In 2005 the multi-talented singer/songwriter Erin Zindle set out to find the right group of musicians to give life to the songs she had written. The result of her search – the Ragbirds.
By Robert Daniel
he quintet from Ypsilanti, Michigan, performs its self-described “infectious global grove” all across the Midwest and into the Western United States. While clearly maintaining roots in folk rock, the group will often branch off into sounds from seemingly every corner of the globe with an uncanny ease. In the infancy of the group, the band stuck to more “folksy” and gentler tones, but their sound has since evolved into one of more energy and one that caters to a lively audience.
“Over the years I’ve gotten a clearer vision of what now has become The Ragbirds’ sound, and the demand for songs that are more dance-able at our live shows has stretched our music more in that direction,” says Zindle. Her connection to global music is evident through each Ragbirds song. “I am a white girl from suburban Buffalo, N.Y., and I’m writing tarantellas and tangos and songs with Gypsy, Celtic and Latin feel,” Zindle says. “My love of world music has thoroughly seeped through the cracks and found its way into to my own songs.”
The sheer abundance of instruments on stage, coupled with the Ragbirds’ apparent talent, reflects the group’s versatility and allows the band to take its music in any direction it sees fit. “We do a lot of improvisation live in our instrumental solos and we try to let the crowd’s energy lead the songs,” says Zindle. The Ragbirds are solely comprised of multi-instrumentalists: Erin Zindle (vocals, violin, mandolin, banjo, accordion, piano), TJ Zindle (electric/acoustic guitars, vocals, percussion), Randall Moore (conga, djembe, timbales, tabla, percussion), Dan Hildebrandt (bass, percussion, vocals) and Tim Dziekan (conga, harmonica, djembe, percussion). The band shows off its wide array of tempos and sound with the upbeat, violin-laden Tarentella, off the 2007 release Wanderlove, which contrasts the electric guitar-aided, slower track, Get In, off the group’s most recent release, Finally Almost Ready. Zindle’s sweet, yet powerful voice really captures the listener’s ear as her thoughtful lyrics compliment the music perfectly. “[Using many instruments] is like having more colors on my palette and I’m the kind of artist that loves having many options,” she explained.
The Ragbirds take their talent on the road often, playing 120 to 150 shows a year. The group has played popular festivals such as Rothbury and 10,000 Lakes. According to Zindle, the group’s most notable performance to date was in May 2009 at the Green Room Festival in Yokohama, Japan, for over 5,000 people. “Being in a foreign country, surrounded by a foreign language and immersed in this rich, beautiful culture is so inspiring. But then to have the opportunity to get on stage and rock – inexplicable!” says Zindle. Indeed, the “global groove ” of the Ragbirds’ music shines through in the live show, as the audience takes a high-energy trip across the world with the music as the means of transportation. “My music is my way of traveling when I can’t afford a plane ticket,” Zindle says.
The Ragbirds will be on the move this fall as they tour on the West Coast for the first time, traveling in their van fueled solely by waste vegetable oil. “We’re always breaking new ground and trying to spread the music as far and wide as we can,” says Zindle. “This is what we love to do.”
Check out the Ragbirds website:http://www.theragbirds.com/html/flash.html