Vegas Seven last checked in with Rusty Maples—the self-described “indie Americana folk pop/good lovin’ rock ’n’ roll” band—a year ago. In the August 29 issue, writer Jarret Keene observed them turning heads at a Fremont Street photo shoot while they wondered if the then-recent gamble of quitting their day jobs would pay off. Would they nab a spot at the inaugural Life Is Beautiful Festival? Could they make their way onto the national festival circuit? Should they “knuckle down and play L.A. next?” Would they gain more confidence onstage?
Twelve months later, the answers are: Yes, not quite yet, yes and hell yeah.
Not only did Rusty Maples—brothers Blair and Ian Dewane on lead vocals and guitars, respectively; Mike Weller on bass; and Max Plenke on drums—play Life Is Beautiful last fall, they’re tapped to play the festival again this October. And while you haven’t yet been able to catch this quartet at Bonnaroo or Coachella, they did play as an official showcase band at South by Southwest in March. As for the L.A. question, if you happen to be in the neighborhood, you can watch them at The Mint on August 23. Confidence? The band has developed that by playing multiple regional tours this year. Fans can follow Rusty Maples’ geographic progress on social media, where they seem to stop and pose under every “Pennsylvania/Minnesota/Wisconsin Welcomes You” sign. In short, they’ve been making good on the quitting-the-day-job thing.
Add one more accomplishment to this list: On August 15, Rusty Maples will celebrate the release of their third EP, The Western World, with a party at Velveteen Rabbit. (The EP will be available digitally on August 19.) The six songs on this mini-album are all intensely appealing. The sound is mostly fast and upbeat, but with a sense of depth. Listening tweaks the heart, offering a certain type of tempered joy, a happiness that has crawled out of darkness and just might fall back into the abyss. It’s the thinking fan’s pop.
That delicate balance was achieved with the help of Minus the Bear’s Alex Rose, who produced, mixed and recorded the EP. Rose saw them play last year and liked what he heard. He and Rusty Maples then bonded over a mutual love of obscure Pink Floyd songs. Both parties liked the unlikely stuff.
In the studio, where this journalist observed the creation of the song “Long Walk Home” back in January, Rose sat at the controls, offering soft-spoken suggestions. The musicians responded enthusiastically, with experimentation and follow-up questions. Amid the never-ending repetition of a day in the studio, the song “Long Walk Home” held up and didn’t grate. It’s one of those happy-sad numbers that’s got melodic hooks, driving guitar riffs, earnest falsetto and everybody-now “oooh’s.” It’s one of those all-in songs, and when it was finally available for a preview listen, it sounded like home.
Rusty Maples EP Release Show
9 p.m. August 15, Velveteen Rabbit, 1218 S. Main St., $5. They also open for Built to Spill on August 25 at the Bunkhouse. RustyMaples.com.