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On The Beat with Ryan Watkins

 

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On The Beat with Ryan Watkins

 

"Who's in the band? Three musicians and a drummer." When it comes to Ryan Watkins, that tired, old joke makes no sense. This week we chat with the multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist drummer of Dollar Fox.

The Deli: First off, how has your life changed since Dollar Fox was named The Deli artist of the month?

Ryan Watkins: Hmmm, not sure it has really changed a lot. We were certainly flattered by the honor. 

The Deli: How did a nice guy like you end up mixing with the likes of Dollar Fox?

RW: About 3 years ago, Tommy Donoho asked Justin Penney to play bass with him for a singer-songwriter night. At the time, Justin and I were playing in The 359's, so I was asked to sit in. We had a great time piecing the songs together. Eventually we asked Nick and Ethan, whom Justin and I had played with in the past, to come onboard and it all grew from there.

The Deli: It seems everybody in the band is a multi-instrumentalist. What's that like and what other instruments do you play?

RW: Initially the switching around was just something fun to do during practice, but it soon became clear that all these instruments and layers were a big part of what made the band. Having spent more than a decade behind the kit, it was refreshing to mix it up a little. When we arrange songs, we discuss what we all hear the song needing, then everyone switches instruments until we are happy with the tune. I currently play drums, accordion, Rhodes, ukulele, and saw on various songs. Occasionally, I'll sit in on bass.

The Deli: How did the drums find you?

RW: The drum bug bit me in the 6th grade talent show when a classmate played along with The Surfaris' "Wipeout" on his gloss black Rogers kit. Sitting on the floor of that gymnasium, listening to the enormity of those drums bounce around on the cinder walls was simply amazing. Three days later I enrolled for 7th grade courses and without hesitation checked the blank for Junior High Band: Percussion. My folks bought me a used Pearl Export Series before 8th grade. Six months later, they put stipulations on my playing time because my grades were tanking. After multiple infractions, they realized it was a lost cause and just kind of dropped it. I eventually found a balance between playing time and school. 

The Deli: So, then what?

RW: Throughout high school I played in a three-piece rock band, culminating with the release of a full length CD. In college I played in the university symphonic band, which was miserable, and occasionally with a friend's folk band in Columbia. I eventually wound up getting together with Justin and Nick (of Dollar Fox) to form the punk/indie band His Last Chance. I think I developed the most as a drummer during this period. It was one of the best Kansas City indie bands that no one ever heard. After that, I played in two southern rock, honky-tonk bands, The Bad Ideas and The 359's. They were actually incarnations of the same band at different time periods. And then came Dollar Fox. 

The Deli: I really like watching you play; you seem so calm and centered even during the most energy-filled and demanding songs. How do you approach your playing? 

RW: Thanks. As I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate the "do less" style of playing. I have tried to make a conscious effort to de-clutter my playing, although at times I can't help getting a little crazy on the crash cymbals. Less complication makes calmer playing. Cleaner beats with fewer fills also create a lot of space to let the rhythm section breathe. Much of what you may be referring to also comes from playing with Justin for so long. He is a fantastic bassist and after so many years together we just kind of know each other's patterns, which keeps the whole thing grounded and cohesive. 

 

 

 

The Deli: What do you do when you're not making music?

RW: The main thing that takes up my time is family. I have three awesome daughters and an amazing wife. Beyond that I have way too many hobbies from sculpture to functional pottery. I have a full ceramics studio in my basement. I have been toying with the idea of going back to graduate school in order to teach ceramics at the collegiate level. When I'm not elbow-deep in clay I do my best to maintain my curiosities with leather work, rock climbing, motorcycles, cycling, gardening, photography, fly fishing, hiking...I could keep going on. 

The Deli:

 That's okay, I get it. Just tell us when your next show is and I'll let you get back to your pottery. 

RW: We’re playing as a four piece this Friday, July 13 at O'Malley's in Weston. This will be our last show for a while as Ethan, our banjo/accordion/mandolin/drummer, is recuperating from a recent motorcycle accident.  

Little Mother's Things I Am Keeping is the title of Dollar Fox's upcoming album, to be released by Money Wolf Music on October 19. In the meantime, be sure to check out their debut album, Close to Home 

-Sergio Moreno

Sergio is a drummer drone for The Hillary Watts Riot and a contraption set buffoon with Alacartoona. He wishes he could get paid to practice meditation, do yoga, and drink white tea all day long. But in the meantime he earns his keep making greeting cards in Spanish.

 

 
Ryan Watkins

 

Dollar Fox - Close To Home

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

July artist of the month: Dollar Fox

Congratulations to Dollar Fox for The Deli - Kansas City's artist of the month for July! They won by a landslide!

This 5-piece folk/Americana group plays music with precision, character, and heart. Since forming about 3 years ago, Dollar Fox has found success on Money Wolf Music with a full-length album under its belt and a wide fanbase. Between the 5 of them, the band uses probably 10 or more instruments in a set. That alongside Tommy Donoho's sincere voice and lyrics helps make Dollar Fox stand out, even in an ever-growing base of Kansas City's Americana scene.

Look forward to October 19 when Dollar Fox releases its sophomore effort, Little Mother's Things I am Keeping.

Dollar Fox is:

  • Tommy Donoho
  • Nick Dothage
  • Justin Penney
  • Ethan Taylor
  • Ryan Watkins 

Check out a few tracks from Dollar Fox's 2010 release, Close to Home.

And check out the band's recent performance on FOX 4, playing a track called "Letter" off the new album: