Dust Bowl Fairies – a mix of klezmer and vaudeville creates a mystical mystery with a queer twist
Dust Bowl Faeries are a Hudson Valley NY collective of odd lovelies who have put together a new EP entitled Carnival Dust.
Now, most folks think of carnivals as being a good time, but there’s an underbelly there – an air of mystery, a hint of something sinister, something peculiar. It’s that duality that attracts us: the show on the surface and the knowledge of something else lurking below it. Maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of the dark side of the carnival if we pay attention. Dust Bowl Faeries manage to musically capture both sides of this coin.
The new EP is a musical mix of old-world European textures. Front gal Ryder Cooley‘s accordion and musical saw help shape a sound that’s rooted in klezmer tradition, that includes blended elements from all the world over and that creates an air of mystical mystery with a queer twist. Dust Bowl Faeries is unlike any other band out there, though they might just appeal to those into the Dresden Dolls and Emilie Autumn.
As the title implies, Carnival Dust is meant to capture the essence of the carnival space after the party is over. Or maybe after it’s abruptly halted, as a pandemic takes hold and forces everybody to shelter indoors. There’s also some satirical political commentary in there when you listen for it.
Ryder elaborates on the concept behind Carnival Dust: “The image is of the empty, abandoned carnival, covered in dust, forgotten, but still alive in peoples’ dreams and memories. It’s partly about the pandemic/post-pandemic fall-out, all of the closed venues, gathering dust, like shut down amusement parks with all of the ghosts and spirits who haunt them, the old cabaret performers, the burlesque shows, the bearded lady, the tattooed man, the carousel… where did they go? Will they come to life again?”
Carnival Dust is a sonic re-creation of an empty cabaret covered in dust, closed and forgotten but still alive in people’s memories,. A fascinating and scintillating fusion of Goth, Rock, Cabaret, Vaudeville, and Folk, the music of Dust Bowl Faeries transcends time and space, whispering ancient secrets through contemporary forms of communication. It’s a concoction that feels rooted in the mystic and the modern at the same time.
Their new single “The Changeling” is a perfect example of this transmutation. Fluidly switching between gospel, Motown-styled R&B and accordion-led propulsive pop, it’s music to be played in midnight forests. As Cooley explains, “You can sneak in at night and still hear the music playing from a player piano or an old crank organ; the accordion, the singing saw… characters come to life one by one, the tattooed man, the bearded lady, some burlesque performers and aerialists, a carousel starts spinning, wooden horses begin to bob up and down on their poles, is it a dream, or is it real?”
The Carnival Dust EP finds the band diving into explorations of goth, rock, cabaret, vaudeville, and folk. Accompanied by her rapturous accordion in the opening track “Cuckoo,” Ryder leads the band in a balladic tale that recalls the gypsy punk of Gogol Bordello and dark carnival roundelays of Emilie Autumn. With the haunting tones of the musical saw and Mikaela Davis‘ harp adding an eerie edge to “The Changeling,” Dust Bowl Faeries adds a propulsive doo-wop sensibility to its infectious chorus. The torchy rustic quality of “Clockwork Romance” channels a blusier tone, courtesy of the whiskey-soaked rasp of Rocket Faerie (a.k.a. Jon B. Woodin).
Starting in 2015 as an all-woman trio, Dust Bowl Faeries is committed to working with as many women-identified musicians and artists as possible, including their collaborative filmmaker Lisa M. Thomas (Thin Edge Films) who documents and adds visual flair to the band’s unique and arresting visuals. Now a multi-gendered band, they have released two EPs (2018’s The Dark Ride Mixes and 2019’s Beloved Monster) and a self-titled debut (produced by music critic Seth Rogovoy and featuring Tommy Stinson of The Replacements and Melora Creager of Rasputina). Their 2020 album The Plague Garden was hailed by WNYC/NPR, Outburn, Instinct, mxdwn, ReGen, Audiofemme, and Philadelphia Gay News, amongst many others.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.