Bands often fade into obscurity after enjoying a brief period of support from mainstream culture. But some groups intentionally avoid breaking into the mainstream in order to avoid the snares of musical fads. Baltimore-based punk rock outfit The Huntingtons have such staying power.
The Huntingtons started playing upbeat punk music in 1994, influenced by legendary New York punk band The Ramones and other more recent acts. The band played locally for a while, releasing early albums on a small Nashville-based label, Flying Tart Records, and eventually gained national distribution through Tooth and Nail Records.
The band was in the D.C. area Saturday for a show benefiting Rock for Life, a pro-life organization that hosts concerts nationwide to promote its agenda. Despite the strongly political undertones of the appearance, lead singer Cliffy Huntington made it clear, speaking with The Hatchet, that The Huntingtons are about music not politics.
“Rock for Life has supported us almost since we started, and now we return the favor,” Huntington said. “We don’t agree with them 100 percent.”
From the get-go band members found they could not depend on a musical fad to carry them to the top. As 1994 came to an end, the mainstream popularity punk enjoyed largely dropped off. But members said this did not deter them.
“We had to focus on being a really good band,” Huntington said.
Surviving through 12 lineup changes over their long history, the Huntingtons have released 9 full-length albums and several EP’s. When the band is not recording, members are touring the country playing their special blend of punk rock, which melds the fast grinding punk style of the Ramones with vocal harmony and a fun-loving attitude.
While the band has never made its way into the mainstream music community, it has managed to stay afloat. As group members work to become career musicians, Huntington said he feels the key is to aim high.
“If your goal is to become the big boys in your town, you’re never going to get out of your town,” he said. “That’s the first way to make your band die.”
Extensive touring around the country helped the band draw a large audience and avoid falling into the “home-town band” pitfall. The band maintains its underground popularity by, as Huntington says, “existing outside the framework of any fad.”
The Huntingtons are all about overcoming obstacles, as band members work to avoid brands associated with their label, Tooth and Nail Records. While Tooth and Nail traditionally signs Christian punk and alternative rock acts, Huntington said his band does not fit that classification.
“If your definition of a Christian band is one made up of Christians, then yeah, we’re a Christian band,” Huntington said. “My definition is one whose goal is to be message oriented. We’re just a rock ‘n’ roll band. We never really had any agenda to put any messages in our songs.”
The message presented in The Huntington’s newest release, “Plastic Surgery” (Tooth and Nail), is that old-school punk is not dead. The music and style of The Huntingtons parallels 1970s punk legends The Ramones, their most notable influence.
While the musical stylings of the Huntingtons will probably never gain them a top spot on the MTV countdown, or even recognition outside the punk community, the band is more than happy with its place. Group members plan to continue playing their style of music without a second thought.
“You have to just really be willing to say this is what I like, this is what I believe in, this is the music that is mine, I’m doing this regardless of fads, regardless of style, regardless of radio, regardless of what any other bands are doing,” Huntington said.
The Huntingtons diverge from fleeting mainstream acts in more ways than just their musical styling. Band members understand their goals, play only the music they love, avoid getting caught up in fads and connect with their audience on a personal level.
The Huntingtons are in music for the long run and, unlike the next MTV poster-band to come, the band will be around long after the next 15 minutes pass.