Hatched in Cleveland, Ohio, Big Hoke delivers horn infused, original Americana and Roots/Rock/Revivalism. Elements of New Orleans Jazz, early Rock n’ Roll, and a Singer/Songwriter mentality make this 12 piece band unstoppable. Justin Gorski (pictured) leads his team of professional players from the Cleveland area with his song writing, arranging, vocals and piano playing that has been marinating inside him since the age of 5.
Big Hoke’s latest EP, People takes the next step forward into deeper songwriting for Big Hoke. There is a love song with weeping slide guitars, a spoken word intro from a local poet, and introspective glances into the heart with more acoustic instrumentation. On top of that, People also brings the noise with raucous numbers like “Baby, I’m in the Mood For You”, and the crowd favorite, “Bill Murray”.
Justin made his mark years ago traveling with the “Magpies/Whiskeyhounds”- an Americana powerhouse. Since then he’s started a family, an extremely popular vegan cafe, and started writing/producing and recording his and other people’s material. He’s excited for you to hear his best work yet and to get back out on the road!
Today Glide is excited to premiere “Bill Murray,” a song that is as fun and eccentric as its namesake actor. This piano-driven rock anthem uses a big band sound, including a shimmering brass section and soulful organ, to amplify the stomping energy and humorous lyrics that seem to be simultaneously beckoning the actor while also fantasizing about what might happen should its writer encounter him. While the video is downright silly with someone donning a Bill Murray mask that is best described as creepy, it also stirs up a hell of a lot of fun that culminates with a Saturday Night Live-meets-New-Orleans-jazz blowout of horns.
Justin describes the inspiration behind the song:
“Bill Murray” came to me while meditating. The hook just hit me right in the face. I couldn’t get it out of my mind! Then I started thinking…what is it like to be Bill? So a bunch of questions started flooding my mind- some absurd, some real. It wrote itself from that point. The fun part was recording it with the brass- they were phenomenal. They nailed their parts and I look forward to making the video now!
Watch the video and read our chat with Big Hoke below…
Your sound on “Bill Murray” is brassy and bold, with obvious nods to the 70’s songwriter greats, but with a loud stomping rhythm section. Where was this recorded and what techniques did you utilize to get that stomp?
Suma Recording Studios is a historic Cleveland studio- Pere Ubu, Grand Funk, Joe Walsh, etc…have recorded there since the late 70’s. The original engineers have since passed, but a friend of mine, Michael Seifert, heard they were going to close and piecemeal the gear out and sell the building. He was able to get funding and bought the studio and the gear and all the old tapes, etc…He took his time to redevelop the studio and has recently just opened up. I had to get in there!
The main recording room is an old dining hall and the room just sounds amazing (old wooden timbers/high ceilings). This song started out as a demo and after I listened a few times I thought- “this could use some drums and hand claps and tambo…” So I went back in the studio and grabbed an old kick drum and beat the hell out of it with a drumstick. After the kick drum was beaten to submission, we added some takes of us stomping our feet. Then we did about 4/5 takes doubling up hand claps (just the engineer, Dave Shaw and I) and tambos- I love tambos. Note- since this was a demo, I didn’t feel the need to bring in a band, so I did most of the tracking myself. I listened to it again and said…”maybe some organ would be cool on this”. I listened again and said “This needs horns! Bad!” I got some of Cleveland’s best horn players in there (Scott McKee on trumpet, Brad Wagner on sax, and Mark Mauldin- helped with the arrangement and played trombone). So this whole song was an organic creation. We had no idea what we were getting into when I first sat down at their piano and sang this one…
Are you inspired by Harry Nilsson or Dr. John? Your sound has a little bit of New Orleans flare to it.
Both. Yes. Of course! I’m more familiar with Dr. John, but I do love Harry’s songwriting. The New Orleans thing is there for sure- I love Professor Longhair, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Eddie Bo and Meters to name a few. So I’ll take what I love from the piano players I love and make it my own. Other huge influences are Terry Adams of NRBQ, Warren Zevon, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Fats Domino, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel. I could go on and on- Jerry Lee Lewis, of course. I have always loved that New Orleans style tho- it’s liquid. I think it’s the brass, too, that lends itself to that sound. I enjoy the old Louis Armstrong recordings and the Fats Waller stuff and just want to add that to my songs.
