If nothing else, credit Deaf Rhino with one of the best rock band names in recent memory.
“It’s weird and it’s got a little bravado and a little testosterone,” suggested guitarist Adam Schlett. He said the group changed its name to this one in 2014 to reflect the unfiltered riff rock that’s since been gaining them recognition well beyond their North Jersey hometown.
It speaks to their big, brazen music — and maybe also to their disregard for today’s chart-topping sounds.
“It’s not prog rock, it’s not punk, it’s not metal. It’s straightforward catchy rock. It’s heavy but it’s hook-centric music,” Schlett said of their music. “I don’t know if we’re a dying breed, but we’re definitely not a relevant breed.”
He may be selling his band short. Since releasing its debut album Dirt, Rust, Chaos, last May, Deaf Rhino has toured as far as Kentucky one way and Vermont the other, while charting well on indie and college radio stations, and even cracking a few mainstream frequencies in California.
Schlett’s especially proud of that showing, considering they were up against bands with much bigger marketing budgets than his DIY outfit. “It’s encouraging that people are looking at the arts aspect of what we’re doing, not just who’s putting it out,” he said.
Credit the band’s personal history — and maybe the legacy of a local club — for its ability to cook up the kind of rock music that connects with audiences.
“We all grew up listening to classic rock and we had the benefit of growing up in the ’90s when guitar music was still prevalent and popular,” he said. “Just like a skateboard, everyone had a guitar when I was 13. Some of us stuck with it and fell in love it.”
That love brought them to Maxwell’s Tavern in nearby Hoboken. A decades-old establishment that once featured bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, it stopped hosting music under new ownership last year.
But, under pressure from local music fans, the new owners started booking bands again, and accepted Deaf Rhino’s offer to lead the charge (pun intended) with a pair of sold-out shows.
Those led to a two-month residency last fall, where the band presented a stripped-down — “vibed,” as they called it — acoustic sets in the bar’s front room on Wednesdays.
That sound is closer to what Deaf Rhino will bring to the Roadhouse Inn in Levittown this week than its usual “rip the paint off the walls” set. It’s also a throwback to a series of shows that, Schlett says, helped them fine-tune their craft.
“When you have a lot of noise, you can hide behind it and let chaos be a part of the show,” he explained. “When you’re playing in a quiet environment, the stakes are a lot higher. Mistakes are more audible and you have to compensate for lack of that sound.
“It’s like going to the gym and working out parts of your body you don’t usually work out — you’re gonna be sore but you’re gonna be better for it.”
Deaf Rhino will perform at the Roadhouse Inn, 2200 New Falls Road in Levittown, on Feb. 18. For information, visit www.deafrhino.com.