The Amish Outlaws performed its wide range of music to the crowd at the Middlesex County Fair in East Brunswick on Aug. 8.
The band, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary this July, performs music of various types – from Johnny Cash to Snoop Dogg.
The Amish Outlaws love to surprise their audiences with what they will play next.
The band began after four of the original members left the Amish lifestyle in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The Amish practice a tradition called Rumspringa, where on a person’s 16th birthday, they have the opportunity to go out and live free of the Amish code and experience the “common” world.
After concluding your Rumspringa, members decide if they want to return to their Amish lifestyle and be baptized into the Amish church. Most members return to the Amish way, but in some cases, they do not.
“There’s a lot of reasons that I left behind that kind of lifestyle,” Brother Eazy Ezekiel, the band’s bass player said. “The ultimate one is that the Amish believe, like a lot of religions do, that their way is the only way into Heaven. That anyone not born and raised Amish is basically condemned. When I met our drummer, Jakob (he’s one of my best friends and he’s Jewish), I just couldn’t believe that him and a lot of the good people who I met out here were going to go to Hell. It didn’t make sense to me; I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Even though that they were honest, loving and loyal, but because they were born into a different group they were going to be condemned. That was the ultimate straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Once I came out and made all these friends and saw the way that life was out here, I couldn’t close those blinders and go back into that world.”
Like Ezekiel, his friend and former member of the Amish lifestyle, Amos Def, had the same feelings after leaving behind his former life.
“Music was a big thing for me; travel and general curiosity about the world,” said Brother Amos. “Everything kept pulling me into different directions and none of it went back to where I grew up. It wasn’t so much as leaving as it was not returning.”
But Ezekiel did make sure to point out there was nothing immoral with the Amish way of life.
“The Amish lifestyle is great in a lot of ways, but ultimately it wasn’t for me,” Ezekiel said.
Of the four original members of the band, three of them still play. Brothers Amos, Ezekiel and Hezekiah, who were all brought up Amish, met the band’s drummer Jakob after leaving the Amish lifestyle. Now the four of them are joined by Brothers Wyclef and Abel.
“Amos and I grew up together,” Ezekiel said. “He left after I did, and we met Hezekiah out here. Jakob, our drummer, he is the first ‘English’ friend I made, or non-Amish person. We started playing music together. Somewhere down the line I just thought that we should start a band together, and four of us being born and raised Amish, I thought that we should be called, ‘The Amish Outlaws.’ I wanted to embrace the way we grew up and how crazy life is out here.”
Ezekiel, who had only heard snippets of nonsecular music before leaving the Amish lifestyle, was surprised to see what music had made him feel when he really started listening.
“It was when I heard, ‘The Wall’ by Pink Floyd and ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ by The Beatles did music take on a new meaning to me,” he said. “I started off playing tuba, but it was way too heavy for me; so I switched to bass. Honestly, I’m a bigger fan of listening to music than I am playing it. I do love playing it, but I just love music and the more I can be involved with it in my life the better.”
The Amish Outlaws enjoy performing, but what the band members enjoy more is the people they encounter throughout their touring.
“I have had a lot of bad jobs in my life and this isn’t one of them,” Ezekiel said. “It’s nice. We’re all friends, we get along, and my favorite thing about being out here and playing music is all the people we see out here and get to meet. We have people who come to see us three different times a week, and we become close friends. We don’t even consider them fans, we call them family.”
For more information on The Amish Outlaws, check out their website: amishoutlaws.com.