Horse Feathers singer talks absurdity, changing it up and band's 10-year anniversary tour

eshaw@islandpacket.comApril 9, 2014 

Horses Feathers will perform April 11 at Ampersand in Savannah.



    WHAT: Horse Feathers and mumbledust

    WHEN: 9 p.m. April 11. Doors open at 8 p.m.

    WHERE: Ampersand, 36 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Savannah

    COST: $10-$12

    DETAILS: 21 and older only. To purchase tickets, go to

It started with an image of a horse with feathers.

The juxtaposition of something large and heavy with something light and airy appealed to singer Justin Ringle, who took the name Horse Feathers when he started performing in Portland, Ore., in 2004.

"At the time I was trying to think of something that sounded a little antique," he said. "If you literally think about it, it is kind of silly."

The term "horsefeathers" is also a word meaning nonsense or rubbish.

"I heard my grandfather saying it growing up. It was just kind of one of those weird, American idiomatic phrases," Ringle said.

Ten years and four albums later, Ringle has been joined by a rotating cast of musicians, but the name Horse Feathers has stuck.

In celebration of Horse Feathers' 10-year anniversary, the band is touring across the Eastern U.S., stopping in Savannah on April 11 with local group mumbledust as the opening act.

The band will play songs from its three albums under record label Kill Rock Stars, 2008's "House With No Home," 2010's "Thistled Spring" and 2012's "Cynic's New Year." The catalog is also being reissued as a four-cassette box set, including five unreleased tracks and various covers.

"We've been changing our style a little bit," Ringle said. "I kind of wanted to go out and do one more run playing with a more traditional set up."

In the last year, Ringle has added drummer Dustin Dybvig to the group of multi-instrumentalist Nathan Crockett, cellist Lauren Vidal and violinist Angie Kuzma.

At its heart, the band's sound is a delicate balance of melancholy and whimsy -- embodying its name with equal parts heavy and light.

There are quiet moments of Ringle's soft vocals backed by subtle, swelling strings that feel simple and lush at once. Fans of Iron & Wine, Bon Iver and Local Natives will enjoy Horse Feathers' folk-based instrumentation as well as Ringle's hushed vocals.

Perhaps best of all, however, is Ringle's ability to straddle the line between serious and silly. For example, a well-circulated photo features the band with a taxidermied bird on a leash, inspired by a song of the same name.

"It's an another absurd notion. The idea of having a pet bird attached to a leash like a dog. It just seemed so ridiculous," Ringle said.

The taxidermied birds was something playful the group did with the photographer, but the song itself has a deeper meaning, he said. "The song is about something that's trying to be free and fly away but you're still holding it down. Grounding something that's supposed to fly just seemed like such a loaded image."

In the fall, Horse Feathers will record a new album, but Ringle first wanted to celebrate their 10-year anniversary by getting out of the West, he said.

"I'm kind of the only one person that's been there for the whole thing. So it's just funny. I can't even believe it's been 10 years."

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