The saying goes, "Rock & Roll will never die." And, while that might be true, it depends a bit more upon who's keeping it alive, particularly when it comes to Rockabilly music. Some oldies cover acts are more embalmers than caretakers. They preserve what was once vital by repeating it ad infinitum, not taking the music anywhere new nor being influenced by any of the other music released in the last 50 years. They turn Rockabilly into a show-piece, like the original Batmobile at a car show that still looks sort of cool if you prod your memory and sense of charity hard enough.
Rumble Club will have none of that, thank you very much. Between Jack Coray's big guitar and big voice, Mike Kiley's big upright bass and Matt Walsh's physically small yet sonically large drums, they're ready to take Rockabilly into the future "like a rocket," to quote one of their song titles.
Formed over the spring and summer of 2004, Rumble Club's members took an unconventional route to get where they are today. Of the three, leader Coray seems to have "walked the walk" of Rockabilly a bit more than the other two.
"I used to be in an Elvis-type Rockabilly band," says Coray.
"But I wanted to go in my own direction. So I decided to find someone who could play upright bass and someone who wanted to play some swing beats. I grew up watching my grandfather playing Chet Atkins on a Gretsch (guitar), and I listened to a lot of Rockabilly."
Walsh is a direct 180 degrees from Coray's background. "Before this band, my last experience in a Rock & Roll band was during high school," Walsh says. "And since then, I hadn't been in any kind of performance situation. And, unlike (Coray and Kiley), I didn't have any kind of appreciation for Rockabilly whatsoever. I was looking for a gig and (Rumble Club) was something new, so I thought I'd give it a try."
The band takes a mix of Chuck Berry riffs, surfin' twang (a la Duane Eddy), the big voice of Johnny Cash (Coray sounds eerily like the original Man in Black) and The Reverend Horton Heat's tempo-revving insanity and filters it all through the grit of Punk, coming out sounding like The Clash if they were American and more concerned with cars than politics. Their high-octane attacks prompt them to call themselves "Psychobilly" ("Psychobilly is just Rockabilly sped up," Coray states simply), and that kind of sets them apart from their peers in Cincinnati's burgeoning Rockabilly scene. The band even organized a Psychobilly night at Covington's Madison Theater recently.
While the Rockabilly business is beginning to not so much boom as shake and rattle here in town, the Rockabilly scenes overseas in countries like England, Germany, Japan and (of all places) Finland have sizable, rabid followings. Enter the UK's Nervous Records, with whom Rumble Club has a distribution deal for their first as-yet-to-be recorded CD. Nervous is an independent label that considers itself to be " ... the future of Rock & Roll, Rockabilly, Psychobilly or whatever you wanna call it." The label's goal is to create and distribute Rockabilly so it can co-exist in the marketplace with other current recordings and not be branded with the "nostalgia" tag. That suits Rumble Club to a "T."
"We've had all kinds of people at our shows, from grandmothers to young Punk Rock kids," says Coray, "and they all seem to enjoy it, especially the younger Punk crowd. They can kind of see where their music today came from by listening to ours."
RUMBLE CLUB (rumbleclub66.com) performs March 19 at Never on Sunday with Seconds Away and Jadis.