CULTURE SHOCK 2021: A Conversation With Russian Cowboy
After recording their set for the 2021 Culture Shock music festival, Russian Cowboy sat down with us and talked about their inspiration for their name and music, what they have been up to in quarantine, and what lies ahead for the group. As we chatted, members of the group pulled out and snacked on different types of cereal, complete with dairy-free milk alternatives, and purple cabbage for bowls.
First thing I want to know, where did you come up with the name ‘Russian Cowboy’?
Luke (singer, lyricist, rhythm guitar): There was a sandwich I really liked! It was the sandwich I ate at Function Brewery. It was like a Reuben type of sandwich, I don’t think they have it anymore!
How long have you guys been performing together?
Roscoe: We’ve been performing together for quite a while, probably about three years I think!
Luke: I mean, we haven’t played a bunch of shows because right when we finally got ready to play live shows, COVID hit. So basically, everything got shut down. We’re hoping to, you know when outdoor shows and stuff opened back up, get out and start playing again.
Speaking of quarantine, did any of you guys pick up any weird hobbies or habits during quarantine?
Luke: I don’t think they developed one really. I’ve probably slept more than I ever have on the weekends, but that’s about it.
Roscoe: Work, hiking, cereal. Usually at the same time!
Alex: I’ve been doing some art stuff but other than that, I guess just relaxing avoiding downtown like the plague because of all the people.
Ryan: Nothing really changed for me. Life in the pandemic is pretty much the same for me, I’m not really a “leave the house” type of person.
I know you guys kind of mentioned that you just started real live performances and then covid shut down everything but, do you guys have any kind of favorite memory from, you know, rehearsing together or performing together?
Ryan: We started off practicing in Luke’s, (points) your parent’s basement, and I think that getting to know each other and the early stuff was cool. It started off as Luke, had like basically a singer, songwriter, solo- project type deal and he reached out to these two guys to turn it into a band and then they were looking for a drummer just through Craigslist. So we all met through the band. I think maybe the best times for me were just getting to know each other in that basement and just, you know, hang out.
What are your hopes for the future?
Luke: I don’t know, Start playing live again I guess. I would say we probably like recording just as much as we like playing live, so that’s lended itself well to our current situation.
Ryan: I will say with the pandemic we’ve written so much music.
Luke: One of the hardest things, probably about playing tonight was just that finding 5 songs. Because as it currently is, if you count stuff that’s like not finished or just partial songs, what would you guys say, right now we have about 50 songs. It’s just been like writing two or three songs a week for the past year and a half.
Roscoe: We have one album recorded and so, we are trying to choose stuff that’s not recorded.
I really like your sound; you have a ton of different instruments and combinations. How did you guys put these together?
Ryan: I had the idea to make a country Western-themed album and I actually wanted to get a lap steel but then Roscoe ended up beating me to it and getting and getting good at it. So every once in a while when Luke’s, you know, coming up with a song he’ll just pull out the lap steel if we don’t have like a clear idea on the electric guitar or if we want a softer thing. We’ve got a lot of stuff with lap steel that hopefully will you know, metastasize into some kind of album.
Alex: I know that, for the most part, it’s been a very curious thing going on because we all kind of have our own certain feel. Like with Roscoe and I, when we were starting out before we met these two guys were doing some kind of psychedelic-ish stuff, or 60s stuff because I grew up with a lot of like Beatles and other stuff. Then when I started playing bass because I was a craft guitarist, I started listening to heavier music and I probably like pick harder than I knew should have, but he’s got like kind of like the 60s vibe with his like guitar playing and then Luke. I know he also likes punk stuff and he’s been around in the other music scene for a while. Ryan’s like a hardcore or at least you know experimental or a bunch of different things. I think the sound is just the way it all blends together and something that’s unique, which I’m really, I’m happy about. I’ve always wanted to be in a band and have something that’s not only like super unique, but I mean something that you know has little bits of elements that you can pick out, you know, and we listen again, and you find you almost rediscover the music, it’s a nice touch.
Is there any other specific groups that you’d say you draw inspiration from?
Ryan: Any material by Parquet Courts is good, and The Velvet Underground.
Roscoe: I like Natural Child. They’re kind of punk but also like a country. They have country tones and some of the stuff we have with like guitar and lap steel.
Luke: I started writing music when I started listening to David Berman really heavily probably three years ago. I remember he had this lyric that said all of his favorite singers couldn’t sing, and I’ve never been a singer. I still can’t really sing, but that kind of inspired me just to try and I’d kind of stopped playing music for maybe five years with a group and I started listening to him and I thought I could try to emulate kind of writing Lyrics that really meant something and Trying to sing along to them as best I could with my very limited both for managing daily.
Russian Cowboy is hoping to perform some outdoor shows this summer, and their self-titled album is out now.
The full interview is available now on YouTube.
Russian Cowboy will be performing at the 2021 Culture Shock Music Festival on Saturday, April 17th at 5 pm EST. Their performance, along with all others for this year’s festival, will be streamed live on the Culture Shock Website. The festival will begin streaming at 1:30 pm EST. WIUX will also be set up in Dunn Meadow from 1 – 6 pm selling shirts, sweatshirts, and other merch.