Maverick's Paul Kerr catches up with The Mike And Ruthy Band

Catching up with Mike & Ruthy
Formed in 2013 by Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar (daughter of Grammy-winning composer/fiddler Jay Ungar), The Mike + Ruthy Band received plaudits for their 2015 album BRIGHT AS YOU CAN. They were here in the UK in July for a short tour bookended by appearances at Summertyne and The Cambridge Folk Festival. Maverick caught up with them after their fine show in Glasgow for a brief chat.
Hi there. You’re only over here for ten days or so starting with your appearance last weekend at Summertyne in Newcastle. How was that?
Mike: We were just off the plane but it was a really wonderful event. The venue was magnificent, it was nice to be presented in such a regal establishment.
Ruthie:  It was a good crowd and we caught some of the other bands but the most exciting thing was we got to go down in the basement and cut a song to a 78 directly with a lathe. It was a totally unique experience. I’ve listened to those old type of recordings but to hear your own song back immediately. Te instant we were done we dropped the needle and listened to it, complete instant gratification.
Mike: It was the very machine that Alan Lomax used for those old field recordings and it was like, it’s now or never because you can’t just hit “undo” if you don’t get it right so it ups the ante. It a real experience seeing them cut the disc; the shavings, they look like someone’s hair and they brush it off as it revolves, they call that swarf.
Did you get to keep the disc?
Ruth: They’re going to digitise it but they’re also going to send the actual disc to us.
Mike: We played Celtic Connections in January, that was out first show over here but we’ve been to Denmark and Australia.
And this weekend you’re playing at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Are you looking forward to that?
Ruth:  Oh yes. When I posted on Facebook that we were playing there my mom got in touch and told me that I was there as a baby when she and my dad played.  I didn’t know that. I was about two years old and I’ve now heard all these stories about trips here as a baby, I even came to Scotland and apparently I learned to say, “Och aye” while I was there.
Mike: It’s a landmark summer festival and our former band The Mammals were a very hot festival band. But once we downsized to a duo, had our kids and that we were playing small shows, house concerts and the like so it’s taken us a while to get back on to the festival circuit with a bigger band behind us. This is the summer that it’s really starting to happen. Cambridge is one of 15 festivals we’ll be playing this summer.
Is there another album in the pipeline?
Mike: We’re working on one. We have the luxury of recording at home which can be a blessing and a curse because it can stretch out over a long period of time but we want to take our time with it, we’re not under any obligation to rush another record out. Bright As You Can has set a pretty high bar and we want the new one to be just as strong if not stronger.
Ruth:  We’ve probably recorded enough songs to fill an album but we’re still writing and it’s nice to have the chance to play the new songs on the road. On BRIGHT AS YOU CAN some of the songs like Chasing Gold, simple and Sober and Bright As You Can we’d been playing live for about a year and I think that really helps once you eventually get in the studio to record them. There’s a confidence in the songs because you been reaching out to people with them for a while.
Mike: One of the songs we played tonight, When My Story Ends we think is completely done for the record, signed sealed and delivered. We’ll be adding songs to that but in the meantime I’ve got a long collection of protest songs that I think it’s time to unleash on the world so I’m going to leak those out on the web as “Ruthless Mike.” There’s only one up at the moment because I think people only want to hear one protest song at a time.

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