Angel Bond, lead vocalist of the mega-rock trio Cusses, has done it all — from working under the table overseas to helping out at her family's restaurant in North Carolina. But it was a chance meeting through mutual friends in Charleston seven years ago that she met her now-boyfriend and bandmate, drummer Brian Lackey. They barely knew each other when the couple decided to move to Los Angeles and get into show business.
"We weren't able to do music like we wanted to do in L.A.," Bond says. "We built sets for movies and TV shows and commercials, which was fun, but they're 18-hour days for three weeks in a row or three months in a row. So there's really no time for anything else. So [Brian] said Savannah's a really good town to start a band in, and I'm always down to move, so we moved to Savannah together."
Once back in the South, Lackey hooked up with his old friend Bryan Harder to form a band. "He said Bryan Harder was the best guitarist he'd every played with," Bond remembers.
She avoided joining the boys for as long as she could — ruining her relationship with Lackey was a considerable fear — but they kept begging the power vocalist to give them a chance. "Finally, I sat in with them maybe six months later, and, you know, we had like six songs in 30 minutes," she says. "I was like, 'Oh, crap. Well, this is obviously good chemistry.' They'd been putting together songs already, but when I got in there, I had a lot of ideas to go with their songs. So the chemistry was there, and the formula really worked."
And the new town worked, too. "Savannah is a very inexpensive place to live," Bond says. "You get a lot more time on your hands to create and really focus on your craft."
Plus the city's growing rock 'n' roll scene welcomed the band's brand of uninhibited rock, and Cusses quickly took on a life of its own. In 2012, their self-titled debut got a ton of attention, and the band began to tour, stopping enough in Charleston to make plenty of friends in the Holy City scene. Then last month, Cusses released a four-song EP, Here Comes the Rat. "Hopefully, this one is a little more mature — just trying to push ourselves and not keep ourselves in one little genre like hard rock or heavy rock or pop rock or dance rock. But there's a whole spectrum of emotions on these songs coming out," Bond says.
In addition to Here Comes the Rat, Cusses plan to debut a single here, a video there, until they're ready to unleash a brand-new full-length on the same label as their debut, Ha! Records. "Ha is our own label that we started, because we wanted to put out our own record and learn all the ins and outs of distribution and getting it into record stores," Bond says.
Like many up-and-coming bands, Cusses is a very DIY operation. "We got help with press this last run, but until we get a super-legit booker, we just find that you can do a better job yourself," Bond explains. "Because you can connect with musicians and bands more, and you do a little better research, and you're gonna make sure that there's two good locals on the bill — there's so much that goes into it, so much more than people realize. They think we're just havin' fun on the road. I have 45 minutes of fun a day, and that's just when you're on stage. The rest is hard work, but I don't mind it."
One aspect of the industry the band didn't have to take on alone is coming up with the money to make a new record. With a successful Kickstarter campaign, Cusses were able to hit the studio and create Here Comes the Rat. "We had a lot of music and no money to record," Bond says. "I hate asking for anything — let alone money on a social platform. I felt like a butthead every day.
"I used to do fundraising for causes like hurricane relief and things like that," she continues. "But I have never done any fundraising for myself — let alone for a music project, which I thought was a little self-serving. But we raised a lot of money, and it was really sweet. I was really taken aback by how everyone came out of the woodwork and was donating — people from high school and fans who only saw us once or fans from town. It was really a heartwarming experience by the end of it."