Interview: The Lewd Dudes
BY Keep Austin
Interview: The Lewd Dudesabove

The Lewd Dudes new interplanetary rock record, “Habitable Zone” released August 26. We caught up with the dudes via email to cover the record, talk about some standout tracks and recording techniques, and their upcoming first national tour. 

The album opens with the (nearly) instrumental “Hey!”, a power rock walk-out anthem. What was the intention of kicking off the record in this way? What is embedded in the statement of that one-word refrain?

Riley Sklar: We were a couple of beers deep at rehearsal and Rankin started strumming along in “A” during a break in the music. I stepped up to the mic and yelled, and everyone just repeated. It ended up becoming an antiphonal style hymn in which we evoke a call and response with the crowd. 

The goal was to get the audience engaged and yell back at us just as loud as we are yelling at them. We thought it was a powerful way to begin the record to get the head banging and the blood pumping. At the end of the day, rock and roll is about bringing people together and nothing does that better than the simplicity of screaming “Hey!” at the top of your lungs.

What does this collection of songs mean to you? Are there any overarching themes or concepts baked in that we should be aware of?

Riley Sklar: Habitable Zone was a vision we had, set against the backdrop of the pandemic, to set the listeners on a colossal interplanetary exploration of the human condition, the mundane and lackluster, self-reflection and awareness, realization of mortality, failed relationships, over indulgence, enjoying the little things, and the hope for a new beginning. 

Andrew Riefenstahl: Ninety three million miles away from the Sun is where you’ll find true love. A tiny blue dot that contains everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. But you can’t love in a meaningful way without taking risks. Leaving home, in a sense, involves a kind of second birth, in which we give birth to ourselves. 

I think the album ended up with some amazing double entendres, it’s about an imaginary place far away where people live their lives parallel to us, and at the same time it’s about home, Earth, and the daily lives we live. Doesn't matter if you’re far away or close, we are all related.

What were some of the bands you guys were listening to while writing this record? Was there a primary sound that made it on the record, in retrospect?

Riley Sklar: Everyone in the band listens to their own particular style of music but the one common thread that brings us all together is we love to rock and roll. 

Some of my top influences range from Central American sounds like Sonámbulo Psicotropical to punk — such as Anti-Flag, Free Throw, FIDLAR and Hot Mulligan, classic rock from Grateful Dead, Zappa, Dave Mason, and some other bands like Future Teens, Titus Andronicus, Pinegrove, Alex Cameron, Tiny Moving Parts and PUP. 

I think everyone brings their own influences to rehearsal almost as if we have our pockets stuffed with the music we have been listening to most recently and we all stand around a table and turn our pockets inside out and empty them on the table. We mix it around a bit and whatever we pick up is the sound we have. One thing that is unique about our band is it is a completely collaborative and democratic process. It can be tough at times to all come to an agreement but I think it benefits us in the long run because it really helps to diversify our perspectives. 

Rankin Fetzer: I fuckin' love the Chili Peppers and that’s where a lot of my guitar style comes from — that and funk and blues. But I think we went rock on this record. The song “Monday Morning” is just rock n roll — think Foo Fighters meet Tom Petty. Definitely didn’t have one single idea for the whole record, just wanted to write badass songs.

Habitable Zone by The Lewd Dudes is out now. 

I read online that you guys self-recorded this album — pretty impressive considering the arrangements. What was that experience like, and were there any specific techniques you are proud of implementing?

Riley Sklar: We started recording this album just before the pandemic at our home studio in South Austin. Andrew and I live together and over the past 5 or so years, he has been slowly acquiring a plethora of studio gear. Like all of our previous albums, we have self recorded and produced, we are constantly working to improve our techniques as well as our technology. 

Andrew picked up a Universal Audio Teletronix LA-2A Classic Leveling Amplifier just before we started tracking vocals, which gave an extra special polish we were looking for. We experimented with different mic positions and distances on the drums, and I worked in a layered timbale and conga solo on “Flor de Caña”, a song which got its roots from my drink of choice while living in Costa Rica. 

We started implementing a technique late in the recording process that Rankin dubbed the “RankyDank Method”, which was really just vocal doubling. It actually gave a great texture and worked well with our singing styles.

Jordan Hughes: We started tracking drums in March of last year. It’s been a year plus. But it’s been challenging and exciting and scary at times. We went larger than we ever have before. And I am proud to say, I feel we did an amazing job. 

Andrew and Riley moved in December 2020, thus shifting our home studio mid-record. It was fun to experiment and re-track with different acoustics and ambience. I will only speak for myself, but it was the most rewarding experience I’ve had recording with The Lewd Dudes. I think the other dudes would agree with me too!

I wanna give a special shout out to the guitar work on “Plans”. Between the blistering intro riff, which recurs to introduce the extended dual solo, the second verse accommodation for that switch to a reggae time signature…At what point did the guitar arrangement get written on this track? Is that a typical arrangement process for you guys?

