Photo by Karl McWherter
Next to the Hooters, Rugby Road may be the most quintessentially Main Line band out there. Celebrating 27 years with the new four-song EP, III, the band is the surprisingly resilient product of some fairly legendary Villanova University parties held at a certain house on Bryn Mawr’s Rugby Road. “After a lot of nights playing late at that place, we ventured out to local bars and clubs,” says keyboardist Ken Kearns, who founded the group in 1990 with guitarist Derek Smith and drummer Rich Pruett. “No matter what we tried to call ourselves, people called us the Rugby Road Band, so we rolled with it.”
And roll with it they did—at the 23 East, Berwyn Tavern, John Barleycorn’s Pub, Smokey Joe’s, Grape Street Pub and other watering holes you may or may not remember. All the while, they collected an enthusiastic and loyal following. “In our senior year at Villanova, we were playing three or four nights a week in the area,” Kearns recalls. “All that playing tightened up the band quickly. It also molded a sound that worked its way into our original material.”
Rugby Road’s expansive, increasingly accomplished sound earned them better gigs in New York City, along with opening slots in Philly for national acts like Rusted Root and the Allman Brothers. “We’ve never really considered ourselves a jam band, but we do like to stretch things out in our own way. Quite honestly, I think we benefited from the fact that there just isn’t that much original music in the suburbs—and that we’ve stuck to our formula,” says Kearns. “We also all have full-time jobs and families, but we knew we could keep doing this—without killing each other—if we did it on our time.”
Rugby Road recorded III at producer Derek Chafin’s BarnSound studio in Media. “Are some of the songs long? Yes. But that’s what we do,” says Kearns, noting that the band opted to call this release “Side 1.” “I’m not sure if there’s a Side 2 coming, but the door will stay open.”
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