Your bio explains the inspiration behind “Bill Murray” briefly but tell us more about why Bill is such an inspiration.
I grew up with Bill in my life like everyone else born in the 70’s. Whatever you saw him in you just smiled. It was an easy smile. There were no airs put on – he was just himself and that was all he needed- and it was absolutely hilarious, heartfelt, and moving. He’s a Midwest guy- maybe that has something to do with it- that blue collar sense of humor. Bill just was always around- in the ether, ya know? Who doesn’t want to be like Bill Murray? Who doesn’t want to hang out with Bill Murray? Who doesn’t want some of that energy/love/inspiration that Bill brings to the table??? I’m also interested in the kind of “zen” approach/mystique around him. He can walk the Earth and just be himself and everyone loves him. I think everyone wants to be able to do that.
We see a bit of Cleveland throughout the music video, how does the city inspire your work?
Right. I’m a Midwesterner. A working class kid from the West Side of Cleveland. You’ve heard the story a million times…Most of my family is from here and I’ve lived most of my life here. There’s something in the water…there’s a mentality. Some good points, some not so savory, but it makes us who we are and I love being a Clevelander. We are tough, hard working people that don’t have a ton of money and we make it work. We make the best of what we’ve got. I try to bring all of that to the table when working on material- it’s hard not to!
Side note- I almost moved to Austin a few years ago when my wife and I first got married to pursue a music career and for some strange reason I felt like I was giving up on Cleveland, so I didn’t. Call me sentimental, but I love this town.
It was an easy sell for me to run around Cleveland to my favorite spots and film this video. The Happy Dog especially has been home to me for over 17 years- either playing happy hours, spinning poka records, playing full band gigs, just hanging out and playing pinball…etc, and Forest City Brewery is another staple. These venues have been there for Cleveland musicians for many years. You can’t forget that!
The video looks like it was a riot to make. Who would you like to shout out that helped or was featured in the video? Who made the Bill paper mache head?
It absolutely was! We just woke up, put the mask on and went out there and filmed everything we could. It was a “day in the life” idea we ended up with for this particular song. We thought about being more story themed/linear or even more artsy, but in the end we settled on what we thought Bill would do for the video- which was just go out there and see what happens!
A great friend and artist, Mark Jenks, and I have been long time collaborators. He helped me start up Dyngus Day Cleveland, and I just wrapped up a movie I created with him called “Bird From Memory”. He and I wrote the soundtrack, created the story, made props, filmed and edited. It was a great experience- check that out too. Asking Mark to do the Bill Murray mask was an obvious choice. I like his take on it- it’s a little abstract, but turned out beautifully on screen. The mask seems funny when I’m dancing around and it seems introspective when I’m on a park bench alone. Pretty cool. I owe a lot of the BIg Hoke look to my talks and collaborations with Mark Jenks.
How does “Bill Murrary” fit into your upcoming EP (due out June 24th)? Tell us more about your EP in general.
“Bill Murray” was the first track written for this EP. Again, I had some material and I went into Suma to just sit and make some demos. All of the tracks I recorded turned out to be on this EP. When I sat down and listened to them, I realized the common theme to this- all the songs were about people. Some more obvious, like “BIll Murray” and “Mr. Rubin” (a song about a plea for help with a relationship from the master himself) and some aren’t such as “Time Makes a Man”. I was also able to do a session of spoken word with a long time friend of mine, Michael Murtaugh. He’s been around Cleveland for a minute, but didn’t start writing poetry until he was older. I brought him in on a whim to see if I could get some sound bytes to tie this project together. We ended up using one of takes for the opening track on the EP and the rest we are releasing on June 6th as an album. So I really got an EP and a spoken word album out of the sessions- pretty damn cool.
This EP is like nothing I’ve ever done before from differing ideas on recording to working with many talented people here in Cleveland. I couldn’t be more excited about it AND the live 10-piece band that’s gonna play it live at The Happy Dog on June 24th. Abby Rose will be opening with myself and the rest of Big Hoke playing the EP, my album Home, AND some new, yes new songs…I’ve got another EP on the way out end of summer called “Little EP”. If you’re in town, please come check out the show, if not, you can grab the EP on Bandcamp.