An Interview with Ryan Zoidis of The Rustic Overtones

The Rustic Overtones take a swing through Upstate NY this weekend with a stop a the Putnam Den with special guest Stone Revival Band on Friday, November 16th at 9pm and the next night at Foodstock V at The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie, NY at 5:30pm. Saxophone player Ryan Zoidis caught up with Pete Mason after this weekend’s Bear Creek Music Festival  and discussed his role in The Rustic Overtones, Lettuce and his affinity for Upstate New York.

Pete Mason: Playing saxophone in Rustic Overtones and Lettuce, how did you get started out with each band?

Ryan Zoidis: I met the Lettuce cats in 1992 at the Berklee College of Music five-week summer program. I met Eric Krasno in an ensemble we were assigned to then met the rest of the guys shortly after. We all wanted to play funk music and that’s exactly what we did. We ended up meeting up after high school when we all went to Berklee and lived in the same dorm. We used to jam till 5am regularly and we started playing parties at different college dorms. Most of us left Berklee after about a year but some stuck around. A few of the guys were in a band called Fat Bag that was a great live hip hop group and they started touring a bit, so that put a damper on Lettuce.

Meanwhile, I left school, moved back to Maine to regroup and find a gig when my good friend Tony Mcnaboe asked if I wanted to play in Rustic. I went to a rehearsal and it went well, although I didn’t love the music initially.

My first show was in Orono, Maine at Geddy’s . The place was jam packed, the crowd was singing the lyrics, Gutter was a star. That’s when I realized I wanted to play music that appealed to the masses, and Rustic was really special. Shortly after I joined we got signed by Clive Davis and the rest is history.

Pete: Bear Creek was a collaboration fest this past weekend. What makes the climate of fests like Bear Creek so conducive to collaboration with other musicians?

Ryan: Our friend Paul Levine started Bear Creek because he wanted to do a funk festival. He booked his favorite bands Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk, The New Mastersounds, etc… We have done some great collaborations that weren’t necessarily planned, they just happened.

Pete: What was your musical highlight of Bear Creek?

Ryan: The Friday night Lettuce set was on fire!

Pete: The Rustic Overtones took a hiatus before reuniting in 2007; how has the balance of being in two acts been a challenge in recent years?

Ryan: Well, I’m doing this for a living. I really need to stay busy to make it work. Lettuce has never been a hard touring band, only 30 shows a year max. Since Rustic got back together we only do 60-70 a year. It’s challenging sometimes schedule wise and it’s tough to have to choose between the two. I also started a reggae band called Royal Hammer with Dave Noyes, Gary and Mike from Rustic. Our first album will be out this winter. We want to get that out on the road too.

Pete: How do you like Upstate New York, having played festivals and venues here for many years?

Ryan: Upstate’s always been really good to Rustic. We had some crushing shows at Revolution Hall, which was our favorite venue. WEQX, a radio station here plays us, so that helps. Putnam Den is awesome and they treat us great; Castaways in Ithaca is cool too. There’s a lot of good spots, kids who like to check out music. Getting stoked for the weekend Upstate!

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