Cyrus Youngman heals 

click to enlarge Cyrus Youngman on stage - TIM MCLAUGHLIN
  • Cyrus Youngman on stage
  • Tim McLaughlin

Hanging onto the western tree line behind us, dusk throws its remaining shards of light on the stage. There, six members of Cyrus Youngman and the Kingfishers huddle in a crowded pack. In front, they've cleared out a small path, room enough for Youngman himself to work an enthusiastic set of side-shuffles to the sounds of one of the band's originals, "More of Us Than Them."

Below that stage, the remaining smattering of an audience watches while what had been a very successful Roachdale Ribs and Blues Fest slips into its last hour. The rib shack is down to French fries, the beer truck is left with Coors Light and the mostly middle-aged crowd is stuffed, drunk and tired. Any other band, especially one such as the Kingfishers, a folk-rock act staffed with a crew of twenty-somethings looking more suited to a midnight gig at the Hi-Fi, might have opted to go through the motions.

This is not any other band. Youngman cranks up a Stones' cover, "Satisfaction." Deep into the refrain, the band's bullhorn in hand, Youngman leaps off the stage, sprints among the crowd and stops by my face.

"Sat...hiss...fact...tion..." crackles electrically before me, Youngman's eyes casting an amused beam. Damn the beer sloshing inside us, weighing us down. To hell with the chill coming with the night air. Cyrus is rocking, and it's great.

click to enlarge TIM MCLAUGHLIN
  • Tim McLaughlin

Youngman's first serious move toward a musical career happened in 2011 while attending Anderson University.

"At the end of that semester, I left school and said, 'I guess I'm going to be that college dropout who joins a band and moves to the city,'" he says.

For the next several years, Youngman's journey would range from playing drums for one band to working independently (sometimes playing solo, other times throwing in with every musician who would join him) to performing on the streets in Broad Ripple. In an environment where he saw, as Youngman puts it, "rock and roll [was] at its finest, but also its worst," (often losing bandmates to alcoholism and substance abuse), the singer-songwriter discovered the challenges of assembling an act and keeping them together.

Eventually, Youngman happened upon bassist Andrew Roti and drummer Colin Oakley, and the core of what would become the Kingfishers was born. In short order they produced a record, held a release party and saw before them a bright future.

"That album release was a big boost of confidence for everyone. We sold out the show, had an incredible reaction from the audience, had all the merchandise ready: the shirts ... the stickers ... We were thinking, 'Hell, we can do this!'"

click to enlarge TIM MCLAUGHLIN
  • Tim McLaughlin

Then the band's guitarist slipped into a struggle with substance abuse. Following that, both Oakley and Youngman succumbed to tendonitis. Youngman would slide into a dark period he describes as "nine months of pure hell," but healing followed, and the band returned to the stage.

"Where you find us today is in a wonderful place," Youngman says. "If you wound the clock back six or seven months from today, you'd find me wondering if I would ever be able to play the guitar again."

Anchoring that wonderful place is a diversely talented group of musicians mixing traditional rock instrumentation with the likes of backing harmonicas and Justin Renner's mandolin. At a glance, they cast a sort of Yonder Mountain look, but to the ear they certainly feed off of Youngman's Decemberists and Wilco inspirations.

"When people tell me that they're surprised that we sound more like a rock band than a folk band, they're absolutely right," Youngman say. "However, each of our songs were written on an acoustic guitar, and they were written as folk songs. They just kind of evolved into their own animal."

A prolific writer who, as Renner says "can put out 10 or 15 songs in the time it takes me to write one," Youngman claims that his best suit is that of a storyteller.

"I love the concept of taking a very beautiful and simple folk progression and adding some play offs to it, creating a soundscape for the words and ideas and stories to kind of live in," he explains.

click to enlarge TIM MCLAUGHLIN
  • Tim McLaughlin

Youngman and company will have an even greater opportunity to bring those lyrical animals to life after they wrap their late November show, spending much of December at Nashville's Blackbird Studios recording under the tutelage of Mark Rubel. His plan is ambitious: continue his current work of mastering his new batch of music, laying it down as an album which he hopes will stand as "a really good product," securing a booking agent (with Rubel's help) and taking the band around the country. If it all works out, it will put an exclamation point on what has been a long road for the band. Either way, Youngman is happy to be playing and working with a talented, stable group of musicians.

"Life is good," he says.

No argument here.


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