Hard as rock

Reptile Roots League

Guitarist Lanny Carey and bassist Jesse Henderson make up Reptile Roots League.

Guitarist Lanny Carey and bassist Jesse Henderson make up Reptile Roots League.


Reptile Roots League plays at 9 p.m. July 20 and 21 at the Elbow Room, 2002 Victorian Ave., Sparks.

Eight months ago, Reptile Roots League went from a trio to a duo after their drummer decided to call it quits. Far from closing up shop, however, vocalist and guitar player Lanny Carey and bassist Jesse Henderson have two upcoming show dates and are set to complete their debut album later this month.

“Originally the idea was for it to be an acoustic album, kind of folky, and once I started playing with a drummer, it was more of a heavy alternative feel,” Carey said. “That’s something from my past that I revisited, and I felt those songs were too good to not record.”

Currently backed by a meticulously crafted list of drum tracks played through the band’s PA, Reptile Roots League blends elements like early 2000s alternative and rock rhythms with crunchy distortion and bass breakdowns a la classic heavy metal.

The band’s punk influences are apparent on tracks like “Sifter” and “TAD,” incorporating steady eighth-note riffs and high-shrieking vocals in the vein of Billy Talent or the Offspring.

“I’m kind of thrown off by genres because … you’re not heavy enough to be metal, you’re not punk enough to be punk,” Carey said. “That’s why I say, generically, we play rock music—heavy rock to be honest.” 

Carey moved to Reno about five years ago for his job and was initially unimpressed by the kinds of acts he saw in town. It wasn’t until seeing local bands more recently, like Muderock and Metalbilly Trucker—whom RRL opened for earlier this year—that he said he became more inspired by the local scene. In forming RRL, he met Henderson, who had just moved back to town.

“Me and Lanny started playing together about a year and a half ago,” Henderson said. “I answered a Craigslist ad to join a two-piece.”

After losing their drummer, the band decided to regroup and turn its attention to the studio, recording and mastering their first album with the help of local producers, guest artists and Carey’s own in-house studio.

“We actually recorded with Rick Spagnola at Dogwater Studios,” Carey said. “We recorded all the guitars there, and for the past month I’ve been working on the vocals because I have a little studio. That way I can do it on my own when I feel like I can get the best vocals.”

Carey’s self-admitted perfectionism lends itself to a studio environment, he said. He and Henderson can tweak the details of their sound in a way that is difficult in a live performance.

“I can never understand how a band could put out a shitty album, or an album where the vocals aren’t in key, because you can keep doing it until it’s right,” Carey said. “I want to make sure that this is a representation of us that people are going to hear. I want them to get the best album that they can get that represents us.”

While Carey and Henderson expressed an interest in finding a new drummer, they’re waiting for the right fit. Because more than putting out albums or completing their lineup, the driving force behind Reptile Roots League is its members’ appreciation of music in all forms.

“We geek out on music,” Carey said. “We talk about music for hours.”

“We’ve got our feet in different genres, [but] we’ve got our ears in quite a few—we listen to everything,” Henderson said.