The Blind Robins flock to record debut album

Midwestern rock and twang band The Blind Robins take time off from live performance to put the finishing touches on their debut album The Origins of the Wasteland, due for release later this summer. Referred to on one web site as “An American Roots Original,” The Blind Robins possess a unique sound stemming from the combination of the bands artistic influences and musical backgrounds.

The praise and critical acclaim The Blind Robins receive surprises few fans who are familiar with the band members and their musical pasts. The line-up includes veterans of several local bands including Angie Crown, Aquavit, Pine Cone and Tools of Romance: Dave Fleming, drums; Bob Vodick, bass; Mike Whyte, lead vocals and guitar; and new to the flock, Adam Davis, pedal and lap steel.

With a musical style once billed as “Muckraking countryfolkpunkrock,” The Blind Robins repertoire reflects influences such as old school country, western swing, roots rock, Tex-Mex, punk and folk. The combination of genres, called American Roots, often earns The Blind Robins comparisons to acts like Merle Haggard, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Clash and Bob Dylan. According to Whyte; “All of those are legitimate comparisons because they are all part of the music we do. It’s a mixture of stuff, and it’s not a contrived mixture like we’re going to weld folk with bluegrass. To me, it’s the inspiration or the antecedent to Credence Clear Water Revival. Not because we necessarily sound like them, but because they wove all these different threads of American music. What was really cool is that they were speaking to a lot of different strata of people. That’s something to aim for. That is probably the main ploy of this band. We want to play to regular people. Anybody who wants to walk in and like us is fine with us. We don’t really care about chasing any sort of preconceived audience.”

As far as the relationship of their punk and country roots, Whyte adds: “There’s a healthy dose of The Clash in this band too. I’m not the first one to say it. I’ve heard other people talk about the connection between real country music and punk. Because what was cool about both was that both were really working-class sort of expressions. That’s what we are. We’re all blue-collar kids from Rockford.”

After 10 years of performing together in both the country-tinged rock band Pine Cone and the pop-laden Aquavit, Fleming, Vodick and Whyte welcome Adam Davis into the fold and appreciate the creative edge he brings to the music. According to Fleming: “We all worked together as a band previously, and to add Adam brings a whole different perspective. We still tend to play off of somewhat of what we did before, but Adam comes to join that.”

In addition, Whyte explains: “Adam fits into it like a glove. Adam also brings a younger perspective. He’s much younger than we are, but at the same time he is kind of an old soul. I will throw out some obscure reference to a Western swing band from the 40s, and he will know who played the steel guitar. He’ll know who wrote the songs, and he’ll know who the drummer was. He’s incredible. He’s like a music computer. That’s really fun and nice to have someone who has those touchstones. It’s really helping shape the newer songs I’m writing.”

As the main songwriter, Whyte tends to flesh out a song and then bring it to the band to listen to and add their parts to the mix. Giving some insight how the band creates a song, Vodick explains, “Mike comes in with the idea of the song and somewhat of the structure of the song. We know by the time we start playing and playing around with it, it’s going to create its own form, but it’s in something that’s recognizable for what we do. I’ll throw in some bass line from some 1960s album and throw that in and see if it fits. There is a consistency there because we’re in it from when Mike brings in the stuff. We like what he writes. We know what he’s trying to do with a lot of this stuff. We take it from there.”

According to Fleming: “I think the music has changed a lot. In the old Pine Cone days you knew which direction the songs were going to go. Now, Mike will bring it in, and we don’t know what will happen to it by the end. It’s really nice.”

Later this summer, when the Blind Robins release their first album, The Origin of the Wasteland, they also celebrate the debut of their record label, Rolling Blackout Records. Engineered and mixed by Vodick in his home studio, The Origin of the Wasteland brings the band closer to their goal of being a self-contained unit. According to Whyte: “Bob’s been doing what film editors do when they shoot a movie the right way. They start assembling the scenes immediately. Bob’s mixing the songs and experimenting with the mixes right away. It’s great, we can hear the stuff in some context. Once the label is up and running, the band members and the band directly has an impact on the fate of the band and the band members. Then we’re not worried about what if we get matched with the wrong engineer or the wrong producer?’ We don’t have to worry about his doing something we don’t want to do.”

Vodick adds: “The fact that slowly over a few years I was able to build a studio. I put money together to build a studio to work this way. Being able to have that control over the music. It’s nice to be able to do that without worrying about it too much.”

Peppered with caustic political observations, the songs on The Origin of the Wasteland delve into historical events and modern folklore and give a voice to the struggles and divisions faced by every person in every strata of society. As Whyte explains: “We do address political stuff. Like the first song on the album ‘That God—- Herbert Hoover.’ You can say if you get rid of one guy, stuff is going to change. But it’s not. Things are never as rosy as they seem. You’ve got to be realistic about stuff. We take everything from real people’s points of view. It’s not necessarily about any political party of affiliation. It’s about living without powers and without the power to make much difference in your life. That’s what the songs are about. Like ‘Buy Sell Pawn’ and ‘The Ruthless Phase,’ there are people who have legitimate points of view on both sides. There are different characters telling us different stories. What we are trying to do with the band is talk to people at a level they understand but still flex our artistic muscles just a bit. You can’t talk to people in any fashion unless you talk to them in terms they understand.”

Wanting to make challenging music, both to the band and to their listeners, plans are already in the works for a follow-up album. According to Whyte: “This CD is overtly political, but I don’t see the next one being that way. I see it being more like a Buddy Holly kind of thing. Strip it down more to the essence. But then I would be happy to be in a band that puts out a CD and gets to make another one.”

For more information about The Blind Robins, check out their Web site at

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