As Yet Untitled

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Disheveled - Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers


“When I moved to Seattle from Vegas, I was looking for a band,” says Jorge Harada, guitarist for Ruby Dee and the Snake Handlers. “And I was just going out about and playing with whomever I could. I went to this place called The Little Red Hen where they had an open jam there. You know, country stuff. They had a band and people could sit in. So I went there one Thursday and this....”

“Diminuative,” interjects Ruby Dee with a smile.

“...very lovely young lady was standing up there singing,” continues Harada. “I get up there and play a couple songs myself and then she walks up to me and says, ‘I hear you’re my next guitar player’. And I said, ‘Ok. Let’s see what you got’. And that was pretty much the beginning of that.”

“And the end,” says Ruby Dee.

A 5-piece honky-tonk combo, the Snake Handlers plays country from every county, from Bakersfield to Memphis, Western Swing to the Pacific Northwest’s insistent cow punk, from Southwest Tex-Mex to Northeast rock ‘n’ roll --- mentored as much by The Clash as Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline.

Led by singer/songwriter Ruby Dee, a veteran of various San Fran and LA punk rock bands, and backed by Harada, acoustic guitarist and backup singer Liz Smith, bassist Pete Smith, and drummer Lewis Warren, The Snake Handlers have been shaking Seattle from its heart to its heels for the last three years.

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Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers

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1 Comments:

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Tyson said...

“Jorge, Ruby and I performed together with another drummer,” says Pete. “And then that drummer left and we found Lewis. Liz has been with us almost from the beginning.”

“We came in there somehow, some way or another,” says Liz.

“You and Jorge worked together,” adds Ruby Dee.

“Yeah, there was a bet,” says Liz. “Whoever got a gig first would buy the other person sushi. He still hasn’t paid up.”

“This is all sounding vaguely familiar,” says Harada with a laugh.

Like many of the members of the Snake Handlers, Harada played in a variety of bands before his current gig. After living in LA and Germany, he spent five years in Vegas fronting a 3 piece rockabilly act called Drag Strip 77, before making the smart move to the Northwest.

Ruby Dee spent time and wrote songs in Mexican Death Holiday (eventually opening for Perry Farrells’ Jane’s Addiction); Vortex, with members of the former Dead Boys; Marc Olsen, formerly of the band Sage; in a project called Still; and with Seattle honky-tonk legend Gerald Collier. Now she’s turned her songwriting talents to the Snake Handlers.

“I write the nexus of the songs,” says Ruby Dee. “Usually what I do is I’ll write a song and bring the material to the band, and they rip it up and tear it to pieces and turn it into something else. It’s pretty much how it works. Isn’t that right?”

“Then we sit on it for a year or two, and then it turns into something totally different again and then we like it,” adds Liz, laughing.

“Five for the Road”, their debut 5-song EP CD, sold over 2,000 copies at shows around Seattle. A couple of tunes have even found their way onto the airwaves on KEXP’s Swinging Doors and Shake The Shack, as well as on local Country stations 94.1 KMPS & 96.9 KGY.

Now nearly 18 months old, the EP no longer satisfies the band’s ardent fans. They’ve been clamoring for new music, and Ruby Dee and company are happy to comply. The band spent the last month recording at Egg Studios in Seattle, and they are now nearly ready to release it to the public.

“It’s beautiful, beautiful,” says Ruby Dee, “We’re all done with recording. We’ve got 16 [tracks] that we recorded. Some of them will be for the Japanese release [laughs]. You know we’ve got to hold something back, have something up our sleeves. Now we’ve just got mixing.”

“One day of mixing left,” says Harada. “Tomorrow.”

“After that, we’re going to shop it around a little bit,” says Ruby Dee. “If we can find someone to sign us—like Nonesuch, Bloodshot, Rounder—it might take up to six months to get the ball rolling. The album will be done, and if no one picks it up in the next month or two, then we’ll turn around and put it out ourselves.”

Ruby Dee leans in towards the microphone. “So anybody’s who’s reading this from any of those labels, go ahead and give us a call.”

The album, still untitled, will have 12 tracks and feature pedal steel guitarist Grant Johnson, who sat in the band’s first set during their recent appearance at Connor Byrne in Ballard.

“He’s a man with tremendous chops,” says Harada. “An amazing guitar player.”

“And a really nice guy,” adds Ruby Dee.

Halfway through the second set at Connor Byrne, Ruby Dee announces to the packed crowd that she’s going to take a break and let the band take over for a few. Moving carefully, she strides offstage as guitarist Jorge Harada steps forward and tears out a spiteful riff. The band falls in behind him, and little Ms. Ruby Dee, halfway to the bar, gets swept up in a stranger’s arms for a two-step. Standard practice for a Ruby Dee and the Snake Handlers show. If you’ve got half a groovin’ bone in your body, you won’t be sitting still for long after the band takes the stage. Luckily for you, there’s going to be a few opportunities to do just that in the near future.

“Tour! Tour! Tour! Tour!” says Ruby Dee when asked what’s next for her and the band. But where?

“Europe,” says Liz.

“I was thinking world domination,” adds Harada.

“Mars. We’ll go to Mars,” says Ruby Dee, laughing. “The West coast, and we’re trying to get a European jaunt together and possibly something across parts of Canada.”

“All you readers out there, support live music,” says Harada. “Go to the shows. Come out and see some bands. Whatever kind of bands you want, come out and see ‘em. Keep live music happening.

 

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