Fresh from their first ever NZ gig, Oliver Hall interviews, Hurray for The Riff Raff’s trans fiddler Yosi Perlstien.

Hurray for the Riff Raff are one of the most exciting bands on the US Americana scene, a genre that combines blues roots and country. Their latest album Home Town Heroes has been named one of the best albums of 2014 by Rolling Stone.   

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.

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.

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.

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 twenties. Somewhere in between there I told my brothers. Now everyone knows.

Do you think being trans has affected you as a musician?

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.

As trans people are becoming more recognisable in the media – do you believe people are becoming more tolerant/understanding?

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.

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 It’s Wrong.

Article | Oliver Hall. Photo | Joshua Shoemaker.