Big Dudee Roo
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Big Dudee Roo

Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States | SELF

Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States | SELF
Band Rock Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Germination! review"

With a steady regimen of shows, Wayland's Big Dudee Roo's six-song EP "Germination!" is coming to light to many--including this guy--since its release at the tail end of last year. Hailed by many for carrying a Wilco-style brand of no non-sense folk rock, the album does carry a very rootsy vibe.

The shining star on this work is lead guitarist Justin Dore, whose furious fretwork (see the latter portions of "Be Present") lends so many of the qualities people are buzzing about. Without him, this band is a lot less rock and a lot more folk. - West Michigan Noise!

"Listen to Your Discontent review"

Big Dudee Roo, “Listen to Your Discontent” – This young bunch has injected plenty of twang into their latest recording, which spans folk-rock, country and rootsy psychedelia in, well, rather contented-sounding fashion. - Grand Rapids Press

"Germination! review"

Folk-rock is a good descriptor of this five-piece--complete with socio-ecological consciousness and positive attempts to find significance in the suffering and disassociation of the modern world...the vocals are earnest and want to reach you with bullets of truth. Banjos and violins show up to ground the disc in the folk genre, while the drums and bass solidify everything into a dirty sedan driving straight to Wheatland Music Festival, stopping only for gas and microbrew. - Recoil Magazine

"Interview: Big Dudee Roo"

A little band with a big lineup like Grand Rapids' own Big Dudee Roo could only come from a small town. Made up of Wayland-natives Max Lockwood (vocals/bass/guitar), Justin Dore (guitar/vocals), Kurt Rizley (drums/vocals), Amanda Smith (viola/vocals), Nate Wagner (guitar/banjo), and Aurora Lewis (vocals/bass), the folk/rock band released their debut EP, Germination!, at the DAAC late last month and have a huge December ahead of them. Opening for one of their favorite bands, Donna the Buffalo Dec. 9 at the Intersection, Big Dudee Roo will end 2010 riding high, with excitement and confidence for the next year.

How did Big Dudee Roo first get started? How did you all come to meet one another and decide to start a band?

Big Dudee Roo has its origins all the way back in Wayland Middle School around 2003, where Max Lockwood and Nate Wagner first started hanging out and playing punk tunes in the basement. Throughout high school they graduated to Neil Young and Pearl Jam covers, started jamming with Justin Dore on guitar and his next-door neighbor Kurt Rizley on drums. Amanda Smith joined on viola, and Max's sister Aurora Lewis started singing and playing some bass. Everyone in the band grew up in little old Wayland, home of meth labs, corrupt city managers, and fast food deviants.

What would you say each of you bring to the band?

Everybody brings a little something different. We don't really have any standouts or virtuosos in the band, but one of our strengths is that each member is able to realize their full potential and add an integral piece of the puzzle. Like Nate, whose rhythm guitar and banjo parts aren't usually the first sounds that catch your ear, but he constructs them to fit the songs so well, that if they weren't there, you would immediately notice that something was wrong. Kurt on drums and Max on bass work really well together as a rhythm section. Aurora has a hauntingly beautiful voice that adds a deeply emotional quality to many of the songs. Justin textures his lead guitar parts with a unique style that perfectly fits our sound. Max writes most of the music and words, and sings half of the songs or so. His songwriting is obviously a big part of what makes the band's sound what it is. But the songs would lose so much without the creative contributions from the rest of the band. We all respond to each other on a deep level musically, which makes us able to give each song what it wants.

How similar or how different are each of your musical backgrounds and influences?

We owe a lot of our cohesion to the similarity of our influences and taste. There are definitely some differences, but even those are mostly complimentary.

I love the Joe Strummer quote you guys have on your MySpace page, but I've got to ask, when asked the same question "What does your music sound like?" what's your answer?

Whenever we're pressed for comparisons we usually say it's got a little bit of early Wilco, like the Being There record, multiple Neil Young personalities, some of My Morning Jacket's passion and grooviness, a little Yield-era Pearl Jam, and a healthy portion of Donna the Buffalo. You can also hear some similarities with some of the more electric stuff Seth Bernard and May Erlewine have been doing with their band right here in Michigan.

In your bio you call folk rock with a grunge edge and danceable grooves. Do you feel like anyone else in Grand Rapids has a similar sound to Big Dudee Roo?

This is an interesting question, we've talked about this a little bit. We've seen a lot of acts in town, heard a lot of them, and we're still not sure if there is anyone with a sound quite like ours. And that's kind of the way we like it. There are certainly some bands who we'd fit really well on a bill with, but we think what sets us apart is the unique qualities of our songs. We carefully craft each one to make sure that it comes out as something original, catchy and emotional. We all have a great sense of what the Big Dudee Roo sound is, so that even though our songs seem to move through several different styles and genres, somehow it all fits together.

