Thursday, April 14, 2011

11 Apr 11 - Interview with Ragbirds

Hey, blogspot readers, come flock with some hip birds who affectionately describe themselves as "...hopeful, joyful, energetic, world conscious travellers..." Hailing from Ann Arbor, MI, the Ragbirds are currently on tour and will be rockin' Chicago's Reggie's Rock Club on Saturday April 23. Though not being able to attend this particular show, SouthSide recently had an opportunity via telephone to chat with Erin Zindle, Ragbird's lead vocalist, about the band's Kickstarter campaign to the upcoming album, touring in an eco-friendly van and more.

First, SouthSide wanted to know more about Kickstarter and why did the Ragbirds consider using it. Erin explained that Kickstarter is a fundraising platform in which artists (music, film, art, etc) can raise money in support of a particular project and fans of said artist (i.e. Ragbirds) can be supporters within that creative process of the artist's campaign. In a nutshell, blogspot readers, think of Kickstarter as the online version to PBS (Public Broadcasting Station) quarterly pledge drive that includes special parting gifts as each different level of donation. She says "...people don't realize that it's a lot of money to put out an album..." which why the band is using Kickstarter to fund their next album. For instance with the Ragbirds' Kickstarter campaign, fans can join at the basic level (Hummingbird) with support of $1 or more to an elite level (Phoenix) with support of $1,000 or more. According to Erin, by supporting the Ragbirds in their campaign, fans can receive special as well as unique "thank you" gifts that go beyond the standard t-shirt/CD combination. For example, at one level, fans cane be mentioned inside the "thank you" liner notes of the new Ragbirds album meanwhile at another level, fans can receive the van cut-out (used in their Kickstarter profile) in which the band will autograph and/or private Ragbirds performance. How cool is that, blogspot readers? Erin told SouthSide that she was a bit hesitant (and didn't want to go "begging" for money either) at first about using Kickstarter after learning about it from a friend who also worked as consultatnt with three other successful projects. So far, the Ragbirds' campaign is going well. Currently, the band (at the time of this interview) was 76% funded of their $10,000 (and more) goal in which the fundraising campaign will end on Thursday April 21.

According to the press release given to SouthSide, the Ragbirds perform nearly 200 shows a year travelling over 40 states which had this reviewer wondering what was their most memorable city and/or place. She actually stumped Erin for a moment with this question, blogspot readers, before revealing Nederland, CO (a mountain city near the Continental Divide and Barker Meadow Reservoir in the mountains southwest of Boulder County) as the answer. Erin said there were other special places that standout however Nederland stands out because it's a really beautiful hippie town - full of artists and musicians. Definitely sounds like a good place to visit for SouthSide whenever she decides to take her On The Town blog on a little road trip. Then, this reviewer asked Erin how would she personally describe the Ragbirds' music to which the vocalist instantly replied "...infectious global groove..." The "infectious" part, according to Erin, comes from the Ragbirds' catchy pop elements while the important word "global" incorporates the band's usage of world music (i.e. Gypsy/Celtic/Afrian/etc) and the "groove" comes from the pop/rock music. That's when SouthSide asked her another tough question - which song(s) should people familiarize themselves about the Ragbirds. Erin suggested checking out Tarantella (loosely based on combined purification ritual and ancient Italian belief) - the band calls this their "...dancing to sweat the spider poison out..." song and title track off current album, Good, which is about being in the present moment. Besides Erin's suggestions, this reviewer also recommends checking out their Romanian Train Song and Believe It.

Speaking of albums, the Ragbirds are currently working on their 4th release (scheduled to be out this fall), blogspot readers, but don't have a title as of yet. So, SouthSide asked Erin how the new album will differ from the Ragbirds' current and prior releases. The vocalist noted the new album will have more of a "live" studio sound (i.e. capturing that same energy and momentum that fans would feel from their live performances) than a "regular" studio-produced sound. She also stated the band has been exploring a few new styles that they never tried before as well as tightening arrangements learning as they go. They have been preparing songs about their travels meant for live audiences - so Ragbirds fans can expect more danceable tracks and fun music within the new album. Yet, besides the band's travels, this reviewer wanted to know what else influences their songwriting and music. Erin replied with one word that came to mind - spiritual ...not in a religious senses, blogspot readers, but a message of hope woven throughout the lyrics. She also stated throughout the Ragbirds' songs, she tries to paint a picture of hope amidst the difficulties and unpleasant life experiences. Then, SouthSide asked what kind of performance can fans expect from Ragbirds next Saturday at Reggie's and she was told the following - their live shows are really fun in which the band sings their hearts out. It's diverse with sounds from all over the world with danceable rhythms and fans are encouraged to sing and/or dance along too.

The main interesting thing, blogspot readers, about the Ragbirds is their eco-consciousness for the environment as they travel across America in a diesel-converted van that runs on waste vegetable oil. Yes, SouthSide indeed said "waste vegetable oil" - the leftover stuff which restaurants/fast food places toss at the end of business. Well, this independent has a found a way to use that waste as their fuel to travel state to state while on tour. So far, the Ragbirds' eco-friendly van has logged over two hundred thousand miles and still uses some diesel fuel however it mainly (95%) runs on waste veggie oil thus saving this band a lot of money by not spending it on regular gasoline. And if you live in Chicago, current prices (as of this post are between $4.13 to $4.29) are way above the national average. According to Erin, "...[it's] an alternative way of doing things ...[as well as] another option instead of using regular gas..." By now many of you are probably wondering how do the Ragbirds go about obtaining the waste veggie oil since it's not ready-made at any service station pump. Erin told SouthSide a little secret - her husband, Randy, has a prepared speech when asking restaurants for their waste oil ...some don't give it way but others do which in turn saves the business from dumping it in the dumpsters and later harming the environment. And like any ordinary vehicle always on traveling on the road, the Ragbirds do experience typical van-related troubles such as engine and/or transmission problems but rarely is it related from using waste vegetable oil, blogspot readers. And the Ragbirds have done a few workshops about their eco-friendly van to show people there are different ways to impact the earth without harming it by being more eco-conscious.

To conclude this fun interview, SouthSide asked Erin if she had any final thoughts. She only had one thing to say "...come to the show..." on Saturday April 23 at Reggie's Rock Club. Plus she added the Ragbirds are easy to find online ...on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Visit or for tour details and more.

Until next time, support your local scene,

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