Instrumental duo The Mudlarks released their first EP this weekend. We spoke to member Ryan Kurczak about the project The River Sonder. Read on to find our more about the band and their music.
The duo met after Kurczak responded to a Craigslist listing from a violinist that was looking for a cello player. He too was looking for a cello player and reached out. Instead of either of them finding a cellist they partnered up with their instruments of the Hurdy-gurdy and the Swedish Nyckelharpa. The combined instruments create the music that would be the perfect backdrop for any scene in Lord Of The Rings. The duos love of Irish music was the foundation for what they would go on to create in The Mud Larks. The culmination of which is a 28 minute long track for their EP, The River Sonder.
BB: Where did the idea for The River Sonder come from?
RK: This album is actually a collection of traditional Scottish and Irish tunes. Claire had the idea. She thought it would be really fun to do an entire album of laments, the long mournful songs. We picked five. Most of them are Scottish with one Irish tune. We wanted to find a way to arrange them so that even though they’re five separate tunes, the album itself is actually just one track. So it’s just 28 minutes. You start with the first drone that comes in and carries through the entirety of songs and then we layer in and take stuff away.
BB: Who are some influences on your music and writing style?
RK: From a hurdy gurdy perspective, Andrey Vinogradov, Nigel Eaton and Sergio Gonzalez are probably my greatest influence. However, I have years of playing the music of Led Zeppelin and Rush on guitar, and that often informs how I like to write. The grooves, the riffs, and the timing that you don’t really know is straight is a lot of fun to work out in a tune. I’ve also played Irish music for 2 decades, and I’m sure that adds some color.
BB: How has being from West Virginia influenced your music?
RK: That is very hard to answer. I was introduced to a few Irish musicians (although there aren’t as many in the state as I would like) in my early 20’s and then whole genre really captivated my attention.
BB: What can people expect from your set?
RK: Since we play hurdy gurdy and nyckelharpa, they can expect to be surprised at what these ancient instruments can do. For just two of us, the hurdy gurdy and nyckelharpa can sound like a full Irish session. These instruments have a lot of drones and sympathetic strings, which fill out the sound in really rich way. The hurdy gurdy, after it was a church instrument, was eventually banned by the church, because they believed the hypnotic nature of it was putting spells on people. So they can expect a mild state of hypnosis.
BB: Who are some West Virginia artists you’re listening to?
RK: Tim O’Brien is probably the most well known musician from the state that I’ve found a lot of inspiration from. Also, we’ve always enjoyed listening to The Lords of Lester and The Company Stores. I drive around listening to NPR a lot, so have appreciated when I’ve gotten a chance to listen to Matt Jackfert’s orchestral arrangements (he’s also a member of The Company Stores, as well as an NPR host.)
BB: What else are you listening to currently?
RK: Mainly just a lot of Irish music. There are so many Irish tunes to learn, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole. There’s a band called The Floating Crowbar, I’ve been listening to a lot.
BB: What inspired you or took you down the path of music?
RK: I don’t know if I was ever inspired to do it. I remember listening to records on my “Smurfs” record player as early as I can remember. It was always something in my awareness. I took up guitar because my 9 year old self fell in love with Guns and Roses and Led Zeppelin. I took up hurdy gurdy, because I always wanted to play the violin, and the instrument allowed me to get close to that sound, but also accompany myself with all the drones and other strings.
BB: What is one song you want people to listen to from your catalog if they were to say, “Hey what do you sound like?”
RK: The first (and only track) of the River Sonder (the one coming out Oct. 29th) is pretty definitive of what we like to do in regards to arranging and the purpose of the music. However, we were in a trio a few years back called Autumn Equinox, with a bassist. The first track on that album (Standing Stones) is probably very telling of what we like to do. It includes a really awesome Irish slip jig in 9/8, a waltz in a wierd meter I wrote for my late wife, and then a tune Claire wrote, that starts out with some strange time signature and launches into a soaring tune.
Listen to the EP below and follow them by going to their website The Mud Larks.