By day Russ Webster is a mild-mannered civil engineer working on designing buildings and land development projects throughout central Indiana. However, on several weekend nights throughout the year the 2013 alumnus is bringing down the house as a high-energy, leather jacket-clad bass guitar player and singer with the Bomb Cats, an Indianapolis-based rock ‘n’ roll band.
“Performing is quite a departure from my normal engineering world – a whole different side of my personality,” he said. “People are really surprised to find that it’s me jamming out the music on stage. It takes them one, two or even possibly three takes before they recognize me. That’s the best part of it. I get to be someone else, in another time and place on stage.”
Playing music has been a favorite pastime for Webster since high school and served as a creative outlet and release from the rigors of college coursework during his time at Rose-Hulman. He joined fellow Resident Assistants in forming a band that entertained fellow students in annual spring campus concerts.
In the spring of 2014, as an Engineer-In-Training with Weihe Engineers in Indianapolis, Webster reached out online to inquire if there were other musicians in central Indiana interested in getting together occasionally to play original punk rock tunes for fun. Responding to the call-out were guitar and lead singer Chris Farrell and lead guitarist James Williams, both information technology professionals, and drummer Colin Nulty, a tradesman.
Soon the Bomb Cats group was formed and playing fast-paced tunes in small music clubs throughout central Indiana. Since then, the group has delighted audiences at venues in Chicago, Cincinnati, Nashville, Milwaukee, and throughout Indiana. They performed their 50th show this fall in Louisville.
The group has recorded one album, “Empty Bottles” (2016), and three extended-play musical arrangements, “Night After Night” (2017), “Play to the Room” (2018), and “Third Street Melody” (2022). Featured songs include up-tempo jams like “Around the Corner,” “Anything” and “Fight Forever” and melodic and sensitive songs like “Into the City” and “Casey’s Bar.” They try to capture the passion and energy of rock ‘n’ roll from the 1970s and the longing of self-expression of the independent pop-rock music beloved by American youth of the 1980s.
Webster performs lead vocals on his own songs “Anything” (2016), “Been There Before” (2017), “Beautiful Girls” (2017), “Painkillers” (2018), and “Hypocrite” (2022).
“We do it for fun. Things just clicked for us, with a friendship built around performing the music that we like. If others like it, they’re happy to come along for the ride,” said Webster, who is known for jumping around the stage while performing. “We’re not in it for the fame or the money, we just like to get away once in a while and perform. We come away happy and tired and ready to get back to work on Monday morning.”
Professionally, Webster has become a project engineer and part-time project manager with Weihe Engineers, specializing in commercial land development projects. He remarked, “Thanks to my Rose-Hulman education, I’ve shown that I can develop creative solutions to solve many problems. Now, I seem to get assigned some of the most difficult projects within the company. I like the challenge.”
As for the Bomb Cats, Webster would like to perform on stage at larger shows throughout the Midwest. Like with his engineering career, he says, “We want to continue doing what we do and make it better.”
The Bomb Cats’ music can be listened to on YouTube, Spotify, Amazon music, and iTunes.