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The best kept secret in music


"The Rise of Ritter"

The local boys of Ritter went from being crazy punk kids in the pits of the Warped Tour to crazy punk kids on the stage.

For any true punk rocker who spent every year of high school moshing in the pits to Rancid and Dropkick Murphys at the Warped Tour, it would be a dream come true to actually be on the bill for a Warped Tour show date. That’s just what happened with the power punk rock quartet known as Ritter – along with the 2003 release of their CD Six Degrees Of Variation and some airtime on Philly’s Y100 radio station just last week.

Justin Fowler (vocals, guitar), Joey DeRugeriis (bass, vocals), Andrew Rehrig (vocals, guitar) and TJ Dockray (drums) not only rock out together, but the 20-somethings each go to college (who says rock stars don’t need to be educated?) and work – pretty impressive if you ask us.

“We formed out of two other bands,” says bassist DeRugeriis. “If you want the rest of the story, buy the book.” Ritter’s biography has yet to grace our bookcase, so here’s a brief synopsis on how it all went down. Fowler, Rehrig and Fowler’s older brother had a band in Bethlehem. Fowler’s cousin Lou had a band with DeRugeriis and Dockray in Newton Square, PA. Before the two bands collided to form Ritter, Fowler and Dockray left their respective bands and started playing with the now-defunct Nazareth band The Overdrives. It was after The Overdrives split up that the four finally got together as Ritter in the fall of 2001.

Since then, Ritter has put out a four-song demo and, recently, a six-track CD with Jumpstart Records in State College, PA. Although the group is happy with the final product, music critics can, at times, be pretty harsh – well, except for Fowler’s mom. “If I could have one person listen to the CD, it would be my mom, ‘cause no matter what, she wouldn’t tell me [that] it sucks,” Fowler wrote in an email.

The other guys in the band graciously sent us some emails that resembled the outline for the aforementioned biography. We weeded out the good stuff and chatted with DeRugeriis to find out how cool these guys really are.

PULSE WEEKLY: Everyone in the band considers playing at the 2003 Warped Tour as one of the best things that Ritter has done to date. What was so great about it?

JOEY DERUGERIIS: Just the fact that we’ve been going to it since we were kids; it’s one of those things that you go to and you never think your band could play, and then one day, just like that, it happens.

PW: So how’d you guys get in on the tour?

JD: I sent one of our songs in to Ernie Ball for a contest last February. In April, I got an email saying, ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected to play at the Warped Tour show at the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ.’ I’d forgotten that I’d even sent it in, so it was really out of the blue.

PW: Do you have any crazy stories from your day at Warped Tour?

JD: We were wusses that day. We got there really early and we had no clue what to do. There was like 8,000 vans, none of the stages were set up yet, including the Ernie Ball stage, which was the stage we were supposed to be playing on. Two days beforehand, the guy at Ernie Ball called me and said, ‘We’re in Buffalo. The stage is having some problems and it might not make it [to New Jersey].’ I was like, ‘Is this a prank call?’ As it turned out, the stage ended up not making it, so we played on the Y100 stage instead.

PW: Are you planning to go to Warped Tour 2004?

JD: Actually, yeah, ‘cause it’s on my birthday and I want to see Bad Religion and NOFX, my two favorite bands, and who knows how long they’ll still be playing.

PW: If you had a chance to hang out with one of those bands after their show, what would you want to do?

JD: I’d probably pick NOFX because Bad Religion would be too smart to talk to. [laughing] I’d like to hang out and just listen to tour stories. I’d be interested in hearing about how it was when they first started; to hear about before they were big, how it was touring and playing crappy shows and stuff like that.
PW: Do you ever get butterflies before playing a show? And be honest.

JD: When we first started, yeah. The first few months I got butterflies before every show. Maybe at the Warped Tour, maybe at our CD release show, too. It still happens every now and then, but not too often.

PW: Are you nervous about your upcoming show at Sound Waves?

JD: Not at all. We played there before and I love that venue. I’ve been there handing out flyers and stuff in the past, so I’ve caught some other shows too.

PW: Have you ever skated there?

JD: [laughing] No. I don’t skate, but I watch the kids there do it; it really blows your mind that they start that young.

