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Interview with REBEL AMISH RADIO

by Christopher J. Kelter - October 28, 1999

On a cool fall night Rebel Amish Radio's guitarist/vocalist George Bold and vocalist/percussionist Deanna Barney sat down with Rough Edge to talk about their growing success, the Internet, the creative process, the Baltimore music scene, and the band's plans for the future.  The ever-pleasant George and Deanna gave a spirited interview and we think you'll enjoy this transcript.

Rough Edge: Can you tell Rough Edge readers how Rebel Amish Radio came together?

George Bold: Rebel Amish Radio started in a basement in Annapolis in 1997.  Me and Mike Sipple, the original drummer who's playing with Jimmie's Chicken Shack now, were originally playing in a band called Julius Bloom.   We weren't very satisfied with it - we had a lot of our own material that we had been writing and we started Rebel Amish Radio. Deanna joined the band by default because she was hanging out at practice and nobody else could sing.  I asked her "Hey, could you sing some stuff with me?"  Deanna started singing and that was that!   So we told her she was in the band and we said "Man, we gotta deal with this girl?" (everyone laughs)

Rough Edge: My first impression of the band was The Red Hot Chili Peppers with the vocal vibe of Ike & Tina.  (George and Deanna laugh)   Yet, there are elements of Galactic Cowboys style with the use of heavy riffs and melodic vocals.  How would you describe the band to public?

George Bold: To wrap it up we would say "heavy soul" - you were on the right kick.  We've been compared to Lenny Kravitz meets Black Sabbath and I've even heard Sly and the Family Stone meets Helmet.  We were all influenced by a bunch of different things.   Overall, we were all influenced by the heavier stuff.  Yet, we're all into some things that have a soulful feel.

Rough Edge: Does the title of the new disc "Embracing The Struggle" have any particular meaning?

Deanna Barney: Everybody's been through some shit.  You gotta take hold of it, grab it by the balls.

George Bold: Most of the road is the struggle; through the pain and everything that you go through in life is the way to ...

Deanna Barney: ... get something.

George Bold: The pain is the key to growth.  When you're struggling and things are tough don't dislike it - love it, embrace it, be happy that you're going through it.  It's only through the struggle that you get somewhere.   When we were picking a name for the record we were really confident musically, but at the same time monetarily everyone was a little depressed.  That was the idea - we just wanted to let everyone know that it's tough out there, there's pain to deal with.

Rough Edge:   The subject of pain comes up a lot in the lyrics especially on the first CD "Weekend At Jerry's."  It's all kinds of pain: pain people cause you to experience or pain maybe you've caused others.  Is that going to be a continuing theme?

Deanna Barney: The theme is confusion.

George Bold: The theme is definitely confusion.  But I think we really relate to the Amish because no matter what happens in this world there are people who just stay true to what they do regardless of what's going on.  And it seems that we are the same way.  No matter what we do we are just going to keep doing what we do; it doesn't matter if short hair is in style or punk rock is in style or this style is going on there's something special in what we do.  Sometimes when you're alienated because people tell you don't fit in or you're not cool or whatever - that's a lot of pain and frustration.  We just write about that - the overall message is just trying to relate to people out there, letting everyone know that we know life is tough - there's no use in giving up.  Be a man, be a woman; stand up go with what you got.   We just try to present life as honestly as possible.  A lot of people like music that really doesn't say anything.  Now most of us are pissed off about this, that, and the other thing.  (laughs all around)  We still gotta go on living.

We don't try to write about love and our women and boyfriends.  (more laughing)   We try to keep the subject matter that people can deal with in their brains, things that people are going through.

Deanna Barney: We deal with stuff in people's heads, rather than in their pants.

Rough Edge: There is a huge leap of quality in the production from "Weekend At Jerry's" to "Embracing The Struggle."  In fact, I would consider the sound quality on "Embracing The Struggle" to be major label quality - how did that come about?

George Bold: The first CD we did before we even started to play out live.  We recorded it on an old eight track, but it was actually a seven track because one of the tracks didn't work.  It was like we duct-taped things together - that's why we called it a "Jerry Rig Production."  It didn't cost us a dime to do.  That got us our start to go out and play and have something to sell.  That allowed us to get some coin together to go into a real studio - that's where the quality difference came from.

Rough Edge: The band covers a lot of sonic territory for what is essentially a musical power-groove trio.   A lot of bands have power, but it's reckless with no groove.  How does Rebel Amish Radio reign in the power yet keep the groove?

George Bold: It's more natural than anything.  All of us have been more influenced from the funk side of things, but the heavier approach is what we all envisioned.  Bringin' it heavy, but also bringin' it funky.  We're all kinda funk players, but we just happen to be playing heavy.  So you take the feel of funk and play heavy rock - that's what you end up getting.

Rough Edge: There's a certain mean streak in the lyrics on top of the groove - where does that come from?

George Bold: I don't think it's mean as much as it is reality.  At least our reality.  I don't think we intend to be mean - I think the meanest song we have is "Hesitate" where we talk about kickin' somebody in the mouth.  That's more like a thought and I don't think there's anyone who hasn't felt that way.  It's more the truth in how we think, rather than it being a meanstreak.  I don't know of anyone who's ever said, "That guy really screwed me over, I'd like to give him a hug."  If you get screwed you think you could kick somebody in the mouth.  We're all kind of spiteful people sometimes - not really!

Deanna Bold: It's in your head.

Rough Edge: It's something you think and feel, but not act out?

Deanna Barney: Yeah.

