Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds at the Lost Horizon
by Jessica Novak - Wednesday, February 26th, 2014
The two began collecting the pieces of the band, as they moved from their home in the Catskills to New York City

Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds have got a vicious energy built up over years of doing things the old-fashioned way: playing their asses off in tight shows as they deliver an authentic big-band sound that’s so hard to find in modern music. Led by the effervescent Arleigh Kincheloe, aka Sister Sparrow, the eight-piece powerhouse will bring their punchy music to the Lost Horizon, 5863 Thompson Road, on Saturday, March 1, 9 p.m.

Kincheloe is joined in the band by two family members: her brother, harmonica player Jackson Kincheloe, and her cousin, drummer Bram Kincheloe. Also in the filthy flock: guitarist Sasha Brown, bassist Josh Myers, trumpeter Phil Rodriguez, Ryan Snow on trombone, and baritone sax player Brian Graham.

We didn’t really have a band before this,” says Arleigh Kincheloe. “But our parents had bands. That’s how we got interested. I’ve been singing with my parents’ bands since I was 9. That’s how I got started singing in the first place. Jackson took a little longer.

Arleigh Kincheloe always had her heart set on singing, yet it took Jackson longer to discover his instrument of choice. “I forget why he decided to play harmonica, but one day he picked it up and decided he was gonna be really good at it,” she says. “He took lessons and progressed really fast. He worked his tail off to get where he is musically.

The two began collecting the pieces of the band, as they moved from their home in the Catskills to New York City and started pounding the pavement for gigs in 2008. In 2009, they secured a residency at the Rockwood Music Hall every Saturday night that led to their self-titled debut on Modern Vintage Recordings in November 2010. They picked up more steam with festivals like Bonnaroo, Gathering of the Vibes and moe.down. In 2012, they spent two nights opening for Gov’t Mule and released their second album, Pound of Dirt. Since then, they’ve clocked in 150-plus shows annually.

Arleigh calls the band a “well-oiled machine” that can travel and work together effectively enough to make eight people on the road reasonable. “We’ve got it down to a science,” she says, “or maybe not a science, but a plan. At first we thought, ‘How are we going to do this with all these moving parts?’ But now the guitar player is the business guy and he does that side. Someone takes the helm with touring and planning. The bottom line is we have a good team of people working together to make it go smoothly. If we were a bunch of prima donnas, it wouldn’t work in the same way. Honestly, if we had one {prima donna} it would be hard. Everyone’s willing to work hard and work together. That took a while to get. We’ve been figuring it out as we go, but we feel like vets after a few years.

The band works together on songwriting as well, as Arleigh Kincheloe takes the lead and lets the rest of the musicians fill in their respective pieces. “It happens very collectively,” she says, usually in a free jam that morphs the song, proving that a few heads are better than one.

Their Fight EP, released in October 2013, also represents a groundbreaking milestone for the band. The four-song CD was recorded in Los Angeles with Randy Jackson, the well-known bassist, producer and former American Idol judge. “It was really fun,” Arleigh says. “Having a huge name producer in the room was like, well. . .  but he was super-chill and made us feel really at ease. I thought I’d be intimidated, but it was the opposite. We’re still in touch and he’s a friend of the Birds now.

The band recently they brought the classic Led Zeppelin IV album back to life in a re-creation concert at Brooklyn Bowl in New York City. Now they’re ready to hit full stride on a spring tour that will have dates stretching from Manhattan to Louisiana to Nebraska. The leading ladybird looks forward to sharing her vibrancy on stage with her signature struts and smoky vocals.

I think the kind of performer I am now is who I’m meant to be in my true state,” she says. “I was really timid at first. It took a while. The first year, you wouldn’t really recognize me specifically. The band has evolved a lot, too. Doing it so often, you gain confidence and let go of a lot of insecurities. You can’t have any insecurities on stage. It’s more fun for you and the audience if you just let go of everything else and just do it.

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Just the Facts
Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, with opener Strange Reflex
Saturday, March 1, 9 p.m.
Lost Horizon, 5863 Thompson Road
Tickets are $10 to $12; call 446-1934 or visit thelosthorizon.com

Advice from the Artist

“It sounds cliché, but keep going. Don’t get discouraged. If I had stopped when shit was hard, it wouldn’t be where it is now. It’s always going to be difficult. You think you go along and progress and get somewhere, get better, but there’s a whole new set of challenges every step you take. I assumed that at a certain point it would get easy, but that’s not how it is. It’s always more and more difficult, but also more rewarding. Put your head down and work hard and keep going. I sound like an after-school special or something.”

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