A Jersey band through and through, Hunters Run— Matt Smentkowski, Jon Messick, Bryan Viegas, and Sean Cuddy of Long Branch, plus Mike LaFisca of Hamilton—have been putting out exceptional alternative rock music and putting on stellar live shows around the area for the past three years or so, and they’re only becoming more experienced with the music they make and the music of others as they go on. When they’re not working on their own band related passion projects, they’re working at Matchbox Studios located in Eatontown, New Jersey, to bring other local artists’ creations to life. With their mutual love of music and an eclectic group of inspirations backing them, this up and coming group of musicians is bound to go much further than the garage they started in.
How long have you been a band and how did you get started?
Jon: We started sometime in 2016 when we were hanging out in Bryan’s garage. Since the four of us from Long Branch went to high school together, we all were good friends and so playing together seemed like a good idea. Mike recently joined, about 3 months ago, and we met him through a mutual friend of Sean’s. He fit right in and it’s been great to play with him.
Who are your biggest influences personally and as a band?
Sean: One of our strong points—and weak points—is that the five of us all have very different influences. While it makes us creative it also kind of limits us as well, but we always work through it. But we’re into Oasis, Pink Floyd, Green Day, the Grateful Dead, David Bowie, FIDLAR, the Front Bottoms, Alter Bridge, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden…. We could go on for days really.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?
Matt: We just say alternative rock and hope people don’t ask us to expand on that.
Your latest release is your single, “Flashback.” Can you tell us a bit about how that came to be?
Jon: I wrote “Flashback” almost two years ago and originally intended it to be for a solo project, but after Sean heard it, he thought we should use it as a single for Hunters Run. It’s about blabbing to someone you used to know about all the stuff you’ve been up to.
What is your usual writing and recording process like?
Bryan: The writing process changes from song to song. Sometimes either Jon or Matt have a finished song that they bring to the group and the song comes together pretty quick. Recently, Sean and Matt have been coming up with smaller pieces and trying to build around them and using everyone’s input to finish the song.
Let’s talk a bit about Matchbox Studios. How did you guys get involved in creating a full-scale recording studio?
Bryan: I always wanted to work at a music studio. I went to a school in Manhattan and used what I learned to open Matchbox in 2017. The goal of Matchbox is to reach the artists who were like us, limited with budget and inexperienced and new to the recording process. This allows us to really work with musicians to take their time so they leave with a professional sounding track that we can both be happy about.
On the topic of Matchbox, what are some things that you do there asides from working on your own music?
Bryan: I have recorded and mixed some great bands and musicians like Cheyenne Dan, which is a fantastic band from Ewing, and Jay who is a revolutionary rapper from Long Branch. We have also started filming Matchbox sessions, which is kind of our take on Audiotree and Tiny Desk sessions.
With some live shows coming up this month, we have to ask: what do you love about performing your own music on stage?
Matt: Our favorite part about playing live, by far, is watching the crowd dance. Even if they haven’t heard us before, it’s cool to see that our music can reach someone, even if it’s just for a few minutes. It’s amazing being able to do that on a stage or in the corner of someone’s basement.
Is there any significance behind your band name?
Jon: The name comes from our first drummer, Tommy. He lived on a farm with the same name and we thought it was cool, so we took it and ran with it.
What is your favorite memory as a band?
Matt: For me personally, my favorite memory was playing as a trio at The College of New Jersey for a Halloween-themed show. I played guitar, Jon played bass, and Sean played drums. We dressed up as Rick, Jerry, and Morty from the cartoon Rick and Morty. Honestly, it was just a ton of fun and good laughs.
What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
Sean: All we can really hope for is to keep writing and playing kick-ass music for a loving, growing audience.
Learn more about Hunters Run and Matchbox Studios by visiting matchboxstudiosnj.com or on Instagram at: @matchboxstudiosnj