Nowhere Left To Run

The Rebel Set Perform in Support of ‘Across the Relentless Sea’

The Rebel Set

With tales of extravagant lifestyles and platinum record sales luring so many young musicians, it’s refreshing that some musicians embrace a more humble stance. In the case of Dayton’s The Rebel Set, delusions of grandeur have long since been abandoned. The Rebel Set consider themselves fortunate to be able to share their twangy jangle pop with receptive audiences in their hometown.

Formed out of the ashes of surf-rock outfit TCB Hit Squad after its demise in 2005, The Rebel Set initially included guitarist Tom Gilliam, double bassist Gavin Spencer, and guitarist Jason Johantges. Shortly thereafter, the trio added drummer Adam Kempf . Setting out on a new musical adventure, The Rebel Set sought to build on their experiences in TCB Hit Squad, but adopt a slightly more relaxed working method.

“We wanted play with friends,” Gilliam explained. “We just wanted something that was more low-key and easy-going. We could all have fun and see where it goes. When this band started, we were playing strictly rockabilly stuff. The sound came together on its own. We didn’t put too much thought into it other than when he started picking up the upright bass and doing the slapping, we thought, ‘Hey, the rockabilly influence is great to have.’ There’re not a lot of bands around here doing that.”

“We started doing jazz stuff and then we got to doing rockabilly,” Spencer added. “We didn’t have drums (in the beginning), it was just a trio. You either pick up more musicians or you just get bored.”

Following the addition of Kempf on drums, The Rebel Set began playing in earnest around Dayton. The band established a loyal following in the subsequent years, due in large part to their raucous live set and willingness to provide the soundtrack for an alcohol-fueled catharsis for their audience.

“We definitely have fun on stage,” Gilliam said. “That’s how we cut loose from our regular jobs. Especially being family-oriented people, this is our way of getting out.”

After a couple of years of playing local clubs, The Rebel Set entered the studio with local recording guru Patrick Himes for their debut album, Ghost Town Silence, which was released in 2008. During the recording of the album, the band added keyboardist Ken Hall to arrive at their current configuration. By the time the band decided to return to the studio for their most recent album, Across the Relentless Sea, Hall’s contributions on keyboards had taken on a much more prominent role in The Rebel Set’s sound.

“I think the difference between our first album and our second album is that you can tell that Ken joined mid-process,” Spencer explained. “The first album is pretty guitar-driven, and then the second album is also more keyboard and other instrument-driven.”

Working with Steve Falearos at Babblefish Recording Studios in Franklin, The Rebel Set embraced the possibilities of embellishing their sound with additional instrumentation. While Ghost Town Silence echoed the band’s live sound as captured live by Himes, Across the Relentless Sea benefits from the production of Falearos, who made suggestions for overdubs that added additional colors to the band’s country-tinged pop. From the hypnotic, swirling organs on “Tell Me You Won’t” to the hooky horn punctuations on the upbeat “(Oh Well) Whatever You Say”, the band’s range as musicians is brought to the fore, resulting in a fuller sound.

“There’re a lot more auxiliary instruments on (Across the Relentless Sea),” Spencer said. “That talks back to the fact that we’re all musicians and we just do what we think we want to do on a song. We mix that stuff in when we think it’s right or when we think a song needs it.”

While the band is pleased with the results of Across the Relentless Sea, you’re not likely to see The Rebel Set embarking on any extended touring.

“We all have kids and are married,” Gilliam explained. “It’s pretty much a hobby for us. We’ve pretty much given up hope to make it a long time ago, even before this band started. I think that’s why this band works.”

“We all have other lives,” Hall continued. “We’re not professionals. We’re good friends who like music and like playing together.”

“We’re local artists creating local music,” echoed Spencer. “I think we’re all very proud of that, but we don’t have any ambitions or delusions that we’re something greater than that. I think we’re just happy that we’re successful at it.”

The Rebel Set will perform Saturday, April 24 at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave. Also on the bill are Sleepybird and Andy Smith (of Andrew & the Pretty Punchers). Doors are at 9 p.m. and admission is $5 for all ages. For more information, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Kyle Melton at

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