Living Out Loud
The Rambunctious Vinyl Rhino Blurs the Line Between Work and Play by Rocking the Night
INTERVIEWING VINYL RHINO WOULD MAKE ALMOST ANY WRITER WISH TO BE PAID BY THE ADJECTIVE. FUN, LOUD, BOISTEROUS AND FULLY STEEPED IN THE BELIEF THAT ROCK ’N’ROLL SHOULD BE ALL THOSE THINGS AND MORE: Vinyl Rhino is the “more.” Its members are so entertaining, they might as well be a verb—a loudly laughing “take big bites out of life and call me in the morning” kind of band.
Once “Vinyl Rhino’d,” it’s difficult to imagine ever being “de- Vinyl Rhino’d.” These folks take fun to a new level and, if their audience can keep up, they’re in for a very good time, indeed. Lead singer Ashley Miles is actually known for inviting entire audiences back to her place after a show.
Each member of Vinyl Rhino—the origin of the name of the band is best not talked about in polite circles and the only band member that knows its origins is generally OK with it being lost in the mists of time—holds down a day job, though clearly they are entertainers first. Conversations within the band are continuously punctuated with huge outbursts of laughter and good-natured teasing between themselves.
The band started in 2000 and guitarist Dean Haynie is the single remaining member of the original lineup. Things have been in flux to varying degrees for a long time, and even Dean can’t easily remember just how many musicians have stopped in to play with the band over the years.
The current lineup is Dean and Doc Atkinson pairing up on guitars, Ashley on lead vocals, Danny Miles on bass and Chris Crosby on drums. The whole band sings harmonies and contributes to the overall whacked-out party vibe that fuels their performances.
They’ve played the region’s biggest and most popular clubs, including Seacrets in Ocean City and Frederick’s Olde Towne Tavern. The rambunctious energy continues unabated at whichever club they play, and Ashley is the most rambunctious of all.
‘FUN IS CONTAGIOUS’
“When we started, we’d watch people love it and they’d have fun, we’d have fun and that’s when I realized that fun is contagious,” Dean says. “We love doing this. I also realized that when you’re worried about things in the club breaking, that’s a good night!”
The set list for the band spans a stylistic gamut that you’d have to pack a lunch to fully explore. They bill themselves as Maryland’s most dynamic variety band.
Playing everything from Taylor Swift to Rage Against the Machine, with stops in between to revisit Lady Gaga, Queen, Chumbawumba and Hanson, these rock ’n’ roll Rhinos are not your mama’s party band, baby.
“You have your great front men who can’t sing, like David Lee Roth, and you have great singers who put you to sleep watching them onstage,” Dean says, suddenly waving in the direction of Ashley. “But it’s rare to have both in one front person, and Ashley is that rare thing. She’s a great singer and she’s darned entertaining to watch!”
It’s not difficult to believe. Ashley’s got a restless energy that her body and the chair in which she sits can barely contain, and her mind is constantly roving in search of the next funny thing, the next moment, the next chance to entertain.
“It’s Doc that is the sexy one.” Ashley laughs. “He gets all the girls, he’s got the pecs, the moves and he’s shy, so girls go nuts. … We had to stop a show one time in the middle of a song because some girl in the audience wanted a hug, right there onstage.”
Doc laughs, makes a reference that can’t be printed here, tilts his beer back and refuses to comment except to say he has no idea what they’re talking about. He is boyishly good-looking and shy, which one suspects is exactly why he’s so popular. His wife and 5-year old daughter support his music and his playing gigs and he presents the very picture of the devoted husband and father who can still rock out when necessary.
During the course of a decidedly raucous conversation that ranges from the almost-tame and goes downhill from there, (drummer Chris admits that he somehow managed to marry a girl “way hotter than I deserve,” and his explanation doesn’t belong in the pages of a family magazine), Dean offers this in a moment of gravity: “We play together because we love hanging out with one another, we love having fun and we love playing music and making people happy.”
“Man, there’s nothing better than sweating onstage because you’re entertaining folks who love music and dancing,” Danny says as he rolls his eyes heavenward. “It’s the … best!
“Danny’s a wild man, too!” Ashley says. “He’ll do damn near anything to get folks jumping. He plays his guitar behind his head, jumps around … the number of times he’s hit me in the head with his guitar because he’s having so much fun … maybe that’s why I forget lyrics sometimes.”
BAND AS A BUSINESS
These musicians have all played with other area outfits, and they’ve got the professionalism thing down, forming an LLC around the group, using a booking agent, and generally being good business people. Dean admits that they had troubles early on, “and the IRS came knocking.” Seven years of 50 gigs a year will surely cause IRS agents frontal lobes to twitch, and the band had to sort things out with them. After that, they determined to never get another visit from the government again, and went “legit.”
Now, 13 years into the band, Dean is the “old man” of the group, and to be “Dean’d” is to be double-checked that no one is out of line. As much fun as Vinyl Rhino has as friends, their antics never go beyond the fun stage. It’s the secret of their success and longevity, and when asked where the band might be going professionally, Ashley says, “We’ve worked so hard getting the band to where we are now. We really do love one another and we love hanging out. It’s like when you’re planning your vacation and you work hard arranging the flight and the room and the whole thing and now, we’re just getting off the plane. We’re ready to go! This is where we wanted to be all along.”