#36 Celtic World Beats: An Interview with Coyote Run

Image courtesy of Coyote Run

I first heard Coyote Run while at Wicked Faire, but didn’t have a chance to see their full set until Steampunk World ‘s Fair. My friend Max had practically leaped out of the hallway where we had been talking, exclaiming, “I have to go Coyote Run is playing–!” My friend in question tends to be very enthused about a lot of things, and from what I had gathered from him before his sudden dash was that Coyote Run was one of the best gypsypunk bands he had ever seen and so it was absolutely imperative that I go see them too.  I watched their set and was quite impressed with their crackling energy and great sense of showmanship. And, surprisingly enough, I also found out that they don’t identify themselves as steampunk, or even as gypsypunk, but as a Celtic rock band. That in itself is very interesting, considering the variety of international instruments they play and the range of genres they incorporate into their music.

For some examples of the type of tunes they play, I recommend checking out their YouTube videos Whalesong and But For Blood.

Afterward, I got in touch with Coyote Run’s lead singer David Doersch to talk about their versatile sound.

Welcome to the blog! First, a little backstory for our readers. How did Coyote Run initially get together and how long have you been together?

Coyote Run was founded in 1999. I was working on recording a solo album that was really intended to just be archival, really. I had written a bunch of music and wanted to get it all recorded for my own purposes. However, as we worked together recording, arranging and playing the music, we all found that we really enjoyed the process. We decided to perform out a few times and see how that went. Next thing you know, we’re a touring band and loving it. As our touring schedule increased over the years, we would shed members whose day jobs couldn’t handle that much time away. Finally, we arrived at our current lineup and are very happy with it.

I was surprised to learn that Coyote Run had its roots as a Celtic Folk band. Your band plays a variety of non-Celtic instruments (like the trombone, the didgeridoo, the djembe and the gong) and uses non-Celtic musical styles (such as jazz and rock). The unbeatable energy of your concerts reminds me of gypsyrock bands like Gogol Bordello and all of the menfolk are sporting the kilts (and look pretty fine in them too!). But with all of these multicultural aspects to your music, you primarily identify yourselves as “Celtic Rock”. Why is that?

We are very eclectic in our tastes and influences, but ultimately, Celtic is where we hang our hat. If you say “Celtic Music” to ten different people, you’ll get ten very different impressions of what that music might sound like, or be like in performance. From the foot-stomping, lyrical whimsy of Bill Whelan’s Riverdance, to the pub music you might here in an Irish session, to the skirl of the bagpipes in a traditional pipe and drum ensemble, to the head-banging music of The Pogues or Flogging Molly, there is an almost endless diversity to Celtic music. Within this vast mountain that is Celtic music, there is a vein of gold that threads its way through the heart of virtually every distinct stratum: the Celtic love of myth and story. Coyote Run finds passion there. Drawing on legends, rich poetry, history and compelling tales, we weave it all together with an eclectic, muscular groove, rich with influences of jazz, tribal jam, swing and classic rock. The result, we hope, is a dynamic, accessible style of music that grabs the audience, giving them something that is at once both familiar and yet completely fresh.

In a follow-up to this question, then, do you see Celtic as the sort of musical genre that can stretched to accommodate a variety of different styles?

Celtic music is a vast tent. Check out Michael McGoldrick’s album Aurora, or Shooglenifty’s The Arms Dealer’s Daughter or Rachel Hair’s latest album or Beoga’s The Incident. The music on these albums couldn’t be more different, yet it is all ‘Celtic.’ The word Celtic really speaks to the influences, the aesthetic that drives the music, not necessarily the form or the instruments. Shooglenifty is a string band with banjo as the lead instrument, yet they are one of the biggest Celtic bands in the world.

One of my favorite songs by yours is the “Whalesong”, primarily because to starts with the perspective of an adventuresome whaling crew but ends with the bittersweet last moments of a dying whale. What inspired those perspectives?

When I put together medleys like Whalesong, I try to pick songs that all speak to a similar experience, but from different perspectives. In our Miners’ Medley, we have 3 very different points of view all singing about mining, from the happy, hardworking Appalachian owners of a family mine, to those poor souls in Wales who never see the sun and whose families have no choice but to work in the mines, to the chemical workers who process the ore in vats of poison. All have their story to tell about this part of the human experience. Juxtaposing them creates a dramatic interest for me. In Whalesong, I did the same thing, bringing together the various elements of whaling — which has traditionally been such a huge part of the Scottish life. In doing so, I couldn’t help but include as a poignant counterpoint, including Andy Barnes piece The Last Leviathan. To my mind, it is what gives the song its punch.

Now, I first saw you perform at Jeff Mach’s other big convention event, Wicked Faire. How did you and Jeff cross paths?

Jeff heard of us through our performances at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Festival, I believe. He’s a terrific guy and really knows how to organize conventions/faires.

What did you and your band members think of playing for the Steampunk World’s Fair?

Steampunk was a blast!!! What an enormous success the event was. Hundreds, even thousands of carefully costumed individuals exploring all aspects and spin-offs of this very exciting aesthetic that is steampunk. We had so much fun!

How does your experience playing for steampunks compare to playing for the Celtic circuit? Are we as rambunctious a crowd?

Apples and Oranges, really. The Celtic circuit is wonderful and filled with folks who are very eager to embrace their heritage and explore all the aspects of what that means. They stand when they hear the bagpipes, and they dance and have a great time. Steampunk was filled with folks who are eager to embrace yesterday’s future and have a good time. They are up dancing from the moment we start playing. The Steampunk audience is as much an experience as is the band. I don’t know who was more entertained, us or them. But no question, Steampunk audiences are a fun, fun group!

Do you have any upcoming projects in the works you want to give a shout-out to?

We have just released our latest CD, Ten Years Running: A Retrospective. This is our tenth year of touring and so we decided to celebrate by putting out a retrospective “best of” album. We are also going to be touring Scotland in September — and taking over 70 fans with us. We do these tours every year, alternating among Scotland, Ireland and other Celtic locales. We are still accepting sign-ups for the Scotland trip – folks can go to our website and follow the links to the tour. And if Scotland in 2010 is too soon for folks to budget, they can join us for an amazing, magical tour of Wales and Western England in 2011. This trip will include Stonehenge, Glastonbury Tor, Amesbury, Caernarfon Castle, breweries and more! And Coyote Run will perform while we’re there!


Thanks for your time David! To check out more about Coyote Run, visit their website www.coyoterun.com.



Filed under Interviews