A modern day problem brought to animated life.Screenshot
The Lewd Dudes, "Your favorite band in Austin," are premiering an animated video created by Houston artist Hannah Wolf for their song “Pay Him” off their latest release Malbec.
The song explores the complicated dynamic between making art to live, and making a living from your art begging the question, why aren’t self-proclaimed music fans always willing to pay musicians for their craft?
The Lewd Dudes aim to please and have come to be known for their lightheartedness, but “Pay Him,” though catchy, tackles a serious subject for musicians all over the globe. The band prides themselves on their musical talents and though they love joking around, they take their craft very seriously.
“We just wanted to be in something that puts a smile on people's faces,” says guitarist and vocalist Andrew Riefenstahl. “That was really the original intention when we created the band and I definitely have to say, over the last three years that positive energy has really translated.”
Being based in Austin, the ‘capital of live music,’ comes with its pros and cons for musicians. The market can be easily saturated as the price of living goes up making it harder and harder for gigging musicians to maintain a sustainable career.
The band learned the hard way that in an industry where many agreements are sealed with a handshake, they had to advocate for themselves and negotiate payment prior to the gigs as large crowds or streaming numbers do not always translate into big checks.
The Lewd Dudes described an incident where they were not paid for their performance, inspiring them to write “Pay Him,” not only about this one occurrence, but for all the other musicians who have experienced something similar.
“We came to a point where we realized that we were not being compensated for the time and effort that we were putting in,” says keyboardist Scott Morgan. “It can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes,” adds Riefenstahl.
“I think for us, we wanted to play but what we learned through that was knowing our own worth,” says drummer and vocalist Jordan Hughes.
Lead Lewd Dudes guitarist and vocalist Rankin Fetzer is from Houston and previously played in local band Forever Miles. Pre COVID-19, the two groups shared many bills and overlap in their fan base.
Hannah Wolf had animated a video for Forever Miles song "Midnight" and Fetzer reached out to her to work on the video for “Pay Him.”
“I love the juxtaposition of it,” says Wolf of her initial impression of the song. “It was a melody that was fun and you can bob your head to, but the lyrics are serious. I have a lot of friends and people I’ve made work for that have echoed the same exact sentiment.”
Wolf, a live music aficionado, was completing the video as cities all over the world were shutting down to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and she was hearing firsthand from musician friends the financial struggles they were experiencing.
“Before this even happened, musicians were struggling and now this is happening. I hope that we can come back afterwards as fans and be like, we were really taking that fun that we got to have for granted.” Wolf adds: “I’m hoping that people hearing this song and seeing the video will think about that and also be entertained. I wanted it to match the song in that way.”
As cities in Texas begin to reopen music venues, The Lewd Dudes are waiting in a waiting pattern. They look back fondly on their final performance, pre-shutdown, at Stubb's where they performed to benefit St. Baldrick’s Foundation and describe how they and the other bands involved gathered around to discuss the weight surrounding the evening.
“I'm just really happy and honored that we got to be a part of that in Austin,” says Morgan. “Just knowing that we don't know when that environment is going to come back again, but the fact that we got to be there and be a part of it and give everybody their last chance to really enjoy life like it was before the pandemic was just a huge honor for us.”
Just as Wolf hopes that fans will return to music venues with increased gratitude, the band feels a shared responsibility to do the same.
“I think we will be more grateful, too. We all miss it, we all love it and it's the reason we do it. It would be great to be getting paid more and be treated right by venues, but at the end of the day I think we are all just itching to get back in front of an audience and play for our friends, family, loved ones and everybody in the community,” says Morgan.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.