ARR! | In My Other Band…

gypsy arr_smIn some bands I’m a peacekeeper, and in others a rabble rouser.

 

 

 

I interviewed three members of ARR!!! (Andrews, Ranney, and Rider): Bryan Ranney, Cree Rider, and Adam Andrews. All of these guys have multiple projects going on at once. It’s something a lot of serious musicians do, so it’s not uncommon to be in several bands.

gypsy arr

How was ARR!!! formed?

BR: The first show was in January 2013 at Mangia on South Grand. Cree and I first played together when he invited me to sit in with his Family Duo at the KDHX Woody Guthrie Tribute at Off Broadway. Soon after, we conspired (1) to pick up some extra gigs together when our other bands weren’t available, and (2) to form a project around Adam, because we think he’s wonderful.

AA: From my recollection ARR!!! was formed just over a year ago after a late-night jam after a late-night party. Bryan, Cree, and I were sitting around playing music, having fun, and we thought we were sounding good together, even after a late-night jam after a late-night party. We had a couple rehearsals, then booked a few gigs, then Glenn Burleigh made us sound good on our first release, which came out in March. It’s been a ton of fun!

Tell me about your musical history and/or what you projects you have going on.

BR: I play with lots of my friends in lots of bands. It’s probably safer for me to send you to www.BryanRanney.com, rather than risk leaving anybody out. (If you want to check out more on Bryan’s history, click here.)

AA: I play harmonica, spoons, and washboard. I am a metalsmith/copper artist. My current projects are with the bands listed above, and making copper flowers, and I’m excited about some hopefully soon-to-be belt buckles! I just received an Artist Support Grant from the STL Regional Arts Commission that will be used for some new harmonicas, microphones, and music lessons, studying basic theory, beginning piano, and chromatic harmonica.

I have been performing with the Bottoms Up Blues Gang for the past 13 years. I’ve known Brian Curran for about 13 years, and we have been performing as a duo for the past 5 or 6 years. I have been performing with Cree Rider Acoustic Family for about the last 6 months or so, and with Brian Ranney in some of his projects for maybe 3 or so years now. I was lucky enough to be on the Following the Water album a few years back. We have done some duo shows and we have shows coming up that I believe have enough people not to call it a duo.

The Dust Covers (Colin Blair of the Root Diggers on fiddle and mandolin, Brian Curran on guitar, and myself) just formed. We are going to focus on songs of the jug-band style and an emphasis on lighthearted and fun lyrics. We are performing at Midwest Mayhem this year for our first performance.

CR: I work with a licensing company in New York, and they have gotten several of my songs on shows on HBO, FX, Canadian TV, and independent films. The biggest things I’ve gotten are placements on John Leguizamo’s HBO Comedy Special Ghetto Klown, True Blood (HBO), and Justified (FX).

My other projects include Cree Rider Family Band, Cree Rider Acoustic Family, Cree Rider Family Duo, Cree Rider (solo), ARR!!!, and Lamp Commander.

What are the advantages or disadvantages to playing multiple bands?

BR: Playing in lots of bands is great, because you learn different types of music, expand your repertoire, and get to play more often. I’ve gained some perspective on myself as a player and as leader by taking on different roles in different projects. Sometimes I’m the boss, sometimes I’m a just a hired gun. Sometimes I do the booking; sometimes I write the songs; sometimes I sing; sometimes I play different instruments. In some bands I’m a peacekeeper, and in others a rabble rouser. You can’t learn that stuff about yourself and about the process unless you play with several different groups. The only disadvantage I can think of is limiting my availability, but that just forces me to stay organized.

AA: For me, the main advantage is that I get to meet and play and create with some incredible people and artists. The disadvantage for me is scheduling. I want to play with all of these people all of the time; I get bummed when I have to turn down gigs.

