Temporary Limbs Roaming Free In a Wonderful World

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 701   By: Robert 'Bo' White

25th March, 2010     0

Ruthy Kwiatkowski and Rachel Stecker are the core members of an ever-shifting ensemble of musicians that call themselves Temporary Limbs. When I first encountered them I was immediately impressed about their distinctive approach to popular music and blown away by the interplay between the piano, saxophone and cello, which are the key components of their sound.

The Limbs create a complex yet accessible musical landscape that speaks to real human experiences, from core wounds and frailties to passion and higher love. It seems refreshing for a band - a twosome no less - to make music that is almost indefinable. It isn’t quite Baroque or Classical and it isn’t quite Folk or Rock but it’s certainly irreverent and quirky and filled with obscure references, sepia tones, and everyday people. The music is so good it could fit quite nicely in a Broadway soundtrack. And while their songs breathe peace and love; at the same time they do not avoid the darker edges of life.

Ruthy sings out loud and clear with the unrestrained voice of the ‘people’ and just a touch of Alanis. She calls it metaphorical madness.

I call it rare, precious and beautiful.


Review: How is it that you chose music as a calling?


Ruthy: It may sound cheesy, but music really chose me.  It kind of took over my life little by little.  Even when I would be fed up and found myself working as a receptionist, hostess, salesperson, I found myself subconsciously fighting to get back to the core of who I was.  Being a musician isn't just a career, it is who I am.  It defines all other areas of my life.


Review: What are your feelings about today's music, the music scene in mid-Michigan?


Ruthy: Like most musicians, I am very particular and picky about the tunes I listen to.  However, despite this tendency, I have been blown away by the talents of musicians such as Andy Reed and Chris Tanner of Vince Dynamic.  They write originally styled music and are entertaining to listen to, not just because of their stage presence, but also because of the talent on display.  

While I have never seen them live, I am absolutely impressed with Cornpone.  Everything I see by them online is fantastic, and I am dying to catch a set, and soon!  Their music is fun and brings a fresh breath of fresh air to the stage.  I believe that there are many talented musicians who don't take the time to hone in on that and DO something with it.  It's hard.  It takes time, effort, and focus...when you're working all the time, taking care of your family, or just trying to stay on top of things, sometimes, a band can be overwhelming.  This is why I intensely appreciate talented musicians who stay the course and bring their heart and soul to the stage like an Andy Reed or bands such as Vince Dynamic and Cornpone.


Review: Are you recording - do you have a CD? 


Ruthy: We started recording our CD at Reed Recording Studios with the infamous engineer/producer Andy Reed in the fall of 2008.  Unfortunately, finances got very tight, life got hectic, and time got away from us, leaving an unfinished product in our hands.  However, a studio session has been scheduled for April 19th, and I plan to actually finish the great work that we started.


Review: How would you describe your music?


Ruthy: Honestly, I have no idea how to describe our music.  It's hard to take an objective view on something that just comes natural. I think the most important thing as a musician is to remember that everything we create came from somewhere - we're all a lot more alike than we care to acknowledge. 

Music I relate best to is sung with passion and raw intensity, like the Swell Season or The Black Keys.  I find that the artists Temporary Limbs are most often compared to have this quality.  If you want to fit us in a genre, we'd probably be a blend of soulful ballads, indie pop, and show tunes.  


Review: What is your personal and band history?  Describe your influences and inspiration.

Who did you study with or who was your musical mentor?


Ruthy: I have always been involved with music in one shape or form since I was young child. After about a year of piano lessons when I was 13, I had it with the piano.  My mom encouraged me to stick with it, despite my resistance, and I found myself spending hours listening to my brother play the piano.  He had a way of jazzing up old honky tonk tunes and always added these sweet moving bass lines.  I found myself really wishing I could play like that.  

One summer, I practiced for 9-12hrs a day to surprise him when he got back from college.  I have remained a self-taught musician every since.

I grew up in church and always heard hymns played in a big and robust manner, sung with strength and power.  I find myself still expressing music in the same way many times. During high school I listened mostly to Broadway musicals.  Les Miserables was my favorite.  The angst and passion in which the artists would sing would move me to tears.


Review: When did you form Temporary Limbs?


Ruthy: Temporary Limbs was formed by accident.  I wrote my first song, Prozac, in December of 2005. A friend of mine, Adam McAlpine, recorded it for me and added a sweet drum and guitar track to my bouncing piano, but I didn't think I'd ever be able to write another song again.  

While he mastered the cd, I took a drive and decided that "The Temporaries" would be a perfect name for our little recorded 'band' effort.  I came back and told him, so he titled the CD on his computer, burned the disk and handed it to me.  I popped it in to my computer to see if the song would play, and Windows Media Player brought the song title up as Prozac, but the band name was "The Limbs".  I was inspired and decided that fate had just played a card and renamed the band to Temporary Limbs.


Review: What was your first gig like?


Ruthy: The very first show I ever played was in the summer of 2006 on Ojibway Island for a Relay For Life event.  Rachel sat up on the big stage with a tom drum that Andy Reed had given to me for Timothy (my son) and beat the drum at the correct time for emphasis while I nervously plunked out tunes on the piano and sang my heart out.  It was quite ridiculous, and the DJ kept saying "groovy" when we got done with each song.  

But, a few people in the crowd actually had tears in their eyes after certain tunes and we got a lot of smiles, stares, and applause.  It struck me that maybe Temporary Limbs had something.  Rachel decided that she wanted to be a part of the band and started to learn the Cello.  After only 6 months of lessons, Rachel played a show with me at The Harvest Coffee House (now called Brewtopia) in Bay City.  We have been together ever since.

The band has gone through many different "temporary" members, but the core has stayed the same, and so has our style.  We are quirky and motivated to remain simple and real.  


Review: How do you find your muse, that sometimes elusive creative spark?


Ruthy: As I write music now, the thing that inspires me the most is my interactions with people.  I enjoy good music just as much as the next person, but I don't strive for a particular style.  I strive to remain true to what is in my heart and on my mind.  After a really great day with a friend, or a horrible betrayal by someone close to your heart, or laughing hilarious at someone's silly joke, I find myself energized and motivated to find a way to express that.

Recently, I asked an 8-year-old piano student of mine to describe what she heard when I played certain tunes on the piano.  For a somber flowing song she said it was mystical, a bouncy energetic song was happy/joyful, a driving fast melody made her want to move, and when I played a tune simple enough for a young child to play, she said it sounded lonely.  

Each of these definitions she gave completely described what I was feeling when I wrote these songs.  I found it interesting that she didn't need to hear my sung melodies with crafty lyrics.  The music itself spoke volumes enough.  


Ultimately, as a musician, I couldn't ask for more.  If an 8 year old can grasp the meaning behind the music we write, I am sure that you can too...


Temporary Limbs will be performing a featured performance segment at the 2010 Review Music Awards Ceremony on Monday April 26th at The Prime Event Center in Bay City.  


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