“You guys in a British rock band?” asks a Fremont Street passerby as members of Rusty Maples enjoy a smoke before a photo shoot.
The band just completed a two-week tour that took them from New Mexico to Wisconsin. The Maples look cool enough to pass for an overseas sensation. They sound even better. They’re the Vegas indie-Americana band of the moment, currently toiling in the studio on a proper full-length album. Their songs, like the anthemic “Pockets” off last year’s Make WayEP, are emotional and engaging. The Maples do melodic rock minus a formulaic approach and posturing.
But this fall is make-it-or-break-it time. Rusty Maples need a strong showing at the Life Is Beautiful fest to impress club-booking agents and glom onto the U.S. festival circuit. Proving they can go toe-to-toe with top acts such as Kings of Leon will help the Maples hitch their wagon to bigger, more established fests such as Sasquatch!, Bonnaroo andCoachella.
“We might get the noon slot at Life Is Beautiful,” frontman Blair Dewane says. “I’m just happy to see our name on a poster with bigger bands.”
Dewane is too humble. The Maples played SXSW last year alongside a slew of great bands. In any case, his brother, guitarist Ian Dewane, knows the Maples’ recent show for SXSW V2V, a Vegas extension of the Austin festival at the Cosmopolitan this month, was equally important. A buzz is, in fact, building around the band. So are the crowds, which get bigger with every Maples show.
When the band opened for Lord Huron at Beauty Bar recently, the audience was as excited to see Dewane and Co. as the headliner. And a packed gig in Reno, with people up front pressing the stage and singing along as intensely as they do at home in Las Vegas, opened the band’s eyes. This whole professional rock band thing might actually work out. Maybe we should knuckle down and play L.A. next.
No wonder, then, that the Maples musicians unanimously quit their jobs in April to focus on their band full time.
“We’re all in the same spot,” says drummer Max Plenke, who now ekes out a living as a freelance writer. “When we come back from the road, we’re picking up odd jobs, making enough to buy groceries for our girlfriends. Any creative energy that we might’ve spent at work we’re now putting toward this band.”
Giving up a steady paycheck is a scary proposition for your average weekend-warrior rock stars. But the Maples’ leap of faith seems necessary, inevitable. It also seems to be working. Right off the bat, their body language and style of dress communicate poise, turning the heads of hipsters along Fremont East, another of whom asks me if the Maples are famous.
“I comb my hair and tuck my shirt in,” Dewane says. “Ten years ago, I’d have said to myself, ‘What am I doing?’ Now I pay attention to how many times I say ‘fuck’ onstage. We still need to work on our confidence of being onstage and what we’re displaying to an audience. To realize we have people’s attention up there.”
Adds Blair: “Bottom line—we suck if they’re not into it. We can’t let that happen.”
Rusty Maples Shows
4:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort’s Mountain Fest, $15 ($10 in advance),SkiLasVegas.com.
6 p.m. Sept. 21 at Downtown Brew Festival at Clark County Amphitheater, $45 ($35 in advance),DowntownBrewFestival.com.
Oct. 26-27 at Life Is Beautiful, $159.50, LifeIsBeautifulFestival.com.