloric Feel's release in late August of last year Whiteman and his Apostle of Hustle cohorts have kept busy, slowly gaining new fans through word of mouth and several strong reviews from some of music's pickiest critics. Things recently came to a head with an invitation to play at one of rock's most prestigious festivals, South By Southwest.
"South By was great, we did five shows," beams Whiteman. "We got to do a neighbourhood party that I really enjoyed with kids, dogs and people out by a river barbecuing. We went from that extreme to the other extreme of playing at an Urban Outfitters at 12 in the morning, but people came out. We did a little Canadian showcase the next night and we got our picture on the front page of the paper the next day. I was hoping people would react to the flamenco part of it really strongly and they did."
Of course being a core member in the perpetually hyped Broken Social Scene certainly lends Apostle of Hustle a little extra exposure. In addition to heading out on Apostle of Hustle's inaugural cross Canada tour Whiteman is hard at work putting the finishing touches, along with a who's who of the Canadian indie scene, on the highly anticipated follow up to Broken Social Scene's 2002 critical smash You Forgot it in People.
"We have about 25 songs so I honestly have no idea [how it's going to sound]," he admits. "They range from what people would expect in terms of a full on, five guitar sonic pummelling to absolutely beautiful, quiet, breathy bedroom stuff. I don't know how it's going to get put together. We have so many songs and we might even record more."
This consistently strong out put should be enough to convince anyone Cuba may have dropped down a rung or two, but it still has much to offer.