On a non-descript mid-December day, snow and wind played havoc with road conditions. On any regular Sunday, it wouldn’t matter much: most people don’t work on that day of the week, and staying home and not having to deal with the weather would be a welcome option. However, this was no ordinary day. Rather, there was an exciting time to be had at The Continental in NYC, where the all-ages show line-up included Boston’s Ducky Boys and Street Dogs (featuring old Dropkick Murphys singer Mike McColgan), as well as fan-favorites River City Rebels, who now reside in New Hampshire. To briefly explain the situation, the show wasn’t canceled; all the bands made it except, unfortunately, a majority of the Rebels. Vocalist Dan O’Day and sax player Rylan Perry arrived on time, but their bandmates were stuck traveling from New Hampshire, and never got to the venue. Taking it like men and accepting the possibly of public humiliation just to satisfy their fans, Dan and Rylan surprised us all with a little impromptu performance. Alas, for as fun as it was, Dan assures me this will be the last time he ever does anything like THAT again! Acknowledging it was good for laughs, he declares, “It’s safe to say that’ll be the last performance of that sort…I’d have to be really drunk to do that.” But it was memorable, nonetheless, and definitely as Brandon says, “At least the kids had something to…remember them by – once in a lifetime for sure. People don’t come out to see the River City Rebels for anything less than just a spectacle, and that’s what they got.” Well, what we got was Dan on vocals/guitar and Rylan on saxophone, performing four songs as the illustrious “Dan O’Day and the Shithead”. When I mentioned to Dan and Brandon how afterwards Rylan wouldn’t be swayed by my praises of their little display, just shaking his head “no” while I was explaining that it was great they even went up onstage without the rest of the band, they both attributed his reaction to the fact that he’s a shithead. No, but all joking aside, these guys are one close-knit group, living in a house in New Hampshire together. Four of them have been in the band since it’s inception, Dan (originally on guitar), Brandon on trombone, Chris on bass, and Erik on drums. The band has undergone various line-up changes through the years, most recently losing a guitarist during the summer, but now feel that the line-up is as solid as ever. With the latest additions of saxophone player Rylan and guitarist Pat, “I think we’re kind of complete,” avers Dan, adding, “The foundation is there.” Yet, they’re still searching for a second guitarist. They have some people that may work out, but as of right now, Dan concedes, “There’s no big rush especially with writing the [new] record right now.” Brandon concurs: “We pretty much have our core product and…it’s pretty much irrelevant…that’s kind of our style, you know? Always have an open door,” continuing, “The six of us do enough that…it’s not crucial. It doesn’t affect our performance or anything like that.” About assuming the role of frontman, Dan says it’s “easier,” “more natural,” and just “makes sense.” After all, he elaborates, “From the early years, I was writing most of the songs and it was just weird writing…personal lyrics and giving [them] to someone else to sing.” He believes that the loss of their second vocalist after their sophomore release “Playing to Live, Living to Play”, was the breaking point, deciding that it was time he “learn how to sing and learn how to front” the band. That he did. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone else fronting the Rebels, once you see their live show at least. Dan brings so much raw, manic energy that mixes so well with the band’s overall intense sound, it really is electric. Dominated by anthems with rowdy sing-along choruses, their sets induce hoards of kids to crowd the stage and shout along to these infectious songs. And it’s clear that the passion the Rebels bring to the stage is genuine, as Dan honestly exposes, “That’s where most of our hearts are at, you know, connecting with the people and having a good time with it, and just playing…how we feel rock ‘n’ roll should be played.” He describes their live show as “very personal and in-your-face with lots of energy.” So it’s no surprise that they would rather be touring than recording. In fact, Brandon admits, “I think we just put the records out just so the kids will have something to sing along to live…because I think the songs are really strong.” Tying in how fans will be affected by the new material, he says, “Once people start learning these new songs, they’re really gonna start digging it I think.” The Rebels already have about five songs written, which makes for “a good foundation” for the upcoming record, according to Brandon. When asked about details, such as if they’ll have some guest appearances as they did on their last record, 2002’s “No Good, No Time, No Pride”, undoubtedly their best release to date (on which they got Duane Peters and Kerry Martinez of US Bombs fame to guest), Dan says they have some people in mind, but are “keeping it on the down-low.” Tauntingly, he continues, “If things happen the way we expect it,” the people they’ll have contributing on the album, will “blow some people’s minds.” All Brandon will disclose is that “it’s gonna be different.” Alas, to see if everything pans out, we have to wait awhile. The band is now planning on spending the winter writing in their house (so they’re not too worried if it snows too much, as they can “have a good time with each other” – whatever that means!). Then it’ll be off to the studio to lay down the tracks, and directly after recording, they’ll be on tour. Dan mockingly (?) says then they’ll “be the new sensation.” In any case, they seem to be extremely excited about the new project and the ensuing tour. This tour, however, could include a whole mix of bands with varying styles. After all, these guys can play shows with punk and ska bands alike. With their horn section adding a special flavor to their streetpunk base, they’ve even played the Skanksgiving event on Long Island. This diversity and ability to play with a number of different bands is one of their greatest strengths. Brandon is right in saying the Rebels “cross genres very well…There’s no other band that can go on tour with The Pietasters and then go out on tour with The Unseen.” And this feat has its advantages as well. “I think it’s better that way [so] we don’t pigeonhole ourselves…You can’t reach as many people if you just limit yourself” to playing with acts from just one genre. Moreover, Brandon goes on to say, “We’re the one band that people just don’t know [how to categorize.] I think people feel uncomfortable with not being able to label us.” He even admits that he doesn’t know how to classify the band himself. Before I was done chatting these guys up, I had to know what exactly the Rebels are all about. Brandon, laughing, quickly responds, “Sheer power, just sensationalism, really,” but then gets more serious, saying “It’s about the live show. It’s about the energy.” Likewise, he makes it clear about where they stand in relation to other bands, stating, “We’re the most accessible band out there.” Not only do they hang out with the crowd before and after their sets, they even post their home address on their Website! So, obviously as he says, “We’re out there, we’re talking to people” and they enjoy it. He’s right in saying that this aspect definitely sets them apart from any other band out there. “We really have our hearts in the right place, you know, as far as the fans go and as far as what we’re doing this for. We’re not doing it for any other reason besides just making good music.” Dan believes the band is “just about having a good time” and that for RCR, it’s “a lifestyle,” “a culture,” and “a family environment.” On a more personal note he continues, “This is all I’ve ever wanted…I’ve thrown my whole life away for this. This is what I got and this is all I want, so you know, I’m happy with things.” The self-proclaimed “Only Other Band That Matters” will be playing some weekend gigs during the winter, but for the most part, will be locked up in their house writing. The River City Rebels will be “rockin’ in the New Year” when they play their New Year’s Eve show in Burlington, VT, performing while 2004 comes in. This will actually be the third time they’ve done so, and hopefully this time around Dan won’t botch up the countdown as he did when 2003 rolled in. Well guys, you asked if I was excited about your prospects for 2004, and all I can say is yes. I can’t wait to see what you guys have up your sleeves…


Interview date: Dec 16, 2003

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