The ’80s revival trend has been around for so long, it might just be the new normal. Long past their ironical origins, many 80s trends are now established styles: mom jeans, synthpop, denim jackets, cassettes, a saber-rattling U.S. president threatening a nuclear arms race. The Molly Ringwalds, New Orleans’ premier 80s tribute band, have been riding that nostalgia wave to consistently packed houses and unwaveringly enthusiastic audiences for the past 15 years.
“It was perfect timing,” says Jeff Lane (guitars, keys, vocals) of forming the group in the early aughts. “That’s when the ’80s came back.”
The Molly Ringwalds actually began as an original band, Krush U.K., a Britpop band influenced by Oasis and The Beatles. As perhaps a harbinger of the transformation to come, the band started incorporating ’80s cover tunes into their original sets such as “Don’t Change” by INXS and “I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls. The audiences loved it.
When the time came to record a new album, the band needed a way to raise the necessary. Seeing successful local cover acts like Bag of Donuts pack clubs every night generated the initial spark of The Molly Ringwalds concept.
“We said, let’s form a [cover] band to pay for our album, and once the album comes out, we won’t do the cover band anymore,” Lane recalls. “We just decided to be an 80s cover band, since we’re already doing some of that anyway.”
Christening themselves after one the major icons of the 80s, The Molly Ringwalds were an immediate hit.
“A year into it, it kind of exploded,” Lane says. “The original band fizzled out and The Molly Ringwalds kept going up and up and up. We realized after the first couple years that we really had something special here.”
As a reminder of their Britpop origins, the New Orleans guys of Krush U.K. became the British lads of The Molly Ringwalds, renaming themselves with tongue-in-cheek stage monikers and adopting British personas on stage. Jeff Lane would become Sir Devon Nooner.
“Our feelings were, if we were going to be an original band, let’s try to be the biggest in the world,” Lane says. “When we decided to do The Molly Ringwalds full-time, we said, let’s push this to the limit. Let’s try to be better than everyone else. Let’s try and do things nobody else has ever accomplished.”
The Molly Ringwalds were soon selling out clubs of a few hundred people around New Orleans and Baton Rouge. They were asked to play Baton Rouge’s Varsity Theater, which holds over 1,000 people, and sold it out. The band realized that they could start looking beyond their local club scene, and that perhaps audiences elsewhere would respond to their ’80s tribute experience, which had grown to include iconic ’80s costumes, such as the Devo energy dome hats, Pee Wee Herman suits, and, of course, lots of teased hair and wild makeup.
“We went to Lafayette and there were 1,000 people there. Then we went to Mobile and Pensacola, and that’s when we realized that this could be more than a local thing, more than a Southeast regional thing,” Lane says. “This could be a North America thing, maybe even across the world.”
The band plays around 100 shows a year, primarily in the Southeast region and in Texas, but also California, Chicago, and other areas around the country. Though Lane remains the sole founding member in the band, the current lineup (consisting of Ricky English [Dickie English] on synthesizers and vocals, Jack Miele [Platinum Randi Wilde] on lead vocals, Philip Wang [Lord Philip Wang] on bass and vocals, and Darrin Triay [Sir Liam Thunders] on drums and vocals) has been together for the past 14 years.
Though their setlists consist of everyone’s favorite hit songs from the ’80s, The Molly Ringwalds try to play a different a set every night that includes both the hits and the hidden gems from one of the most fertile decades in popular music. The band crosses most of the decade’s genres from pop and rock to hip-hop, but mostly focuses on the new wave and new romantic acts. Their stage show tries to match the bigness and excesses of the ’80s with laser light shows and mobile stage risers for Triay and English.
The Molly Ringwalds have a full slate of shows scheduled through the end of the year, including a gig at the 8th Annual Scales & Ales festival at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. They’re also looking ahead to 2018 to do more international dates, having played a few festivals in Germany last year. Bigger American cities like New York City and Los Angeles are also on their radar.
“We’re not going to stop until the people stop showing up,” Lane says.
Perhaps the best indicator of their wide-ranging popularity is that their namesake is aware of their existence. Though they haven’t spoken to Molly Ringwald directly, her father was on an Orlando morning show and the host asked if he’d heard of the band.
“He said, ‘Yes, we’ve heard of them. We don’t know much about them, but as long as they’re not disrespecting my daughter, we have no issues with it,’” Lane recounts. “And that’s something we’d never do anyway. She’s an ’80s icon and we’ve been very successful with that name.”
Tickets for Scales & Ales are available here. Scales & Ales kicks off National Seafood Month, which highlights the importance of sustainable seafood and the work of Audubon Nature Institute’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) program. Through G.U.L.F., Audubon is ensuring that local fisheries thrive for future generations and that seafood remains a vibrant part of our local culture and economy. Proceeds from Scales & Ales support Aquarium education and conservation programs like G.U.L.F. that empower the community through interactive learning.