The Rugs, and the Chico music scene, thrive on teamwork
Music and ego often go hand-in-hand. And in musical acts, despite cooperation being of the utmost importance, often there arises the age-old question: Who’s in charge? However, when members of a group can put all that aside and work as a musical team, something greater than the individual parts is possible.
For Chico five-piece The Rugs, the path to creating something greater started with a collaboration between two songwriters back in 2012, when Jeremy Gerrard approached Nolan Ford with the idea of starting a new project. With years of involvement in Chico’s musical community between them (Gerrard in The Amblers, Ford in The Secret Stolen), Gerrard wanted to work together with another songwriter to create a band that focused on the music alone, with an emphasis on easy listening.
“We brought in a friend, grabbed some space in a garage, and along came the songs,” Gerrard said.
The band grew to include the contributions of another singer/songwriter as well, vocalist/guitarist Katrina Rodriguez, who joined vocalist/guitarist Gerrard, vocalist/keyboardist Ford, drummer Austin King and bassist Andrew Olsen to form a harmonious quintet focused on upbeat, 1970s-inspired easy pop rock. While Gerrard writes the initial skeleton of the songs, he splits singing lead with Rodriguez, depending on who brings the right feeling to the song.
“If it’s more of a rocker then Jeremy will sing it, and if it’s a ballad then that’ll typically fit Katrina’s voice better,” Ford said.
The band is about to celebrate the release of its second album, Arrow & Bow, with a show at Duffy’s Tavern on Nov. 12.
The Rugs are often pigeonholed with the term “throwback,” an oversimplificaction of their style. While the single “See Ya Blues” starts off with a driving lick reminiscent of The Beatles’ “I Dig a Pony,” it quickly downshifts into a more laid-back, countrified jingle of its own style. The polished songs do however possess an instant familiarity, which is at least partly due to the fact that The Rugs have been playing them for a while.
“The songs on [Arrow & Bow], we’ve been playing for years; a lot of them were in our pocket for a long time, so the album had a lot of time to breathe and grow,” Gerrard said. He added that, whatever influences might be heard in the band’s sound, contemporary musicians from Chico’s scene have as much of an impact on The Rugs as any from a previous era.
“Some of my favorite songwriters are the ones from local projects, like [Chico ex-pat] Dan Paggi from Roy G Biv, who we’re playing with at our album-release show,” Gerrard said. “They have a couple albums that I listen to over and over.”
“I’m going to see Team Skins tomorrow night. They’re playing with [Shadow Limb, the new project from] the La Fin Du Monde guys,” added Ford, continuing the thread of locals influenced by other locals. “The Team Skins guys grew up looking up to the La Fin Du Monde guys, now they’re the next band carrying on that torch of prog rock.”
Ford went on to point out the fraternity of passionate music types in Chico, praising longstanding players like Jeff Pershing and Dave Elke, “guys who care about the music scene a lot” and contribute as much through teaching music and recording, respectively, at Butte College as they do as gigging musicians. It’s a strength of the scene as a whole, where people are open to putting their egos aside and helping others take part.
“I do a lot of music booking for [The Rugs] outside of Chico and it can be daunting sometimes,” said Ford. “Then I look at Chico and the amount of avenues you can go down to make a show happen, that feels really healthy.”