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A Dirty Dozen with RYDER COOLEY from DUST BOWL FAERIES – November 2022

| 29 November 2022 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Their first release since 2020’s critically acclaimed album The Plague Garden, “Lost In Time” is a slow and sinister tarantella that captures the essence of the band perfectly. Blending elements of goth, rock, cabaret, vaudeville, and folk, Dust Bowl Faeries stir up a masterful concoction that seems at once both ancient and yet very fresh and current. The Dust Bowl Faeries is Ryder Cooley (Faerie Queen; accordion, singing saw, lead vocals), Jon B. Woodin (Rocket Faerie; guitar, vocals), Rubi LaRue (Feisty Faerie; lapsteel, vocals), Liz LoGiudice (River Faerie; bass, vocals) and Andrew Stein (Time Faerie; percussion).” We get Faerie Queen herself Ryder to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Carnival Dust is very whimsical collection of songs that cast a dark shadow, yet there is a lightheartedness to them all. Dark humor has taken on a big role in my songwriting since the pandemic. “Cuckoo” starts off kind of soft, but it’s a maniacal song. My favorite line is “a poltergeist is picking lice from money’s dirty whore, what for?” Then there are the choruses. First chorus: “a cuckoo clock chimes all day while politicians pad their pay”. Second chorus: “a cuckoo clock chimes all day while corporations get their way.” My favorite part of “The Changeling” is the line about the polydactyl cat, which is the technical name for a cat with five claws, or an extra thumb. Whenever we sing that verse I picture a stray cat on the side of the road hitchhiking, with her extra thumb sticking out. “The Old Ragdoll” is pretty tongue and cheek. The full title is actually “The Ballad of the Old Ragdoll and the Arachnid Queen,” and the silliest part is when the ragtime polka band (tee-hee) is headed for the Polka Grammys, because there should be a Grammy award for polka music, or at least, gothic polka music. Dust Bowl Faeries guitarist Jon B Woodin and I wrote “Medicine Show” together when the vaccine was first coming out, so the song is about the hysteria over whether the vaccines are legit, or whether they’re a modern day snake oil. The song is also about the pharma industry and what a big money mongering monopoly it all is. We’re not anti-vaxers, just trying to poke fun at the situation because, what else can you do, really?

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I grew up around a lot of music, my parents were hippies and they had some wild parties with bands playing at our house when we were kids. Of course the musicians were usually men. My dad played guitar for awhile and we sang a lot of folk songs. We travelled around a lot in our van and my parents taught us how to do harmonies and rounds, but my biggest childhood influence was my grandma, she loved to play piano (and before that, accordion) and she sang all the old Sinatra songs and romantic hits of her era. She was the best. I never really made a conscious decision to be a musician, it just gradually happened over time, but music was always a big part of my life, and my childhood instrument was the trombone, by the way.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

I had an accordion mentor, Jeanette Lewicki, who was a huge influence. She was a busker in San Francisco in the subway stations. My roommate heard her playing one day and ran home to get me, and after that we both got accordions. I wanted to take lessons with Jeanie but I didn’t have much money. She was an anarchist, so she’d come up with all sorts of cool things to do for a barter, like help her with the Prisoners Literature Project or make her a drawing. For a while, after our lesson she would take off her clothes and I would give her a massage for trade. It sounds kinky, but it wasn’t, lugging around a big accordion on a bicycle all the time can really mess up your back! Jeanine was a Klezmer accordionist and she ‘who are your influences’ and me to that whole style of music. She sang Yiddish songs. That really was a pivotal time for me,  learning accordion with Jeanie influenced my song writing immensely.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I always wanted to play with a tuba player! Also, I have a big musical crush on Martyn Jaques of Tiger Lillies. His songs are so twisted and absurd, he’s really the king of dark cabaret and I love his crazy operatic voice. We played a show together way back when in San Francisco and his band was extraordinary. I would love to play saw for him! And, if he could do some of his wicked vocals on any of my songs it would be absolute mayhem, what a vision.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

