It started in their backyard. And it happened in a matter of weeks.
“It was always Northern Hustle from the minute it started,” says Dunlap, who is the band’s lyricist, guitarist and illustrator. “The songs that we first wrote are the same songs that we are playing now. Everything is – it’s just always been.”
Not too long after meeting, the two guys moved in together. Their home inevitably became the hub for jamming out.
“We started having people over for ‘Good Beer, Bad Movie Night’ and when people would come over we’d end up jamming,” says Malfabon, lyricist and guitarist. “It slowly got to the point where people would know the lyrics and people would sing along, and it was like a collective thing.”
Soon, Kleeman began joining the two guys at their house.
“I remember Drew not wanting to perform in front of everybody, and you know, a couple beers deep and out comes the guitar,” Kleeman says. “I distinctly remember the summer of you guys moving in when it was all of us over there all the time [and] that moment when everybody is clapping along and singing along to the songs and we’re just shouting to all the neighbors. Those times were so beautiful.”
It was because of the clapping, the singing along and all the friends who supported the guys that Northern Hustle became what it is today, Dunlap says.
“It was 100% because of our friend’s support,” he says.
Fast forward a year later to today and the two-man act is now a four-member band with Kleeman and Max Barrezueta as percussionists thanks to Jivemind Studios’s Dustin Chaffin.
Chaffin helped Dunlap and Malfabon record their debut album ‘Forgether,’ pushing them to explore percussion sounds.
“We consider Dustin Chaffin our other band member,” Malfabon says. “He’s played an incredible role in this whole situation, and we wouldn’t be what we are without Dustin.”
Northern Hustle’s debut album “Forgether” releases Saturday, Sept. 7. It is a concept album, following the journey of a main character. It is the first album in what will become a trilogy.
The title is a combination of the words “forever” and “together,” but as Dunlap points out, it can be read as Forgether or For Get Her.
Currently, Northern Hustle’s music is being played on rotation at UK’s Elaine Lamb’s radio show on Nevis Radio.
With most of Northern Hustle, how this happened is a story all its own. It was through a friend’s mom who the band has never met that Lamb heard of the band.
On the Facebook’s Farmville game, Lamb watered the friend’s mom’s plants who then met Lamb and passed along the band’s music. Or so the story goes. The band has yet to figure out how it all came about.
It’s a random situation, Kleeman says, but he too says anyone who listens to the band’s music has his respect.
“Watching Drew put his blood, sweat and tears into this project, watching him and John immediately start writing for the next album, witnessing Max go from mostly a guitarist to an amazing percussionist – it’s been quite an exciting year,” Kleeman says. “I just have the upmost respect for these dudes and everyone involved in this, anybody who listens to it.”
The dream of becoming a musician varies among the guys, as well.
For Dunlap who has played for about 13 years now, being a musician has been the dream since he picked up his first Walkman.
“Ever since I was old enough to have a Walkman, I used to put my headphones on and visualize [myself] playing the music,” he says. “And it’s normal for a nine-year-old, but I still did it until I was 22 probably.”
It happened in elementary school for Kleeman who, after watching a high school pep band play, he knew he wanted to play drums forever.
“My drum set when I was younger, is our drum set now, minus all the real things,” Kleeman says. “My mom worked at a dental office and she’d bring these giant tubes that all the products came in and I’d set them up next to my computer, smash on them, pretend they were a drum set.”
Barrezueta knew in high school he wanted to be a musician, but he wasn’t ever sure whether it’d become a full time job. Currently, Barrezueta is a musician by night, and a full-time student by day at ASU.
But for Malfabon, he’s never thought of being a musician as a career path.
“I wanted to go to college, and I wanted to be a dude with a good job and a family and stuff,” he says. “But I’ve always wanted to play music. It was just not a job.”
The band’s not made up of just four guys, though. Dunlap’s five-year-old daughter contributed to ‘Forgether’, too.
“It’s really funny because, no matter how old you are as a dad or how young your kid is, she already thinks, as a five-year-old, her dad’s band is boring,” Dunlap says. “She has no interest. She’s not into it.”
The guys have already begun putting together the second album.
“This album is about a personal struggle that he is fighting with himself to try to be a better person – he or she,” says Dunlap. “From the actual album, the music is darker, heavier and bigger than the last album.”
It’ll be the first album the entire band puts together.
With this second album already in the making, the guys offer advice to other local musicians, saying Tempe Starving Artists and The Underground Foundation are the organizations to start with.
“We went from playing in our backyard to then opening to touring artists within a matter of weeks because Tempe Starving Artists and The Underground Foundation,” Dunlap says. ”They’re really cool, and it’s a great thing to be a part of. It makes me really proud to be from Tempe and Arizona.