Q&A by Marvin LeeI have to admit I did not like Justin Ringle’s band, Horse Feathers, when I first heard it back in 2007. Horse Feathers reminded me of Iron and Wine, of which I also wasn’t a fan because I liked my music to hit harder. A few years later, I started to mellow slightly and got into acoustic-based music with violins, banjos and harmonies.
I forgot about Horse Feathers until Brad Parsons told me he got a gig playing with Ringle, a Lewiston native who is the band’s lead singer, guitarist and primary songwriter. I had an “Oh, yeah” moment and decided it was time to check in and see where the Portland, Ore.-based band was in its musical journey.
The first track I heard from Horse Feathers’ latest album was “Violently Wild.” The song is amazing and a great opener to the band’s new record, “So It Is With Us.” Ringle was kind enough to lend a few minutes for an interview.
Marvin Lee: At what age did you start getting interested in music and why did you pick guitar as an instrument?
Justin Ringle: It started way back. I was in the school district music program and I actually started on trumpet. I didn’t get into popular music until I was, like 13, I’m guessing. Shortly after that I started playing guitar. I started writing songs at, like 15. At the time, as you know, Seattle was blowing … up with the whole grunge thing, which seemed to be the coolest thing in the universe at that time. I used to play in a band with Brad Parsons and we played Nirvana covers and stuff like that.
ML: Brad Parsons, who played in The Bellboys and was a solo artist as well, is now in Horse Feathers. He wanted to submit a question and he said you would hate it. Well, here it goes: How did you come up with the band name Horse Feathers?
JR: Hmmm … Well, I will give my stock answer here. I didn’t want to go with my name because I didn’t think Justin Ringle had a good ring to it like a lot of other singer-songwriters, and I didn’t want to come out with a fake name, so I went with a band name kind of thing. To me, Horse Feathers had a nonsensical ring to it. I also heard my grandpa say it a few times growing up. It just sounds old and antique. It also has the juxtaposition of two disparaging ideas brought together. Band names are like tattoos: It’s not going anywhere. I can’t change it now. Is it the best name ever? No. Is it the worst band name ever? Not really. It just exists.
ML: I see you and the gang are out on tour in support of “So It Is With Us,” out now on the Kill Rock Stars label. Do you think Horse Feathers will ever come to play in the Lewis-Clark Valley in the future?
JR: What’s funny is we have played in Moscow and Pullman a few times in the past but I don’t think we have ever played in the valley. I think maybe we could play at Hogan’s or something. That could be fun.
ML: Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get into playing and/or writing music?
JR: I think it’s good to work on being an artist more so than being a musician, if that makes any sense. That has served me well and (is) my perspective on it. When it comes to writing songs it’s important to work on having your own voice more so than being the best singer or being the best guitar player or whatever. It’s about expressing yourself and having that be your theme, which will eventually pay off in some way for your own personal reasons. At the end of the day it’s about playing for yourself. There’s my 10 cents.
I had a great time chatting with Justin and, of course, the interview was longer but I had to cut it down to save some space for other things going on in and around the Quad Cities. Check out Horse Feathers’ YouTube channel for their song “Violently Wild.” It’s a great jumping off point to check out Justin’s work.
Lee is a musician and aspiring poet who resides in Lewiston. He can be contacted at email@example.com.