PW: Is there anyone at the show that you’re really excited to see play?

JD: I’m excited to see Catch 22. We went to go see them play before with Bigwig and Punchline, but I didn’t catch much of their set; I was too busy doing other things, if you know what I mean. So this time I - by Jenny Poust, Pulse Weekly

"The Ritter Edge"

Aficionados of the Lehigh Valley’s underground music scene may already know about Ritter, which hails from the Fountain Hill area of Bethlehem. But if you haven’t already heard about them, you will soon.

The band formed two years ago from the ashes of several local bands.

The members have been performing local gigs since the late 90s in bands including Four Star, Overdrives and The Skinflints. Ritter has earned a reputation for its clever, complex punk sound that critics have a hard time pigeon-holing.

And lately, these local boys haven’t been staying local. With gigs that range from shows at Philadelphia’s TLA to playing the 2003 Warped Tour, Ritter has gotten some major mileage.

“We’re glad to have exposure of the larger shows,” explains guitarist Andrew Rehrig, “but we’re trying to stay grounded. We want to build up a solid local fan base and work from there.”

Although the band does command a group of superfans that regularly post on their Myspace.com blog. Ritter’s influences range from Green Day and Weezer to The Beatles.
This eclectic mix of influences has helped the band to develop it’s own fan-enticing sound that’s an amalgam of genres, from 80s rock to hardcore punk.

And at least one punk publication has already taken notice.
Having recently released their sophomore effort, Six Degrees of Variation, Ritter received acclaim from punknews.org for producing “an album showcasing a young, yet mature band filled to the brim with frustration, determination, and just a little psychosis”

Instead of the praise going to their heads, the rockers are just trying to keep their goals simple.
“I’m still in school,” explains frontman Justin Fowler, “and so is TJ. So until we’re done with school, we can’t plan on touring full-time.”

Along with Fowler and guitarist/vocalist Rehrig - two high school bandmates - the band is joined by former Overdrives drummer TJ Dockray and Joey DeRugeriis on bass in a combo pack that’s led to success at big venues. “It’s great to have the opportunity to play at some of these shows, like Warped Tour,” says drummer TJ Dockray.
“We’ve always had a great local following and we’re very grateful for that, but it’s a rush to play in front of larger audiences and be able to say, “Hey, I played that show.”
Still, band members maintain a very grounded attitude.

In addition to the reviews and prime touring spots, they insist they are always trying to improve, and Rehrig and Fowler are quick to merge minds and voices with other members of the band on new songs for the next album due out next year.
“We all collaborate on lyrics,” explains bassist Joey DeRugeriis. “Andrew and Justin come up with the skeleton of a song, but then we all work on developing it together.”
He thinks for a moment and adds, “We all collaborate to be sure that none of the songs sound like crap.”

Six Degrees of Variation is available at Interpunk.com, TheHardcoreStore.com, RevHQ.com, Jumpstartrecords.com, SmartPunk.com, lumber-jack-online.com and morphius.com.
- by Julie Wolberg, Merge Digital

"Ritter crosses The Starting Line, finishing first"

(Abridged version)

On April 24, The Starting Line made a stop at KU, headlining the first concert on-campus in five years.

Ritter, whose members include KU Electronic Media majors bassist and vocalist Joey DeRugeriis, a senior, and guitarist and vocalist Justin Fowler, a junior, opened for the band alongside an incongruous hardcore group called The Minor Times.

Ritter showcased their unbridled punk-influenced energy with the occasional synchronized jump, DeRugeriis flinging himself across the stage for most of their set, and a flair for variation. The KU concert was slated to be their largest show ever. Fowler performed lead vocals on several tunes, arching his right eyebrow slyly as he growled the lyrics into the microphone.

After playing several tracks from their Six Degrees of Variation EP, Ritter threw in a cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” which came off surprisingly well with rougher vocals and an edgier beat. The highlight of their set, however, was the original songs, an intricate web of carefully pieced-together instrumentation. “It takes us around a month to write a song, and four practices to finally finish it,” said Fowler.

The final product is a well-honed piece, with lyrics that have obviously been revised numerous times and music that runs the gamut of the members’ individual talents. Ritter’s songs successfully pay homage to their idols without duplication.

