Savannah Stopover 2018 Spotlight: Cicada Rhythm

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Approaching Savannah Stopover Music Festival, I sat down with local Athens, Georgia band, Cicada Rhythm. The couple’s unique sound captures the essence of modern folk music, and they bring a chemistry with them that is evident both on and off stage. I met Andrea DeMarcus and Dave Kirslis at Normaltown Hall in Athens while they were working on an upcoming music video to talk Georgia roots, being in a band with someone you love, and beekeeping. Check out the interview below.

VM: You are both from Georgia, born and raised. How has the South, and Georgia specifically, influenced your sound?

Dave: I really started getting into music when I was living in North Georgia, and at that time it was a lot of traditional music- just banjo picking. And I always found it interesting, but I never was drawn to playing like that. Later I moved to Atlanta and that’s where I really started kind of getting myself into the music scene there. There was an Atlanta blues scene at Northside Tavern and some guys named Nate Nelson, and I guess The Wood Brothers were in Atlanta. Those guys, we would just pretty much try to go see them whenever we could. That’s what got me into music. Then we came to Athens and kind of fell in love with everybody here.

Andrea: And everybody’s a musician here.

Dave: Yeah!

Andrea: It’s great.

Dave: It’s really cool; Athens is, you know. I always say here it’s more of a mission than a competition. Everyone’s just here to help each other out and push each other forward, it’s just – it’s an inspiring place, definitely.

Andrea: I would say I kind of got into music through my dad. He’s a very avid music lover and we listened to The Beatles growing up and stuff. But, we had a great orchestra, the ASO in Atlanta, so when I started playing bass, I started taking [lessons] from the principle bassist in the ASO, and it was a great orchestra and he was great. It’s just a really like, Atlanta has a really strong group of players and it might not be as conducive and connected as Athens is for like smaller groups and more creative, younger people and stuff, but Atlanta does have a lot of great players. And so that’s kind of how I was introduced to the music scene. And then when I moved here…I really realized that music could be anything that you want it to be, and that helped me to write music, and create, and hookup with this guy. So yeah, I think in Georgia, it’s always been full of music. We’re really lucky to be from here, definitely.

VM: So what’s the songwriting process like for y’all? Do you both contribute to the process?

Andrea: Yeah, well we usually start out with an idea and maybe we’ve completed the song…there’s probably been maybe two or three songs that we’ve truly collaborated 50/50, but the rest of them, you know, it’s kind of your thing. And maybe I’ll need help with the chorus, or an outro, or a bridge or something, and he’ll help me with that and vice versa. But, we’re pretty much sole songwriters.

Dave: We help each other finish them sometimes.

VM: So is that kind of the same way y’all decide who’s going to sing which song? 

Andrea: Yeah basically whoever writes whatever song sings it.

Dave: For the most part yeah.

Andrea: I’ve kind of always wanted to write a song for him to sing.

Dave: Likewise!

Andrea: But it hasn’t happened yet so we’ll see. Maybe one of the oldies of your songs I’ll take over that you don’t want to play anymore.

Dave: Sure!

VM: Cicada Rhythm has a very unique sound, kind of a modern take on folk music, and it’s very distinct. Are there any certain artists that have influenced your music directly?

Andrea: Definitely. Like Dave was saying before, The Wood Brothers are a super big influence. I really love the string work in Nickel Creek and The Beatles. String work in rock music is one of my favorite things and obviously I’m a string player so, but to put that on top of the song already, is, I don’t know, I just love that so much…I’d also have to say Gillian Welch, like she’s the ultimate songwriter for me…the way that she makes you feel is how I would want to make somebody feel.

Dave: Yeah you know for me…so much different stuff…so I just try to be a sponge, you know? And just soak it all in. But my dad was really into jazz…my mom was an Irish immigrant- she was really into Johnny Cash and Ray Charles and Willie Nelson so she was kind of giving me a foundation of really American music. But, really everything, but most particularly the people I mentioned are just the local artists in Atlanta.

VM: So how did y’all initially form and come up with the name Cicada Rhythm?

Andrea: Well, I moved to Athens in 2010, and I kind of was trying to get away from music. Dave and I were friends, but he lived in Atlanta at the time and he called me and said, “Why aren’t you in a band? Athens is full of bands; you need to be in a band. You know you can’t just not play music.” And I tried playing in a couple bands and they just did not fit right. And Dave was like, “Well why don’t you just play with me?” So we started learning each other’s songs and we really felt like it was working well, so we booked a show and we weren’t prepared, but they liked it. I guess before the show we were like, crap we need to have a name before the show! So we kept texting each other words or suggestions. It took us about a week to come up with it. I came up with Cicada Village and he was like “Oh I like that! What about Rhythm Wild?” and I was like, oh that’s pretty cool. So we kind of just compromised and mashed them together. We pretty much were on a deadline, but we wanted to pick something that sounded like southern.

