Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with My Yellow Rickshaw

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with My Yellow RickshawMy buddy Russ first introduced me to these guys. He said that he did a lot of work with them, and suggested I check them out. They are a cover band, so I figured they were just like all the other cover bands here in Indy. (Oh yeah, by the way, I LOVE all of the cover bands here in Indy. Each one of them have their own unique style, and they are always guaranteed to bring a full house and get you on your feet. So for the record, I love cover bands.) I looked them up, checked out a few of their songs, and figured it was worth a Saturday night out. So I called up Russ, and made plans to not only see them but to meet with them for this interview. These guys were not only nice, but they are a blast to see live. The best way to describe them… well, there really isn’t a way to describe them. They are a treat, a hoot to see live. I appreciate Russ making the formal introduction, and if you get a chance to see them live, do so. They are great. It is my pleasure to introduce you to My Yellow Rickshaw.

Where did you guys come up with that name?

Well, the two guys who are not here at the moment, they were doing mission work in India. Their best friend drove a yellow rickshaw. He was their taxi driver. The rickshaw was yellow. That’s where the name came from. (Laughs) Apparently in India, the color of the of the rickshaw differentiates a different route. So the yellow route… it was his route.

So then is yellow your favorite color?

(Laughs) No! It’s my wife’s favorite color. For me, yellow is a major chord. It’s a good Cold Play song. It was a name that would stand out and stick in people’s minds. It was pretty easy to get the rights to it. Half the time I just say, “This is Nathan from the Rickshaw.”

You call yourselves folk/pop/rock. How can you be folk and pop at the same time? I can see pop and rock going well together, but not sure I can place folk and pop.

That is a great question. Influences and inspirations. The songs are pop songs, but our instrumentation has a folk sound. We call ourselves “Indy’s #1 pop/rock/bluegrass band”. When it gets down to it, we can tear it up. We can play. We are just making fun of ourselves.

We have a fiddle. We used to be in an Irish band, and that influenced it all. The folk and the bluegrass instruments. We are suckers for pop hooks. Ten years ago, we loved singing Backstreet Boys. A good hook is a good hook. Grew up singing Boyz II Men; the R&B stuff. That phrase is almost a joke as anything else, but we do cover all genres. We are trying to just play the same songs but with a little different instrumentation. You can only hear Bon Jovi so many times. We are able to find a way to make it fresh. We’re not rock stars; we’re fine with that. It’s almost better to be that way. That way you don’t make yourself bigger than you really are.

Not too long ago I saw a poster over at the Chatham Tap for an upcoming show for you guys. Then Russ said something to me about you. How do you guys know Russ Pawlowski?

How do we know Russ? We met him at the Apple store back in 2008. He taught me how to make videos and how to use the software on my machine. That’s where a lot of bromances get started. There or car dealerships. It’s like one of the top five places in the country to meet guys. We just hit it off. We had a lot in common.

Who are some of your biggest influences, both in life and in music?

That’s big. Bach. Classical trained. Stevie Ray Vaughn. And Boyz II Men. The other end of the spectrum, some of the other guys like Dream Theatre, King’s X, Porcupine Tree. We can get really nerdy talking about that. Corey likes classic metal. Well, back in junior high. Rush and King’s X; and R&B, old school R&B and funk. Eric was inspired by Jars of Clay; more acoustic stuff. Guster… love stuff like that. I am more a singer/songwriter guy.

We all love the Beatles.

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

Oh man… Graham Central Station. Metallica was great. Coldplay was pretty good last year. King’s X are great. Honestly, I don’t know. Incubus is up there; the 2003 Mayday concert. David Crowder really impressed as well. He had a robotic drummer.

Do you guys have jobs outside of music?

Yes; I do social work and drug prevention programs with 4th – 8th graders. Corey works for a company that provides band gear for traveling artists, festivals, and conventions. Whoever needs it. Eric’s is weird. He does youth evangelism and music outreach with a nonprofit. They are getting ready to go to Jamaica to work with youths. They bring music to people who aren’t getting it. Steve… it’s a mystery job. He works for Interactive Intelligence. He does everything.

What’s the biggest crowd you have ever played for?

1,500 at a St. Patrick’s festival in downtown Indy. Or the outdoor one at the Canal. The official one would be 1,500.

The smallest?

(Laughs) Actually patrons, I would say two. There were probably two people there, at the Claddagh Irish Pub downtown, around Christmas time. At Peppers there may have been a total of four there. They were probably all staff. It was either four or five… then the night really got going.

Where are you all originally from?

Yes, good question! We all grew up in Portland, Indiana. We have a huge landfill. That’s about it.

You guys are a cover band. Do you ever play any original tunes?

We do our original version of cover songs. Everyone here has done them; Eric does a lot of writing for an outreach mission band. Cory has done a disc or two of his own work… of just bass work. Our big thing was, we will do a Green Day song to bluegrass. We take it the way people expect it and put a twist to it.

Jeremy played in a lot of bands growing up. This band does not have any original material. So… the answer to the questions, no. But we do have experience writing our own stuff. It’s like taking someone else’s product and expanding on it. Who wants to hear Axl Rose sing his song, when you can hear it on fiddle.

How do you decide what songs you want to cover?

