For the ages

Alphabet Cult

Alphabet Cult’s Darren Barnes, Leah “Tard” Ruby and Cyril Beatty ain’t chicken.

Alphabet Cult’s Darren Barnes, Leah “Tard” Ruby and Cyril Beatty ain’t chicken.

Photo By Allison Young

For more information, visit or search Alphabet Cult on Facebook.

If you were asked to describe yourself in 10 words or less, would you give an uninhibited answer? If you’re a member of local three-piece outfit Alphabet Cult, you would. The self-described “middle-age ragers” openly explain themselves as a “concoction of oldies that have been in many, many bands.” Or with the slightly more dramatic Facebook page alternative, “stoner yarn art rock played by 122 year-olds.”

The members of Alphabet Cult are comfortable in their, as they put it, “old” skin. It’s the first thing to come up in conversation, and the last thing they’ll throw out on the way to the door. Perhaps they’re embracing that “with age comes wisdom” aspect of life—channeling their years of experience into well-crafted guitar riffs. Or perhaps they’re just proud of where they’re at right now, kids and all.

Walking through the door of their practice house, the first thing you’re greeted by is a miniature Incredible Hulk, also known as the son of Alphabet Cult vocalist/bassist Leah “Tard.” Then you’ll step around some toys, and if you’re lucky, get offered a mini Hershey’s bar from a jar full of goodies. All while Tard busies around the house in an apron, answering questions and impressively cooking dinner at the same time. If the Hulk needs a bit of attention, guitarist/vocalist Cyril Beatty will gladly plop down on the floor beside him to toss a ball. Middle age might have struck the musicians, but they haven’t let a few parental obligations and slightly creakier limbs impede their dreams. It just requires taking some time off between public appearances.

“We’re old and rickety, so it takes us a while to recover,” drummer Darren Barnes explains, in regards to their infrequent shows at venues like the Holland Project and 40 Mile Saloon.

“We’re like folklore at this point, because we’ve been around so long,” says Barnes. “At least that’s how we tell the kids at Holland who we are.”

The members may have been staples on the local scene for their fair share of time—Barnes is currently still plenty active, doubling as the drummer in Plastic Caves, and Beatty switches to drums in The Shames—but it wasn’t until this past January that they finally shared the stage together under one name.

“We’d wanted to play in a band together since the early ’90s,” says Beatty. “We’ve at least been in a band in our minds for that long—but then Darren had kids, then me, then Leah.”

Nevertheless, if it’s meant to be it will be. And that bodes true for Alphabet Cult. Once Barnes and Tard finally got around to making some noise together, Beatty’s card soon fell nicely into the deck as well.

“The timing was very serendipitous,” Barnes affirms.

While time may have passed, and music trends have come and gone over the years since the three musicians first met, the aspect they find most interesting is that they’ve all stayed true to their roots.

“We sound the way we would have sounded if we’d played together 20 years ago,” Tard says. “It makes me feel 20 years younger.”

One aspect that did surprise the art rockers was how well they’re able to play together, not just musically, but personality wise.

“I didn’t know [being in a band] was supposed to be fun for a long time,” says Tard.

Barnes agrees. “It’s usually all pretentious, artistic ideals. With this band, it’s just fun to play together. We genuinely enjoy spending time together.”