Q: As you know by now, I’m a huge fan of the band and love your sound, which I often compare you to The Ballroom Thieves but you have a new single releasing Friday September 4th and it’s completely different from the usual songs you’ve recorded. Take me through the writing and recording process on this one:
Erika: Sirens came to life under the circumstances of the a Covid 19 pandemic. It was also around the time of my kidney transplant when this song sprouted new branches. Though Ryan wrote it about a year ago on his guitar, based off one of his poems, and though we planned to record it with just an acoustic and both of us singing, fate had other plans for its final passage. I put down drum tracks before my surgery. We were actually planning to do a whole album, mostly acoustic, but time got funky and making music became less a priority, especially after my transplant. While I was recovering, Ryan began to mess around with piano and additional beats just to build an arrangement map. He was really just biding his time, waiting for me to get better so we could continue to work on the album.
Ryan: I was exploring a new direction in composition, letting my creative guard down, arranging and composing everything from pure emotion, using sound and color as my guide. As I worked, I would concentrate on thoughts of Erika healing and growing strong again. It became a mantra in all my decisions and actions. I would work on it alone while Erika was resting, I wasn’t really trying to get anywhere with it but eventually it started to sound really good, yet totally different than our usual sound. Since we were doing everything backwards, we still didn’t have vocals, so I just kept messing around with the music. I pulled my original guitar tracks out and recorded into a reverse effect and sprinkled parts throughout. About three weeks or so after Erika’s surgery, she was able to lay down the vocals. I had bought a really nice tube mic for her and we used it for the first time on Sirens. I remember the moment she first began singing into that mic, standing in the middle of our bedroom in just her underwear because it was so unbearably hot in the early August heat wave and you can’t run a noisy AC when you record. It was heaven to my ears. She sounded so good, I decided I didn’t need to sing on this one, so we kept it as is. In the end, it really came together in such a different way than we intended, but it felt natural, transcending into a song that definitely reflects common emotion and abstract perception, that we all share one way or another, especially these days. Like all our songs, Sirens took on its own life, reflecting our perception about the times we live in. We hope people find a positive connection with this one. For me it’s very meditative, almost trance-like. This song was obviously meant for Erika’s voice. It has so much color, hence the track art. In the face of this pandemic, we’ve all experienced tragedy but hopefully some miracles and blessing as well. I feel very thankful and hopeful despite not knowing what the future holds. I could say more, but it’s all in the lyrics, in her voice and in the colors.
Q: You also have a couple of other songs you released in December 2019, Footsteps and Let Go in May of this year. Are you working on a full length album?
Erika: Footsteps and Let Go are on the album “Let Go” which was released on May 15, 2020. All the songs on that album are a compilation of singles we released over the last year. Sirens is part of a new album we are working on.
Q: For those of you who do not know, Muddy Ruckus consists of 2 members, Ryan Flaherty and Erika Stahl. What I love about you as musicians is that so many songs sound so different and I attribute that to the numerous amount of instruments you guys can play. Who plays what instrument and talk about that drum set?
Erika: Ryan plays guitar and banjo and I’m the percussionist. The drum kit is definitely not the standard set up. It consists of a snare, floor Tom, high-hat and a suitcase kick drum. The suitcase is an old American Tourister hard shell. It’s one tough cookie! It’s held up pretty well considering 5 years of touring packed with equipment and me pounding on it.
Q: 2020 has been a not so great year for musicians but has been a good year for both of you as far as Erika’s health is concerned. How did going through this health scare make the both of you stronger?
Erika: The start of the year was rough for us. I would up in the hospital right after Christmas – for kidney failure. I had to have a catheter put in my chest so I could begin receiving dialysis treatments right away. Despite being on dialysis, I wanted to continue performing and touring so we set out in February on our scheduled tour through Florida and Texas, doing daily dialysis along the way. While in Florida, I got the phone call that a friend was approved to donate one of her kidneys to me and surgery was scheduled for April. This was amazing news and such a huge blessing. Of course, Covid-19 happened and my surgery was pushed back a month but I was able to have the surgery on May 26th. My donor and I had to go through surgery and recovery in the hospital alone because of the virus. It was hard for Ryan and I, my donor and her husband, not being able to be with our loved ones as we went through this but everything went well and she and I were both out of the hospital after three days. Ryan and my son took care of me as I recovered the first few weeks after the transplant. Don’t know what I would have done without them! It’s now been three months since the transplant and I’m doing great! I’ve fully recovered from surgery and the new kidney is functioning at 100%! I think I can speak for both of us and say that going through all this in addition to dealing with Covid mentally and spiritually prepared us to handle whatever else may come our way and we are much stronger in our relationship and life in general.
Q: The impact of Covid-19 has had on small independent music venues has been devastating. What are your hopes of how the music industry & these smaller venues might be able to survive?
Erika: It’s so sad what’s happening to these venues. We lost Port City Music Hall here in Maine and that’s just one of many across the country. Our hopes are that Congress will step up and come through with support for small independent venues so they can get through this time and that local communities will continue to support their local venues in any way possible.
Q: What was your favorite quarantine “go to” snack, restaurant and drink?
A: Carl’s Meat Market in Kittery, Maine has definitely been our Go To. It’s really close to home and they make the best sandwiches and breakfast sandwiches around.
Q: Will we see another online music show/concert from you soon?
Erika: We’re actually playing an outdoor socially distanced show on September 5th at Maine Craft Distilling. As far as online shows go, we do plan on doing more of those but don’t have any dates set as of now.
Q: Where can fans find your music?
A: You can find our music and merch through our website muddyruckus.com , SoundCloud, Spotify and Apple Music.
Thanks Erika and Ryan! Make sure you go check out their single out today!! Stay tuned for more interviews with XI:XI; The Thieves About and The Hellcats..
Until next time, I’m Your Music Stylist – Linda Dias