Andrew Riefenstahl: Thank you! We wanted to do something a little more methodical and I had recently listened to the harmonizing guitars from “The Boys are Back in Town”. 

We decided to sit down and write something together and really work through music theory. We tracked a demo - each guitarist separately, then sat on it knowing we needed to get the tone right. Then on a second attempt we sort of botched the recording because of our playback while playing together. I couldn’t hear anything but myself so both the guitars were not in sync. I also struggled with the part from a dexterity perspective, forcing myself all the way up the neck. 

We were writing from the mind so our physical bodies needed to be pushed to meet those demands. Finally, after realizing all the tracking faults, and running strengthening drills we were ready to nail it. I had really practiced mine to a “T” so I laid my guitar down first, then Rankin recorded his. Rankin is a little looser with his playing so I knew it was important I create structure for him. In the end it came out perfectly especially after adding some new drums at the end to accent the parts. This is not the typical arrangement process, however it proved the most fruitful. Discipline was key.

The lyrics throughout this record are very narrative-driven. Where does this particular style come from? What does the lyric writing process look like?

Andrew Riefenstahl: “Show don’t tell” is my motto. You can say ‘my heart is broken’ or you can say ‘I feel like a thousand knives are serrating my heart beat to a liquid pulp when you walk out that door.’ One carries more visuals and invokes a stronger image. 

I consider myself a storyteller first when approaching lyrics. Humans have a strong history of oral tradition and wild imaginations. Talking about yourself and our feelings from a single dimensionality is great, but not for all music. I have things to say, people to entertain, or ideas to nurture. The other writers in the group approach things differently. We’re all a little different.

Jordan Hughes: Andrew and I have been writing and playing together for years. Bouncing lyrics off each other always. I feel like I tend to write in a more poetic, broad style. Andrew has always had the ability to craft an engaging adventure both musically and lyrically. 

For this record, the collaborative efforts on Habitable Zone and Marriage Story, the latter Rankin and I wrote in a heated fit of rage and love, brought my narrative lyricism to the forefront. Ultimately, the way our lyrics evolved, when all 5 of us were together, is what really added to this record. 

Rankin Fetzer: I mean, I wrote “Bong Song” and “Monday Morning” lyrics. One is about getting high and one is about my love for music. One I wrote a long time ago, and one I wrote while recording the album. I want you to guess which is which. They’re definitely not about sex.

This album has a big, anthemic sound. What has been your experience bringing this sound to the smaller stages around Austin available to bands coming up? Tell me about your mentality during those performances.

Andrew Riefenstahl: Performance is the key. No matter the size of the stage I tended to leave it all on the line so to speak. The larger the crowd usually is, the more I lose myself. I try to stay healthy and sharp before performances as well. Too much drinking weakens my focus and abilities. I need to be able to leave every stage knowing I did everything in my power to give the best performance. If I’ve done that I'll be happy. One of my favorite quotes regarding performance is, “To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable”.

How have creative communities in Austin responded to your music? What are some of the positives of being a band in Austin right now? Are there any negatives?

Andrew Riefenstahl: The most positive thing about being a band in Austin is I’m proud to call this city my home. I love that music is ingrained into the culture. Overall Austin has several music scenes, and I'm not sure we fit into any one particular scene. We are such a wide berth of rock and roll and I love that. 

It gets back to storytelling. I don’t just sit in one genre, it’s about the story. So overall, I think the community struggles to understand us. However, after this album I really think things will change and are showing our full strength of talent. I also tend to not compare ourselves with anyone. We are who we are and I’ve found that to be a strength. Rather than fill one niche and have instant understanding, we’ve worked to carve a unique identity for ourselves playing for different ranges of Austinites.

Rankin Fetzer: Anyone I have shown the record to tends to talk over it for most of the time. People’s attention spans are pretty short, and it’s hard to listen through a full-length record sometimes. That all said, most people usually have a favorite song, and that differs from person to person. I think that’s pretty cool.

Tell me about your upcoming tour. Who put it together, and what are some of the dates you are particularly excited about?

Riley Sklar: The Live Love Lewd Tour is our first national tour and we are super excited to bring our Austin sound to cities across the country. I take on most of the responsibility of management, booking, and marketing. As an independent band, we typically just gravitate to doing what we are best at to make sure shit gets done, and it takes a lot of effort from everyone to make sure it runs smoothly. 

We would like to send a special thank you to our friend, and former tour manager of The Bright Light Social Hour, Katie Marschner, for helping us with the initial booking process for this tour. It has been such a weird year for everyone in the music industry from artists, to production, venues and support staff, but Katie really stepped up to the challenge. 

We are really stoked to be playing all across Florida, and are looking forward to sharing the stage with Gary Lazer Eyes at New World Brewery in Tampa. For two of the stops in Texas, we are joined by our brothers, Billy King and the Bad Bad Bad and Forever Miles, so those should be some rowdy nights as well. 


For music and tour dates, visit or find them on Instagram and Bandcamp by using the icons below. 

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