Minneapolis-raised Max Plenke, 24, is a drumming fiend. Formerly a member of Cleo’s Apartment, Max now plays with Las Vegas-based Rusty Maples. I recently reviewed their new album “Make Way” and led you to believe that I’d be telling you more about the mysterious Max Plenke, former Des Moines musician gone Nevada. Here it is, folks. He’s not only a good friend, but he’s also a fellow former GQ intern–making us “Eat. Pray. Thug.” blood brother/sister for life. But that’s only one “cool notch” on this guy’s belt. Seriously, he describes his own drumming style as “malicious, man-made, and Morgan Freeman.” It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
Max packed up his drumset and moved to Las Vegas for a writing position with Las Vegas City Live, a local alternative weekly publication. But he tells his story best, so read on and see what this dude’s all about.
Band Bombshell: You used to play drums in Cleo’s Apartment. Do you miss being a musician in Des Moines?
Max Plenke: I was actually surprised to see how similar playing in Des Moines is compared to Las Vegas. The only real difference is that in Las Vegas you don’t have to carry drums through the snow, or break your ass navigating the Mews’ icy back patio after a few drinks. Both cities have tight-knit music scenes, where you’ll end up seeing the same faces at every show before too long, and getting to know a few groups really well.
BB: How is playing with Rusty Maples different than being a part of Cleo’s Apartment?
MP: I take Rusty Maples more seriously. Cleo’s was a really fun band because we had a great, loyal crowd, and we could play a packed show at Vaudeville Mews most weekends. Plus, given how much the communities supported one another, we could play with Tyborn Jig one week and Maxilla Blue the next, both with equal — and usually really similar — crowds. But we seldom left town to play a show, and it was more of a for-fun thing. Rusty Maples is more of a committed, ambitious, leggy relationship.
BB: Did you ever think that you’d be a member of a nationally known band from Las Vegas when you were drumming for Cleo’s Apartment?
MP: Nah. I was still pretty sure I’d be a professional wrestler from Decatur.
BB: How did you get involved with Rusty Maples?
MP: Before joining Rusty Maples I played in the backing band of a rapper called Radio Ramone. We played on the same show as Rusty Maples during Vegas StrEATS, an outdoor concert/food truck caravan/art show. I’d heard Rusty Maples a few times and really liked it, so when their original drummer moved to Austin, they asked me to come eff around and we’ve been playing together since.
BB: Do you have any really standout tour/show experiences?
MP: The only one that really surfaces is during our fall 2012 northwest tour when we played Wenatchee, Washington. It took place in the family room of this big house owned by the couple that runs Two Bar Productions. There was some skepticism about the crowd we’d catch in a city with a population just over 30,000, at a house show on what seemed like the outskirts. It ended up being one of the warmest, best-received shows we’ve ever played, sold a bunch of CDs/shirts and met a lot of really cool people way out of what I assumed would be our usual audience. Plus, we had to drive through the Snoqualmie mountain pass to get there, and we were one of the only vehicles on there that wasn’t a semi or pulled over on the side of the road to put chains on the wheels.
BB: If you could start up a new band—any genre—what would the name be?
MP: Hip-Hop cover band called Doppelgängsters.
BB: Give me your best tour “on-the-road” advice.
MP: Double underwear, triple snacks, don’t forget to bring a pillow.