I work with animals a lot. I feed all the stray cats in the neighborhood, and I’ve been volunteering at a sanctuary for rescued farm animals. Who knew I would get intimate with a bunch of roosters and turkeys? Over the past couple of years I’ve been spending a lot of time foraging for mushrooms and other edible and medicinal plants. It happened by accident; I was going stir crazy during the pandemic so I started running in the woods. My parents used to do some foraging and mushrooming when we were kids so I knew some of the plants to look for and I literally just started running into them. And, I have also enjoyed the company my pet leeches.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I came up with the term Dark Carnival Dream Music to describe Dust Bowl Faeries since we have and unusual sound and we don’t really fit into any normal music genres. It’s really just a long winded way of saying Dark Cabaret, I think of the music as quite macabre. Americana makes me cringe, and like I Americana music, but seriously, couldn’t they come up with a better name for it? We’ve been described as “Americana by way of Pagan Cabaret,” and I like that since the Pagan part cancels out any implied patriotism. The worst is when someone says, “can’t you play anything happy?” There’s one review that I never forgot, it was a long time ago, but they said I had a “twee, folky voice,” and I just never quite knew quite how to take that.  Oh, and once my mom once said that I played Nature Music. Never let your own mother review your music (unless she is a professional music reviewer?).

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

I’m the faerie leader and I like to treat my faerie tribe to dinners sometimes. I almost always have wine for the band to help lure them to rehearsal. Jon (rocket faerie) is the sing along guy, he can play just about anything by memory, it’s amazing, but his number one love is Celtic music. Andrew (time faerie) is the musical theater/show tunes guy, he will hit the piano sometimes, and Liz (river faerie) always has some cool covers up her sleeves. Rubi (feisty faeire) is a fantistic hair stylist, so she is more likely to crack out the scissors.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

We just opened for Bella’s Bartok, what an amazing band! We all loved them. I played with Rasputina for awhile, she is a big inspiration and such a force of nature. The first time I heard Dresden Dolls live in concert they blew my mind, and there’s a band you may not have heard of, DakhaBrakha, they’re Ukranian, I first heard them in 2018, so incredible. They play accordion and a bunch of other instruments; their drumming is incredible and the vocal harmonies are haunting, plus there are three incredibly talented ‘women’ musicians in the quartet.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The best part of being a musician for me is playing live shows and concerts with my band. I also like writing songs, though it can be hard and tedious, it’s exciting when a new song comes to life. If I could no longer be a musician, yikes. Well, I’m also a visual artist, so I would probably fall back on that. I do a lot of animal caretaking, which I enjoy. But my plan is to keep on playing music!

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I wish someone would ask me about how I cope with being an artist/musician in a capitalist society? A: it’s not easy, it’s soul crushing at times. I go running every morning and try to spend time outside and with people (and animals) who I care about, I try not to let it take over my life. Here’s a good one: If there was one message you would like to convey to the world through your music, what would it be? A: the message would be about animal rights and eco-awareness, equality for all species (including roosters, and leeches!). And how about this: What are you truly passionate about beyond music? What really matters? A: I’m vegan and I care deeply about animals… species diversity, equality, the environment. I get tired of questions like what are your favorite bands and who are your influences or what was the first album that you ever owned, stuff like that. There’s an assumption that all musicians are music consumers, I’ve always thought of myself as a creator.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Lots of missteps and do-overs, for sure. I’m a little disaster prone and I haven’t always had the best sense of judgement or boundaries. There is one music producer who will remain un-named but why did I let myself think he liked my music? Why did I pretend that he was a decent human being, why couldn’t I admit to myself that he was a sleazebag and why didn’t I tell him to F ‘off to his face? There are a few of those. This one may sound strange, but I am a strangeling and an anti-capitalist. I spent a lot of years avoiding having a career as a musician/artist because I thought it would corrupt my true creativity and I didn’t want to be competitive or a sell-out. Now that seems pretty naive. I see humanity, or at least the U.S. (one shouldn’t generalize) as a big toxic pile of corruption and you’ve got to put yourself out there and figure out what you really want and fight for it, and not hold yourself back, because nobody’s going to do it for you, it’s the Donner Party playing in loop mode, it’s film noir, baby.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Three Penny Opera! There is no accordion or saw on the original recordings, but there definitely should have been! I love so many of those songs, like “Pirate Jenny” and “The Ballad Of Mack The Knife,” they are dark and twisted, and the lyrics are loaded with social commentary on the disparities of capitalism. There’s a bunch of lesser-known songs that are really incredible too, like “Call From The Grave,” “Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” “Jealousy Duet,” and “The World is Mean. The first recordings from 1928 and 1930 in Germany are amazing, but that was right before the second world war, not a good time to be in Germany, or anywhere in Europe for that matter. I would have loved to play on the 1954 Decca Broadway recording, Lotte Lenya was still in that production. She played Pirate Jenny in the very first productions in Europe, and fortunately she and Kurt Weill were able to escape to New York during the war. The resilience of Three Penny Opera is so inspiring, people are still performing it today!

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Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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