Where do you feel like you fit in within the Grand Rapids music scene, or the greater West Michigan music scene?

Good question, we're still trying to figure it out! It seems like a certain indie folk sound unique to this area and this state has been brewing for a while. It's a pretty thriving scene, but our sound doesn't always fit it exactly. Having said that, we feel like there's a place for a folk rock band with a little more of an edge, and sound politics. And our music is diverse, so it speaks to a wide range of music fans. Hopefully some arbitrary gaps can be bridged.

You also discuss on your MySpace how your songs often discuss different social issues. How important is having a message to your music?

It's incredibly important. The dominant music culture of our time has adopted this postmodern apolitical attitude that can really be disgusting to people who still see music, and art in general, as having great potential to be subversive, and a part of movements to end systems of oppressive power. And let's be honest, trying to be apolitical is at least as much of a political statement as being overtly political. Neutrality is complicity. However, it can be difficult to write political music with artistry. You can't force it. So Max tends to focus in his writing on the emotions that come up when confronting all of the issues facing humans and the planet. In this way, the politics in our music come from a really honest place. These are things we feel truly and deeply.

You put out your debut EP "Germination!" back in September. Why did it take until November for you to have an official GR CD release show?

You caught us, Eric. The EP was actually recorded back in February. But Max, our songwriter and bassist, was with another band full-time and we weren't really able to play out at all, or book any shows. We started playing again in mid-September, but we wanted to wait until we had some time to tighten back up, get the word out, and book a show that we felt excited about and would have enough time to do promotional justice. We were trying for weeks to find the right thing, when Jewly and Scott Warren contacted us about the DAAC show on Nov. 19 they were organizing, and we decided to make that the CD release.

How well do you feel like the EP captures the Big Dudee Roo sound?

We think it does a great job of capturing our sound, especially for the phase our songs were in at the time. Actually, we were all kind of taken aback by how well we thought it turned out, which really amped up everyone's excitement level and confidence in the band. The EP is very close to what our live shows are like, but with a solid studio production. Each part has its own sonic space. The feeling behind the songs and the connection we all feel to each other came across better than we ever could have hoped.

Why did you decide to record the EP at Hollow Earth Studio with Alex Hamel?

When we first met with Alex to talk about the project, one of the albums we told him we wanted it to sound like was Wilco's Being There. Since the EP's been out, we've had two different occasions where other musicians that we have a lot of respect for have told us that the EP reminded them of that exact record. That's one of the highest compliments Alex or the band could get. The point is, Alex has this uncanny intuition with sounds that made him perfect for recording our band. He took a lot of pressure off of us by simply understanding what we wanted and being able to produce it while communicating with us in a non-technical and straightforward language. Every step of the way, he made us feel completely comfortable, free to simply make music and not worry about much else. As time went on, he seemed to get more and more excited about the project too, which certainly didn't hurt.

What was the recording session like?

The bulk of the songs were recorded on two separate nights, three songs per session. Hollow Earth Studio, named after an epic End Times Orchestra song and nineteenth-century conspiracy theory, was located underneath San Chez Restaurant (Alex doesn't have this space anymore), so we would have to come in after hours and wait until it closed to start making noise. The basic tracks were all recorded live, with most of us playing in the same big, lamp-lit room, facing each other. The vibe was perfect for us, it felt just like a typical rehearsal. We did a couple of the songs on the first take, and we didn't do more than three or four takes on any of the songs. We came back a couple other nights to put the finishing touches on, and mixed everything in one all-night session. Max and Alex were the only ones to make it all the way through that, emerging from the Hollow Earth at about 7 am into a cold, foggy downtown morning, slightly confused about what had just transpired. It was a legitimately altered state.

Why did you decide to title the EP Germination!?

A good title not only adds something to the art to which it's attached, it also has a many-layered meaning. Germination! has the obvious meaning of being our debut EP, signifying the band growing out of dormancy, springing onto the scene. And with what we think is a pretty original sound. But that would be almost vomit-worthy if it was the only meaning. Connection with the natural world is very important to each member of the band in different ways, and this definitely comes through in the songs, and hopefully in the artwork for the album. The imagery in the artwork is the clue to the deeper meaning of the title. We tried to portray images of the natural world overtaking the artifacts of civilization and reclaiming land. One of the underlying themes running through the songs is that we live in a culture, industrial civilization, that is systematically destroying the natural world and making life hell for humans and nonhumans all over the planet. And clearly what we have been doing to try and stop it isn't working, as the destruction is only accelerating. So Germination! also refers to the emergence of a new way of thinking about these issues and the actions we can take to stop them, the role of humans on this planet, and ultimately a sense of responsibility that should lead to serious resistance to the cascading threats the world and our species is facing.

How excited are you guys about opening for Donna The Buffalo at The Intersection next month?