The pack of students flooding onto the Keystone Arena’s lawn at 10:30pm did not leave disappointed. “It was the most exciting thing they’ve had all year,” said freshman Education major Michelle Hughes. “I like Ritter the best, but the Starting Line’s last song was good, too.”
- by Kristin Bauer , The Keystone

"Allentown punk band Ritter wins a Warped Tour spot"

There are scores of bands performing as part of Vans Warped Tour, the punk culture extravaganza that will stop Friday at Camden’s Tweeter Center, and competition for the attention of the crowd should be fierce.

But that is not likely to bother Allentown act Ritter, which won a place on the bill after beating out thousands of other groups in a contest held by music instrument company Ernie Ball.

Roughly 2,800 entries came into “Battle of the Bands 7,” with a panel of judges choosing 170 acts, and four being featured at each stop at the summer-long Warped Tour.

For bassist Joey DeRugeriis, news of Ritter’s selection was a bolt from the blue.

”We did it last year and didn’t get picked,” DeRugeriis says, “so it was like one of those things were we said, ‘Yeah, we’ll send it in, whatever.’ I forgot I even sent it in, so when we got the e-mail saying we had been chosen, I was like, ‘Oh my God!” It was a pretty big shock.

“I’ve attended the Warped Tour ever since I was a freshman in high school,” he adds, “and you always watch the bands thinking, ‘How the heck can I get my band to play Warped?’ So we couldn’t be more excited,”

Being selected to play at America’s premier punk festival is a big break for Ritter, which got its start in 2001 when DeRugeriis got together with acquaintance Justin Fowler while attending Kutztown University. The two would eventually add guitarist Andrew Rehrig and drummer TJ Dockray, and slowly build a following for the foursome’s original blend of punk and metal.

While Ritter has had an EP released on Philadelphia’s Dressed To Kill Records and plans to put out new material in the fall, the appearance at Vans Warped is a major opportunity for wider exposure.

”It’ll hopefully add to our draw around Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” says DeRugeriis. “It is definitely a good addition to our resume. Who knows, maybe it’ll lead to more dates next summer.”

Beyond those benefits, Ritter is still in the running in another competition based on an online vote at www.ernieball.com. The band with the most votes will win musical prizes, while four other groups will be chosen to play an October showcase at Hollywood’s Key Club before a panel of industry professionals.

Even with all the possible returns from winning the contest, DeRugeriis and his band mates expect to find some down-to-earth satisfaction from playing the big show in front of faithful fans who have seen the act at a lot less prestigious gigs.

“I think the best thing about being chosen to play the Warped Tour is when people from towns you play e-mail you saying they can’t wait to see you there. One guy from Wilkes Barre e-mailed me saying we were the only reason he was driving down and bringing a van-load of kids. That’s a pretty awesome compliment when you consider the distance!”
- by John Terlesky, The Morning Call

"Skratch Magazine's review of Six Degrees of Variation"

From the beginning of the opening track "Free", I knew I was in for a treat. Ritter's SIX DEGREES OF VARIATION just oozes with energy. Not only that, but these Pennsylvanians break the tradition punk rock mold and create a nice little hybrid of pop punk, hardcore, rock, and melody. Usually on albums, bands try and create a certain sound that can connect each song together. It seems like Ritter didn't want to do that because each song sounds like it could have come from a different band. If you think about it, that sounds like a stupid decision, but it works very well for Ritter. Not only is it a chance for them to show off its talent, but it also makes this release have something for everyone. With a polished sound that was due to the production of Nick Rotundo and the overflowing talent of these guys, SIX DEGREES OF VARIATION is one of the first must have releases of the year. Might as well get it now so you can have more scene points later. Also, on a personal note, I have to give these guys tons of credit for taking my favorite author's words and turning them into a great song. It really adds a different perspective to his writing. - www.scratchmagazine.com

"Punknews.org's review of Six Degrees of Variation"