We pick the most ridiculous song that people would be repulsed by. And play it. I would say there are three factors. Joy factor. What brings joy. Number two would be the quality of the group. We look for what makes a good group. Three is just over the top cheesy, ridiculous. No one expects four dudes playing Miley Cyrus. At the same time, we don’t want to do anything that is offensive. We choose things that flow together, things that are already there. We want to do strands of music, and keep the night moving. There are stretches where we take a ton of songs and just work them in and out.

I recently sat down with Loo Abby, another Indianapolis based cover band. Do you guys support each other out there (as cover bands)?

We support any bands that are good. The more good bands there are, the positive references people get in the market. That means there are more places for people to play. Like us, for example. If they are doing well, we will be doing well as a result. Corey can speak on this point… he has played in a lot of those bands. As far as good music, yes, I support that. We want people to support us, so if we have a weekend off, we go watch other cover bands. All artists are in this thing together. We are all under the same umbrella. You never know what’s going to happen down the road. It’s one big community.

What’s a typical Friday night look like for you?

Start at 9:30, get done at 12:31. Typical would be arriving at the venue a couple of hours early eat, drink. Hang out. Play. We can start at various times, depending on the contract. After we’re done, we can just hang out and talk to people. The best bands that ones that can entertain and connect on stage… and off stage. When you connect with people, then you can dig into people’s lives and develop personal relationships with them. Get to know whom they are; build a real connection with people. We just want to share that joy, that inspires us, and that hope that we believe in and that we play.

Do you guys ever play outside of Indianapolis?

Yes; if it’s the right gig and the right place. We do a lot of private gigs outside of Indiana. We have had experience in other bands playing around the world. As far as a cover band, it’s not worth it to play out of town. There’s no point in leaving. There is plenty of work locally.

So you guys are all male models huh? Sears?

(Laughs) We make a lot of fun of ourselves. Eric has been told he looks like Brad Pitt. Well, in China. He had highlights back then. Although, I am a great pinky finger model. Hand model. (Laughs)

Your website cracks me up. I see that same image on posters too. Tell me a little bit more about that!

Again, making fun of us. It’s because Star Trek rocks. But none of us are trekkies. Well, Corey is a huge science fiction fan. The reason for the images, because it’s funny, goofy, and gets peoples’ attention. We are boldly going where no cover band goes before. We are waiting for a major lawsuit to boost the business.

You are “boldly going where no man goes before”. Where are you going?

(Laughs) Broad Ripple. A lot of it’s to just do it different. We don’t know because no one has been there before. We don’t know how we are going to get there.

You guys are on Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace. How do you keep all of that stuff straight?

A lot of work. We spend a lot of hours keeping in contact with our fans. We also delegate certain jobs to one another.

You guys play a lot of bars. Do you guys party after you perform?

Yes, we hang out. We are not in the big drinking and getting hammered realm… that’s not our thing. We enjoy relating and connecting in those places. That stems from our faith and what we believe in spiritually. As a band that honors and serves the name of Jesus, we aspire to honor and serve him wherever people are. This is where we are supposed to be, and we have a blast . We stand for and believe in… what we believe. We are not going to judge. We want to be where the people are. That’s what He did. He hung out in a lot of bars.

Do you only play shows on the weekends, or do you get out during the week?

Yeah, there are opportunities for that. Usually it’s more smaller, more stripped down acoustic shows.

Tell me more about Pub Theology.

We are friends with (talking about supporting local bands) we help support Pub Theology. It’s a combo of travelers, based out of east 91st Christian Community Church, but the the young adult pastor, he’s the drummer for the band The Travelers. They are another band that plays here locally. We combine our efforts. We book the artists, promote them, and play with them, when needed. We are trying expand a little bit. Basically, Pub Theology is a church service in a bar. It’s basically faith, hope, love, and beer.

Speaking of drinking, what are you drinking on stage?

Some of us drink Fat Tire. Corey hates beer. He drinks water or tea. Every now and then a long island iced tea.

You guys are affiliated with the Wheeler Mission. Tell me more about that relationship.

We just wanted to do something in the Christmas season to help those who may not have the normal blessings people get. We did a show, took the profits, and did a raffle. We raised funds, have some connections where we got a Peyton Manning signed football. We donated all that back to Wheeler Mission for food and shelter during the holiday season. It was a great night.

We will try to do something like that a few times a year; to remember what it’s all about. We have been blessed, and therefore we want to bless others. No matter what financial situation, you could have all the money in the world, and it could all be taken away. It’s a good reminder to be thankful for what blessings you already have.

Do you pay the same songs every night, or do you switch up the set list from time to time?

Mix it up. Depending on the ground, and what people are moving to, or not moving to. We base it on who’s here playing and what not.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

In this band or in general? I have plenty. I was playing at a place; I leaped on a table, sat on it, while people were sitting there with their drinks. The table broke. All the drinks and food flew in the air, and landed one everyone. It was very slow motion. That’s just the first one that comes to mind!

Where do you see yourselves in five years?

Hopefully hanging out together. Whether there is music or not.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

One of our core values, we want to be remembered for a band that worked for the people. We are here for the people that come out to see us perform. We are not here to build a huge career. We want to pick songs that people want to hear. If we are remembered for anything, I want it to be for that. We just want to love on people with the gifts that God has given us. Whether it’s an earthly joy or a supernatural joy that is beyond this world.

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

I guess I would answer your question with another question. How come Scott Howard is always better at basketball after turning into Teen Wolf? Werewolves don’t even have opposable thumbs.