Words and images by Jess Laicy
They say everything happens for a reason, right? I mean, I have always been a strong believer of there are no coincidences in life, but sometimes I wonder why things happen the way they do.
For example, I had absolutely no plans of catching any other bands on the bill on a random Sunday night in January at Skully’s Music-Diner in Columbus. None whatsoever. I wanted to be there just in time to catch the band I was shooting, get the shots, and get out. The universe, however, had other plans for me that night.
I ended up getting to the venue just in time to catch the band going on right before the one I was there to see. A band I would l later come to know as Rumspringa. As I sit here and think about how it all started, one word comes to mind… fluke. It was a total fluke that I would end up catching them that evening.
Here’s how it went down… one minute I’m talking to the guys in the band I’m shooting and the next thing I know I look up and 1987 is alive and well right on the stage in front of me. Decked out like any good 1980s hair metal band in spandex, eye liner, ripped t-shirts and rock-n-roll hair that would make Heather Locklear or Tawny Kitaen jealous, they kicked off their set. Honestly, I had no idea what the hell I was about to witness, so I decided I would take a few shots of the band as they started to play. I do that sometimes when I don’t know what to expect.
So, there I was, engrossed in shooting when I heard the start of Billy Idol’s classic Rebel Yell. No matter what I am doing, that will always catch my attention. It was in the middle of the song that I remember looking over my camera and thinking, “Shit, these guys aren’t half bad.” I put my camera to my side and watched them finish out their set.
Maxxx Drumlin (guitar) told some corny joke that I laughed too hard at and realized in that moment that they were not just showcasing their music, but their personalities as well. They were up there having fun, enjoying themselves and it really showed. Aside from tagging them in some pictures on social media, I never planned on seeing the band again.
It turned out that I wasn’t the only one who thought Rumspringa’s cover of the iconic Billy Idol song wasn’t half bad. Not even a month later, it would be that song that landed them at the last minute into the final four of QFM96’s battle of the house bands in February. Having caught that show too, there was just something about their stage presence that evening that made me decide I had to find out the story behind the spandex-clad foursome.
17 days later, I headed back to where it all began… Skully’s Music-Diner.
After the show on March 8, I was joined at the bar by Maxxx, Spunky Cross (bass guitar), and Ajax Barkley (vocals) with Johnny Colt (drums) running around in the background as we sat and made plans for a feature story.
This is that story, which now has been three months in the making thanks to COVID-19. Like everything else in the world, my plans to highlight this up-and-coming band was put on hold indefinitely. I was so bummed out that all our freshly made plans of attack were now laying in the gutter, for god only knows how long, with no promising end in sight. Thankfully, it wasn’t long after that I realized we live in the digital world of 2020 and through the magic of the three-way call, Maxxx and Spunky agreed to join me, socially distanced (of course), one afternoon in April to fill me and the rest of the world in on the band.
They started out as duo, with Maxxx, Spunky and drum tracks in Spunky’s driveway on Halloween night. They did that for four straight years. Spunky told me, “It’s really cool. That is where we realized we wanted to do this. Got tired of playing in a driveway instead of a stage. We were wondering how we could get from point A to point B and we definitely knew we needed a drummer. We knew we needed a four-man band… as a duo we couldn’t obviously make it forever playing drum tracks without a singer, so we were looking all the time.”
Enter Ajax and Johnny. Ajax joined as lead singer in the fall of 2019 after nailing his audition by sending Maxxx and Spunky a video of himself singing Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue. “Maxxx and I were watching the video at the same time and we both got chills from hearing his voice, so we both knew at that time he was definitely on board, if he wanted the position as our front man,” Spunky said.
With their vocalist found, now they just needed a drummer. Ajax had a friend who held that spot initially, but it did not work out. With their first official show just around the corner, they got on the hunt asap. A few text messages later, Johnny had the job.
“Johnny was in another band, but he was all for it. He jumped right in… he fits in perfect,” Maxxx said.
The now four-piece had their first show as Rumpsringa on January 26, 2020. A little less than one month later, the band’s second show would be QFM96’s battle of the house band competition. Not a bad second gig for a band who had been together for about a month. The whole experience was insane for them. They heard about the competition a few weeks before hand and had discussions about whether or not they even wanted to enter, since they were still getting comfortable with each other.
Ultimately, they decided to go for it. Putting their official cover of Rebel Yell together in just three days, they went into the studio, remixed it, took 5-6 hours to get everything hammered out, and sent it into QFM96 the day before the entry deadline.
Maxxx told me they barely made the cut, but QFM96 liked what they heard and added the guys to the lineup at the last minute. He added, “it’s kinda cool to know we made an impression. They had a predetermined plan and they had to change it because of what we gave them. (We) hadn’t even been a band technically for a month at that point. We had played one show together and rehearsed a few times. Best of the best of Ohio… the band that won has been together for over 20 years. It was a humbling experience and definitely made us all realized that yeah, this is what we want to do, we want to make this happen.”
Rumspringa had started full steam ahead, however most of the band’s plans came to a screaming halt just like the rest of the world’s did when the Coronavirus hit. They had a show scheduled in April that never happened. They had studio time scheduled that was now put on hold. It wasn’t all bad though, as the pandemic shutdown gave them the opportunity work on the behind the scenes stuff like their multimedia outlets and website.
