After 10 years of indie Americana marked by the slow-burning sound of violin, cello, guitar and melancholic vocals, Justin Ringle, frontman for Horse Feathers, thought he was finished with sad songs, and therefore done with his career. He didn’t pick up his guitar for months.
But instead of finality, Ringle chose revision, replacing strings with drums on the band’s recent album, So It Is with Us, and, in that pivot, encouraging fans to want what they want for themselves: more joy and more fun.
It’s easy — though, of course, dismissive — to think joy and fun are ultimately not worthwhile ambitions or the goals of a summer day, not of serious music. However, Ringle describes the move plainly and without nuance. He wanted a different live experience, thus the exchange of emotive strings for the rowdiness of a rhythm section.
“Doing that changed the energy from the ground up, changing the architecture of the songs,” Ringle says.
The arrangement may look and sound different, but the songs are fueled by the same human conundrums. “Love, loss and death will forever be the most captivating subject matter for human beings,” Ringle tells EW. “I found what differentiates one’s art is how earnest the portrayal is. It’s really about being as honest as possible.”
“If you truly are honest and you try to make very earnest art, that in itself is going to make it unique,” Ringle continues. “That’s what I try to hold myself to when I’m writing songs.”
North Carolina’s indie-rock outfit River Whyless joins Horse Feathers 9:30 pm Saturday, Oct. 24, at Sam Bond’s Garage; $12. 21-plus.