Holy shit, are we excited! Donna the Buffalo is probably in the top five or ten bands all-time for almost everyone in Big Dudee Roo. Max, Nate and Justin still have memories of gallivanting around in Max's minivan in their high school days, blaring Live from the American Ballroom from the shitty speakers. If you had told us then that only a few years later we'd be opening for them in our hometown, we would have laughed in your face. We see them whenever they come through town, so we don't even have to buy tickets this time! The style of their music and the message behind the lyrics have always been very influential to us.

What have been some of your best, worst, or most memorable live shows so far?

The shows we play once or twice a year at the Hotel Bar in our hometown of Wayland can be all three of those wrapped into one. We're doing a CD release show there on December 23 (and you thought November was bad). We pack that place to the brim with our friends, families, and all of their friends, and we have a raucous time. It's such a great environment, we feel so lucky to have such great hometown support. Sometimes it gets a little debaucherous, and we tend to use it as a chance to goof off a bit. It's just too much damn fun. If you've ever wanted an excuse to visit Wayland, this is about as good as it gets, we swear it.

What are some of your plans for next year? What would you like to do in the future?

Our plans for the next year are mostly to try and get the word out, and build a base of support in West Michigan, and start branching out across the lower part of the state. We've got a slew of new songs we're really excited about as well, so we're just starting to talk about possibly recording our first full-length record, maybe in spring or summer. It's always hard to say what the future could bring, but with the great response we've been getting from this first EP, we're gaining a lot of confidence and starting to believe that this band could go farther than we used to think. We're an ambitious bunch. Also, we always hope to find ways to connect the music with important activism. It's so important for artists to give back to their communities, but so often forgotten.

Last but not least, you guys have some great stories about where the name Big Dudee Roo comes from. Do you have one legend that you like the best? Do you like there being a certain amount of mystery when it comes to the name?

In a climate where band names and a band's image have often taken over importance from the music, it just doesn't seem honest to us to have a name that tries too hard to get some idea across. At least without seeming pretentious. The name becomes the band. Like what the hell kind of name is Pearl Jam? It doesn't mean anything outside of the music that is attached to it. Our name can mean whatever people want it to mean, and if the mystery leads them to listen a little closer to the music, then that's all we could ask for.

Big Dudee Roo will open for Donna the Buffalo at the Intersection Dec. 9. They'll also play Billy's Dec. 22, Hotel Bar Dec. 23, and Louie's/Rocket Lounge Dec. 30. The Germination! EP is out now and available from the band or at For more, check out
- Recoil Magazine

"Local Spins of the Week by John Sinkevics"

The oft-psychedelic, Neil Young-styled folk rock churned out by Big Dudee Roo oozes an endearing, political charm on this EP [Germination!]. - Grand Rapids Press

"Featured Artist: Local Spins of the Week by John Sinkevics"

Grand Rapids folk-rock band Big Dudee Roo has been around for a couple of years, but recently released its debut EP, “Germination!” The band's Cracker-like approach is immediately enticing, as evidenced by today's spotlighted track, “Life Wants to Live.” - Grand Rapids Press


2012 - Listen to Your Discontent

2010 - Germination! EP

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"The oft-psychedelic, Neil Young-styled folk rock...oozes an endearing, political charm." (Grand Rapids Press)

Big Dudee Roo's atmospheric folk rock/grunge sound has its origins in the town of Wayland, MI, where all five members were raised and received their public educations. Now based in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, it has since grown and expanded throughout the great mitten state and its vibrant musical community. The songs, penned by bassist Max Lockwood and banjoist/guitarist Nate Wagner deal with themes such as personal and spiritual growth, community and family, "complete with socio-ecological consciousness and positive attempts to find significance in the suffering and disassociation of the modern world" (Recoil). Aurora Lewis' soulful vocals, Justin Dore's versatile and unique guitar work, and Kurt Rizley's steady driving beats feed off of the songs and take them into full bloom with the distinctive Big Dudee Sound.

The genuine energy and emotion that the band puts into their live performances engage audiences in a distinctively intimate way. Big Dudee Roo believes that music can be more than mere entertainmentit can be inspiration for people to think about the world and their place in it, and to work for something better.

"Listen to Your Discontent" was recorded mostly live in the Petersen Barn in Rockford, MI, in the course of three intensive days in August 2011. It was engineered and co-produced by Alex Hamel, mastered by Glenn Brown, and features fine guest appearances by esteemed local artists Samuel Seth Bernard and Karisa Wilson.

The bands 6-song, debut EP, Germination!, was released in September of 2010 and met with an outpouring of praise from fans. Recorded by Alex Hamel in Grand Rapids, it has been called a mixture of early Wilco, Neil Young, and Donna the Buffalo.

Big Dudee Roo will be playing across Michigan to support the new album. It can be found at local record stores, online at, and on iTunes and other music distribution websites.

Band Members