Saturday night – what’s up?, Hucklebuck will be taking the Blue Side stage and it promises to be more fun than an afternoon horse ride in the wilderness. We recently caught up with the band’s Jonathan Helta and Danny Cumbo to discuss how the band came together, what they think of the current Maryland music scene, and how a professor with crazy fingernails influenced one of them more than you might think.
Let’s start with some history of the band. How did you get together? How did the band form and how long have you been at it?
Jonathan Helta: We started on a porch a half a dozen years ago and still open and close our practices on a porch. But it’s a different porch. Simple friends with simple pleasures.
Did you guys have any goals when dreaming up the band – perhaps stylistically or otherwise?
Helta: Nope. We wanted to practice up enough songs to play a different porch or basement. The style has stayed the same – good, honest blue ribbon rock.
Danny Cumbo: All of us were into string bands, bluegrass, and Americana that was getting popular back in the porch days, but we never really had a desire to be a string band. We liked that stuff, but also remained enamored with classic and southern rock, as well as a nod toward ‘70s country music. However, nothing was ever really planned or mapped out. At least not super consciously. Guitar rock just felt right to us.
What are some of your favorite memories as a band? Conversely, can you talk a little about some of the hardships you guys have a experienced through the years and what advice you’d give to someone looking to start a band for the first time?
Cumbo: Our favorite memories have just been of watching this band grow to where it currently is. We booked our first gig back in 2008, thinking it’s a little silly to be getting paid to do this. But bigger gigs and festivals came along, studio time, an album release, t-shirts and bumper stickers that say Hucklebuck on them. Adventures in loading up a van and playing in other states. It’s all been fun. As far as hardships go as a band, the only adversity we’ve faced is that we are not millionaire rock stars, jetsetting around the globe with millions of adoring fans. But we cope.
Helta: If you are lucky enough to find friends that know a few chords and don’t drive you crazy, stick with it. The camaraderie will pay dividends. Plus, set your goals low and you will ultimately surprise yourself.
What’s your impression of the Maryland music scene? Do you see how it could get better or do you think it’s pretty far along as it is and why?
Helta: Scenes come and go. Most of them are very supportive of each other out of survival. The regional scene has always lacked that consistent large-sized venue(s). The Blue Side has helped with that. We just need that big venue to pull in the bigger traveling acts. Locally, there will always be places to play for those who want to play. The local arts and downtown groups should be given some credit for providing events for music, not just venues.
Cumbo: The venue point is something I’ve heard from several people in Frederick. That need for a place that’s big enough to pull those national touring acts that are passing by D.C. and Baltimore.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
Helta: My first guitar teacher at Hood who had ping pong ball shards super glued to his nails. They were permanent picks. That’s dedication.
Can you give us names of some artists we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
Helta/Cumbo: We don’t really listen to very many new artists. Mostly dusty stacks of records or Halloween and Christmas music. Locally, there’s The Woo Yeahs. Outside the local area, there’s The Sheepdogs, The Gourds, Trampled by Turtles, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Lester and Earl, McCartney, The Ventures, Steve Miller Band and Lionel Hampton.
Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?
Helta: Honestly, The Blue Side is great for the space, food, brews, and staff. The unconventional events like caving conventions, dirt bike rallies, backyard bashes, and anything involving a road trip are normally a good time.
Cumbo: Festivals. Breweries, farm fests, downtown events, anything with a stage, sound system, and drawing a crowd. It’s an easy load-in because we’re not lugging a PA system around. But that’s just convenience. Like Jon said, we’re game for almost any venue.
What does 2017 look like for Hucklebuck? New music? Shows?
Helta: We’ve been recording our second album off and on for three years now. It’s down to mixing. We actually have no shows other than the Blue Side gig booked. It’s the first time I think since we have been playing that that’s the case. Because of busy lives, we can only get out once a month. I imagine booking for 2017 will be sorted out eventually.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
Helta: “Orioles Magic” or “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” Take your pick.
Cumbo: “In My Time of Dying” by Led Zeppelin or maybe “Refugee” by Tom Petty. Those are good old sturdy rock songs that I can’t turn off when they start playing.
And finally, what can we expect from your set at The Blue Side?
Cumbo: Two full sets of high energy rock and roll with a little twang here and there, multiple requests for Tim to take off his shirt, and a possibility that Tim takes off his shirt.