Robthebank: Reunited and it feels so good
By Gary Spencer
“This is not a reunion, we are back together,” proclaimed songwriter and guitarist Nate Farley. He wants to make it clear that Robthebank, one of his many prolific bands of the 1990s is back and indeed here to stay with a show at Blind Bob’s coming up this Saturday, September 24.
For those who missed it the first time around, Robthebank was a Dayton-based band that was born from the ashes of one of the Gem City’s most popular underground rock bands, the Method, of which Nate Farley was the frontman, songwriter and lead vocalist. In the mid-1990s, Farley sought to put together a new band. He set his sights on an aspiring local singer named Heather Newkirk to be the face and voice of the new ensemble.
“I was always scared of Nate … he seemed so cool and made me super nervous,” confessed Newkirk. “I had no idea he knew I could sing. Back in 1995 at Sub Galley, Nate pointed at me and said ‘You’re going to be my lead singer for a new band.’ I turned to see who the lucky girl was, [and] then he said, ‘You are!’ It was hilarious, looking back.”
Soon thereafter, Nate got his old drummer from the Method, Craig Nichols, to pound the skins and even brought in former Guided By Voices guitarist Mitch Mitchell to form the band then known as the Indicators. Personnel changes took place and former Method bassist C.J. Sexson was soon part of the fold, at which point the newly constituted quartet decided to update their band’s moniker.
“At the time, there was a rash of bank robberies around Dayton, so we changed the name to Robthebank,” said Farley.
The name Robthebank has a charming yet slyly descriptive ring to the music the group began making. While on the surface Robthebank had a stout, hard rocking classic punk framework, the band also had a penchant for pop songwriting smarts adorned with male/female vocals that often recalled the vocal counterpoints and harmonies that their old school punk heroes X are well known for.
“We just wanted to get back to the stuff we like; The Ramones, X, the Avengers etc.,” said Farley. “I love X, and there is a bit of a late ‘70s punk vibe with us.”
Robthebank went on to become a very active and popular act in the Midwest during the late 1990s and released a 7” EP, Spinout, and even recorded an album that unfortunately never saw the light of day. No sooner than Robthebank had gotten off the ground did they find themselves at a sudden halt as guitarist Nate Farley got an offer to join the Dayton-based indie juggernaut Guided By Voices and then began life as a full-time touring musician.
“We stopped playing because Nate became a permanent fixture in GBV,” said Newkirk. “We broke up but there was no official closure.”
In the band’s wake, Nichols and Newkirk formed another popular regional rock outfit called Shesus and Sexson was soon finding a new life as a family man. Several years passed, but before long seeds were being planted for Robthebank’s members to find their ways back to each other in the late 2000s, when the Method was planning to do a reunion show.
Newkirk explained, “I Facebooked Craigy (Craig Nichols) about playing a couple RTB songs at the Method reunion. The guys were all for it. After we played, for me, it just felt right.”
“This was the first time we had been together in the same room in 13 years — not that there was any bad blood,” said Farley. “We seemed to have forgotten what a good time we used to have in this band — once we were reminded, we knew we had to make it happen. C.J. now lives in Detroit, so we asked Duane (Hart), who was also in the Method, to play bass.”
With Robthebank’s members living in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, the band has bent over backwards to arrange for each member to be able to make time to rehearse and even write new material over the last several months. Things progressed and Heather booked Robthebank’s first live gig in over a decade at Junker’s Tavern venue in Cincinnati a month ago. So how did it go?
“Everything went really well,” said Farley. “Our shows have always been a bit of a party — nothing has changed.”
“We’re all seasoned/toured musicians/performers now — it sounds even better than before,” added Newkirk.
This Saturday, Robthebank 2.0 is set to make its live debut in Dayton and the band is already making plans for its days beyond.
“Our plan is to record the new stuff, see what older material we want to use/re-record, and put an album out by spring,” said Farley.
In the end, for Robthebank, making good music and enjoying themselves are the most important aspects of their return to the local music scene. Or as Newkirk puts it, “We just want to have fun! No cheekbone shoulder blade dancing. Just rock!”
RobtheBank will perform Saturday, September 24 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. in Dayton. For more information, visit www.blindbobs.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.