Ritter plays an excellent skate punk style that's actually quite good for the derivative genre they're doing. The EP's title speaks for itself. All six songs on this EP all differ in tempos a bit too much to justify the skate punk label, because also incorporated is some melodic pop and new-school post-punk in the vein of Gastby's American Dream, and it helps shift the environment significantly, but not dramatically. There is also a distinct change in moods frequently, whether it be dark, downtrodden apathy, or an upbeat, almost-happy Lagwagon feel. Consistently through is this direct urgency that reminds me of the Methadones' "Solitude." The vocalists are also solid, by singing not too deep but not at all whiny or nasally. They even put Edgar Allen Poe's "Alone" to music, and use a bit of metal-influenced riffing and growls that sound much less out of place than they should be, with a slight amount of piano in the bridge to cap it off. There's a great amount of potential Ritter holds, and we'll just have to wait and see if they can make that common transition to a solid, if not great, full-length. - www.punknews.org

"Flex Your Head's review of Six Degrees of Variation"

It's fairly safe to say that in 2004 the pop-punk band is still very much alive. Alive? Definitely. Alive and well? If Pennsylvania's Ritter offers any evidence — hell yeah. While pop-punk bands continue to populate (some might say "litter") the landscape at an alarming rate, bands that have the ability to play the style well, with originality and doing the genre justice, continue to be few and far between. Once again, Ritter comes through, proving that there's still a surprising amount of life in the genre with its compelling variation on the style. Nick Rotundo (Boy Sets Fire, None More Black) looked after the top-notch recording on Six Degrees of Variation. The sound he's captured is full-bodied, rich, and works well to push forward the band's unique brand of melody-inflected punk. In particular, "Alone" is the disc's stand out track — filled with hooks, tasty guitar licks, and a hearty serving of passion. Our only complaint? Six songs is a good taste of this young band, but we're ultimately left wanting more. Here's to watching, listening, and waiting for Ritter's next effort. - www.flexyourhead.com


Youth vs. You (to be released early spring '07)

Six Degrees of Variation (2004)

Demo (2001)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Named after the street where the band formed (and not the late actor) Ritter
plays a very unique brand of power rock and has been astounding audiences
night after night since 2001.

As the world entered a new millennium, bassist Joe DeRugeriis decided it was
time for a change. He transferred to Kutztown University and out of his
hometown of Newtown Sq, PA (just outside of Philadelphia).

DeRugeriis began to attend local punk rock shows in the Lehigh Valley and
after witnessing how amazing the local scene was, it was clear to him that
he needed to get back into music. Reaching out to only person he knew in the
area, DeRugeriis contacted a fiery high school senior by the name of Justin
Fowler. Following a slightly awkward conversation, Fowler had agreed to get
together with DeRugeriis to discuss forming a band.

Luckily, Fowler had been spending much of his time writing songs. Fowler's
songs, which were very catchy and quite advanced for a 17 year old, blew
DeRugeriis away instantly and he convinced lead vocalist and guitarist
Fowler that they needed to find additional members to make their music a
reality. Fowler and DeRugeriis contacted guitarist Andrew Rehrig, who was a
childhood friend of Fowler's. Rehrig was more than qualified for the role of
lead guitarist. Fowler had a history with Rehrig, having played in bands
with him in the past. In the interest of adding “old buddies” to the mix,
DeRugeriis contacted drummer TJ Dockray to complete their line-up in the
fall of 2001. DeRugeriis and Dockray had also played together in the past
and Dockray was a young veteran of the local rock scene.

With the addition of Dockray, Ritter's lineup was complete. With the talent
and drive of these four young musicians, Ritter was ready to take the Lehigh
Valley and beyond by storm.

As the band enters 2007 (and their mid-twenties), Ritter can certainly look
back on the last five years with satisfaction. They have sold out venues
across Allentown, PA, self-booked a national tour, and played many major
venues in the tri-state area including:

Tweeter Center ¬ Camden, NJ
Theatre of Living Arts ¬ Philadelphia, PA
Trocadero Theatre ¬ Philadelphia, PA
Crocodile Rock Café ¬ Allentown, PA
The Silo Nightclub ¬ Reading, PA
Musikfest ¬ Bethlehem, PA
and many, many more.

Ritter has also shared bills with several national acts including The
Starting Line, The Ataris, Yellowcard, Dead Kennedys, Punchline, Bigwig, Catch 22, Over It, Zebrahead, Yo La Tengo, Talib Kweli and more.

At the present time, Ritter looks forward to their next full length album to
be released in early 2007.