Ruffled Feathers

Blueprints For Our Failed Revolution

This week, the Ruffled Feathers are debuting a really exciting video called “Blueprints For Our Failed Revolution.” The video, premiering May 11 at the Biltmore, is a testament to the local band’s d.i.y. ethos. As well as recording, mixing and mastering their first EP, Lost Cities, themselves, not to mention organizing their own shows, their video was recently pulled off on a shoestring budget via borrowed equipment and the guerilla filmmaking tactics of up-and-coming filmmaker Geoff Vincent. Peter Hagge assisted with camera-work and lighting, and band founder Charley Wu co-produced the video with Vincent. Discorder caught up with Wu, bassist Matty Jeronimo, and multi-instrumentalist Gina Loes at Our Town Cafe between shots to discuss filming in the woods, on the beach, up on Mount Seymour and about certain escapades they had with the Vancouver Fire Department. Spoiler: for one of the scenes, Wu played a piano they had lit on fire. He had to switch to the lower notes because the keys on the right side were bubbling from the heat!

Discorder: So you guys have a video release coming up with a couple other bands: Call Before You Dig, and the Ponderosas. Maybe you could tell me a bit about this video?

Charley: Well I’ve been working on it for a couple months – Geoffrey Vincent is the one who’s shooting it. If you see this video, give this guy a job, please! He’s doing a fantastic job with this video. We’ve been working on it for the past couple months – we have like a shoestring budget. We’ve burned a piano in the middle of the woods, we carried a desk strapped to our backs up Mount Seymour, we went to a burnt down juvie hall off the Sea-to-Sky highway. Every time we’ve gone out, probably about six times so far, it’s been a great adventure and we’re really excited for this to be done.

D: Some guerilla film-making action!

Matty: Yeah, the video is for a single from our upcoming album. “Blueprints for Our Failed Revolution,” that’s the single. We don’t know what the album’s called yet.

D: Are any other songs going to be on the single too?

M: No, just going to be this release with the video and the song – probably give it away for free on Bandcamp.

C: Yep, try a new format kind of thing. Like a “video single.”

M: Maybe attach some pictures and stuff.

C: We got a lot of art in the process of making this!

D: So what was your most memorable show that you’ve ever played?

Gina: Parade of Lost Souls.

[note: The official Commercial Drive parade was cancelled for 2009 and 2010 but the band played in a back-alley for the “Secret Souls Walk” on Halloween 2010].

M: I think so!

C: Yeah, that was pretty awesome. We all dressed up as wizards.

M: Various kinds of wizards!

C: This is for Halloween right, so we’re playing in a garage for Parade of Lost Souls, like tons of people walking by…

M: Some random middle aged guy’s garage, not a friend’s garage!

C: And! This random middle aged guy and all his friends are dressed up as mummies dancing on the roof of this garage! [laughs] It was amazing.

M: And we thought we were just going to play for like 45 minutes or an hour, but we ended up playing our set four times in a row!

G: By the end we were getting pretty good!

M: Everyone was just like, “PLAY MORE TUNES!” It was crazy.

D: So you were playing the same songs four times?

C: Well we played our whole set, which is about an hour, right? We played for 3 hours straight. We actually played a couple songs that Matty and Sam never played before as well.

M: Yeah, we did. We played a song we didn’t know!

G: We brought our own PA and everything. We did it with Oker Chen, he was the one who got us the gig… and yeah, somebody brought us pizza, there was a smoke machine going off, most of the people were dancing…

M: Oh yeah! Random person bringing us pizza and beers… that was maybe like one of the happiest things that’s ever happened to me. Like, someone saw me playing music, appreciated it, and they bought me pizza. Yeah!

G: And all of our stuff was running through one outlet, is that right?

M: Yeah, and it kept getting overloaded! I’d have to switch the PA off and on during the set while I was playing bass!

G: And whenever the microphones would go out, we’d just pick up the megaphone and improvise.

C: Yeah, that was a great idea – actually that was the first time we ever started using the megaphone. Now it’s a regular guest at our shows, a regular member of the band.

G: That’s right, it was borrowed that time.

D: How did you decide to have a megaphone for that?

C: I asked Oker for one.

G: Yeah, Oker’s friend had one and we picked it up for the show.

D: So what are your favourite pastimes, other than music?

G: I make pots, and I’m getting my Yoga certification to teach.

C: I’m trying to publish a short story. Next year I’m working with this illustrator from Ontario – I spent a lot of time making this video. I’m taking care of these birds, they’re awesome! They’re pet finches – they’re named Blood Axe and Morgan Freebird and they fly around our house and whenever I write songs they let me know when it’s good, because they’ll start tripping! [everyone laughs] I’m serious! They’re my harshest critics.

