Cover band brings the ’80s back to Lamar

Published 1:43 pm Thursday, August 18, 2016

If you listen to “Billie Jean” on repeat or own multiple copies of “The Breakfast Club” in your library, then you may be ready to hop in a DeLorean and crank the synthesizer up to 11. Molly and the Ringwalds are coming to Port Arthur.

Lamar State College — Port Arthur is hosting their “Endless Summer” Concert at 7:30 p.m. on August 20 at the Carl A. Parker Center on 1800 Lakeshore Dr., in Port Arthur. Tickets are $20 each for general admission and can be reserved by calling 409-984-6291. VIP tables and tickets to a VIP reception are also available for purchase.

Proceeds will go to help fund scholarships for athletes in LSCPA’s men’s basketball and women’s softball programs. It will be the first time that such a concert has been done for Port Arthur’s athletics program.

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“I was looking for a new fundraiser to do for [the program], something different,” said Scott Street, Director of Athletics for LSCPA. “We really wanted something fun for everyone.

“[Molly and the Ringwalds] have a great reputation. They’ve won all types of awards, including ones from the Houston Chronicle. It should be a fun night and help us fund our scholarships for our teams.”

Molly and The Ringwalds is a Houston-based cover band that originally formed in 2000. They perform an eclectic mix of songs from the ’80s that draws from genres as diverse as rock, rap, pop, new wave, and country. They have been the recipients of several awards, including “Best Cover Band” from both the Houston Press and Houston Chronicle for several years running.

“I would say that it’s a lot of strong personalities in the band [that’s] kept us going,” Sam Ringwald, guitarist and bassist for the band, said.

Every member has chosen the surname Ringwald after the famed ’80s actress. “Is there another name you can evoke a decade with?” Sam asked.

Sam cited two main reasons for their continued success. The first one happened early on when the band realized they could combine one of their practice sessions on the same day as their live show at night, thereby freeing up a valuable night.

“That was able to essentially give us a free night,” Sam said. “So, if you can eliminate one of those [practice] nights and only play two nights a week, you’re able to salvage that extra night you can spend with your family.”

The second reason had a lot to do with rules and a somewhat democratic set list.

“We have a lot of procedures and rules as to how we play,” Sam said. “Like being able to vote on our website for what songs we would play… It stopped a lot of arguing.”

However, Sam made certain to express his gratitude towards the sound guys that follow them on the road.

“Loading and unloading sound equipment, it may not sound like a lot, but it makes a big difference,” Sam confessed. “You can get tired from loading it, and then it’s hard to play a high energy show. Plus, it’s stressful to set that stuff up. You pretty much have to be an expert.”

Sam felt that “a good sound engineer is worth 10 times their weight in gold.”

“If you have a good one, he or she will make you sound better. That will translate over directly to the audience.”

Molly and the Ringwalds cover a decade’s worth of songs, not just one genre. That translates to a lot of material to work with.

“We play hit songs from 1980 to 1989 with very few deviations,” Sam said. “People who hire the Ringwalds want ’80s music. People want to hear music from the ‘80s; we want to give them what they want. If we give them what they want, they’re happy.”

Sam made special note of the band’s independence from backing tracks, which are pre-recorded bits of audio that many live musicians play or sing along to at shows.

“We use no backing tracks. We play with live musicians… I’ve even heard it said that we’re one of the last cover bands that don’t use backing tracks.”

Sam added, “What you’re looking at is what you’re hearing.”

When asked about particular inspirations, the Ringwald guitarist and bassist admitted to drawing from several sources.

“We have pulled versions of songs from every place that we can find. We do live versions of songs; we do common radio edits of songs… Occasionally, we really have to work on arrangements [of a song] to get it right.

“Say we do ‘Billie Jean.’ ‘Billie Jean’ with Michael Jackson is a fireworks show. The whole framework is there to make Michael Jackson look awesome. So for that, I tend to focus on what’s the core element of the song — it’s rhythm and blues with keyboard synth.”

Sam said that him and the band focus on the musical aspects of the songs to make them stand out, because messing with the lyrics in any way is simply not done.

“The thing about being in a cover band, it’s always someone else’s property,” Sam said.

But the material from that era of music remains one of Sam’s personal favorites.

“I think one of the interesting things about the ’80s is that you have a decade where the technology we take for granted today was just becoming readily available to the masses.

“In the ’80s, the synthesizer was the cutting edge thing. They sound very tame to modern ears, but at the time they were the very bleeding edge of music.”

Sam elaborated on his love for the iconic ’80s instrument.

“The synthesizer was so shocking to everyone. [It] took elements from disco and elements from rock, and had a lot of bands getting very nice blends of styles from it.

“Say you have a ‘70s arena rock sound, and if you take synthesizers and lay rock under it, you get the Simple Minds song, ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me).’”

As for their striking fashion sense that recalls ’80s glamor and media, Sam said, “Live music is as much visual as it is auditory.”

The five members of Molly and the Ringwalds are as follows:

  • Carrie Ringwald: keyboards, lead dancer
  • Denise Ringwald: “chick” vocals
  • Sam Ringwald: guitar, bass
  • Dekan Ringwald: guitar, bass, “dude” vocals
  • Steve Ringwald: drums and percussion