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An Interview with Return to Dust

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We Talk to Up-and-Coming Grunge Quartet “Return to Dust” About Their Creative Process, Upcoming Plans and Much More! – Interview with Guitarist/Vocalist Matty Bielawski, Bassist/Vocalist Graham Stanush, Lead Guitarist Sebastian Gonzalez and Drummer London Hudson of Return to Dust

Some may say that “Grunge is Dead” but Return to Dust are here to prove otherwise with their killer new self-titled album Return to Dust. Formed just a few years ago in the depths of California, the young quartet is primed to break out onto the touring scene, and the band has some awesome aspirations for their future! We sit down for a chat with the band between their first festival performances at Welcome to Rockville & Sonic Temple, and talk shop about their influences, their songwriting process, upcoming tours and much more!

Return to Dust by Matt Akana

Gleb: Hello, how are you guys? My name is Gleb, nice to meet you all!

Return to Dust: Nice to meet you as well!

Gleb: So this is your fellows’ first Welcome to Rockville, right? Do you have some more shows coming up, or are you just doing the two festivals that are on the schedule for now?

Graham: We do have a tour coming up, we can’t say with who quite yet, but we do have a US tour coming up, we’ll mostly be hitting the East Coast along with some more central cities. But we’re planning to come to North Carolina, Massachusetts, Chicago, Texas, all that places.

Gleb: Hopefully you guys come back to Florida!

Matty: I think we are actually! I’ll have to look at it again though.

Gleb: As a guitar nerd, this next one is for Sebastian: I heard that you’ve been endorsed by PRS Guitars at only 18 years old, thats amazing! I used to play PRS myself until I switched to Aristides. Can I ask what model you play?

Sebastian:  Yeah, I play a Satin Flat Black Paul Reed Smith DW CE 24 with a Painted Maple Neck, Maple Fretboard and Floyd Rose Bridge. Killer guitar!

Gleb: Awesome! I’ve always been a big fan of BTBAM and Dusties’ signature model. Hopefully theres a signature model with your name on the headstock soon!

Gleb: Return to Dust is a relatively new band. Can you guys tell me a little bit about how and the band came together and how you guys came up with the name?

Matty: Sure! We’ve been friends since middle school, Graham and I, we grew up together and we didn’t grow up playing shows together, but there was an open mic event that we would play all the time with our acoustic guitars, and we would just play covers of like, folk songs. Not really too much rock, even though we were big fans of rock. And then basically, we got a great opportunity from Jim Kaufman who’s standing right over there, he’s our Producer and our Mentor, our Manager and basically everything else *laughs* he wears a lot of hats. We got a great opportunity through one of our other friends to move out here and facilitate our music careers for ourselves, and we took it!

We dropped out of college and we did it! And we’ve pretty much just been in like, the woodshed for the past 3, 4, 5 years, writing songs and perfecting the sound of the band, getting like all the shitty songs out of the way first and focusing on the good ones. And we had Jim to just selectively go, “this one is cool”, “this one is not cool” until we had a batch of songs that we felt we were ready to release. About a year ago when we released the first song, we’ve been public with the band and we’ve been playing shows and trying to push this thing as hard as possible because it’s what we’ve been working on for the past four years and we don’t really have a backup plan. This is our whole life now.

And then we met Sebastian like 2 years ago. Me and Graham are from Texas originally, and when we moved to California we didn’t want to live in LA so we chose West Covina and Seb actually ended up living down the block from the house we moved to. He was on a walk one day with him mom and they came up to us while we were rehearsing in the garage, and it was late at night so we originally thought it was a noise complaint. And we were looking for a Lead Guitarist at the time and this 16 year old kid just like waltzes up and he’s just incredibly talented. We didn’t know immediately, at first we were like “okay, yeah, let’s jam with a 16 year old” *laughs*  and he ends up just being insanely good and fits right into the band, he makes it.

Gleb: That’s awesome! It was Kismet! Everything came together at the right time.

Return to Dust by Matt Akana

Matty: Yeah! I like that word! Anyway, we had been through a ton of drummers, and nothing had really stuck. It’s always just kind of not really felt right, until this guy! We met London a couple months ago and he’s just absolutely just planted his feet and he’s not moving. We just played our first ever festivals and he murdered it. We played our first show with him earlier this month and we couldn’t have found a better drummer.

Gleb: You guys really assembled the dream team here! So, the band’s style is very similar to 90s grunge bands like older Alice in Chains and stuff like that. Did you guys have those influences in mind when you were creating music or was just the kind of stuff that you guys listened to your whole life and that’s what came out when you got together to play?

Graham: I guess sort of a mix of both. Our producer really kind of planted a seed in some way, he was like, “Hey, you should check out some of these bands” and some of the bands were Nine Inch Nails, Portishead, Alice in Chains, Dirt is his favorite album and we were like, “Oh, this stuff is pretty good!” and it just kind of blossomed from there. We started listening to a bunch of Soundgarden, we really fell in love with him and Queens of the Stone Age.

