Cigány Weaver is part of a new wave of gypsy jazz artists invigorating Old Timey music
A gypsy jazz ensemble from Brisbane, Cigány Weaver creates rich, vibrant atmospheres that lean to bohemian, avant-garde styles that wouldn’t be out of place on a cobblestone alley in Europe, or in a sweaty, bustling club from Treme to New Orleans .
Formed by a love for the legendary partnership between Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, the compositions and arrangements of the sextet oscillate between subtle tapping of the feet and exuberant trampling on the dance floor.
Originally slated to perform at last year’s River Folk Festival in the Victoria area (which was forced to cancel due to COVID just as the band arrived in town), Cigány Weaver is expected to return to the valley. de Yarra when the festival returns in October.
For those new to Cigany Weaver, how would you describe the sound / style of the band?
Rory Dollard (guitarist): Imagine fiery gypsy sounds mingled with the spontaneity of jazz and the precision of classical.
Basically we come from a gypsy jazz background and still love to play the classics, but we also compose from a lot of different places.
It’s been two years since the band’s first album; where’s the work at re: the second album?
Rory: We are currently refining our compositions for our second album. There will definitely be a number of new songs in the mix for our sets at River Folk.
Creating new material, songwriting – how does the band operate when it comes to bringing new songs and ideas into the mix?
Rory: We write for the most part collectively as a whole group. Small musical ideas or concepts are brought into the group by different members, and then together we spend time working and developing the ideas – it’s a very democratic process. Each also has their own area of expertise, so different songs will more or less feature each of us.
When it comes to labels of “folk music”, “old music” and “gyspy music”, mainstream music fans often reject genres on the basis of preconceived stereotypes; How would you counter that point of view with Cigany Weaver’s style of music?
Jo Davie (singer): Yeah, that’s super interesting.
Folk music definitely seems to be a bit cataloged, perhaps due to the fact that it’s been around for so long; it can be considered non-current or new, unlike more common genres.
In response, we would just say that there are loads of artists in Australia right now who are working within these labels, but doing totally innovative and exciting things. For us, as we started out as a more traditional ‘gypsy jazz’ band, we started to branch out a lot more and take inspiration from lots of different places including pop, funk and metal.
By expanding the art form and blurring the lines between labels, we hope to help people discover that old-time music can still be extremely exciting and innovative.
Creative influences; who, what inspires the group?
Jo: We each come from a variety of musical backgrounds – some folk, classical, jazz and contemporary styles.
As we mentioned, we were first and foremost very inspired by Django Reinhardt and gypsy jazz, which helped to form the musical basis of the group. But since then we have added to that foundation through influences like Bjork, Radiohead, The Punch Brothers, Rodrigo y Gabriela and many more.
The group has a festival date on the horizon; you will be one of the co-headliners at the River Folk Festival, an event you were scheduled to play last year but was one of the first music events to be canceled when COVID arrived – pumped back into the Yarra Valley?
Jo: Ugh, we’re so relieved to finally have an amazing festival to look forward to!
We are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to travel and share our music again, and more specifically to come back to the River Folk Festival. It had to be canceled within an hour of arriving last year, and it was so sickening to see everything taken apart, just when everyone was supposed to arrive.
We can’t wait to finally see the festival in all its glory and experience the beautiful surroundings of Warburton and the Yarra Valley.
The entire live music industry is suffering greatly; but is it really special to be able to perform in front of a regional audience, like River Folk, who doesn’t have access to the type of events that are common in cities?
Jo: We have always loved any opportunity to play for a regional audience; we have had such positive experiences and the people are always so welcoming and kind.
Before COVID, traveling to areas we hadn’t been to and performing in front of new regional audiences was something we really looked forward to and tried to do as much as we could.
Since live audience and touring life is such an important aspect for most folk and gypsy music artists, the distinct lack of this world due to COVID; How did the band manage to deal with everything that has happened over the past 12-18 months?
Jo: It has certainly been tough for all of us. The barrage of cancellations that we and everyone in the arts have had to face is insane.
And of course, every lockdown has lasting effects, as people are nervous about planning anything on a large scale for the next days, weeks, months (which is understandable). Like you said, performing in front of audiences at festivals was a really big part of what we did as a band, so being without it was really disheartening.
We’ve tried to make the most of all the extra time we’ve had, both solo and collectively, working on different aspects of our music practice – and hopefully once things open up. , we will be better than ever.
Some funny questions: So who is the Sigourney Weaver fan in the band? And what is your favorite movie?
Conor McDonald (guitarist): We are all big fans! I might be on my way to first place. ‘Alien’ is the obvious choice but we love Sigourney no matter where she is
Which fictional character best describes your personality?
Gareth Mewes (violinist): This is probably the most difficult question I have ever thought about! It’s a really long shot, but I would say Zaphod Beeblebrox from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” (1981) TV show.
The last show you watched in a row?
Gareth: ‘The Midnight Gospel’ by Duncan Trussell.
What is the chore that you hate the most?
Gareth: Grant the writing.
Do you have phobias?
Gareth: I’m afraid of people who don’t like animals haha. I don’t understand how anyone could prefer cleanliness or calm to the joys of cuddling with a fluffy thing.
Complete these sentences: Our most embarrassing moment to date has been the weather … Well, we can’t really think of anything to write about here, but if you mean cuddling on a bed and watching “Ghost” with Whoopi Goldberg is embarrassing, that might be an answer. We call it healthy. – Conor
Life on the road can be … Just wonderful! We even played a concert in the snow once, which is huge when you come from Brisbane. Challenges arise of course, but we all support each other which makes tour times comfortable. – Conor
The River Folk Festival takes place October 22-24 at various venues in Warburton (Victoria). Cigany Weaver hosted a show in her hometown in support of Opal Ocean at Black Bear Lodge (Brisbane) on September 19.