Nagazi, a high-energy thrash metal band with some punk inspiration, is a band of brothers; though not all of them share blood.
The four-member metal band consists of bass guitarist Doug McGuire, 44, guitarist Matt Ruffino, 50, drummer Jeff Hafer, 38, and his brother and lead vocalist Joe Hafer, 40. All of the members are from Mount Pleasant, with the exception of Ruffino who is from Farmington Hills.
McGuire owns his own painting company and Ruffino is a freelance musician whose work appears on over 40 different albums.
Joe and his brother Jeff both work at Mountain Town Station in Mount Pleasant. Jeff has worked in the kitchen for nearly seven years and Joe has been a server and a bartender there for five years.
Joe said that the management at the restaurant has been supportive of their endeavors with the band and have helped when possible.
“They believe in what we’re doing and they work with us,” Joe Hafer said.
The band’s name was chosen based off of a type of Georgian mountain dog. The large, powerful dog nicknamed “Nagazi” is traditionally used to protect sheep from predators.
Joe Hafer believes the name is additionally a great opportunity to interact with more fans.
“At shows they’ll come up at our merch booth and ask us about the name,” Joe Hafer said. “So you get to make a bit of a connection with fans as opposed to just taking their money, giving them their product and moving on to the next one.”
Having an online presence is more significant than it used to be, but Joe Hafer believes playing as many shows as possible is still important.
Nagazi band members Doug McGuire, Jeff Hafer, and Joe Hafer load band equipment into their trailer before leaving for their "Unleashed" tour on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.
“Back in the day you just had to be a kickass band and just beat down doors and put your product everywhere to hopefully catch the right set of eyes or ears,” Joe Hafer said. “Now it’s all about numbers, numbers, numbers. You can kind of sit back at home, drive numbers and not play as many shows, but you’re not going to build authentic fans if you’re not out there playing every dive bar, arena, festival, small show, or house party. It doesn’t matter -- you play where you can to build a fan base.”
The Hafer brothers were in a band together for 12 years before Joe left the band due to the party scene.
“I got my shit together, quit drinking and cleaned up,” Joe Hafer said. “I went seven years in between bands where I thought I was kind of burned out and I just didn’t want to do it anymore, I had my fun. We had a blast in Nickleshot, and I was ready to be done with that.”
Joe Hafer said he spent that time still going to shows, but being able to enjoy it from a viewer’s perspective instead. During that time, he noticed what he thought did and didn’t work for other bands and has applied what he learned from his observations to Nagazi.
Joe Hafer joined Nagazi four years ago after the band wanted to replace their singer and he filled in for a scheduled show.
“I had mentioned to my brother I was kind of getting the itch again,” Joe Hafer said. “30 seconds back on stage, I knew this is where I want to be. The band gave me an offer and I said yes. Ever since then it’s been full steam ahead.”
The band recently released their third album “Unleashed” and are currently on tour. The band’s next Michigan show will be near the end of their tour on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at Rubble’s Bar in Mount Pleasant.
“Whatever formula we’re using seems to be working,” Joe Hafer said. “We’re just trying to stick that as close as possible and not screw it up.”
For the complete tour list and band merchandise, visit nagazi5.com. Music can be found on YouTube, Spotify, or iTunes.