The ride there is a long one. I am already an hour late, trying to navigate my way through a snowstorm without the convenience of a GPS, my glasses, or a right turn signal. By the time I find myself in suburban Orchard Park, I am in no mood to be anywhere other than bed. I shuffle up the driveway, already skeptical that the house—looking very much like my grandmother decorated it—could host any sort of music that would make the ride worth it. I knock on the door. A man with a long orange beard answers. He leads me through the house, which is the decorated in the same old fashioned way as the outside.
I am stunned. Everyone is playing a beautiful instrument. I am so used to seeing the salvaged looking guitars and drum kits that you run into at punk shows that the mint green guitar and stunning black and red upright bass catch me by surprise. In fact, the whole band gives off the same neat, meticulous vibe. Wearing cuffed jeans and buddy holly glasses, The Blue Ribbon Bastards style is as slick as their hair.
Interviewing all five band members, however, is anything but organized. Everyone is talkative and enthusiastic, agreeing on some points, but cheerfully disagreeing on others. They talk over each other as frequently as they finish each other’s sentences.
So how did you guys meet?
Drew is the first to answer. “I have known Jonny for ten years. I met him at a psychobilly concert back in the day. We used to go to the scene shows. I don’t know how the hell I met Wade, but Jonny and Wade have been friends for several years. We decided collectively we wanted to start a band. We really like drinking together, so we figured we’d do something constructive while we drink, instead of just getting hangovers.”
He looks over playfully at the youngest member of the band, Steve.
“Now lemme tell ya’ about Steve…”
“You don’t have to tell them about me…”
“When I met him, he had a swoopy Bieber bang…”
“You don’t have to write this down…”
“Yes you do. He was doing this—“ he swoops his imaginary hair from his face, “and then he came in, and he shredded.”
They improvise the story as they go, working off each other. Watching them speak makes it easy to see how their music comes together.
“I’ve played in every kind of band” Steve says, “—emo, I guess, metal, punk—I’ve always played rockabilly but never had anyone to play with. The topic of guitar came up, they invited me to play—“
“But we didn’t have a drummer…” Drew adds.
“We had three guitarists and an upright. Eventually, that turned into two guitarists, one vocalist, and an upright— no drummer. But we had five original songs, so we thought, hey, let’s do an EP. Our first one was Songs to Rob Trains To. We did a five song EP in winter of ‘09 out in Cheektowaga. My friend had a studio in his attic, so we did that, got the word out. We wanted to put stuff on Myspace, or whatever was popular at the time. We wanted to get our music out there to find a drummer—put an ad out, didn’t find anything we liked. But five months later…”
Wade jumps in. “My uncle is a tattoo artist, and was talking about rockabilly. Shot Jay my number…”
Jay adds, “I’ve been playing drums for 27 years now, since third grade. I was a snare in marching band.”
“And that’s how Jay got involved. He for some reason liked us—“
“To this day, I still don’t know what it is.”
The jokes continue rapid fire until I almost forget I’m doing an interview. Every other second, someone is cracking me up. For instance, when talking about the rockabilly a-list trio Reverend Horton Heat—
“They were on guitar hero!”
“I’m guitar hero… every evening. I’m really good at it. I’m better than you, Steve.”
And on describing the music they play, and the rockabilly scene in general—
“We play music your parents might like.”
It is a fun interview, by the end of which, I have come to appreciate the aesthetic they are trying to emulate. If all you know about the fifties music comes from Grease, then I suggest you take a look The Blue Ribbon Bastards. In a local scene saturated with rock and blues, the energy this band brings to the stage is unique. They keep the mood light and the pace fast.
“It isn’t just about music. It’s about performance,” Jay says, “No one stands still, we all dance, we all move around. If we’re all into it, and energetic, then the crowd gets into it.
Of course if you don’t like them...
“We played a show at Diablo, and Wade walks out and introduces the band. ‘We’re the Blue Ribbon Bastards from Buffalo, New York. And if you don’t like us—you can go fuck yourself!’”
Steve laughs, then clarifies “No matter how much you think we suck, you can tell we’re passionate about it. Bottom line is: we play music we love playing. And we don’t give a fuck if you don’t like it. “
Drew agrees. “We’re not doing this for any reason other than we like to do it. New music has the problem of being an image thing. We just did this to make our drinking problem less evident.”
They all laugh again, working their way through a few cans of their namesake, when Steve suddenly gets serious.
“But really, make sure you say that I haven’t done emo since high school—and only because I never had anyone to play with.”