Matty: I think why we meld so well with Jim and why he’s the perfect producer for us, is because he’s like into the more artistic aspect of rock music. He’s not just a straight up Metalhead that only likes Heavy Music, he also likes the softer, more artistic music, and when its complimented by heavy guitars and vocals, it makes it that much bigger. Alice in Chains is the perfect example of that, but also other things like Trip-Hop stuff like that. And thats where we pull so much inspiration for our songs from, and really the perfect combination.

Sebastian: When I joined, I never really listened to stuff like Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots religiously, just Metallica, thats really it.

Gleb: What else do you need? *laughs*.

Sebastian: But we were recording some songs and he was naming off albums I didn’t know, and he sent me just tons of albums I needed to listen to. And the others guys did as well, they sent me dozens of albums!

Gleb: It was almost like a homework assignment.

Sebastian: *laughs* Yeah Exactly! And it’s definitely changed my whole aspect on life, really.

Matty: And the dual vocal style happened so naturally… I don’t think we ever really sat down and talked about it like, “Okay, let’s make a band with two vocalists!”. It happened very natually. But a lot of those 90’s bands do have that vocal style, like System of a Down and Alice in Chains, and of course Bon Jovi. So it was good to look at those bands and see that what we’re going for wasn’t completely impossible, and that its been done before. At first we were worries, because usually you have a “Front Man” as a singular thing, but…

Gleb: You guys have “Front MEN” instead *laughs*.

Matty: Exactly! There are no rules.

Gleb: As a new band, what challenges have you guys faced in terms of gaining exposure and building a fan base, and how have you overcome them?

Matty: You can talk about social media in a second, but I’ll say that in the first like beginning stages of the band, we were just completely focused on the songs. We didn’t worry about how we were going to build a following, we just wanted to write song after song after song. And I think in retrospect it was great to get into that headspace of getting the music right first before you get out into the world and show yourself to people, because you really get one chance in front of most listeners. And I think it was good to get that part right first, because now we can focus on gaining more exposure and promoting our music, and Graham has done such a great job with the social media.

Return to Dust by Lexi Abarca

Graham: Yeah, you know, you got to serve the song. I think even for an established band thats doing like their, third or fourth record….I feel like, yes the marketing side of things is important but at the end of the day the foundation of it all is the music and the songs, there needs to be some substance there. So if you can find a way to make the marketing or the social media tailored to that as organically and authentically as possible then then you win.

Social media is king for sure, but I think that there’s there’s many aspects you need. You need to check all the boxes and I feel like the most important box is the songs. The second most important box is probably the live show, you know, you got to make sure you’re tight and on point. And then the third thing is the social media and your image. And I think its really easy to get some tunnel vision on any one of them, but being too image-conscious is a dark hole deep and dark hole. So you don’t wanna dive too deep in there *laughs*.

Matty: I think that’s what’s so interesting about younger bands that you’re like, constantly changing, you’re in the formative years of your lives of adulthood. This is when most people would be getting into long-stage career jobs and the audience basically gets to watch you develop into an “adult” band and see how you handle challenges.

Gleb: Its almost like being a teenager all over again.

Matty: Yeah *laughs* but forever.

Gleb: So, looking ahead, What are your goals and aspirations? Is there specific venue or a festival that you guys have always looked forward to playing?

Graham: Welcome to Rockville *laughs*

Matty: I always looked at the Wimmer fests and the lineup… and now it’s just like, “Holy shit, we’re actually playing it.”

Graham: I think there’s some other really cool fests in Europe, Download is really dope, but in America the Danny Wimmer fests are the cream of the crop. Obviously our goal is to be at the top of the bill one day, and we ain’t stopping until we are.

Matty: We’re from Texas, so I would also love to go back and play of those Texas fests like Blues on the Green or South by Southwest some day.

Gleb: Last Question: Is there anyone you guys are super excited to see today while you’re at Welcome to Rockville?

Everyone: Slipknot *laughs*

Matty: Yeah, we’re stoked to see the new outfits, the new stage show and the new drummer. Eloy is a beast.

Graham: I’ve never seen Bad Omens, so that will be really cool. Who else? Evanescence and Breaking Benjamin, stoked to see both of those as well.

Gleb: Awesome! Thank you guys for your time and it was nice to meet everyone!

Return to Dust: Thanks! Same to you!

Return to Dust – Debut Album by Return to Dust

Make sure to check out Return to Dust’s excellent recently released self-titled album “Return to Dust” which can be found HERE. Also, be sure to keep an eye at the band’s upcoming tour dates HERE, as they will be adding additional concerts to the docket across the Unites States soon!

Gleb Barabanov is South Florida Insider's Vice President, Graphic Designer and Webmaster, as well as a Photographer and Writer covering events all over the world. Originally born in Odessa, Ukraine, Gleb now calls the sunny Florida area home, where he attended Full Sail University and received a Bachelors of Arts in Film Production. Gleb is obsessed with music, cameras, guitars, and his Shiba Inu, Yoshi

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