Just a few weeks before their first tour through the Southwest in 2016, St. Cinder realized Betsy, their touring school bus, but more importantly their home, was not going to make it.
“We booked the tour before we even had a way to get there,” says Alex Jones who plays the mandolin. “It was a slow deterioration. We just couldn’t live in it anymore. That’s when Cody [Meyocks] made the video.”
Meyocks, who sings and plays banjo in St. Cinder, created a six-minute video for the band’s Indiegogo campaign which asked for $5,450 which would go toward a new bus and a new home.
“[This bus] is more to us than a bus; it’s our home. Without it most of us wouldn’t have more than a hat to call a roof over our head” says Meyocks in the video. “But after all the love and energy that we’ve put into [Betsy], it looks like she’s going to bus heaven.”
The video shows all the make-shift craftsmanship holding Betsy together. With zip ties holding the power steering pump together, leaking break lines and transmission fluids, tires from the ‘70s, a rope to measure gas due to a broken gas gauge and an engine that started by hot wiring and a little percussive maintenance, the group desperately needed a new home. With only two days left in their Indiegogo campaign and only half of their goal reached, the band was on edge. Morale was low, and living on the front lawn of someone’s house wasn’t helping. That’s when Meyocks broke the news. Someone had donated $2,563 toward their campaign.
“We were literally eating burritos, so I was already happy, when Cody [Meyocks] told us,” said John Ratliff, who had known Linda Ablamsky, the woman who donated more than $2,000 toward their campaign. “She was one of my mom’s old friends, and I haven’t really seen her since I was like five years old. But we didn’t really know her. She just secretly hooked it up. It was insane.”
After a purchasing a new bus, doing some maintenance and new construction on its interior, the band took it on tour and on the road to New Orleans.
Being a touring band living in their bus, the band calls the road their home, but if they had to pinpoint a place of origin, it would have to be Ashland, Ore. Though, none of the members are from Ashland. Some were attending college, some were working, some were hitchhiking and using Ashland as a pit stop. And over the summer of 2014, St. Cinder was formed, inspired by ragtime, folk and blues, with a contemporary vagabond twist on classics.
“This music makes us feel good. There’s an element of realness to it,” says Colton Ort who sings and plays harmonica. “It’s great, real music. And you don’t need robots to play it.”
As well as covering classic blues and folk songs, St. Cinder writes their own material, blending ragtime, jazz and bluegrass.
“We try to not box ourselves in,” says Ort. “If a song is sounding a certain way, we roll with it and try to see what comes out. Just because it’s not this genre or that genre doesn’t mean we can’t play it. It’s fun to see all our styles and genres seep into our sound.”
And being a band on the road, with a bus to call home and little money to their name, is a lifestyle that comes out naturally in their originals.
“Write what you know,” says Ort. “All the songs we write, to some extent, all come out of our heads and our own experiences; that’s just how we live. Some songs are literally talking about that.”
For some, life on the road and playing music in a band and traveling with their young pups is a dream, and for St. Cinder, this much is true. But that lifestyle comes with its caveats. For one, privacy is hard to come by, and often the band is woken up by police. But, despite its hardships, the band wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m just happy that I can choose this lifestyle,” says Ort. “It’s difficult sometimes, but it’s better than everything else. It’s great to do what we love and sustain and get by. To love your work is one of the greatest things you could ask for, and if you can make money doing it, then that’s perfect. I never want my work to be separate from my life.”
“The way we live is the way we make money,” adds Jones. “We have this little family here and been to so many places and have done so many things. I feel like this is worth it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re doing this because we want to and because we love it.”
After their current tour, the band has plans to relocate to Bisbee for the winter where they will write new material and look for a studio to record their fourth album. For now, you can find them on the road, wherever it takes them.
Catch St. Cinder this Saturday, Dec. 9, at Firecreek Coffee Company, with The Canaries and Sean Golightly at 8 p.m. Tickets: $6. Then if you still want more toe-tapping tunes, see a free afternoon performance at Flagstaff Brewing Company, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m. For more information visit, www.stcinder.com/.