Reckless Ones: Best under-the-radar Minneapolis band

They're big in France

It's a strange thing to think about, but there are places in Finland, France, and the U.K. where people know all the words to songs by Minneapolis rock 'n' roll and rockabilly band Reckless Ones. In Flagstaff, Arizona, too, and San Antonio, Texas, the fans are die-hard. Ask Reckless Ones singer/guitarist Kevin O'Leary what it's like to be known across Europe yet have only a fledgling following in the band's native Minneapolis, and his answer sounds optimistic; he'll tell you, "It's cool, nothing cooler than walking in and strangers are singing every word of your songs."

This is Reckless Ones, a hard-working three-piece who, at the end of this month, will fly out to Anaheim, California, for a supporting slot in the fourth Octoberflame Festival, behind American psychobilly powerhouse group Tiger Army. They've toured internationally three times since forming in 2009 and have played festivals in Belgium, France, and Spain. They run distribution of their two self-released albums, 2009's Make Your Move and 2010's Set the World on Fire, through labels out of the U.S., Japan, the U.K., and Finland. They're a band with a European booking agent, yet no U.S. representation and no label. Reckless Ones, if pitted against their peers in the Minneapolis rock world, are a mere blip on the radar, aside from the rockabilly scene. And that is a shame, because Finland's got the right idea; Reckless Ones are the best band you aren't listening to. Sitting down with O'Leary, it's hard not to try to make sense of the situation.

City Pages: So do you think it's just that rockabilly and roots rock 'n' roll is more popular in Europe?

It's time for the Twin Cities to get hip to Reckless Ones
Adam Degross 2011
It's time for the Twin Cities to get hip to Reckless Ones

Location Info


Turf Club

1601 University Ave. W.
St. Paul, MN 55104

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Macalester/Groveland

Kevin O'Leary: Europeans just love American roots music of all kinds—blues, jazz, country, they dig that aspect of American culture. I think they love it more when it's actual Americans playing it, because we know what we're talking about when we're singing; it's not an abstract concept. I've seen amazing bands over there, but I can tell that an American band is probably going to do it better.

CP: But you guys call yourself modern rockabilly?

O'Leary: Well really, everybody else wants to tag you as one thing or another, and promoters need to tag you as something. So that was just us thinking that at least this way we'd get to call the shots on what we're called. It's more important to everyone else than it is to us that we have a tag. The phrase "modern rockabilly" just makes it easier, so people know that we're not some throwback malt-shop memories group.

CP: To avoid being a shtick you mean?

O'Leary: Yeah, because it's not just 12-bar blues about hot rods and pretty girls. A lot of people will walk into a bar and see a rockabilly band and think, "Oh, it's a rockabilly band playing tonight, it's gonna be fucking lame, they're just cheesy and play all these old songs."

CP: But rockabilly, historically, can rock pretty hard. What about Hasil Adkins?

O'Leary: Yeah, but he was just a weird dude out in the woods. Traditional rockabilly likes to do stuff by the book, and so, to us, modern rockabilly is like, we're rockabilly dudes but I don't live and die by this, I listen to everything. I like to say that we're a rock 'n' roll band, because that's the stuff that I like, simple shit: Say what you mean, mean what you say, and put a backbeat to it.

CP: Is that why you love rockabilly, then? Do you think that's the overarching appeal? An innate, simple approach to making rock 'n' roll?

O'Leary: When rockabilly started, it was rock 'n' roll. It's the progenitor of all of it and that was never lost. If you listen to those records, the thing I think overarching is that there is an honesty that rockabilly can have, and it's easy to just be honest with something simple like that. There are lots of rockabilly bands that aren't honest really, or don't concern themselves with that, like psychobilly bands that sing about things that don't exist, or rockabilly bands that sing about a time that no longer exists, but when you're honest about it, honest music is just always better. I feel like rockabilly, for all the glamour and all the posturing and posing, is honest music.

CP: The dress-up and throwback aspects of it seem to be what people kind of take away though, which is problematic because that's only one small part of this larger thing.

O'Leary: Yeah, but if you think about it, this music started with people who worked their asses off all week and then they'd get a date and go out and dance. So yeah, of course they liked to dress up and that's still what we like to do. I think people get scared off because they feel like "I'm not gonna look rockabilly enough to come to your show." Forget that, though: I've seen all these people, every different walk of life, just dancing to our music. That's way cooler than seeing a bunch of perfect-looking rockabilly couples dancing. I love that everybody can move to it because that's all I wanna do, when I go see a band I want something that's just gonna make me move and have fun and cheer and get some kind of release.

