By Chris Ricci
It was a few years ago, but I remember it as if it was just the other day. I was walking with a good friend of mine in Salem and, because of our yearning for some snacks and maybe a drink or two, we decided to check out the Gulu-Gulu Café. As we walked through the front door, we saw the strangest sight: a group of men walking around drums hitting each one as they passed by while ethereal instrumental ambience filled the room. The succession of the drumming increased as the song reached an incredible climax. The room was in stunned silence, which was broken by a very simple statement from the man in the middle “Hi, my name is Rob. This is Fishing the Sky.”
Rob Hughes, the multi-instrumentalist behind the project, has always had a flair for music. “I started playing music when I was about 15” he said. “I played in bands all throughout high school, I went to UMass Lowell to study music for two years before switching schools, to Salem State.” However, after the switch, Rob changed his focus of studies from music to philosophy. “Formal music education wasn’t for me” he said. This being said, his passion for music never truly faded, it just began to change. “I had always been in ‘traditional’ bands, your usual rock n' roll bass, drums and guitars set up” he said. “However, I was realizing it was possible to make full sounding music on my own. I started to turn to my laptop to create and play music. That's how Fishing the Sky got created.”
Though not a Salem native, Rob admits that the North Shore has had a profound impact on his musical growth. “I grew up in Peabody and moved to Salem at 23” he said. “When I was growing up there was an incredibly strong DIY punk/hardcore/old school emo scene in Salem, primarily based at the Salem Elks Club that had a huge influence on me not only musically but personally as well. I don't even know if I'd be playing music if it wasn't for that.” Not only this, but his contact with local musicians (like Qwill or Forrest James)also helped encourage him to branch out and try things in a different manner. “I don't think the conversations, jam sessions, musical discussions and collaborations with other awesome Salem musicians would have happened were I not living in the same city with them” said Rob. “They've really helped to push me branch out from my comfort zones and think more deeply about what it is I do.
Despite being a project full-on in the digital age (where downloading and streaming are king), Rob has a set of principles that haven’t changed since he started. “ The DIY principles I ascribed to at 17 to get people out to shows and listen to my music are essentially the same “ said Rob. “Get it in people's faces and get it in their faces often. If anything it's made exposing people to your music easier.” He continied by adding that “yes, there's more noise (FB newsfeeds, Tumblr, Twitter, whatever) but it's never been easier to bring your music to people.” His new album “For You” was funded on August 20th through a successful Kickstarter campaign, and promises to bring a mini making-of documentary along with it. The projected release date for the new album and documentary is November of this year. Rob is very excited about the release, and promises one of the best songs he has ever written. When asked if he could be remembered by one album or song of his, Rob said “If I had my way it would be a tune from the new release called ‘Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.’ It's probably the best Fishing the Sky song I've ever written. I think it actually does encompass everything that is Fishing the Sky.
Rob Hughes shows no sign of slowing down, and the local music scene is a lot better because of that. He made it clear that his long-term goals musically are rather simple: “Play shows. Release music. Whack drums.”
Meet Chris Ricci
I’m a Salem-based writer with a flair for visual arts and all things music. I’ve been working diligently at Salem State University to further my education and have served as the Managing Editor for North Shore Art*Throb for over a year.
I’ve been a very big fan of wordplay for as long as I can remember, and part of that is easily attributed to the eclectic array of music I grew up listening to. Artists like Talking Heads, David Bowie, R.E.M., and Lou Reed were on heavy rotation while I was younger, and their bizarre and (at times) playful lyrics sparked a love for writing that continues today.
The only thing I love more than listening to music is sharing it with others, and I hope that some of my reviews help some people expand their musical horizons and get over the whole “there’s no good new music” cliché. Some personal favorite artists include Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits, Scott Walker, Beck, and Animal Collective.