New Orleans folk-blues and Americana band, Hurray for the Riff Raff, will make their NZ debut at The Great South Pacific Tuning Fork on Friday 21 November.


Hurray for the Riff Raff are one of the most exciting bands on the US Americana scene, with the Americana Association having nominated them as an Emerging Artist of the Year in their 2014 Awards, and their new album Home Town Heroes being named as one of the best albums of 2014 so far by Rolling Stone, Spin and NPR, among others.   


The band are also known for their big ‘queer’ following and GLBT activism, express sat down with the band’s openly Trans fiddler Yosi Perlstein.

When did you first get into fiddle playing?

I started playing fiddle when I was 20 years old. I had played drums throughout high school but was traveling a lot and couldn’t bring drums with me. I had always wanted to play fiddle and finally realized that I could just get one and learn.

When did you first meet your band mates and form Hurray for the Riff Raff?

I met Alynda about 10 years ago through a mutual friend. She started Hurray for the Riff Raff not long after and I joined the band a couple years later when I moved to New Orleans.

What can we expect from your gig at Auckland’s Tuning Fork?

None of us have been to New Zealand before so we will be very excited to be there. Our music is informed by a wide range of styles, so you will hear that throughout our set.

What musicians have most influenced you?

I’ve been inspired a lot by Itzak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma and Dolly Parton. They are all masters at what they do and they all share an ability to put pure joy into their music and performance. I aspire to be able to play and perform like them. I also love all the second line bands in New Orleans. They really know how to play with good feeling. My eyes would always be glued to the drummers.

When did you come out as Trans?

I came out as trans to myself when I was around 17. At that point i only told my queer friends about it. Then I came out to my parents in my early 20’s. Somewhere in between there I told my brothers. Now everyone knows.

How do you think that has affected you/the band as a musician/musicians?

The music world tends to be very straight. That means sometimes its uncomfortable for me to be in. But then again most of the world is like that. I just have to push harder sometimes.

Do the feel the music industry has been supportive and welcoming of you?

I feel accepted by all the people we work with. I personally am not very involved on the industry side of things.

As trans people are becoming more recognisable in the media – do you believe people are becoming more tolerant/understanding?yosi-perlstein-hollywood-journal

I think there has been a lot of growth in the last few years. More people then ever are learning the word transgender and what it means. That alone is a big step. I think there is more tolerance than there used to be. But there can be a big gap between tolerance and understanding. I think we are moving in the right direction but our mainstream culture still doesn’t allow for breaking down the barriers and boxes it created for us. I think we have to be willing to do that on our own to be able to actually understand and accept people who’s lives are different from ours.

How would you describe your sound?

I think our sound is pretty unique. The band is influenced by a lot of different styles. You can hear influences from Appalachian old time, old R&B and gospel to 60’s rock and roll with some New Orleans and Cajun sounds. Sometimes its really obvious and sometimes its just in what the keys are doing or just the bass line. You just have to listen to it for it to make sense.

For anyone who wants to get to know your band what are the three most important songs they should hear?

The Body Electric, ST Roch Blues, and I Know Its wrong are three good ones off our latest album.

What is your most favourite song and album of all time?

I’m not good at having favorites, but I always need Otis Redding near by.


Hurray For The Riff Raff play the Vector Arena’s intimate venue The Great South Pacific Tuning Fork on Friday 21 November. Tickets $45 from Ticketmaster.

Article | Oliver Hall.