Pale Riders:
Rustler roar into town out of the steamy Louisiana swamps

Rustler pic #1
(l to r) Justin Giardina, Chris Courville, & Jason Caldarera. Photo courtesy of Rustler.
They appeared, seemingly, out of nowhere: an instrumental metal juggernaut that almost instantly started conquering the hearts and minds of the H-town indie scene. The three guys in Rustler have only been Houston-dwellers for a relatively short time, having been washed ashore by the ravages of Katrina, but in that short while they've managed to turn some scenester heads and release an utterly badass EP, Phonetic Whips (reviewed here), which spits out some of the proggiest, nearly jazziest metal you're ever likely to hear. Rustler play metal like they're a moonlighting jazz trio armed with a stack of amps a mile high and a full fleet of battered old effects pedals.
In an attempt to learn more about this enigmatic crew, Space City Rock tracked down guitarist Justin Giardina and assaulted him with some questions...
Rustler plays at Walter's on Washington on Saturday, November 17th, along with Bowel & The Dead See.

SCR: So, to get a bit of background, where did Rustler come from? You guys aren't native Houstonians, right? Can you give us a bit of the history of the band so far?
Justin Giardino: We are all originally from Louisiana. Jason [Caldarera, drummer] and I are originally from New Orleans, and Chris [Courville, bassist] is originally from Lafayette.
All three of us have been playing in bands for a number of years now. Jason's last band in New Orleans was named Focus 21, who played in the New Orleans scene for many years. I also played in bands in the New Orleans scene for many years, the last one being Hostile Apostle. Chris played in bands in the Lafayette area, his last one being Pigknuckle.
The band started when I posted an ad on Craigslist saying that I was an evacuee from New Orleans and was looking for some people to play with. After getting no replies for weeks, Jason answered the ad, and we met up. Once we met up and started talking, we realized we both knew each other from mutual friends. After a few weeks, Chris also replied to the ad we posted looking for a bass player. After Chris and I met up, we realized we also had mutual friends and had actually played a show with each other -- Hostile Apostle and Pigknuckle -- in Lafayette.
It was weird that after we all had been looking for people to play with in this huge city, us three wound up together.