RECKLESS ONES play with Tiger Army at the Octoberflame Festival in Anaheim, California, on October 28. They'll return to the Cities for the Drunksgiving show on WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 23, at the TURF CLUB; 651.647.0486

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Mpls Music .com
Mpls Music .com

I agree with you, except that I think most of the bands in this city are pretty awesome. we've got 660+ in our database now, and there aren't enough of me to get to every show I wish I could go to. I agree with the rest of what you're saying though, and it's a professional goal of ours to break that stigma associated with the insider group everyone keeps talking about. If you'd kindly check out what we're doing through our website, we're open to all local music, with the goal of having a real community that decides what is good and popular and deserved of top ranks or not. also with due respect there are literally 100's of bands that work very very hard that are very under recognized, that really should be. this is our goal to bring them to light in a balanced way, doing the best we can do, be open to new writers, new bands, new radio stations, and anything anyone has to say about our community, let's take an approach to help solve these problems that people are continually frustrated about. best!! -m

Mpls Music .com
Mpls Music .com

Not even close.

How can you possibly make a claim like 'best' when they don't even play here. What an insult to the 600+ bands that do, and work every day, hauling gear to gigs to play their butts off in front of small crowds for $50. -- you should write about them instead of making such a claim based on the opinion of one person.


Where have you been? Reckless Ones play in Minneapolis often. Very often. As far as hauling gear to gigs and playing in front small crowds... get ready... they do that, too! They've grown in popularity since their inception, so the crowds at most of their shows are pretty plentiful, but they're certainly not playing packed arenas in MPLS.

Try going to one of their shows before claiming they don't deserve this coverage. Obviously you haven't taken the time to do so, or you'd know the inaccuracies in your criticism.

I like how you request the author writes about bands people around here actually care about, while also implying it's a bad thing that these guys aren't stuck playing to tiny crowds. If the crowd is *that* small, it seems to me that people DON'T care about whatever bands you think the author should be writing about.

Mpls Music .com
Mpls Music .com

There are 600+ local bands in our database that you probably haven't heard of.. so where have YOU been? -- which one of them is 'best' ?

Also how come the article states they have a "fledgling following" would that not assume a handful like crowd?

And if they play here so often, of the 800+ events we're invited to every month, how come the only event we have listing them is back in April 28 of this year?

The point is, there are too many local bands to even possibly consider making such a claim that any one of them is 'best' -- when it's based solely on the opinion of one person, instead of taking an accurate look at the local scene as a whole.

Don't get me wrong I have nothing against this band in particular, but it is to me, a clear representation of some of the silly things that get past the editorial staff.

Mpls Music .com
Mpls Music .com

Here's 646 local bands that YOU probably haven't heard about. so where have YOU been? -- which one of them is 'best' ?

>> / bands/

Also if supposedly they play here, how come we have not seen a single event on our local calendar, of the 800+ local events we get invited to every month. hmm?


Ok so big deal it's an opinion. Here's another: As an avid show go-er I have seen countless bands as I am sure you have as well and I believe this city produces a monstrous amount of utter horse crap. Yet all this this utter shite keeps resurfacing and getting mention in periodicals as this one and play time on "the current" (which, I am convinced, means "exclusive club for wankers").I digress. Rare it is that I see a band worthy of being called a band and Reckless Ones are definitely it. Hats off to the boys as those that have seen them know they work their arses off.

Mpls Music .com
Mpls Music .com

yes, because it's a symptom of a larger issue. who determines they're best? the author? what evidence is there to back this claim? and how come other bands work hard but perhaps still feel left out, maybe even irritated or annoyed or frustrated, how come they aren't best? -- maybe if there was a question mark at the end, "the best?" it would get the reader to think about it, instead of making claims that are quite frankly unbalanced and biased.

yes this is how my brain works. cheers.


I'm not sure why you haven't been invited to their shows, but I assure you they have played here at least a dozen or more times since April 28th.

Are you really nit-picking about the word "best"? Should the author have just said "a really good under-the-radar Minneapolis band"? That doesn't really have the same kick to it.

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