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Brothers from Wauwatosa make big waves in the arts

June 25, 2014

When Hugh Bob and the Hustle plays the Rotary Perfomance Pavilion on July 9, the man behind the drum kit will be very familiar to many Tosa residents. They might remember him being behind the drums in concert band, jazz band, marching band and musical theater at Wauwatosa East High School.

In the 14 years since Justin Krol graduated from Tosa East, he has played in a slew of different bands, touring the country and advancing to his current post in an Americana rock band recently gaining national popularity.

At the same time, his brother, Mike, has climbed the ranks of graphic designers in Los Angeles, designing album packages and clothing designs for companies like Nike.

Both brothers give credit to Wauwatosa's art programs for encouraging them to pursue jobs in their fields.

Mike, who graduated in 2002, said his teachers inspired him to pursue visual art, and his peers encouraged him in music. Riding the third wave ska movement, Mike's high school band was called the Reactants.

"We had a full horn section," Mike said. "It was very dated."

The Reactants played around Tosa, including two gigs before the Fourth of July fireworks. He also started Jamnesty, a mini music festival that supported the school's Amnesty International club. Now he plays power pop, which he describes as "like catchy music that has louder guitars and is kind of aggressive but still rooted in simple song."

Combining his interests in art and music, Mike recently designed a book and box set for The Band, which played with Bob Dylan and independently in the 60s and 70s.

Justin also said he cultivated his musical inclinations at Tosa East.

"That's all I did there," he said. "That was my whole home base. I used to just want to be around drums all day long."

Justin said he thought his teachers, as well as his parents, helped him feel like pursuing a career in the arts was viable. Although he doesn't count himself in the top five drummers of his peers in high school, he sites his commitment to the music for getting him this far, where it's nearly a full-time job.

"The competition was incredible," Justin said. "It shows it's more of a thing of patience and stubbornness."

As part of Hugh Bob and the Hustle, Justin has played in a music video featured on the Country Music Channel, entertained crowds of thousands of people and toured with Nikki Lane. One of the band's songs, "Mess with Me," was featured on the TV show "Nashville."

As he reflected on the band, Justin got a text from frontman Hugh Masterson.

"He just met with Harley; we're all getting new boots," Justin laughed. "We're not used to having these things happen to us."

If you go

What: Hugh Bob and the Hustle at Tosa Tonight

When: 7:30 p.m. July 9

Where: Rotary Performance Pavilion in Hart Park, southwest corner of 68th and State streets

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