By: Ben Cutbank, for Beautiful Resistance Distro
Beautiful Resistance Distro: Hello, Its Ben for Beautiful Resistance Distro. I’m honored to have the chance to have a discussion with members of the music group Big Dudee Roo. To start, would you please give a brief explanation of who you are and what you do?
Max: We’re a folk-rock band from Wayland, Michigan. We write a lot of original music and play a lot of shows around Michigan. I think our music has a wide range of themes, as far as the songs that we write. Me and Nate, our banjo player, tend to focus on different environmental and social justice themes, in sort of a way that relates to people individually and emotionally. As far as the music itself goes too, we really try to focus on having a unique, original sound that is still grounded in folk and rock influences, and those genres. We pay really close attention to the songs. There’s really no virtuosic playing in the band. Everyone kind of plays their role and contributes to the song itself without stepping all over the song. You know, there’s not a lot of solos or anything. So, it’s sort of more egalitarian the way we make music.
Aurora: Yeah, I think mostly we all just love to play. You know, we just love music.
Max: And, we’re all really close friends. We all grew up in the same small town here in Southwest Michigan. So, we have a close bond with each other.
BRD: When did you start playing music together as Big Dudee Roo and what first led you to begin using your gifts as musicians as a tool for expressing your personal views on environmental, social, and political issues?
Aurora: As far as when Big Dudee Roo started playing: like we said we all went to the same high school. Everybody else in the band is a few years older than me. I’m Max’s little sister. They started playing— Max and Nate played 7th and 8th grade talent shows. And then Justin was your friend too, and so is Kurt, so they started playing together.
Max: Kurt was actually Justin’s next door neighbor. We needed a drummer and Justin was like, “I think Kurt’s a drummer”. And Kurt used to babysit Justin back in the day because they live right next to each other.
Aurora: Yeah, and then I started singing backup with them when I was about fourteen years old and I officially joined the band when I was about sixteen.
Max: And, we used to be called Big Dudee Roo and the Raptors.
Aurora: We all had nicknames; raptor nicknames.
Max: It’s such a long name that no one could remember or get it right. They’d be like, “What…did you just say?” So for practical purposes we just cut off “the Raptors”.
Aurora: Yeah, there was one venue that put up a flyer about us that said “Big Dundee Roo and the Rafters”.
Max: As far as when we started using our musical talents to support or promote different political and social causes: that was something that attracted me about music right from the beginning. When me and Nate were in 8th grade we had a pop-punk band. That’s how we got our start. I was attracted by—back then I remember there was a band called NOFX that I was into. They had some political songs, some anti-Bush songs and I thought that was so cool. So, when I first started writing songs that was something I started doing really early, trying to write protest songs. Then, over the years our political consciousness as individuals and as a band grew a lot and I personally got really into Deep Green Resistance activists and writers. I read a lot of Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith and even spent some time over in Bellingham, Washington, working with some members of Fertile Ground, who are still really great friends today. So, it’s always been important to me, and I think it’s important to everybody in the band, to see music not just as pure entertainment, but as something that can make people think and get at their emotions. You know, on one hand music is entertainment—you want to make music that sounds good and that people are going to enjoy, that they can dance to, move to—but on the other hand it’s always been more than that for me. I remember in high school I was totally obsessed with the band Pearl Jam. It sounds funny, but I was totally attracted to how they did things like took on Ticketmaster for having a monopoly. A lot of their songs actually deal with feminist issues. There are lots of songs that concern abortion and also songs about the abuse of the culture. That was something that really attracted me. Anyways, we love—like last year when we got to play at Candlelight Collective in West Bend—that was so much fun and we had such a great night. Because a lot of times we play in bars and different places aren’t necessarily paying close attention to the words, and maybe even not the music, sometimes. So, it was great to play at a place like that where everyone was super engaged and playing attention to the words we were saying. And, we could tell the stories about the songs. That just feels so good. Those are the shows we love to play.
Aurora: The gems.