Horse Feathers in Beaver Creek
VAIL CO, Colorado
Don’t show up at the Vilar Center Sunday night expecting a vaudeville act ala the Marx Brothers. Horse Feathers, despite having the same name as the 1932 film by the famous comedians, is a Portland, Ore. based band that sounds significantly more reverent.
“The tone of the music doesn’t translate to a Marx Brothers feel,” agreed frontman Justin Ringle. I’ve been battling through (the comparison) for six years; I’ve gotten immune to questions about the Marx Brothers.”
Instead, Ringle came up with the name back when he was playing solo shows and didn’t want to use his own name.
“It’s actually an old saying that means nonsense, or rubbish,” Ringle said. “It’s something I heard my grandfather say when I was growing up. It had an antique vibe to it that I liked.”
Ringle and his bandmates –violinist Nathan Crockett, cellist Catherine Odell and drummer Matt Morgan – will perform at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek Sunday night as part of the venue’s ongoing Underground Sound series. The second annual series is comprised of singer/songwriters “with something to say … The vibe is unpretentious, but the music is exceptional. It’s music with a message, but it’s easy on the senses,” according to the Vilar Center website.
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Sunday’s appearance will mark the band’s first time performing in Eagle County, though they’ve played nearly a dozen shows on the Front Range over the past few years.
Horse Feathers sound is layered and lush, with sweeping string solos and downright symphonic moments. It’s melancholy folk pop in the vein of Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and the like. On the band’s most recent album, “Thistled Spring,” Ringle’s voice is at times reminiscent of another Justin – specifically Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Ringle isn’t afraid to leave plenty of space in the music, and time for contemplation. In short, it’s beautiful, thoughtful music.
But the live show, Ringle said, is more “dynamic.” That’s likely at least in part due to the fact the band’s former multi-instrumentalist has been switched out for a drummer.
“It added a lot more tooth to the live show,” Ringle said. “There’s a lot more pull than what you hear on the record. The show is quite a bit more direct, and more upbeat than the records might be, which I feel are more hushed in a lot of ways.”
The band has three albums out to date, and Sunday’s show at the Vilar will include songs from each of them, though Ringle said the majority will likely come from “Thistled Spring,” an album that had a spring theme “right out of the gate,” Ringle said.
“It was kind of subconscious at first. I had written most of the material in the spring,” he said. “But then I found there was this mood … I kind of ran with that. It’s an interesting thing to explore.”
“Lyrically Ringle continues to explore broken relationships, longing, and pain, but this album has an undercurrent of heat that translates to a thawing of frozen hearts, and music which rushes like spring torrents, all of which points to a resurgence of life after a hard winter,” according to the press release for the album.
The band will also play a new song from an upcoming album set to drop in the spring.
“There’s a smattering of everything,” said Ringle, who is currently in the middle of writing the new album.
Along with writing all the song lyrics, Ringle has gotten more involved with arranging the music as well, he said.
“I’ve always been very weary of just being a dude with a guitar. There’s already plenty of people who have done that historically and currently and who do it way better than me. I’m not interested in that facet. It’s the combination of songwriting with other the things that makes the music what it is.”
Ringle didn’t want to talk about possible themes for this upcoming record just yet.
“I’m hesitant to say what it is until I’m finished,” he said. “Some of the music has taken new turns. I’m just trying to focus on making music I like. I just try to enjoy the part of it where it still belongs to me, because after that, once it’s thrown to the winds of PR, I don’t know how other people will receive it.”
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.