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In designing a new website for the band, part of my (self-appointed) job has been to archive the majority of the old blog posts from the previous website. This has been a hell of lot of work, but in my mind, totally worth it. It's been a real trip to go back and revisit posts from 5 years ago - the first post is from October 2010, not long after Matty and I joined the feathers as the new rhythm section.
The group had already been active for about a year before Matty and I came along, and had recorded a self-titled EP. I was excited from day one - the lead songwriters, Charley and Gina both wrote amazing songs, but had very different styles. Gina was personal, and intimate. Charley was philosophical, and tackled big themes. It was a nice combo.
Shortly after I joined, I convinced the guys to re-record parts of the EP, which we did, in my basement suite (not the ideal recording studio, but the price was right!).
We re-released it under the title of Lost Cities EP, and then immediately went to work on a full length album, Oracles, which we recorded at Matty's parent's horse ranch in Portland Oregon. In late 2013, shortly after finishing production on Bottom of the Blue EP, both Charley and Matty left the band, Charley to go back to school, and Matty to move on to other projects (check out Reef Shark they're rad).
It's now 2015, we have a new group of incredible musicians - Paolo Brian on bass, Sophia Xiang on keys, and Molly MacKinnon (my sis) on violin; all wonderful, talented weirdos. It's been a real privilege to watch the group evolve over the years.
Thumbing through these blog posts gives me a mixture of nostalgia and pride. I've spend the first half of my twenties in this band. Andrew, I, and Gina, the now longest running members, have seen a lot of each other over the years, at our best, worst, and most vulnerable. I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I've compiled my top ten favourite posts here, in chronological order. Enjoy!
Originally posted on March 14th, 2011
We still have this book. We put it out at shows, and people draw crayon cartoons it it. It makes me really, really happy.
This video was an ORDEAL to make. But I think it came out awesome, under the brilliant albeit slightly manic guiding hand of Charley Wu.
From Charley's write up on the song, and video:
The song itself was inspired by stories my Grandparents have told me about the Chinese Revolution, as well as similar tragedies from around the world, such as The Reign of Terror, The Spartacus Revolution, and the Storming of the Winter Palace, among others.
Common among these intertwined histories is the struggle for human freedom, though somewhere along the way the original values and good intentions got lost. The revolution ends up betraying the people who fought for it in the first place, and sometimes, it even transforms into the oppressor they fought against originally.
Yet, isn’t this how progress happens? No one movement is going to be the end of change. Human freedom is something that must be continually fought for, with each new generation. I’m reminded of a quote from Samuel Beckett’s work Worstward Ho (1983),
All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Gifs will never go out of style. NEVER I SAY!!
As we see our songs grow and change, we often forget their humble beginnings. For our song Rosin and Horsehair, we meticulously saved and recorded all the versions of this song, from a honky-tonk MIDI file to the final mastered product. Doing this, we came to appreciate how much work we put into the song after each step.
Here it is! Please follow along with the description below while you listen this compilation. Hint: whenever you hear a hawk screeching, that signifies a change in version!
Rosin and Horsehair: A Compilation of All Versions by The Ruffled Feathers
0:00 – 0:05 – Final Mastered Introduction
0:05 – 0:13 – Original Version in Sibelius
0:13 – 0:28 – MIDI Version in Logic
0:28 – 0:59 – Scratch Track
0:59 – 1:37 – Roughly Mixed Version
1:37 – 2:10 – Revised Mixed Version
2:10 – 2:54 – Final Mixed Version
2:54 – 3:41 – Final Mastered Version
…and now just to reiterate, here all all the versions in chronological order again.
3:41 – 3:49 - Original Version in Sibelius
3:49 – 3:57 - MIDI Version in Logic
3:57 – 4:05 - Scratch Track
4:05 – 4:13 – Roughly Mixed Version
4:13 – 4:20 - Final Mixed Version
4:20 – end – Final Mastered Version
Another one of Andrew's weird, wonderful songs. I made this little Flash game for it. I think it's pretty cool! It doesn't really have much too it, you just kind of wander around a haunted house, but you can make it a little scavenger hunt for yourself. Try to find these things within the time of the song playing (make sure you have your sound on):
A ghost in a mirror
A ghost by a creek
Eyes beneath a staircase
A piano that plays itself
A diary with strange entries
A headless suit of armor
A dungeon map
If nothing loads below, you may need to download/updated your flash player: http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/
That time that I didn't make it across the American border (head slap), and the band had to improvise in Seattle to find a drummer at the last minute.
Andrew's account of the story:
TOUR BLOG: CHAPTER 2 – THE CASE OF THE MISSING DRUMMER
Meanwhile in Seattle, Matty had picked up his brother’s vehicle at a neighbour’s house and spotted a drumset in the window. This is America after all, and not any time to be too overcome with timidity. Matty knocked on the door and figured out the drums belong to a guy named Davie. As Matty and Gina waited for Davie to come home, they began to realize that the house was more of a collective, sort of an international hostel with an open door policy. Friends were made, drinks were had and roasted chickpeas were devoured until Davie arrived- a pony-tailed easy-going dude with calm eyes and a handsomely genuine smile.
At 7:00PM, Davie arrived at the Seamonster Lounge for soundcheck. He helped us unload, got a quick rundown of all the songs and we began. The venue is small, but lucky for us it seemed full and the crowd – a mixture of friends, friends-of-friends, occupants of the collective house, a redditor and a boyfriend – listened not just with their ears but with their eyes. What a relief as a musician to have an audience that cares about music as much as we do about performing.
What could have been a disaster was in fact a borderline success. Sure, some of the songs ended up pretty botched but the majority were surprisingly good and nobody really notices mistakes if you smile enough. Davie did a remarkable job at improvisation and following the axe-chopping action of Matty’s bass in the abrupt endings of some of our songs. Even though we can barely afford this adventure of ours, we paid him for his work because he deserved it and because it’s the right thing to do.
We made a net $12, and that night we pulled up our socks and drove all the way to Portland.
From Charley's departing post:
To friends, fans, and casual appreciators,
The Ruffled Feathers will be playing the Biltmore on July 6th, and it is set to be my final show with this fine group of musicians.
Since The Ruffled Feathers first breathed life in 2009, we have always seen the World as an equal to our appetite. We have been an ambitious group, seeking to make art well beyond our meagre means, and often surprising ourselves as well as those who appreciate our music.
The reason for my departure is that I am going back to school this Fall. I’ll be starting a Master’s of Cognitive Science at the University of Vienna, which is a long way away from here. This is something I’ve been putting off for the past 4 years, due to my desire to explore the possibilities of music.
There’s been so much to enjoy and to be proud of, during my tenure as music maker and song writer with The Ruffled Feathers.
So please, come out to my last show this Saturday, where some well-loved songs will be retired, and we can celebrate new adventures to be had. A heartfelt thank you to all the people who have ever supported us, come to our shows, or fed and housed us while on the road. Thank you to those who have taken the time to tell us our music has made an impact on their lives.
This is Charley Wu signing off.
One of my favourite things that we've done with the new group, in spite of the inherent wonkiness of recording on a slightly out-of-tune outdoor piano. Little Sister is actually an older Charley Wu song, but adding a string section along with new band members gives it a new life - the impromptu bicycle choir adds a nice little something extra as well.