Ragbirds take wing with world-music blend

Ragbirds take wing with world music blend

Erin Zindle, front, says Paul Simon's album "Rhythm of the Saints" caused her to open her mind to ethnic sounds.

Photo by Photographer: Joe Gall, Copyright: Joe Gall Photography 2009

Erin Zindle, front, says Paul Simon's album "Rhythm of the Saints" caused her to open her mind to ethnic sounds.

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Erin Zindle has the category of her band the Ragbirds:

"World music inspired folk rock," says Zindle. "I just have this love of world culture and the diversity of people. I can see it as a mosaic of this beautiful god. I would love to be able to bring my music back to some of the sources of inspiration — to be able to travel the world."

The group based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has done some world traveling by way of a tour to Japan. Zindle says she was amazed to see people in the audience mouthing the words to her songs.

Zindle grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and studied classical violin when she was very young. She began writing songs as a teenager.

"The first person I heard who influenced the type of music I do now is actually Paul Simon," says Zindle. "I heard Simon & Garfunkel first and then 'Rhythm of the Saints.' Hearing all that ethnic music put in there just struck a new chord in me. It's really revelatory. So I started to seek out other world music sounds. I started playing Irish music because my grandmother's Irish, but world music is the first time I really felt excited about a sound. That struck something new in me."

Zindle moved to Ann Arbor in 1998, just after graduating high school.

"I moved here because of a relationship, but I decided to stay here because the music community was just so strong," she says. "I love Ann Arbor. There's so many talented people here."

The Ragbirds started in 2005 when Randall Moore, then Zindle's boyfriend and now her husband, began helping Zindle record her original songs.

"He and I used to busk together. I'd play fiddle and he'd play tambourine and percussion and stuff."

Moore learned how to play a drum kit for the project and then the duo realized they needed a full band. With the idea of incorporating world music with rock and folk, the group came together quickly and found a local following.

"We really hit the road running and started finding shows right away," says Zindle. "We worked really hard to promote them. We're really ambitious people. When we do a show we poster the whole town and let everybody in the press know."

The line-up went through a few changes, and eventually Zindle's brother T.J. Zindle joined on as guitarist. Erin says the two had formed a band in high school, but could never get along. However, things have gone well in the Ragbirds.

"He added a much more rock 'n' roll edge to the music, because he's coming from a rock background. He's added a lot more electric guitar solos and a much more high energy stage show. He's fun to watch."

Zindle says the band is always adding new sounds to the Ragbirds concerts.

"It's like an addiction — collecting instruments. I'm always in search of a sound," she says.

On stage, Zindle regularly plays violin, accordion, mandolin and banjo, but more exotic instruments are finding their way on stage as well.

The Ragbirds are currently traveling the United States in a van that burns on used vegetable oil gathered from restaurants.

"When we're near the venue we look around and look at the GPS and look at which restaurants are around," says Zindle.

The band knows which restaurants have reputations for having good used cooking oil and then they ask if they'd mind them taking it. A few are surprised, but more and more, restaurant managers are used to people asking for their used oil.

"Out West there is a lot more people doing it and a lot more competition for it. Some people are locking up their grease traps."

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