Artist Spotlight: The Ruffled Feathers
Columns / November 28, 2016
Unique instrumentation meets homegrown talent
I’ve always had a passion for brass in the music I listen to, and The Ruffled Feathers have been my local fix for years.
The band’s sound is exuberant and gentle at the same time, described by front woman Gina Loes as “heavy on horns, piano-driven, upbeat, and great to dance to.” I have to agree—it’s hard to sit still while listening to The Ruffled Feathers. In fact, it’s nearly as challenging as filing them under a specific genre. Their style seems to include a bit of everything, from jazz to pop to fifties doo-wop. The band has an eclectic sound and self-appointed title of “talented weirdos.”
“Eclectic, yes. Weirdos?” says Loes, laughing, “Well, only sometimes. We like to play around with different genres and challenge ourselves musically. Our songs have always drawn from various influences and have created something really unique, we think.”
And they’re absolutely right, there’s nothing quite like The Ruffled Feathers. A few of the band’s influences—such as Beirut, Cat Power, Laura Marling, Sharon Van Etten, Paul Simon, and Sufjan Stevens—combine to create something fascinating and whimsical. The jubilant theatricality of acts like Beirut and Sufjan mingle with the calm folkiness of Simon and Marling, striking the perfect balance between over and underwhelming.
Still, their varying influences aren’t the only reason for the band’s diverse style, the size and composition of the group plays an important role as well. Gina Loes and Andrew Lee team up on vocals, with Loes also on guitar/ukelele and Lee on trumpet. Sophia Xiang’s on keys, Paolo Brian’s on bass, and siblings Sam and Molly MacKinnon cover percussion and strings.
The band’s been together since 2009, and although the lineup has changed since its foundation, their talent and ambition has stayed the same.
“We’ve always been really lucky to have multiple songwriters in the band. Everyone brings something unique,” explains Loes. “I think for the most part, we all prefer to write alone. Once we have an idea that we like and are proud of, it’s a lot of fun to share it with the group and watch it transform.”
When questioned about their affinity for horns, she responded, “We like horns because we like Andrew! Andrew, you can have as many horns as you want. Go wild.”
She also noted their use of brass as a way to set themselves apart from other indie bands.
Lyrically, the band focuses on a few general themes: new loves, good loves, long-gone loves, travel, and mental health.The themes have been consistent, although The Ruffled Feathers have taken huge strides forward.
“We’ve gone from doing things at home, to recording ourselves and hiring out mixing, to working with some really talented producers. We’ve also gotten a lot more comfortable in the studio and with recording our music, and have all become stronger songwriters and performers,” says Loes.
The Ruffled Feathers can be seen playing unconventional venues all over the city of Vancouver. Their albums can be heard on their Bandcamp page.