CR: The advantage is diversity of projects. Say I get a call for a gig: I have a variety of different bands that I can offer for a given situation. And if one member of one band can’t do it, I can check with my other bands. Also, you can play more often if you have several bands. You don’t necessarily want to play four times a month or more with one band, but if you have several projects, you can spread it out to maximize your draw and keep the venues happy.

gypsy arr_300The disadvantage might be that you could spread yourself too thin, in a way. Would one band do better if I focused all my time and attention on that one thing? For me, I don’t worry about this because I try to make each act different than the other, and also each band I am in gives me more creative outlets, ideas, and a larger pool of musicians to work with. In the end, I like to think of it as a giant collective, in which we can incorporate different musicians and ideas across all the acts. It’s all one band in the end.

What is the worst and best thing about playing live?

BR: I have a rule that I only play music live. Once I die, I’ll stop.

AA: The best and worst thing about playing live can be the crowd and/or my band mates. If the crowd is involved, it’s great. If all band mates are jelling well together, it’s great. If things are a miss, it can be a struggle. I am the “a miss” part some nights. It can be the worst to be feeling tired or burned out or low and have to go perform and be cordial and smile and be entertaining.

CR: The best is all the fun stuff. The playing and sharing of the music. The interactions with people who enjoy what you are doing. Getting paid is nice, though probably lower on the totem than those other things.

The worst is what makes it work. Playing music is a job for us, not a hobby. There are nights you’d rather be at home curled up with a good book, but you’ve got to be at the dive bar all night to play for some folks who are indifferent to you. Of course, that’s not every gig, but it is a part of the job.

What are your rehearsals generally like?

BR: ARR!!! doesn’t rehearse a whole lot. We basically learned one of the songs on our record in the studio the day we recorded it, then we had to re-learn it for the CD release show. If there’s a long stretch between shows, we’ll usually get together to brush up on the tunes and maybe add some new songs to our set.

AA: Sometimes it’s hard to find a time we all have available, so we don’t have a set time we get together. We try harder to get together when there is a show approaching. The rehearsals are generally a run-through the material, with extra focus on areas that one of us might need.

CR: I am a firm believer that you don’t want to over-practice. [Laughs] Actually, what generally happens is that everyone gets so busy with many other facets of their lives that it becomes difficult to find the time to rehearse on a regular basis. I know lots of other bands have weekly scheduled rehearsals and such, and in a way I am jealous of that, because it gives you plenty of time to work the specifics of each song.

So, after the initial investment of rehearsals, we tend to be pretty laid back and set up rehearsals on an “as needed” basis. Are we having a different bass player for this gig? Let’s rehearse. Are we having our normal band, and doing a one-set show of our best songs? OK, we know that stuff; no need to rehearse. Are we going into the studio to record some new tunes? Let’s rehearse.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing together?

BR: [Puns intended] We definitely grunt and make ARR!!!kward puns more often. “Tip your bARR!!!tender!” and that sort of thing. I think that’s a musical evolution, technically.

AA: Personally, since playing music with Cree and Bryan, my music has evolved a bunch. They are both songwriters in genres of music that I have not had as much experience in (I have come from a strong blues base), and it has helped developed my ear to hear different chord progressions and rhythms that may not be exactly natural to me. It has also helped me develop my ear to create the dynamic changes necessary and express the feel they are trying to create with the song. I respect the way Cree and Bryan approach music, from the artistic side to the professional side, to the dedication it takes to stay playing. I am learning from them just by hanging around.

CR: For ARR!!!, I think we are still evolving. I don’t know that we have found our “sound” yet, but we are searching for it, and that is the most rewarding part. I think at first, it was us just trying to get enough material to play a show, and the novelty of having a band called ARR!!!. Then we went into the studio with Glenn Burleigh as our producer, and he basically put together this really interesting recording which we released as a self titled EP. So, now we have a foundation, a starting point, something we can point to and say, “This is ARR!!!”. So, now we are exploring just exactly what that is.

What type of cereal would you best describe yourself as?

BR: [More puns] Lucky ChARR!!!ms. Duh.

AA: Maybe Cap’n Crunch, ’cause I like to wear hats, too.

CR: I’d like to think I’m Wheaties with Michael Jordan on the box, but I’m not that delusional. Probably a box of Cheerios. Simple, good, honest, heartfelt Cheerios. [Laughs] Especially good with some added ingredients. | DL Hegel


Photos by DL Hegel

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