VM: So I know when you both met, Andrea you were at Julliard, and Dave, you were hopping trains?

Dave: I was hopping trains for a while. I was really into it. I was reading about the Great Depression and it was my senior year of high school and my friend and I were broke.

Andrea: Wait I thought you were in college?

Dave: Well I started thinking about it in high school, then I graduated and was a poor college student and couldn’t really go anywhere for vacation. So we thought that would be a nice way to check out America. We would ride around the South. A lot of times we would ride down to Athens, coincidentally, and then ride back to Atlanta. And I hopped off one day when I was riding back from Athens to Atlanta, and I called my friend who she was with at the time, and they came and picked us up. And, it wasn’t love at first sight-

Andrea: He was very dirty!

Dave: Yeah, you get extremely dirty in boxcars cause they’re just, you know…but, that’s how we first met! We stayed friends for a long time, and then eventually it became more.

VM: So Andrea, you were at Julliard at the time?

Andrea: When we met, yeah. I think it must have been my junior year, or my sophomore year maybe. I was always calling their house because my boyfriend at the time wouldn’t answer his phone, and Dave would always pick up. Yeah it was a landline, and Dave would pick up, and we would chat. I would always be like “Where’s David?” and he’d be like, “I don’t know, but we can talk!”

Dave: [laughs] Yeah, then I stole her! A couple of years later, but yeah.

VM: Yeah it sounds like you had these motives for awhile?

Dave: I always admired Andrea…

Andrea: I wasn’t his type!

Dave: I didn’t consider it. And then I guess we were both single and playing music together and for a while I was trying to keep it professional.

Andrea: Yeah e wanted to keep it professional.

Dave: Yeah, but that lasted like two weeks. But here we are! We’re getting married in October!

VM: How long have y’all been engaged?

Dave: We got engaged in May.

VM: So how does that work being in a relationship and then also being in a band together? Is it hard to separate the two?

Dave: We actually separate it pretty well. Like, people will email us and expect us to talk to each other about it, but we don’t, and that’s actually sometimes an issue. If people don’t text both of us we won’t even talk about it. Cause we do so much Cicada on the road and behind the scenes here, so when we’re with each other we just try to be with each other. But, it’s been easy. But there have been battles too,

Andrea: Yeah, I mean it’s definitely…at this point it’s easy, it’s like second nature, but there was a time when we were writing songs and we just weren’t in agreement of how the song should go, or if we should play this song, and we’d have fights about ‘I like this song I think it’s good we should play it!’ and ‘I don’t think it’s good we shouldn’t play it!’ And it would hurt our feelings, cause songs are a part of you, you know, like they’re little parts of you, and if somebody you love rejects them, it hurts. But we’ve, I mean we’ve gotten past that now. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we move on.

Dave: Our tastes have kind of molded together in a way, with most things.

Andrea: Yeah.

VM: When you both aren’t playing music, what do you do in your spare time?

Dave: I mean we love nature and we love our dogs. I do a lot of working on the house. We have a little farmhouse just outside of Athens, and I’m always working on it, or trying to improve the yard, things like that.

Andrea: We also try to spend time with our families. We’ve got family in Atlanta, so it makes it easy to go over there.

Dave: I’m hoping to get into beekeeping this year! We’ll see. I’ve got a bunch of beehives…

Andrea: [laughs] He keeps saying that for like three years.
Dave: I know, but each year I get closer and closer!

Andrea: That would be really cool. It would be nice to have the honey! I don’t know about all the bees. Apparently they have facial recognition.

Dave: Yeah, they can recognize your face! I’ve been reading a lot about them and they’re just absolutely incredible.

VM: So, how are y’all gearing up for Savannah Stopover and SXSW? Are y’all getting excited!

Andrea: Yeah!

Dave: We’ve mainly just been working really hard on our two upcoming music videos, so I haven’t really had a chance to think about it. But I am excited cause we really like Savannah Stopover it’s really great.

Andrea: Yeah I love Savannah Stopover- it’s a great town. Everything’s really walkable, the food is really good…they also treat artists very well.

Dave: Austin’s gonna be really awesome too [for SXSW]. We love just going out towards the West- it’s a different world out there. I’m excited for both Savannah Stopover and South by Southwest.

Cicada Rhythm is played Savannah Stopover Friday, March 9th as part of the New West Records 20th Anniversary Showcase. The two have a busy few months ahead of them between touring, shooting music videos, and prepping for the release of their forthcoming album, Everywhere I Go, out April 27 on New West Records.

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