D: So how did you guys get started?

C: Me and Gina met at the [UBC] Gallery actually. They had open mics there. My friend Alan was running them at the time, and I think we just started collaborating on some songs. We started working on some more stuff and it kinda went on from there.

M: Did you play any shows with just Gina?

G: We played one show in Place Vanier for like, a battle of the bands thing.

C: We were too cool for them.

G: It was really bad.

C: We were not prepared.

D: How did you place in the Battle of the Bands?

C: No, it wasn’t a Battle of the Bands, I think it was something else – it was like a talent show.

G: Like a more formal talent show.

C: It was a showcase.

G: Yeah, it was alright, we played [Charley’s] melodica. That was fun.

C: That got stolen last summer, actually.

M: I got a melodica!

C: That was a special one though because it was called a melodion and I nicknamed it Celine the Melodion – it was very special.

D: So how did you get roped into this, Matty?

M: Actually, me and Sam the drummer are newer, and we were playing with another band, more like singer-songwriter group. The girl for that was Gina’s friend, so we met Gina through her and they had just lost their bass player and drummer, so we kinda phased into the Ruffled Feathers.

C: Well, you took pictures at our FarmAde show, right? So that’s the first time I met you, I think. After that, you joined our band.

M: Yeah I just knew Gina and came to watch their shows because I liked the band, and then Gina was just like, “Do you wanna play bass in our band?” and I’m like, “Alright, yeah. I think I will.”

G: And so it was!

M: And so it was… And then I took control and made a website.

D: Oh, you did the website… nice.

C: Great job. I think one thing that sets us apart from a lot of other bands is, as an independent band, we’re doing a really good job [of promoting ourselves]. There’s that stereotype that musicians are all really flakey, and I think we’re kinda trying to challenge that. Like for this Biltmore show, we’re organizing it and promoting it ourselves.

M: And we’re pretty on top of it.

C: Yeah I think if we get a good deal from a label, maybe we’d like to get signed, but as it stands we don’t need a label right now, and as long as we have enough time and energy we can keep putting out this music.

G: We have a lot of diverse skills.

C: Yeah, we’re a good team.

D: You’re doing a good job! So I’m curious about when you make songs, when you prepare them for a recording. Do you use any sort of “studio magic” afterwards, or is it mostly just recorded and mixed?

M: Not really.

C: All the stuff we’ve produced ourselves, we’ve mastered and mixed ourselves – I think with this new upcoming album we’d like to send it out to someone to master…

M: Well, I mean, as far as the stuff that’s on the recordings, it’s all just like actual performances. I mean, we’ll do layered vocals, like we’ll layer Gina’s vocals over herself.

C: Yeah we do trumpet harmonies. That works really well.

M: So that’s the only studio thing we do, just layering of stuff.

G: Things that we can’t do on stage because we don’t have two mouths or ten hands.

M: We don’t have any particular devotion to, “you have to record only what you can play live,” you know what I mean? But at the same time, we don’t want to add a bunch of crazy sound effects, or that thing where the song’s going and then it slows down.

C: You mean you don’t want to auto-tune our next album? Cause I was thinking of doing that. [laughs]

M: Yeah we were thinking of branching in that direction…

G: I think we’ll do more layering and adding to the actual recording this [upcoming] album then we did for our other recordings.

C: There was talk about a space album in the future.

M: I think that’s a side project. I don’t think everyone’s as enthusiastic about that as me and Charley – [to Wu] you know that cheap little keyboard I have that’s like the same as yours? That makes such good space sounds!

C: Oh yeah, the Fireworks patch.

M: When I’m going to bed at night I just sit in my bed and make space noises, like “wee woo wee woo BOMM,” and it’s awesome.

D: Do you have a lot of side projects besides the Ruffled Feathers?

C: I’ve got Gunshot Wounds.

G: Is that still happening?

C: Yeah I guess so, we had one show, we’re going to record another video soon of Ennio Morricone’s “The Good The Bad and the Ugly” theme. [everyone hums the theme]

C: We’ve been practising that a lot. We’re thinking of doing a video down by the train tracks, but yeah, me and my roommate like to play music when we have nothing else better to do.

M: I play guitar in a funk band as well.

G: I used to do more solo stuff. I don’t do it much anymore, but I might get into it again.

B: So what’s your favourite local band?

G: Brasstronaut.

C: That’s a tough call, I like a bunch of local bands.

