Photographer/Artwork: Matt Baxter Photography/ El Nico
Howlin’ Ric and The Rocketeers burst onto the rockin’ scene earlier this year with the energy of a young Little Richard and a truly raucous rock ‘n’ roll sound. I caught up with bandleader Ric to find out more about the wildest new band in town.
HOW DID YOU AND THE BAND GET TOGETHER?
I’ve always gigged with bands that do vintage styles of music from rhythm ‘n’ blues, swing and jive through to rock ‘n’ roll, so I had a good pool of musicians to choose from; musicians who know the style and were able to get the right sound/groove for the songs. I’ve always been into rock ‘n’ roll music so fronting a rock ‘n’ roll band where I write my own songs makes the band individual and gives it purpose. Adam and Nico make up the core of the band with me and asking them to be a part of the group was a no brainer. We are really good mates and are all full-time musicians.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START PLAYING ROCK ‘N’ ROLL?
As a kid, the chart music of the 90s and normal stuff you heard on mainstream radio didn’t do anything for me. I really enjoyed the Beatles’ early stuff and started to get into a few guitar bands that were around at the time too. At that time The Beatles Anthology came on TV, which did a part on what influenced The Beatles. They played some Elvis and Little Richard and I fell in love with the raw sound and wanted to hear more! After listening and loving old rock ‘n’ roll, Kev and I got together and tried playing Buddy Holly songs and, as you do, we wanted to do nothing else other than play gigs. From then I’ve always made sure that I have a hand in playing rhythm ‘n’ blues, rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly and it’s now just a part of me and who I am. A part of my life I guess.
YOU’VE GOT A VERY AUTHENTIC VINTAGE RHYTHM AND BLUES SOUND WITH HINTS OF LITTLE RICHARD AND EDDIE COCHRAN. WHO ARE YOUR KEY INFLUENCES?
I’m really into all the early rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly of Sun Records and love early country too. What I REALLY dig is the rhythm ‘n’ blues of the 50s, the Chess, Atlantic and Speciality Records stuff of the mid-50s is what I put on and listen to almost every day. As a singer, artists like Little Richard are frightening and amazing all at the same time and are a huge influence. I can’t really sound like them but their delivery and energy is very much what rock ‘n’ roll is to me and what I try and emulate. Also at the moment there are lots of guys writing great rock ‘n’ roll with a fresh twist and new personality. People like Big Sandy, JD McPherson and The Bellfuries are modern influences who have shown what’s possible when writing with a classic but fresh take.
HOW IMPORTANT IS USING VINTAGE EQUIPMENT TO YOUR SOUND, LIVE AND IN THE STUDIO?
The biggest part of getting the right sound is actually how you are playing your instrument, and you can achieve good results on modern replica style instruments. If you make playing as well as you can, and are getting the style right, you won’t go far wrong. There is no denying that vintage instruments and mics adds something a bit special but they are a bit of a luxury live. In the studio, good vintage gear, if used properly, can really enhance the sound. There’s no point having a vintage ribbon mic and going straight into a digital desk. Recording to tape, Analog Desk, good gear and getting as live a recording as possible seems to work best in my experience so far.
AS A BAND, YOU ARE RELATIVELY NEW TO THE ROCKABILLY SCENE. WHAT HAVE BEEN THE HIGHLIGHTS SO FAR?
Yeah we’ve not been going for long. One of the best things that we’ve done so far was supporting Barrence Whitfield & the Savages (this year’s headliner at Hemsby Rock ‘n’ Roll Weekender) at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds – it was great to meet him and chat to the band. Also we had a really great gig – a bit of a turning point gig – at Cask Corner in Doncaster at the beginning of the year. We ended up playing to a packed house including lots of fans of the rockin’ scene and met loads of new people who have helped us get lots of gigs at some of the rock ‘n’ roll clubs around the country, which we are very grateful for.
NAME THREE SONGS THAT EVERY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FAN SHOULD OWN.
Wow, this is not going to be easy to answer. I’m gonna go with Maybellene by Chuck Berry and Little Richard’s, Keep A Knocking – that’s got a vocal that could pin you to the wall. I’ve recently been introduced to Nick Curran & the Lowlifes and they are my new favourites, so as a wildcard I’m going to go with their track, Psycho.
DO YOU GET MUCH TIME TO GET OUT AND SEE OTHER NEW BANDS ON THE SCENE AND WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE VENUES?
It’s difficult but I’ve recently managed to get to see C.W. Stoneking and Pokey La Farge who are great and an inspiration live. When it comes to venues we have a great ‘home from home’ venue called Sela Bar in Leeds and we love playing at Al’s Dime Bar in Bradford too. We’re really looking forward to playing Chesterfield and Lincoln rock ‘n’ roll clubs soon.
WHERE CAN VINTAGE LIFE READERS FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOU?
We are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bandcamp and YouTube. Our first EP Cannonball is on sale and there’s also a free ‘Covers’ EP available for download. Just type ‘Howlin’ Ric & the Rocketeers’ into Google and you can find it all from there.