Local Listen: Billy Woodward and The Senders

This Washington band aims to rock around the clock
Photograph courtesy  of Rosie Sandrovich.
Photograph courtesy of Rosie Sandrovich.

Billy Woodward used to be in a punk band. But after he found himself returning to the music of his youth and to a different set of musical rebels—Buddy Holly and Elvis—he placed an ad on Craigslist in 2008. The men who responded—now the core of Woodward’s new band—are Scott Rubino, a drummer from the Bay Area; Scott Miller, a self-proclaimed “huge vintage-music fan” who plays keyboards; Mikey Centrella, a punk-influenced double bassist; and lead guitarist Mike Amacher.

Originally from Calvert County, Maryland, Woodward says his father used to bring him into the District to visit the Smithsonian and see live shows. He moved into DC two years ago when he founded the band. Woodward sat down with us to talk about his musical influences, the Washington music scene, and what he likes about the area.

To introduce people to your music, what song would you play first?
“ ‘The One’ or ‘All Been Said.’ We haven’t officially recorded the second one yet, but it really says what the band is about.”

Who are your biggest musical influences?
“My dad loved Elvis, so I grew up on him. But my number one inspiration is Sam Cooke. He has a broad appeal, everybody loved Sam Cooke, but he’s not a household name, which is too bad.”

Pick four words to describe Billy Woodward and the Senders.
“Fun, intense, danceable, happy.”

Who’s typically in the audience for one of your shows?
“It’s kinda strange, I couldn’t even pick the type of person. It’s all kinds: a rockabilly crowd, we’ve gotten some of the hard-core crowd, and the pop crowd. It’s nice to see that.”

What’s the throwback and roots scene like in Washington?
“It’s good and getting bigger. I wanted to create a bill that’s all 1950s and 1960s, and I got it together about a month ago. It was the Motorettes and Belvederes and the Blackberry Bells. It was a solid retro bill.”

What’s your favorite Washington music venue?

“The Rock & Roll Hotel and Black Cat. Both are pretty stellar, the sound is great, and the staff is professional.”

What are the best and worst parts of Washington’s music scene?
“The best­­: Once you get a following, you’ll get a crowd. The worst: It’s hard to put together shows like I want to—there aren’t a lot of throwback or roots bands to fill the bill.”

What do you most love about Washington?
“The museums—I love art. I’m an artist professionally, and there’s no cover charge [at the museums]. There’s free inspiration right there. And there are so many different kinds of people. It’s a very fun city.”

What’s next for Billy Woodward and the Senders?
“I’d love to see us get signed to a label, but right now we’re doing a DIY record and recording a CD. We’re also going to do a little East Coast tour. I’d love to go to Europe—I bet they’d get a kick out our music there. It’s funny, we have all these fans from Italy on Facebook. So it’d be great to go to Italy.”

Upcoming shows: Wednesday, October 13, Billy Woodward and the Senders are playing with Jeff the Brotherhood and the Woggles at the Black Cat. Tuesday, October 26, the band is opening for Eli “Paperboy” Reed at Jammin’ Java. Saturday, October 30, they’re headlining a garage-rock Halloween show at the Rock & Roll Hotel.

Parting words: “No matter what music you’re normally into, if you like dancing, come on out!”

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