Rude Dude and the Creek Freaks is a great name for a rock ’n’ roll band.
Earlier this year at Sulfur Studios, I was standing outside on the curb and this crusty old van creeps up. The window rolled down — and if this were a movie script, I would write how billows of smoke came pouring out, but it’s not and that didn’t happen — and Zach Estess asked where he could park.
I was bit baffled watching these five lanky guys step out of the van, each dressed in all black, each with their own fashion assortments, plenty of tattoos, and all with tangled long hair, like cavemen.
They were cool as ice. Pure rock ’n’ roll. No apologies. They weren’t trying to be cool. They weren’t pompous. Their clothes weren’t specially curated for the moment by a stylist. Their hair wasn’t even brushed. They had no attitude, but confidence. They weren’t ready to name drop their credentials or prove themselves smarter by listing all the obscure bands they know. It wasn’t a particularly special moment for any reason other than my observation, in fact.
Of course, Rude Dude and the Creek Freaks didn’t start out like that. At their first public show (discounting the house shows at illegal venues we won’t talk about) at El-Rocko Lounge, their sound was crunchy and unshaped, fitting more in the universe of garage rock and power punk. They were a little unsure of their direction. They were a trio of musicians from a punk background that just sat down and started playing together. They hadn’t fully formed into the psychedelic-driven hard rockers who step out of vans like seasoned pros.
Since that first gig last year, Rude Dude and the Creek Freaks have played a lot of live shows in and out of Savannah. They’ve been in the studio twice and added two members. They know themselves now. They’ve painted a clear picture of who they are, defined by what music they love to write and play. None of it is contrived, forced or steeped in any aesthetic other than the one they’ve created for themselves. Simply rock ’n’ roll, without pretense, and the music always comes first.
Their second album drops Aug. 31 and they’ll be the first band signed to a new label, Graveface Records and Curiosities, which shares a name with the physical record store in Savannah. The new vision of mastermind Ryan, of course, Graveface follows a new format that will focus on local and regional acts.
His first label, Graveface Records, has been around for close to two decades. It moved to Savannah with him from Chicago and has traditionally focused on a myriad of acts, none of them local to Savannah with the exception of his own bands. His other label, Terror Vision, publishes horror soundtracks. Convoluted naming conventions, yes. Brilliant ideas, probably. Contrived notions, never.
On Aug. 31, Rude Dude and the Creek Freaks will play a record release show at Starland Dairy, accompanied by a reunion of the fantastic Savannah punk band Greta O. and the Toxic Shock as well as Charleston’s Dakota O and Asheville’s Shaken Nature. You should go.
“We’re pretty much all flowing in the same stream, man,” said guitarist, internationally renowned surfer and Tybee native Robert Powers. “We all surf in the same wave, dude.”
Since inception, Rude Dude and the Creek Freaks have existed on a serendipitous plane.
Frontman Blake Lumry, bassist Estess and new keyboardist Ryan Stark grew up together in Columbus, Ga. Rude Dude and the Creek Freaks began almost immediately after Lumry moved to Savannah. Estess introduced Lumry to drummer Anthony Bayness the day Lumry moved to Savannah. Lumry suggested they start a band. So they did. As they began playing shows and hashing out the direction, Lumry wanted the band to have more depth.
“Basically, I didn’t want to write punk songs anymore,” Lumry said. “I wanted to write more psychedelic rock ’n’ roll. That’s why I added two more members, so there was more layers. It wasn’t just drums, guitar and bass.”
Powers was added on guitar and keyboardist Zachary Hughey came on board. Hughey recently moved on, amicably, and Stark took over keys — which made sense, since he was already living on the band’s couch. Rude Dude and the Creek Freaks played their first show as a five-piece at a Graveface block party last year. After that show, Ryan Graveface approached them about working together. That was it. That’s how all this happened. Simple. Organic.
In February, the boys left Savannah to record the new album. Their debut, “Acid Bath,” was recorded in Savannah by Devin Smith of Volition Studios. They recorded their self-titled sophomore album over the course of three days in Athens at The Glow (Nihilist Cheerleader, Elf Power) with owner/engineer Jesse Mangum.
Rude Dude tracked everything live in two days and mastered the album on the third day. No tricks and very little over-dubbing. They had spent the last year cultivating their live sound by playing a lot of shows. They were already tight and simply went in and recorded what they do best.
The new studio album is pure psychedelic rock ’n ‘roll, but that doesn’t mean the next one will be. Rude Dude, all best friends, roommates, and co-workers, work off a simple concept: They make music they want to listen to.
“We’re still developing as musicians,” Estess said. “We’re still learning and developing together.
“We don’t care about our music sounding the same,” Bayness added. “We just want to play music we want to listen to.”
“We want to be the band we want to hear,” Powers confirmed. “I want to be my own favorite band.”
Joshua Peacock is the arts and entertainment features writer for Do Savannah and Savannah Morning News. Empire of Sound has won multiple Georgia Press Association awards. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.