“If we had it your way, had the house to yourself,” Dylan Hrinda sang. A glance toward Adam McDonald and both start smiling, leading to laughter. Everyone stops playing briefly, all smiling toward one another, and they start again.
Hrinda sings the same line and both McDonald and him smile again, this time containing their urge to chuckle. The group continues to play their fan-favorite song “For the Record.”
In the tiny town of New Hartford, CT, with a population shy of 7,000 people, four friends who all — for the most part — met in high school became the band Ruby Leftstep. Rehearsing every Wednesday in a small basement, a string of gold lights on the ceiling illuminated the space.
Posters of Nirvana, Jerry Garcia from Grateful Dead and a large poster of Led Zeppelin expressed the band’s appreciation and dedication to rock music. On the ceiling, beautifully patterned tapestries were hung by their corners, allowing the center to slightly hang. The varying tapestries, from roses around a skeleton to a green-patterned piece with elephants, leaves and triangles make one’s eyes wander with curiosity to see all the tiny and intricate details.
Rehearsal began with the group’s song “Remaining,” an emotional song that can evoke feelings of melancholy or self-reflection in listeners. When the final notes died away, band members critiqued one another.
“You’re very bass-y,” McDonald said.
Thomas Busemeyer, who received the critique, adjusted his guitar in response. After another song, the band began to practice “Shuteye,” their yet-to-be-released tune.
“The build should be super-high-energy,” Eddie Dahill suggested after the first run.
Hrinda refined that idea and proposed that it should be a slow progression into the super-high-energy part. A consensus was reached quickly, and practice proceeded smoothly.
The band started with Hrinda and Dahill at music school. The music school put together shows, and Dahill and Hrinda were a band in one of those shows.
“We had a really good time playing those shows, I [messaged] Eddie and was like ‘Eddie, do you want to do this all time, forever?’ And he was like ‘Definitely,’” Hrinda enthusiastically recalled.
The band had a cycle of members before McDonald and Busemeyer joined.
Now that Dahill and Hrinda had formed the band, the next step was to produce a name.
“We were trying to figure out what to do for our band name and we were just throwing out words, Dylan and I. One day Dylan came in and he was like ‘Leftstep’ and I’m like, ‘what is that?’ And he said he didn’t know, it sounded cool,” Dahill reminisced.
Hrinda added how Dahill asked him if something should go before “Leftstep,” to which Hrinda agreed. Since Hrinda had a dog named Ruby, both members decided to place that name before “Leftstep.”
“[The name] means nothing and we think it’s cool,” Dahill concluded.
Progression is the band’s goal. “I’d love to be touring, I’d love to be on a label,” McDonald said. “I want a bathrobe and slippers that have the Ruby Leftstep logo,” he continued.
After Ruby Leftstep passed the audition, rehearsals every Wednesday were in preparation for the big event, the annual Battle of Bands.
Busemeyer, a junior at UConn majoring in Political Science, listens to WHUS, UConn’s radio station, and wanted the band to experience this competition for fun and for the chance to meet other bands.
The competition was held at the student union ballroom on Feb. 3, 2024. A total of six bands competed, including Ruby Leftstep.
Every band can only perform once at the battle. The prize for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? A studio session at WHUS, awarding the winner the opportunity to play live on the radio.
On the ceiling of the ballroom, lights of tiny green stars shimmered. A crescent moon and a slowly moving, red cloud-like effect added to the atmosphere of space. A merch table was set up on the right side of the stage for anyone to support the band they love.
Throughout the night, a single balloon was passed around in the air. Then a single balloon became a few balloons as the night progressed.
Besides attendees vibing to the music through dancing and hitting balloons, the sudden yet periodic formation of a mosh pit provided that extra adrenaline rush as guests enjoyed shoving each other around in a human circle as fast-paced tunes were played.
Each band performed four songs, and after half of the bands moved on to the second round, they had to win the audience over with only one song.
After Ruby Leftstep performed their four songs, McDonald asked the audience, “One more maybe?” the crowd saluted.
“You have to vote for us,” he cleverly remarked.
Finalists were The Jawns, Dying Under the Influence and Ruby Leftstep. Each band already gained the audience’s affection, considering how loudly they cheered for each of them to move on to the final round.
At that moment, the competition intensified.
Using their own tactics to gain audience engagement, Ruby Leftstep, told the audience to get on the floor and on their mark to all jump up, prior to performing “Shuteye.”
“One, two, three.”
Everyone jumped up, and the fast rhythm of the song brought a wave of excitement. Fast dancing and head-bobbing were present throughout the entire tune.
As soon as the final round finished, a QR code was displayed for the crowd to place their vote for their favorite finalist.
After a few minutes, approximately 450 responses were generated. Sophia Curran, the WHUS Event Coordinator, announced that it was not possible given the number of attendees and the short amount of time that the QR code was opened for. She concluded that the issue was a bot. So, the original method of deciding a winner took over.
Curran asked the crowd what they thought about The Jawns, they cheered. She asked again for Dying Under the Influence, this time the crowd cheered a bit louder. Finally, she asked the crowd what their reaction was to Ruby Leftstep, and the immense expression of excitement produced by the audience crowned them the champions.
With huge smiles on their faces expressing their colossal joy, Ruby Leftstep was the winner.