“This is evidence of the very best of what independent contemporary pop music has to offer”
-Thom Jurek, All Music (AMG)
Heady praise indeed for The Ragbirds, an Ann Arbor based quintet who has been drawing attention across the nation and even the world after the international release of “Finally Almost Ready” in 2009 peaked with the single “Book of Matches” reaching #1 on the charts in Osaka, Japan. Recently The Ragbirds reached another when they independently marketed and sold their 10,000th album. We talked with front-woman and co-founder Erin Zindle about what the band has been up to and how they do what they do.
What have you been up to lately?
In addition to touring, we’re spending time in the studio recording a new album right now that we’ll be releasing in September. We’ll be working on it right up to Electric Forest and will be playing some of the cool new songs at the festival.
You have a very unique sound, can you tell me about how that evolved?
I started listening to world music when I was a teenager – Paul Simon, Rusted Root, Peter Gabriel – and that prompted me to dive into indigenous music like gypsy, celtic, African and others. As my songwriting has developed, these songs have found their way into our music.
Tell me a little about Cecelia.
Cecelia is our tour bus, after the Patron Saint of Music. We were touring like crazy in 2008, and all of us care a lot about the environment. We looked into several alternative fuel sources, and finally settled on a diesel van that we converted to burn vegetable oil and added extra heated tanks to. It still runs on diesel, but we can also pump the dirty oil from restaurant fryers. We have been able to do about 90% of our traveling (100,000 miles since we converted) on this very low carbon and generally free fuel. Beyond doing something good for the planet, it’s also helped to give us something to talk with folks about and opened up dialog.
Speaking of the road & touring, you do over 150 shows per year. How does that affect you as a musician?
Even though most musicians tend to be the opposite, I’m actually really inspired on the road. You meet so many new people, wake up in a different place – there’s a certain excitement and adventure. The place where I find the most joy is onstage and seeing people respond to the music. Plus, I’m generally a pretty shy person, so it’s a great icebreaker.
What are some of your favorite Michigan festivals & venues?
We really loved playing at at Rothbury in 2009 and are looking forward to returning for Electric Forest. There’s a lot of really sweet spots in Michigan. We’re lucky to have a lot of great festivals. One of my favorite venues is the new room at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, and of course we love playing at the Ark in our hometown.
Are there any bands you’re particularly excited to hear it Electric Forest?
There’s a lot of them: Edward Sharpe, Railroad Earth and others. That 1 Guy sat in with us a while back and is really talented.
You can catch The Ragbirds at Electric Forest and check out lots of their videos on their YouTube channel. One of our favorites is with Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth. Tim’s in the photo above and will be at Electric Forest as well!