The Little Rascals finds success at Baylor

The Little Rascals, a feature group that performed at After Dark, consists of lead vocalist and Orlando, Fla., senior Claire Berlinsky; Tulsa, Okla., senior Max Hellmerich on guitar and vocals; San Antonio senior Taylor Pfeiffer on percussion; and New Braunfels senior Judah Owens, who also plays guitar.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Jessica Foreman

“The Little Rascals” was a film released in 1994 based on a series of early-20th century short films called “Our Gang,” but The Little Rascals are also a gang of musicians at Baylor.

The Little Rascals, consisting of band members Taylor Pfeiffer on guitar, Claire Berlinsky as the main vocalist, Judah Owens as percussionist on the harmonica and cajon box, and Max Hellmerich playing guitar and vocals performed as the opening act for Baylor University’s annual After Dark variety talent show. The band of seniors was an act that stood out according to many in attendance at the Student Activities-sponsored event.

“Have you seen the movie? We’re a bunch of little rascals,” said Hellmerich, a formerly signed Uproar Records artist who is credited with forming the band title. “Claire and I auditioned, and then we formed a band.”

The spontaneous thought of creating a band from a duo came from the initiative to perform something “more upbeat,” said Berlinsky.

“Originally we were going to do a ‘Need to Breathe’ song,” Berlinksy said. “The show wanted something more upbeat and so we decided to do ‘Barton Hollow.’

We wanted a lot more variety, so we called [Pfeiffer and Owens]…We asked permission. And Keith [Frazee], the head of After Dark, knows Taylor and Judah personally, so he didn’t see it as a problem.”

“I feel like really ever since the movie came out this has been something that’s been organizing under the stars,” said Hellmerich about the creation of the band. “Just that some sort of musical genius would spur from the effect that that movie had in our lives.”

The last-minute music group formed a little over a week before the actual After Dark performance during Parents’ Weekend. Even though the four musicians had never played together at the same time, they have had stage experience in the past.

“I performed in Sing and Pigskin before, so it wasn’t unfamiliar to be on the stage or in front of that many people,” said Owens, a member of the Baylor fraternity Kappa Omega Tau. “It wasn’t really that scary. We just played a song. We really just did that, we went up and played without intentions of impressing people. We just wanted to have fun.”

Berlinsky expanded on this and said, “I think that’s what I like most about playing with these guys. Nobody’s really too interested in impressing people or putting on a performance. We all just really like to play music. The fact that we got to do it onstage was just an added blessing.”

The buzz around campus since After Dark, contrary to the band’s intentions, has been about The Little Rascals, and attendees were more than impressed with their performance.

“The band came on and immediately got the crowd going,” Dallas senior Samantha Reed said. “The audience could tell that they were having so much fun with what they were doing onstage. I studied in Spain with Claire this past summer and knew she could sing, but her performance that night was incredible, and really just blew me away.”

So what does Berlinsky’s “incredible” voice sound like?

“Elton John,” Pfeiffer said.

“Yeah, most commonly Elton John,” Berlinsky said, laughing.

“Ozzy Osbourne,” chimed in Hellmerich.

Jokes aside, band members described their sound as “a rascal version of southern folk music.” While Hellmerich attempted to tag each description of the band to “rascal” or “rascal-ly,” Pfeiffer said he was “purely in it for the money,” an echo of a quote from The Little Rascals character George “Spanky” McFarland: “People, people, we need your money!”

The impromptu band’s future is unsure, but members explained that After Dark was a kind of “springboard” to decide what steps they will take to play music together in the future. Hellmerich said he was in the process of writing songs for the four members to play together.

“There’s one song called ‘Amy,’” Hellmerich said.

“Clearly written for me,” interjected Claire.

“I was actually planning on finishing it today,” Hellmerich said.

Hellmerich said he has worked on putting together songs with Pfeiffer and Owens previously, and that he plays worship music every Thursday night with Owens for K-Life, a high school youth program that stems from the Christian summer sports camp Kanukuk.

The carefree jokes and banter between band members proved “The Little Rascals” was a fitting band title for the After Dark performance.

All of the acts during After Dark were praised by students, parents and faculty alike. Alice Starr, wife of Baylor President Ken Starr, applauded each performance.

“We’ve got our own American Idol. … in fact, it’s better than that because our students are so talented,” Alice Starr said.