Rob Hoston Interview
It’s Saturday night in Syracuse, New York and “The Billionaires” are performing at Lucy’s, in the Holiday Inn, Carrier Circle.
This band is so special.
They know what it takes to grab an audience’s attention and they genuinely enjoy the music they’re playing – and the audience can sense it.
Billionaires guitarist Rob Hoston talked with us about his band.
Q – Rob, let me run something by you. I’ve been told that going out is now passé. You’re out there playing all the time; have you found that to be true?
A – We’re doing pretty good. We’ve been together a long time. We have regular people who come to see us. There’s some nights where it’s kind of rough, but there may be other things going on around town. We always do good there (at Lucy’s). We were in Whitesboro last night, but, it was a Halloween party. It was a really, really good crowd. Normally when we play in Whitesboro and New Hartford, down that way, we have good crowds. We’ve been playing that area for 10 years at least. So, we have people that come and see the band and know the band. A couple of guys are from that area too. They have friends that come out to see us. We do a lot of private things too. You know people are going to be there.
Q – I notice you’re playing quite a bit of material from the Disco era, the mid 1970’s. That is what the people want to hear isn’t it?
A – Yeah. We’re a dance/party band. We want people to have a good time. That’s the type of music we kind of connected with. It seems to work for us. We’re not doing all disco. We lean towards some of the dancier things in the 70’s and 80’s, some R and B, some Motown things, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Since we’ve added Anna, our singer to the band and she’s been with us 5 years, we kind of went that way. We consciously said o.k. let’s go back. She sings Donna Summer. She sings Madonna. She sings that stuff really, really good. So, we said let’s take advantage of it. We also tried to be conscious of not trying to do what some of the other bands are doing. All of the dance bands are doing similar things, but we tried to kind of find our own little niche. There’s enough material out there for everybody.
Q – One thing that separates The Billionaires from the other groups around town is the dance steps you and Anna do onstage. Is that something you’ve done from the beginning?
A – When she got into the band, she really added an energy to the band that we needed. Being a singer, she doesn’t play an instrument, she moves around onstage. We just kind of fell into it. You just do it. She said one time, ‘Hey, we should move around a little bit more’. So, we just started doing it.
Q – Last time I spoke with you, you were in a band called “Windsong”.
A – About 6 years ago we decided to make a few changes. Myself, Rhys, and the keyboard player and my brother who’s the soundman have been together in some form of the band for 18 years. We had ‘Windsong’ for the bulk of that time. About 7 or 8 years ago we took ‘Windsong’ as it was and decided to do a blues band, a whole separate type of thing. The same group of guys but just do all blues stuff. So, we named that band “The Billionaires” and we had ‘Windsong’. ‘The Billionaires’ was doing places like Legends, and ‘Windsong’ was doing Lucy’s, the dance clubs. We dropped that and a couple of guys left the band. So, we said we need a change. If you’re together for a long time you feel when your band is getting a little stale and you need to do something. So, we had to get a new drummer, got a new bass player. We said let’s change the name of the band. Let’s just change it to ‘The Billionaires’. Let’s drop ‘Windsong’ altogether. And-----we did that and added Anna to the band. And-----that’s where we are right now.
Q – Where did this name “The Billionaires” come from?
A – When I was living in California there was a Chicago blues band we used to go see every Monday night down on Sunset Strip. They had the name ‘The Billionaires’. (Laughs). So, when we decided to do that I said, you know what? There’s this band I used to go see. So, I just copped it from them. That’s where that came from. (Laughs). So, I thought of that name when we started to think of other names. I always liked that name. I always thought it was really cool.
Q – Whatever happened to the California “Billionaires”? Do you know?
A – It was like any other band. They stayed together for a little while and then they split up. These guys were great. They were a 4 piece band. They had 3 musicians and a singer. The 3 musicians used to dress up in shark-skin suits. They were really, really good. Then, they had the singer out front who was really great.
Q – The name “The Billionaires” is so timely. People don’t think much of millionaires these days-----but billionaires, now that’s really something!
A – (Laughs). There you go. I guess there’s a band up in Rochester, New York called ‘The Millionaires”. A couple of people have told me that.
Q – Hey-----that would be nice double bill-----“The Billionaires” and “The Millionaires”.
A – I know. All we need is The Trillionaires and we’ll be all set.
Q – That could be an off-shout of “The Billionaires”. Keep it going!!
A – (Laughs). There you go.
Q – I see you have some gigs booked way into 2009. So, you don’t fear this band will break-up anytime soon, do you?
A – As I said, Rhys and my brother and myself have been at it for 18 years already. Anna and the drummer have been with us for 6 years. We just added a new bass player. We’re gonna keep going, as long as we possibly can. We have a good time playing and we want people to have a good time especially now with the way things are going in the economy. Hopefully they’re looking to get out, and just enjoy themselves if they can.
Q – You don’t sell “Billionaires” merchandise at your shows, do you?
A – No, we don’t. Around this time last year we had ‘Billionaires’ hats. I think we did about 100 hats just to kind of test the waters. We got rid of a lot of ‘em. Everybody in their day to day lives are really busy. So, it’s hard thing to get it together and get it to happen. Time-wise it’s really tough for us to get those things done, the way we would like to do it, the marketing aspect of it.
Q – No CD planned?
A – Somebody was asking me about a CD the other day, and I said we just don’t have time. We’re thinking about it definitely. I have some original material for sure. Anna is writing some stuff. Our keyboard player is writing some stuff. So, we’re all conscious of doing that. We want to do it. It’s just time-wise it’s very, very hard to do.
© Gary James All Rights Reserved