G: I like Trike. I don’t know if they’re around anymore, but at the time they were my favourite.

C: That’s a really tough call, I don’t know what to say.

G: Well, there’s Mother Mother. Every new song I hear on the radio, I’m like, “I love this, who is this?” It’s always them!

M: We wanted to play with them at the Biltmore. We like Wintermitts; we like they’re music.

G: Let’s play with Mother Mother!

C: We did a show with Hannah Epperson once. She’s this local violin player and she’s amazing. You should check her out.

G: She’s like a female Andrew Bird.

C: Or Owen Pallet.

G: More Owen Pallet, I guess.

M: I like Said the Whale. They’re really nice and I’m really happy that they’re getting successful. That’s awesome.

G: I like Hey Ocean too.

C: I jammed once with Tyler from Said the Whale on the beach a couple years ago. That was before I knew who he was.

M: My friend, the drummer in my other band is dating Jaycelyn, the keyboard player in Said the Whale, and I didn’t know that, but I found that out and I was like “Oh man, you’re pseudo famous!” Not really, but kind of!

G: Gina kind of got semi-internet famous at one point. Our music went viral briefly on the Internet – we were actually the number one album on Bandcamp in Canada for a little while – and all these people were commenting. Apparently this one anonymous guy took an extra semester at UBC just so he could keep buying pasta from Gina [at her work].

G: Ridiculous… aren’t you guys glad you have a girl in the band?

M: We definitely are! We need you. How goofy would we be without you?

D: What’s coming up?

C: Me and Matt are getting up at five tomorrow morning to shoot at the beach. We might be sleeping on the beach, or I might be sleeping at Matty’s house… haven’t figured that out yet. If I sleep on the beach I can just roll out of my sleeping bag and be like “what took you guys so long?”

G: Camp out, that would be wild!

C: Actually, I just need a vacation from this music video. I work full time, 40 hours a week, and this video’s probably about 20 or 30 hours a week, and then band practice and shows, which is just crazy. After the shoot on Monday, I slept for 12 hours on Tuesday. I was so tired!

M: Maybe we should talk about the shoot on Monday and our escapades!

C: Oh, the firemen came!

M: We brought back real, fair-trade, harvested rubble from the burnt down juvie hall in Squamish back to downtown Vancouver in trash bags!

C: And set it up in a studio on Hastings and Cambie.

M: We were setting up this scene where we were rising up out of rubble or something so we need like a little hill of rubble.

C: There’s this [Eugene] Delacroix painting of Lady Liberty leading the French Revolution, and we were trying to recreate that, except with Gina not having her boobs out…

G: We discussed it!

C: But other than that, it’s a pretty faithful recreation of it. So we had this big pile of rubble and we’re shooting the smoke machine at it, we did probably like a couple takes, and the place is getting really really smokey and one of the fire alarms went off. We just turned it off, it was fine, but we’re not quite sure, because someone called the [fire department]!

M: I think the system was hooked into the 911 system.

C: Anyways, all of the cops come – sorry, the firemen come. We went to the window to look, then we realized, “Wait a second, should we be looking out the window?” We all had head bandages on, we rubbed ash on our faces so our faces were all black and charred, and someone outside might look up. They’d probably see all these kids, like, “Oh wait, they’re burned but they already received medical attention!”

M: We just look out and there’s tons of firemen on the ground! Man, that stuff you put in my hair didn’t come out for like four days!

C: What are you talking about?

G: The cork! The burnt cork!

M: Yeah this random guy that was there…

C: He was painting behind the set.

M: He got really into it and grabbed a cork and started burning it and rubbing it all over us!

G: It felt good; I liked it!

C: You guys… and then [Andrew Lee, the Ruffled Feathers’ trumpet player] kept putting this worm on his arm bandage – his hand bandage. Weird kid! I can totally see him as a kid playing with worms and then eating them.

M: Our band is a bunch of weird kids. It’s really a Motley Crew.

D: You’re a hard working indie band, essentially!

C: I guess. And the dream is to be able to do this without working our day job because it’s really sucking my soul. I don’t know about your guys’ souls…

M: I think it might have already sucked all of my soul out.

G: Haha, no…

C: That’s why at night me and the Ruffled Feathers go out and seek souls to suck, to rejuvenate our own souls which have been sucked by our day jobs, which starts a never ending cycle! So if you guys come to our show, and we can afford to stop working day jobs, we can stop sucking the souls of other people, and thus save humanity!

The Ruffled Feathers play their video release at the Biltmore this Wednesday, May 11.