Rozzie & Me: Bird Mancini
The Rozzie & Me blog series is guest-written by RVMS Marketing Committee Volunteer Kelly Ransom. Kelly will be interviewing residents, business-owners, and folks from all walks-of-life who make Roslindale a special place to live and work.
Ruby Bird and Billy Carl Mancini, better known as BIRD MANCINI, Boston’s acclaimed accordion/guitar rock duo/band features eclectic and at times a bit psychedelic rock with lush vocal arrangements, blues-tinged guitar, accordion, harmonica, and a variety of percussion, bells and whistles. If the occasion warrants, the duo also performs as a full band, adding Joel White on bass and Joe Jaworski on drums to the mix. Today we hear from Ruby and Billy about their musical journeys and how the ended up in Roslindale.
Kelly: Where are you from originally and where you live now?
Ruby: I grew up on a farm in Missouri.
Billy: I was born much closer than that. I grew up in New Hampshire, but I moved to Tucson when I was 18 and that is where I met Ruby. That is why she is here now.
K: How did you end up in Roslindale?
B: We ended up in Boston, at that time, Roslindale was a lot different. There was a lot less here. It was almost a little rundown.
R: It had a charm and it was affordable for us. We wanted to buy a house because we needed a place to rehearse and we wanted to build a recording studio. We wanted a house to do all that because you can’t really do it in an apartment.
B: We did do it in an apartment!
R: Right, we did do it in an apartment briefly, but it doesn’t work too well.
K: Do you still live in the same house?
R & B: Yes.
K: And is there a recording studio?
R & B: Yes!
R: We had a rock and roll band and we moved that band all the way to the East Coast to play. We were on the road for four years. We ended up in Boston when that band broke up. We needed to go to Boston because it was somewhere music was alive and well. Boston had a great music scene at that time.
B: And then we ended up here in Rozzie, eventually, and we never left.
K: What was your journey into making music?
B: The Beatles inspired me initially. I saw them, and I thought “Hmm…I want to do that!” I was about 12 years old when I began to play drums, then guitar. I started forming bands. I started writing songs. Why? Because The Beatles wrote songs. I started singing, why? Because The Beatles sang. That was it for me and I’ve been doing it ever since. Music is all in my gut and in my head.
R: I started taking piano lessons as a kid, but it was The Beatles that was an eye and ear opener for me too. Everything I listened to was different after that. I went to college to study music for a while to learn all the mechanics.
K: How many instruments do you play? I’ve seen you play more than keyboard at your shows.
R: I don’t have a count, but I play harmonica, percussion, melodica, accordion, organ, and the piano. I play all the keyboard related stuff I can get my hands on. I took it up because I love when a band can do different things especially when they are a duo.
B: Guitar, bass, and drums is really it for me that I can play and not be embarrassed about. I can’t play the keyboard, but I married a keyboard player.
R: And we are singers too. That is an instrument.
K: Tell me the history of your band, Bird Mancini.
R: Bird Mancini goes all the way back to 2002. We became Bird Mancini when our previous band, The Sky Blues, got sued because another band in New York had the same name. We had the name before they did, but they had a better lawyer. That’s kind of the way things work sometimes. It happened at just the right time for us because we were just starting to get interested in playing our own stuff. Getting the rid of The Sky Blues was probably the best thing for us. We came up with our new band name based on our family names. My name is Bird and his is Mancini.
B: And who is going to steal that name?
R: No one can steal it!
K: Have you guys been touring, or do you mostly stay around Boston?
B: We mostly stay around here but we have traveled. We are cool with traveling. We went to Liverpool for a festival and played at the Cavern Club, or what the Cavern is now, which is where The Beatles started in the 60s. We played a couple of shows in Liverpool and that was pretty cool. We did the whole Beatles tour.
R: That was a big year for us. That same year we went to play in Seattle, Portland, Oregon and we did a whole tour of the West Coast. We also played a couple of gigs in New York City. There used to be much more traveling but it’s hard for our rhythm section. We are all tied down with other jobs.
B: It’s super expensive to take a band on the road. You need to take all of your equipment, stay somewhere, eat, and it adds up.
K: I’ve seen you play some shows in Roslindale. I’ve seen you at the Substation and the Farmer’s Market.
R: That’s about it, really. There aren’t a ton of places to play in Roslindale.
K: Do you wish there were more?
B: I’m not sure about that. I don’t want Roslindale to get out of hand. I’d like to keep it more like a neighborhood and less like the city. I’m not sure I want Roslindale to turn into Cambridge or Somerville.
R: We’ve played at the Farmers Market every year for quite a few years now. Playing at the Trillium pop-up was great. I’d like to play in that space again.
K: What are some of your favorite things to do in Roslindale when you’re not playing music?
B: We love going down to the Farmers Market and seeing Glenn Williams, who is always there, we love hanging out with him. We always see at least five or ten of our friends there. It’s like Mayberry there.
R: I like to shop at the Farmers Market and at the stores. I really like the Roslindale Fish Market and Droubis Bros. I like the Birch Street stores. I think Roslindale is a great place.
K: What is a favorite memory you have in Roslindale?
R: We used to have a backyard party every year at our house. We’d invite all our neighbors and all of our friends, especially all our musician friends. That party got pretty big. It’d go from noon to midnight. It got so big that even the politicians started showing up.
R: We did that party for about 20 years. Those are some really good memories. We had to stop because it just got to be so big and it was too much work.
B: I don’t know how or why the neighbors put up with us. When we moved to Roslindale, we just had the best neighbors. They actually liked the fact that we had this party. Now, there’s Porchfest once a year.
K: What would you like to see in Roslindale in the future?
R: I want to see it stay just as it is!
B: I think the Substation is going to be a great place for Roslindale. I’d love to see more music there. I really don’t want to see anymore development in Roslindale.
R: I understand an influx is good for the small businesses and I want the businesses to thrive, but I don’t want to end up like so many of the other neighborhoods in the city. We’ve got a real neighborhood here and I want it to stay a neighborhood.
Bird Mancini has a new full length CD out called “Dreams and Illusions”
Oct. 6 Gardner Ale House, Gardner, MA (full band)
Nov. 30 Jasper Hill, Millis, MA (full band)
Dec. 8 Emerald Rose, Billerica, MA (duo)