That's pretty funny; is Louisiana really that tight-knit of a scene?
Yes, the New Orleans scene is very unique. I think everyone in the New Orleans scene knows each other or at least recognizes each other from shows. Some of my best memories, friends, etc., come from growing up and playing in the New Orleans scene. I love New Orleans shows and the people in the scene there.
How the heck did you come up with the band's sound?
Our sound just evolved into what it is. None of us had any idea as to what style of music we were set out to play. I met up with Jason and came up with some ideas that turned into songs. Once Chris joined the band, then new ideas came into play, and the songs just sort of happened.
And just how much prog-rock do you guys listen to, anyway?
We think our sound just came from all of our different influences. I think we all agree that we have no style, none of our music is planned out, it just comes out in practice and turns into songs.
What are your general musical backgrounds, the three of you? I'm just kind of amazed that you all sort of meshed together so quickly and came up with this type of complex music.
I think that's our real benefit, actually. All three of us are into so many styles of music, but probably are currently listening to the complete opposite of what each other is listening to at the moment.
Do you see yourselves as part of the whole instro-metal thing that's going on, with bands like Pelican, Red Sparowes, or The Fucking Champs?
We're kind of lame in that area, because other than Pelican, none of us have heard of those other bands. We listen to so much music, but some instrumental bands that come to mind are Ruins, Euphone, Aphex Twin, Spickle, Collapsar, and Clearlight. I have heard of and do have a copy of a Pelican CD, too.
Rustler record cover
I guess you don't care a whole lot for that little quasi-genre? I can understand not wanting to be labeled like that, definitely, but it's what comes to mind the most for me, at least, when I listen to you guys.
The label or genre definitely does not bother us. It's a compliment to be compared to good bands.
What's the reaction been like when you've played lately, and to the new EP? Good, hopefully?
We have heard good things about the EP and have sold a good amount of them at our shows. We recorded that EP in our practice room ourselves, very quickly, just to get our music out there. We plan to record our full length album soon and spend more time on the recording, hopefully capturing the way we sound live.
Live shows are great. We have been getting a great response from the crowd and love the people that come out to see us.
I have to ask: is there any meaning behind the song titles on Phonetic Whips? Like, uh, "A Mat Of Human Hair," which is just plain creepy, imagery-wise?
Our song names are usually from inside jokes or whims. "A Mat of Human Hair" is about Taco Bell drive-thru and an intoxicated friend.
Oh, boy. C'mon -- you can't just leave it like that...
You'll have to get with Jason regarding that one. I think by me knowing the person involved in that situation, it makes me understand without knowing the story.
Are there any other bands or musicians in town you like?
This is an area that we feel weak in. Being new to the scene out here in Houston, we have only been able to meet and see a few bands. I have played out here before at RudyardŐs with Hostile Apostle and really like the people and vibe at RudyardŐs. Mike and the staff at RudyardŐs really treat you right and make you feel at home.
All of the bands we have played with so far are awesome. I particularly like how shows in Houston will feature three totally different bands. This is what I am used to from New Orleans. For instance, last week we played with Whorehound and a band from Austin called New Disaster. It was three totally different styles and made the show awesome, in my opinion. All those guys are great.
Also, I grew up listening to dead horse and wish I could see them.
Did you go to the Axiom reunion? I know dead horse itself didn't play, but Mike Haaga was there with Academy Black, I believe.
I wish. That is something I only got to see on YouTube, after the fact. dead horseŐs Peaceful Death and Pretty Flowers is one of my top ten metal albums of all time. I first saw dead horse in Mississippi on a DRI tour when I was 15 or 16. It's funny that you mentioned the Axiom show because I actually drove out to Baton Rouge one weekend when I was in high school to see dead horse and Academy Black. dead horse never showed, though.
Rustler pic #2
(l to r) Caldarera, Giardina, & Courville.
I know you swung back through Louisiana a little while back -- how did the homecoming go?
We weren't able to make it back to New Orleans, but we did make it to Lafayette. We played with our friends Collapsar and The Devil and The Sea, and it was great.
Do you find yourselves missing it there? Or have you fully accepted this sweaty cesspool as "home" by now?
Well, I think I can speak for most people when I say I have a love/hate relationship with New Orleans. When I go back to visit, although I miss and love my friends, they all seem to tell me not to come back. She is a very strange thing, this Katrina. She displaced so many of us, but to those who have gone back, I think they know New Orleans is not the same. I don't really know if it's just me, but when I go back to visit, I can actually feel the depression in the air. It's very sad.
As far as the weather goes, Houston actually feels better in the summer than New Orleans. I think it's because the humidity in New Orleans is always one hundred percent!
What other stuff are you guys all involved with? I thought I read something about side projects; anything like that going on?
As or right now, it is Rustler or die. I have two projects I am doing, though. One is with Donovan Punch, who used to be in Soilent Green, and is called Two Boxes of Summertime Figs and one is with Matt Williams from Hawg Jaw and is called Mail Order Knife. These are remote projects that we record and email or mail to each other, since we all live in different states.
Will we be able to check out a CD of that stuff at some point?
Hopefully, yes. I plan to get more involved with those after I move this week. I have been cramped up in a tiny apartment since I moved here after the hurricane and canŐt wait to be able to spread out.
Any future plans? Will there be a full-length to follow up Whips?
The full length CD and hopefully more shows.
I heard recently that you guys aren't going to be playing for a while after this next show -- what's the story with that?
Well, we decided to take some time and iron out all the new music for the new CD. We have a lot of new songs and ideas that we canŐt wait to record. I think we agree that we'll take more time recording the CD and not do a rush job like we did with Phonetic Whips. END