It also saw the release of Rebel Yell as the band’s first single, even though it wasn’t planned that way. “We never planned on releasing it, but we can get people something while we’re stuck here,” Maxxx said. There was also a video release of a pandemic parody song, which just might be my favorite of all the Corona-themed songs. Yup, you guessed it, My Corona set to tune of My Sharona by the Knack. The video displayed not only the band’s talent, with each individual part shot separate from one another and edited together for the full video, but also gave the audience a chance to see their personalities come out in quarantine.
Rumspringa – My Corona
From the video to their stage attire to their live shows, it’s clear Rumspringa strives to not only get their music out to the masses, but to also have fun with everything they do. In the closing questions of our three-way call, it’s no surprise that these were the answers I got to the question, “What do you guys want people to take away from a Rumspringa show?”
Spunky: “Our whole band’s goal is to bring the crowd on stage with us, whether that’s actually bringing them on stage or us going out to them. We’re at least making them feel like they’re 110 percent involved in the show. Like they are with us, right beside us… that’s my overall goal. Every time I step on stage, is to make sure every person in that room is rocking with me.”
Maxxx: “Honestly, I just want people to have fun at our show. Like yeah, we wanna play the songs and do them all justice and rock and make an impact with our music, but for the most part I want people to feel like they’re at a party when they’re at our shows. Like we want people to be involved, people jumping around, people moving around with us. We want to have fun… we want everyone else to have fun.”
With that, there was one very important question left, one I had been dying to ask since I read the band name… “Why the hell the name Rumspringa and does it have anything to do with the Amish meaning?!”
Maxxx: “It has everything to do with the Amish meaning. I’m a little bit known for my beard. I’ve had this big ass beard since I was probably like, a senior in high school, so just making fun of me my dad used to try to get me to shave by saying, “Ope, you look Amish.” Like he would call me Jedidiah Rumhouse, so I just eventually decided ‘screw this I’m gonna own it.’
“I graduated high school a year before Spunky and we went to different high schools. I played football. I had never gone to a high school football game and because of that I was going to games with him his senior year and so we’d meet all these people that I didn’t know and who didn’t know me because I went to a different school and the way Spunky would introduce me because I have the big beard was ‘Oh, this my Amish cousin and he’s on Rumspringa.’ We would hit on girls like that, like ‘Oh… I gotta go back to the village in another week or so might as well hang out with me now, you know.’ So, we just did our best to flirt with girls being fake Amish.”
Spunky: “That was the pickup line… Maxxx is Amish, he’s gotta go back to Amish country in a week.”
Maxxx: “That was essentially it, I have a week left before I have to go back to the farm. When we did the whole Halloween thing; we wanted to put on a show a little bit, we wanted to have a mic and talk to the crowd and the only name we could think of was Rumsrpinga. Like it just made since with us. For years after that we just kept bringing that up, like it’s Rumspringa… it’s a party, you know? Dude, let’s get in the garage while people pass out candy at your house, we’ll play some songs, we’ll jam along and we’ll dress up, and it’ll be a party… and it became a thing.”
Spunky: “And that’s literally all we strive for, to have a party.”
Oh, they do party… and a Rumspringa party is one you’ve got to attend in this lifetime! Whether it’s to hear the vocals of Ajax, who has the voice of an 80s rock god (that I would let sing me the phone book), or have Maxxx blow you away with his shredding, or seeing Johnny, who in the words of his bass player, “is a beast live,” hit said beast mode and beat those drums like nobody’s business; or hear Spunky hit all those bass cords as he nails his signature hair flip… you’re going to want to party with them. Then, once you do, you will want to go every time you see they are throwing another party, because no one likes FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
I can attest, having experienced them a couple times now, that they get better and better with each show they play. I could not put my finger on it that night at the QFM96 show what it was about their stage presence, but I have now. They have such a chemistry with each other. They have fun up there, and they let their off-the-wall personalities hang out, all while letting their musical talent shine.
The parts and pieces fit together very well, and it shows every time they take that stage. They love what they are doing, and they love to bring it to the audience, but they also have a love for each other, too. And that is important for any band.
So, do yourself a favor and catch these guys as soon as you can, because you never know when Maxxx is going to have to go back to Amish country…
On a personal note, I would like to say that I am kind of glad it did not go according to plan that fateful night in January. Here we are after five months and having spent some time with the band, getting to know them a bit, I can tell you that I feel a bit chic because of it.
I believe it was the legendary Lester Bangs who dropped the line, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
Obviously, that is a line from the film Almost Famous, but it rings true for me. I have never been the coolest human being, but every time I’m with these guys, I forget about that. I can almost guarantee they will make you feel the same way when you hit up one of their shows. You will not be disappointed, but if you are… you can yell at me about it later.
Plus, I’ve shared them with you at this point… so I’m cool now, right?!
As for what’s next, now that the stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions have been relaxed somewhat, the band are back in the studio working on their debut album with producer Colin Coffey, with the plan of releasing that original material in the near future.
Thanks for reading, and until next time, peace, love, and butter churns.
Rumspringa – Rebel Yell (Billy Idol cover)