Band of the Week: Big Hoke

click to enlarge Justin Gorski. - Courtesy of Justin Gorski
Courtesy of Justin Gorski
Justin Gorski.
MEET THE BAND: Tim Lane (percussion), Tom Perish (bass/vocals), Anthony Papaleo (guitar/fiddle), Jim Cirillo (saxophone), Tyler Reymond (trombone), Cutty Banner (tuba), Garret Folger (trumpet), Megan Torok (vocals), Liz Smith (vocals), Justin Gorski (piano/accordion/vocals)

LOVE IS ALL AROUND: Local musician Justin Gorski’s alt-country project Big Hoke dates back more than 20 years. “I just never wanted to use my own name for some reason and came up with the Big Hoke moniker when I was doing solo stuff,” says Gorski. “I’ve had a lot of different musicians play with me. It’s my own material. I had couple of guys who have been with me most of the time, like Ed Stephens, who is a Cleveland musician who’s been around forever, has been in the band for years. I wasn’t able to do the original stuff as much as I wanted because I was playing in other bands. After I had some free time, I could do this more. I thought about what band I wanted to get together and put together this version of the band. I’m bringing all the people I love to play with together.”

AUSTIN CALLING: Written and performed by Gorski and produced by Gordy Quist at his studio in Austin, Home, an album Big Hoke released in 2020, was mixed by Grammy-winning engineer Tom Schick. “The reason I went down to Austin is nothing against any of the studios in Cleveland," says Gorski who runs Cleveland Vegan with his wife. “I would record a weekend here, and then three weeks later, I would get another weekend. That was no way to do an album. I had kept in touch with Gordy from Band of Heathens, a group that I met on the road with [local alt-country act] the Magpies. I told him about the album about four years ago, and he said I should come down to Austin to do it. I convinced my wife to give me about a week. It might’ve just been five days. It was not long. We had everything organized. We just nailed it. I hadn’t released anything in about eight years. I was a little gunshy, but it was a great way to get back into the swing of things, and I thought the album turned out great.” Gorski held a virtual release party shortly after the album dropped, and then properly celebrated the album’s release last year at Forest City Brewery with a live show that featured a full band.

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: Big Hoke will follow up Home with a new EP, People, which it recorded the album last year at Suma in Painesville. Gorski produced local singer-songwriter Brian Bacon’s album at Suma, and that inspired him to record at the newly refurbished space. “We were out there, and I was helping produce and I thought it was fun and all, but it pushed me into writing more stuff,” he says. “Everything fell into place. Since then, it’s been crazy. I have a whole other EP recorded and ready for release.” In advance of the EP’s release, Gorski released the rollicking, Randy Newman-like single “Bill Murray” along with an accompanying music video that finds him wandering around town in a giant Murray mask. “Every morning, I try to wake up and meditate,” Gorski says when asked about the track. “For some reason, I was just sitting there, and the hook came up in my head. I came downstairs and started thinking about it more philosophically. I was wondering what goes through his head and if he is happy as I think he is? It’s all the questions you would want to ask if you were sitting there bullshitting with him.” Gorski initially recorded it as just a demo with just vocals. As weeks went by, he added handclaps and drums and then some organ. “I would get these little sessions going,” Gorski says. “I called Ed [Stephens] to get bass on it. This local trombone player did the arrangement. I played on accordion what I wanted the horn parts to be. He did a great job. The horn players are awesome on it. It’s what I had in my head when I first came up with it.”


WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Big Hoke performs with Abby Rose at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 24, at the Happy Dog.
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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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