When New Jersey's Rye Coalition nicknamed itself the Hard Luck 5 nearly 10 years ago the members hardly thought it would stick. Bassist Justin Morey came up with the strangely prophetic moniker during a show in 1995, but the group didn't really take it seriously until recently. "We feel like we bust our asses hard," says singer Ralph Cuseglio. "We've been in a band for a long time and we feel like we've run into a lot of bad luck. There's always some ridiculous mishap."
Things have been tough for the quintet the past few months. After having a string of successes, from the acclaim of 2002's math-rock-meets-the-'70s masterpiece On Top to touring with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age to signing a major-label deal with DreamWorks in 2003, things ground to a halt. During the recording of its as-yet-untitled big-league debut, Rye Coalition learned that DreamWorks had been sold and that the group was being shuffled off to Interscope Records. "The past few months have been a struggle," the singer says, noting that the Hard Luck 5 isn't getting much attention from its new label. There is no official release date for its record, and Cuseglio likens their situation to that of an ignored, unwanted stepchild.
Rye Coalition started out in the mid '90s putting out aggressive records that abused listeners with heavy-handed rhythms and shouted vocals that fell somewhere between the Jesus Lizard and Fugazi. By its third album, On Top, the group took its influences a little further back, adding classic-rock sensibilities to the mix, cheekily referencing the new direction in "Stairway to the Free Bird on the Way to the Smokey Water". Cuseglio says the latest batch of songs are all about variety. "A couple of songs on the record come out and grab you by the balls; they're full-on screamers. Some songs are more along the lines of On Top."
The musicians thought they'd experiment more on the new record and searched for an artist to help them achieve that goal, eventually arriving at head Foo Fighter Dave Grohl. "We came up with a wish list," Cuseglio says. "There was John Paul Jones [Led Zeppelin]; Dave Grohl came up; and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age came up." Rye Coalition was contacted by Grohl's management, and after a few meetings the group flew to L.A. to record the album.
Since it finished recording in March, Rye Coalition got restless and is now in the midst of its first tour in almost a year. "We spent a lot of time making our record," Cuseglio says, adding that the band wants to test out material from the as-yet-unreleased new disc.
"That [playing live] is our strongest suit. We just wanted to get out there because it's been such a long time."
When Rye Coalition hits Richard's on Richards on Wednesday (October 6), it will be looking to release the built-up tension and frustration of the past year. Suspecting that the Hard Luck 5's fortunes may be about to change, Cuseglio says the show, as well as the tour, is going to be fun. "If I was going to place a bet on it, the odds are good."