Australia’s Hugo Stranger & The Rattlers might be one of the greatest undiscovered band of 2021. Their sound, which draws on influences like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and early Quentin Tarantino Soundtracks, is both iconic and memorable. Having just released their debut album Against The Tide, here is what you need to know about the four-piece rock group from Brisbane and their music that makes them poised for a breakthrough year in 2021.
The framework for the band began back in 2016. Frontman Thomas Harrison, who originally got a late start in music, not picking up a guitar until the age of 20, was spending a year abroad when he wrote what would become the bassline to the group’s song ‘Dark Places’. Feeling he had captured something special, he recorded a solo six song demo out of his bedroom under the moniker Hugo Stranger. When he returned home to Brisbane he posted some ads online looking to turn the idea from a solo project into a band. One of the responses he got was from guitarist Thomas Atkin. Atkin, who was in another band at the time, admitted there was something special about Tom’s ad that drew him in. “When you’ve played in bands for a while it becomes clear that having someone with a vision can be very helpful. The ad on gumtree for Hugo Stranger jumped out immediately. I’d never seen them do a show or had even heard of them but the ad, seeking musicians, had the look of an established rock band with cool visuals that looked like they were from the 60s and an albums worth of demos that sounded like the lost sound track for Pulp Fiction. This band was on to something. Well, as it turned out it was just one person (Tom), who had written, recorded and created all this. Someone with a clear vision. I’m in!”
“My father was a wedding DJ in the 80s playing all the cheesy hits of the time. He passed away when I was really young and I was left with a vinyl collection worthy of a record store. The years after I would immerse myself in his diverse collection, which was doused in reverb and catchy hooks. So I blame my father for my love of Dire Straits and Phil Collins.”-Hugo Stranger & The Rattlers guitarist Thomas Atkin
Ben Lane (bass guitar) and Kyle Zenchyson (drums) would also join the band to complete the lineup. After spending some time honing their sound, the group began to build some buzz through their live shows and would start to make a name for themselves in the Brisbane music scene with their song ‘By Your Side’, which was voted into the top 20 of the 4ZZZ Hot 100 of 2021.
And now the underground rock group is following up the recent success with their debut album Against The Tide. The album, which captures the full range of the group’s sound and influences, has been described by frontman Tom Harrison as the ode to a perfect car mixtape.
“It’s not exactly a concept album but it has the elements of one. Back when burning CD’s was a thing, I loved making mixes that were all over the place but flowed together and had a real style about them so I wanted the album to reflect that mixtape element, which is why it’s a bit all over the place stylistically but still sounds like the same band.”– TOM HARRISON
The album, recorded from early 2019 well into 2020 at The Moon Room recording studio in Brisbane, takes the listener on a journey. From the Bluesy song ‘Strange Days’, to the 50’s Rhythm & Blues sounding song ‘Tonight’, to the upbeat Indie/Garage Rock song ‘Hold On’, the band showcases a full array of styles and influences that still manage to fit together perfectly. Not many bands can capture the diversity of styles that Hugo Stranger & The Rattlers were able to capture on this album, and even fewer can piece it together into one cohesive work that tells a story.
For now, Hugo Stranger & The Rattler’s might still be a local band out of Brisbane, but when listening to their music, you can’t help but feel you’re listening to the next break through band- the Beatles in 1960, Bowie in 1967, or Kings of Leon in 2001. If you follow along with their music and their journey, you might be one of the first few to the party, but you certainly won’t be the last. While they very well could be playing stadiums in their future, for right now, you can listen to their music while they’re still an underground band, while they’re still just your band, and while they’re still just a secret waiting until the rest of the music world takes notice.
You can stream Against the Tide here.
[Key songs to check out- ‘By Your Side’, ‘Tonight’, ‘Hold On’]