Raising a Ruckus5/22/2013
Little Ruckus — potentially the member of the Fairfield/Maximum Ames crowd that’s least known to Des Moines audiences — is nominally an electro-pop act. But what the 23-year-old really specializes in is a kind of avant garde-performance art that happens to have music attached. Much like Andrew W.K. (the man he’ll be opening for on March 23), Little Ruckus is all about the party.
A common argument between those who are fans of electronic dance music and those who aren’t is whether or not DJs and their ilk are musicians. Little Ruckus ultimately doesn’t care what side of that fence you fall on. He’s just here to see that you have a good time — a kind of fugue state he refers to as “going buck wild.”
Little Ruckus was one of the first acts to emerge from Fairfield, a tiny southern Iowa town that has proven itself to be amazingly fertile creative ground of late. But while it was clearly just a matter of time before the Fairfield scene got noticed, the fact that Little Ruckus emerged at all is kind of a throw of fate.
“The first band that me and my brother were in was called Pornogalactica,” he recalled. “I was still in high school, and it started basically in my brother’s room. We’d been making little songs on FruityLoops since we were 14, and we made this track we thought was pretty cool called ‘Rear View Mirror.’ We put (it) on MySpace, and Andre Perry from (Iowa City’s) Mission Creek (music festival) got in touch with us and said, ‘You guys make dope beats and you’re from Iowa. Do you want to play Mission Creek?,’ and we were like, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘Do you have any experience playing shows?,’ and we were like, ‘Yeah, we totally have experience.’ ”
They didn’t have experience.
“So then we went out and booked our first two shows — one in Fairfield and one in Iowa City — before the Mission Creek show.”
Those first couple of shows featured a kind of proto-Ruckus, as the kid who would become Little Ruckus went through the process of figuring out exactly who that was.
“Because we made all the beats in advance, we didn’t know what else to do, other than push play and shout encouraging things over a microphone. There weren’t even any lyrics; it was literally just beats that we had premade.
“Becoming a competent performer became paramount, because there was nothing else to do. We learned how to play shows before we knew how to play music,” Ruckus said.
While that learning process may be completely ass backwards from nearly every other musical performer around, it’s an approach that’s served Ruckus well. People who may not have any clue what he’s doing musically still find themselves getting swept up in the raw energy of his shows. That’s translated to a remarkable level of success for someone so young in such a small niche.
“Last summer we played 80/35, then (that afternoon) we got on a bus to Chicago, flew from Chicago to New York, met up with another friend and we all flew to Europe to play (a festival),” he said. “(The festival organizers) flew us to Germany and rented us a car, so we played a couple shows in Germany and a few in the Czech Republic.”
Everyone’s cup of tea or not, Little Ruckus has clearly carved out his niche in Iowa’s musical landscape. He’s traveled the world, performed with some of the biggest names in electro-pop and is releasing his second album later this week. All in all, it’s not too bad for a kid from Fairfield. CV
Chad Taylor is an award-winning news journalist and music writer from Des Moines.