Sunday brought the opportunity to interview Justin Ringle of Portland’s indie/folk band, Horse Feathers.
Randomville: What do you think has caused your sudden increase in fans?
Justin Ringle: One thing is we’ve been touring a lot more than when we first started. Right now we’re going on tour until the end of this year. Obviously, our record label does a really good job. The longer we’ve been with them the more they help us out.
Rv: Do you have a bigger following in Europe?
JR: We’ll see. We haven’t played there in about a year. Honestly, I felt the first few times we were there, we had a bigger following than the States. Now I don’t know because the states has been getting a lot better.
Rv: Do you anticipate your band members will keep changing?
JR: I hope not. I really like playing with these guys. My previous people both wanted to do other projects and career stuff. So that happens, but we’ve been playing really consistently now for about two years.
Rv: Are there any new instruments you want to add in the future?
JR: Oh God. Always. I haven’t really put my mind to the new record yet because we’ve been so busy but that’s when I usually start to dream up new things. I’ll probably make Sam [Cooper] learn three more instruments.
Rv: Have you started writing the new album yet?
JR: Not really. I always have ideas but I’ll probably start the beginning of this next year. I’ll start digging into it.
Rv: What music have you been into lately?
JR: Oh man, lately I’ve been obsessed with The Beatles catalogue which is a pretty obvious one. My answers to these are always so mundane: Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, all those guys. I really, really like Graham Nash, and Aaron Copland I’ve listened to quite a bit.
Rv: Do you listen to any surprising genres?
JR: We occasionally break into some hip hop, which is the diametrical opposite of what we do. But Lil Wayne is pretty sick. I like vintage Wu Tang.
Rv: What do you want people to get out of your music?
JR: Whatever they would like. In a certain way, yes you make the record but as soon as you release it, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. Whatever people make of it, there’s no way you can control how it influences them or subjectively what they’re taking from it. I don’t really worry about that. It’s just up to everybody else to decide.
Rv: What do you like to write about?
JR: It’s always changing. My first record was much more of a breakup, lost love kind of thing. I was definitely coming from that kind of place, being kind of wounded. My second records was definitely more of a displaced, uncomfortable feeling through the whole writing process. But this new record felt like a new leaf. It was really trying to explore changes and changes in my life. I think ultimately each album and what I write about changes with my life unavoidably, sometimes consciously sometimes subconsciously. That’s kind of part of the puzzle of being an artist.
Rv: What instrument do you primarily write on?
JR: Always guitar. I’ve been writing on piano a little bit. The first track on the new record is on piano. I’m no piano player, but it’s fun to pick out simple tunes. Then the banjo a little bit. I wrote one song on banjo for this last album and then we have a 7″ coming out November with a tune I wrote on banjo.
Rv: What guitars do you use?
JR: I have a bunch. I tour with two new Yamaha acoustics and a vintage one that’s a high strung guitar I use for a couple of songs. I take those because, honestly, they’re a little cheap and I wouldn’t be heartbroken if they were stolen or broken. At home I have another vintage Yamaha that I’ve had for awhile and a sixties Framus guitar which is this weird German guitar and an old nylon string.
Rv: What do you want your future work to sound like?
JR: I don’t know yet. You know what I mean? That’s part of the fun of making new records. Trying new things on for size. I always like it to change a bit. It’s funny, to a casual listener I’m sure somebody would just say that all our records sound the same but to someone who likes them, they can tell the distinct differences between them. I just hope to keep that up and constantly evolve incrementally through each record.
Rv: How did you find your bandmates?
JR: All very differently. When Peter Broderick used to play with me, he recommended Nate [Crockett]. They played music together for a long time. Nate’s mom was both of their violin instructors. Sam, I meant through a mutual friend, but coincidentally he responded to a Craig’s List ad when I was looking for a roommate at the same time. Then I asked him the next week to go on tour. Catherine [Odell], I internet stalked because I knew she was a local cellist who played in another band.
Rv: Describe the Portland music scene.
JR: I honestly don’t know. I’ve been gone too much to say what it is currently. Generally, of course the typical response is that it’s this tight knit community and everyone helps each other out. There’s definitely that feeling since it is a smaller town and you are going to know most people in a year. I think it’s just so weird because as soon as we started to become more national you get so subtracted from what’s happening at the grassroots level and what’s going on in the basements.
Rv: What’s your musical upbringing?
JR: I grew up as the band nerd. My first instrument was trumpet and I played it until my senior year of high school. Then I taught myself to play guitar when I was 14 and began writing songs. I had lots of time; there’s wasn’t a whole lot to do in Idaho.