Atomic 26 has been rocking Frederick County for years, and now they’re getting the recognition they’ve worked for.
It all started in a basement in Emmitsburg, with a few guys who liked to jam on weekends. The group picked up steam and a few new members, adding guitarists Steve Anderson and Will Hurst to join John Ruffner and Jimmy Belt, forming what is the modern day Atomic 26.
“We were in a band before, and we played kind of the same scene,” Anderson said. “So 20-25 years later we stuck with it, and we’re still doing the same thing.”
The band’s synergy really hit its stride in 2018, where the four got their biggest break yet. “The Maryland Music Awards had a fan vote,” Ruffner said. “We got nominated for best metal act in Maryland in 2018. We were a small band from a basement and all of the sudden we were in the Maryland Music Awards.”
Just a handful of bands were nominated at the biggest music award show in Maryland, and Atomic 26 grabbed the runner-up spot for best Metal band in its home state. “Here we are, just jamming in Emmitsburg, and to get recognized for something like that was pretty cool,” Ruffner said. “I thought it was cool just to see our name up there.”
The influences to get to this point are vast, and it’s created a special blend of hardcore punk that has resulted in Atomic 26’s distinct thrash sound. “Everyone’s background is a little bit different,” Hurst said. “Everyone has a different favorite band, so it’s a cool mix.”
The crew even got to open up for some of their idols that they listened to growing up. DRI and Murphy’s Law were two bands Ruffner listened to over and over while skateboarding as a kid. Atomic 26 got to kick off the show for both bands, sharing the stage with the same groups they listened to years ago. “That was a pretty big deal,” Ruffner said. “These guys were pretty much royalty in the hardcore scene.”
Atomic 26’s shows aren’t just catching the attention of local fans and festivals, though. In May, the crew was invited to do an interview with Wobbly Bob, host of 101.5 Bob Rocks, one of the mega radio stations in the area.
“We got the interview with Wobbly Bob just playing a show at the Dawghouse,” Hurst said. “Wobbly Bob was there and came up and talked to us and asked if we wanted to do an interview on 101.5 Bob Rocks. It was a lot of fun; I was really nervous going in.”
The recognition for the quality of music and entertainment of their live performances has begun opening up opportunities for the band.
The band recently rocked the house at the Maryland Doom Fest in Frederick, adding to an already talent-stacked lineup.
“It’s an honor because we’re not really a doom band,” Ruffner said. “It’s just a big deal because bands all over the world play there.”
Atomic 26 has built its foundation on non-stop action-packed energy at its shows, and that has propelled the band further than what the group initially thought was possible. “We have a show that doesn’t stop,” Ruffner said. There’s no stop for tuning or anything like that. Once it starts, the music doesn’t stop.”
You can catch Atomic 26 at shows around Maryland and Pennsylvania by checking them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/atomic26band/.
Photo by Blair Garrett