George Bold: At least not everyday!  (more laughter)

Rough Edge: How do the vocals develop?  What determines when George sings or when Deanna sings?

Deanna Barney: That's a natural thing, too.

George Bold: Usually everything we do is just the creative process in practice.  We just jam and start singing.  It starts as a melody line, there aren't really any words.  Once we start fixing the song the word just come.  Everything definitely evolves in practice.

Rough Edge: What's the best part of the life of a song?  Writing it?  Hearing in on the radio?   Playing it live?

Deanna Barney: I love playing live, but I love recording, too.  I'm really into recording.

George Bold: I think all three are equally as fun.  All three are like the whole reason for music.  The creation part is always really stimulating and when you finish it taking it live is fun, too.  When it's all said and done you like to hear what it sounds like when its finished being recorded - that's when you're able to just sit back and listen to it.  All three are equally as pleasing.

Rough Edge: Do the songs continue to evolve once you get them in a live setting?

George Bold: Oh yeah, definitely.  We have remakes for every single one of the songs we do.  We're always trying to expand on what we're doing.  We feel that as a band we're still growing.  The first two records will only ever be a sample of what we're doing the first years of the band.  I think it's definitely only the beginning.

Rough Edge: Sharing the stage with the likes of King's X, Buckcherry, Jimmie's Chicken Shack, and Second Coming must be exciting - do you envision yourselves paving the way for local bands across the country?

Deanna Barney: Absolutely.

George Bold: We would love to help out anybody that we could.   We just need to be in a position to be able to do it.  But we're still so insecure, we're just like every other human.  A lot of people dig us, but since we're still humble we think "really?".  It matters when people say "I love your music" - you get a good reaction and we still fascinated by the whole thing.

Deanna Barney: I had a guy come up to me while I was at work the other night - he heard me humming.  He told me he didn't know if he had good ears or whether I had a nice voice, but he thought my humming was the radio.  He asked me if I sang professionally and bought a CD for his daughter who sings.  I thought that was awesome.  A lot of people who like are music just like to come to shows and party, but now there's a young girl somewhere listening to our music.

Rough Edge: How has mp3 technology help expand the band's exposure to the music buying public?

George Bold: I think it's great for the music business in general.  It's given everybody a fighting chance.  I think the Internet was created by musicians!  (laughter ensues)  The Internet gives me a chance to listen to a band from California that I've never heard of without having to buy it - you can check it out.  It's definitely put a whole new spin on the industry.  We're taking advantage of it; we feel like everybody should.  That's America - it's a chance at free enterprise.  Whoever has their shit together the best is going to be the winner.  But the music still has to be good.

Rough Edge: How instrumental is local radio in getting you out to the audience?

George Bold: 98 Rock has been key; I don't think we'd be were we're at if it weren't for 98 Rock.  98 Rock has helped us considerably. 

Rough Edge: Not many radio stations help young local bands anymore.

George Bold: 98 Rock doesn't get to help us as much as they'd like to, but whenever they get a chance to play us they play us.  Whenever there's a show they talk about it on the radio.  They talk about us, they drop our name a lot.   They've been a big weapon for us.

Deanna Barney: They've had us on the Morning Show which was helpful.

Rough Edge: There's a lot of talk about the vibrancy of the Baltimore rock scene: there's a potential for the domino effect when one band takes a bunch of other bands into success.  Do you think Baltimore is poised for being the next big musical hotspot?

George Bold: It's like anything else; there are so many bands that have come close to making it.  But it all comes down to marketing yourselves correctly.  Just look at Seattle - Seattle got big because of the bands, but also because of all the young yuppies and professionals that got a marketing scheme behind the bands and it got really big.  Musicians have to treat it more like a business.   You got to find out who's buying your stuff, cater to them a bit, work with your customers.  There are lots of good bands around here.  The threshold of talent is a lot higher than I've ever seen it.  If you do your business right good things will come - you just can't sit around and talk about it.  You've got to get out there - find new a creative ways to get the music out there.  You're nothing unless you're on the radio on in the media.  You need a few breaks, and you need a few people to take you seriously.

Rough Edge: Years from now how do you think you will look at the first three formative years of the band?

George Bold: I hope they're the last three years I keep getting grey hair!  To convince 99% of the world to pursue something you don't get paid for would be incredibly stupid.  But we have the conditions to do what we want to do.  The first three years are so important - you have to learn to work, take what comes, and make some breaks.

Rough Edge: The band will soon be entering its fourth year: What do you plan to accomplish next?  How will Rebel Amish Radio pursue its collective dream?

George Bold: Hopefully to have a big record deal, be on every radio station in the country, and just have fun.  Realistically, we plan on writing new material, write from the heart, try to figure out a way to build our own business by ourselves without the help of a label.  A label would be nice, but at this point in the game we know what we have to do.

Rough Edge: Well, there's one last question and it would be a mid-Atlantic type of interview without asking this question: The record collection is on fire and you can save one record - which is it?

George Bold: All the King's X records, all the Prince records, and Lenny Kravitz's "Let Love Rule" record.  (Deanna nods in agreement the entire time)

Rough Edge: We admire local bands that keep plugging and doing what they love.  Any last words?

George Bold: Perseverance; perseverance is good for anybody.   Even if you're not a good band, don't ever give up.  The only way to get good is to stay in it.  In the long run, you gotta be weary, but always shoot for the top.

To learn more about Rebel Amish Radio visit and embrace the struggle.

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Copyright 1999 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 31 Jul 2018 23:38:09 -0400