God ropes off a special green room in heaven for musicians who play to less than enthusiastic crowds, who leave a pint of blood onstage and walk off amid demands for an encore.
On a dreary Saturday, facing a sparse audience at this year's Meriden Daffodil Festival, the Right-Offs — singer and guitarist Max Loignon, drummer Erik Vumback and bassist Than Rolnick — ripped through an album's worth of songs.
When it ended, they got called back, returning with a thrown-together romp through Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll." It was a rock-history moment, in microcosm.
"There might be five people, but we're going to play like there's hundreds of people around," Vumback says. "We just don't care. That's the whole point of playing in a band: Don't care. Do what you want."
"It's fun when there's a small crowd or a weird crowd of elderly people or small children," Loignon adds. "I think we have fun being a little extra weird and rocking a little bit harder, intentionally, just to make people feel a little strange."
The Right-Offs repeat that feat regularly, in small-ish clubs around the state. Bands on bills with them become immediate fans.
"The Right-Offs seared our brains," Bethel's Quiet Giant recently posted to Facebook, "in the best way possible."
"Connecticut has a pretty structured scene, and we're doing our own thing," Vumback says. "We're playing rock and roll. It sounds pretentious, but we're trying not to label it. We just say, 'We play rock.' That's about it."
Loignon, 28, and Vumback, 25, both grew up in Cheshire. Loignon was in a short-lived band called Speakeasy with drummer and fellow ECSU Theatre Department student Alex Smith.
Vumback played in a pop-punk band for five years, and then quit music entirely. "I kind of got weaseled out and stopped playing for a good four years," he says.
Vumback's mother styles Loignon's mother's hair. One day, about two years ago, the two women discussed their sons' musical talents, which led to a meeting.
"It's kind of silly, but it worked out pretty well," Loignon says.
Calling themselves The Same, Loignon and Vumback recorded a demo in 2014 with two other musicians — guitarist Adam Russo and Steven Vumback, Erik's brother, on bass — who soon quit.
"Erik and I wanted to keep playing music together," Loignon says. "At that point, it was just the two of us. We said, 'Let's get something recorded that we can use to book ourselves some gigs and hopefully help us find a bass player.' Something to show someone what we're doing."
"The Right-Offs," a four-song EP recorded in two days with just guitars, drums and vocals (no bass), came out in 2015. Robbie DeRosa, longtime organizer for the Daffodil Festival and host of WESU's Homegrown radio show, became a fan.
"I received the EP before I saw their gig list and was grabbed by the urgency and attitude in the vocals," DeRosa says. "The strong drumming and slashing guitar jumped out because most of the young bands these days are growing beards and playing mandolin, and I play plenty of those talented acts. This is a straight-out rock band that pulls few punches."
Loignon writes the lyrics. He and Vumback came up with riffs and grooves together. "Truthfully, for those four songs, I don't remember how they came together," Loignon says.
Soon after the EP release, Loignon met Rolnick.
"A friend of mine was going to a party at his place," Rolnick says. "It turned out it was in my apartment building. We're actually neighbors." Loignon said the band was looking for a bassist, and Rolnick volunteered.
The Right-Offs recorded a full-length album called "Quiet Down" at Silk City Music Factory in Manchester. They're waiting for it to be mastered. It will arrive later this summer.
Two songs from the EP, "Ways of the Western World" and "Break It Up," were re-recorded for "Quiet Down"; "Yeah Honest" — my current favorite, a full-out, relentless, expertly crafted rock song, splitting the differences between Thin Lizzy, Jack White and Elvis Costello — was not.
DeRosa, Vumback says, "reached out to me, asking for one of our CDs. It just kind of blossomed from there. He just wanted to book us after that. He's been playing us on Homegrown for almost an entire year after we came up with that EP. That's why we needed to make some new music. We can't keep riding this EP for so long."
After the release of "Quiet Down," the Right-Offs plan to tour. They need a van. "The real question is whether we want to go north or south," Loignon says. His skeletal five-year plan is "just to reach people. To reach as many people as we can."
Will touring interfere with their day-to-day lives?
"That's why you save up vacation time," Vumback says. "It's going to be a risk. We're all pretty young, so why not take a risk?"
Stream and purchase the Right-Offs' music at therightoffs.bandcamp.com.
Editor's note: Press Play is a column exploring the underground musicians of Connecticut. If you have new music to share, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.