The End Times Spasm Band are purveyors of urban roots music. Between vocalist Lyndsy Rae’s flailing limbs and guitarist Bart Helms’s jazzy chords, the band revives the spirit of 1920s dance music, early blues, and hot swing with quirky original songs. Through the conventions of the prohibition era, the well-dressed band conveys the message that endings can be celebrations too, that every night is special for the possibility that it’s our last. “You only live once,” Lyndsy often shouts from stage to encourage audiences to dance. “I promise you won’t regret it.”
With the departure of two members in the early 2013, the band nearly ended until they recruited a new rhythm section: drummer Ryan Holquist (The Illegitimate Sons, Two Before Noon) and bassist Andy Rice (Two Before Noon), both of whom bring a stronger jazz pedigree to the band. During the transition, Lyndsy and Bart used the break from touring to tighten vocal harmonies and to follow their lyrical and musical inclinations further than they had allowed themselves before. The band is set to debut new material that draws on their love of French poetry and the philosophy of language among other subjects.
As The End Times Spasm Band prepares to return to towns they’ve loved, they announced a treat for their “loyal listeners”: a set of buttons free to any fan who dresses up in fancy clothes at one of their gigs. Early on, the hot jazz combo realized they could encourage audiences to let go of their inhibitions and dance if the whole band created a live show just a little bit out of place and time. “We’ve occasionally asked audiences to dress up, and those nights always have a special energy,” says Bart. “So we decided to do something small for our fans who are willing to help out and make every night like those nights.” Taking inspiration from the roaring 20′s slang “the cat’s pajamas” – meaning a well-dressed individual , the first limited run of buttons feature cartoon cats designed by Fort Wayne artist Shaun Malinowski.
In spring 2009, Lyndsy and Bart began performing as The End Times Spasm Band around their home town of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Like the earliest spasm bands of New Orleans and the later jug bands of the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys, the band maintains an improvisational spirit and explores a wide variety of performance spaces. They’ve crashed busking festivals, hosted monthly showcases for regional songwriters, raised thousands for African orphanages, and – with an expanded cast of puppets – wrote and performed an all-ages Halloween variety show.
In December 2009 they released #2 on Chain Smoking Records. The seven song EP included their anti-lovesong “I Don’t Roll Like That” which was featured the documentary (A)Sexual. The EP opens with “When Autumn Blooms,” which remained the band’s live opener years later in part because Bart believes the lyrics best demonstrate his fascination with the Imagist poets of the 1910s and their rules for clarity and precision. The EP also includes “Medea”, a calypso-swing hybrid as much based on a theory of mass extinctions as Greek mythology referenced by the title. “I love seeing people dance to a song about the end of the world,” Lyndsy says.
After Lyndsy spent a school year in Aix-en-Provence, France, the band released their debut full length High Wire Lover in July 2011. The opening track, “Summer Song,” ponders the to-leave-or-not-to-leave mind of a small Midwestern city dweller. “Black Coffee” is Lyndsy’s lyrical rewrite of a 1930s novelty song about a coffee addict and has been played on numerous radio stations. The title of “Wake Up Bix” was taken from a note left for jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke shortly before his death, and the lyrics plead that the listener to not let fear cause them to miss a moment of life.
Following High Wire Lover, the band loaded up their Spasm Van and played to audiences in 18 states. The band has performed live on WBOI’s Meet the Music and WDVX’s Blue Plate Special. In 2011 and 2012 they headlined Buskerfest, a celebration of street performance in their hometown. They’ve also performed on a float in downtown Fort Wayne’s 2011 Zombie Walk and at the 2012 Free Range Music Festival in Maine. In the summer of 2013 the band will play the Independent Music and Art Festival in Indiana, the Greenville Lindy Exchange in South Carolina, and the Hod Rod Hula Hoop in Ohio.
The band plans to release several singles and EPs over the next year. Both Lyndsy and Bart are excited to pursue several short projects so they can take advantage of the rare opportunities, collaboration, and new ideas which frequent touring made difficult.