PLAYING ATLANTA: Cicada Rhythm Brings It Back Home with “Cecilia”

I’m a nostalgic person. I love anything that reminds me of the classic rock, country, and introspective singer-songwriters, like Joni Mitchell or Simon & Garfunkel, I listened to growing up. Having wiled away many a day to the sound of harmony-laden songs playing through a radio, the overwhelming feeling of delight and pure bliss that washed over me when I heard Athens-Atlanta folk group Cicada Rhythm for the first time took me right back to the slow, late summer days of my childhood.

Melodic and unassuming, Cicada Rhythm has a way of subtly blending the sweet simplicity of ’60s and ’70s folk music with the hustle and bustle of 21st century life between the slide of fingers on acoustic guitar strings, the swell of a standup bass, and crisp harmonic vocals. Founded in the most Americana of manners by bassist Andrea DeMarcus and guitarist Dave Kirslis, Cicada Rhythm has wandered far from its beginnings in the sleepy college town of Athens, GA, sharing the stage with the likes of modern folk heroes The Wood Brothers. But rest assured, the group’s roots run deep.

I got the chance to catch up with Andrea and Dave following the latest installment of their Stuck in My Head cover series, the Simon & Garfunkel classic “Cecilia,” to talk all things touring, musical guilty pleasures, and brand new Cicada Rhythm music.

AF: How did the magic that is Cicada Rhythm get together? Was this the first band for both of you, or were you in bands before?

AD: This was my first band! Dave had played in multiple bands, mostly local acts. We met when Dave hopped off a freight train and called my friend to pick him up. I was in the car! From there, we would casually share songs we had written and eventually decided to play together.

AF: How did you fall in love with music in the first place?

AD: I played piano from an early age and sang in the church choir. At 11, in my elementary school musical program, I chose to play bass in the orchestra. After that, I had many encouraging teachers who helped me pursue classical music as a career. Dave picked up the guitar around age 11-12 because his dad found one on the side of the road. He mostly taught himself to play, and is just generally still fascinated by the instrument. He plays every day and jamming with his friends evolved into playing in bands and booking shows.

AF: You guys tour all the time; how does being on the road affect you as writers? Do you write while you’re touring, or save it for the off-season?

DK: Writing on the road is something that I want to learn how to do. Reading or writing in a vehicle has always made me feel dizzy, but it’s something I’m trying to overcome. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road this year. In the past I’ve mostly written at home, but I’ve learned that has to evolve and I’m excited to change the environment I create in. Andrea is prolific and can write a song in her sleep. I’ve seen her create them at home and on the road!

AD: It’s true, I have written a song in my sleep! But I have to wait until the muse strikes me. Songwriting has never been something I can prescribe myself daily. I can write on the road, if I’m feeling that spark, but mostly I write at home. I feel like my writing has changed a lot since we started performing with more band members and on bigger stages. So much more is possible! But, writing is very emotion-based for me. I think it stems from the necessity of wanting to explore my deepest goings on, my true thoughts.

AF: Cicada Rhythm is based between Athens and Atlanta. What’s it like to be part of the music history of Athens and the booming music scene of Atlanta at the same time?

DK: The music scenes of Atlanta and Athens are vastly different and uniquely special. Surprisingly there is not much of a connection between the two scenes, despite only being 70 miles from each other. 

In Athens, there is Point A to Point B. In Atlanta, there is Point A to Point Z5. Atlanta is so spread out and the music scene is not centralized like in Athens. Athens is a couple square miles packed with studios and venues whereas Atlanta has a massive surface area encompassing many outside cities in its music scene, with artistic spaces scattered among them. We feel lucky to have been deeply connected to both music scenes; they are both so special and filled with talent, and a lot of that talent is under the radar.

AF: If you had to pick one place in Atlanta and one in Athens for a great show, where would it be?

DK: For me, Northside Tavern in Atlanta and Georgia Theatre Rooftop in Athens.

AD: Well, The Earl has a special place in my heart. And in Athens, I would also pick the Georgia Theatre!

AF: Now for the fun question: any musical guilty pleasures?

DK: I love some John Anderson songs. I drive [the band] crazy listening to  “Wild and Blue” or “Seminole Wind.” His voice just does something great for me.

AD: My guilty pleasure is definitely the Dixie Chicks! I know some of those songs by heart!

AF: What’s next for Cicada Rhythm?

AD: Cicada is looking forward to our next recording project! We hope to have it done sometime in 2020, so keep your ears open!

Cicada Rhythm is currently on tour with Kishi Bashi (see dates below). Follow them on Facebook for ongoing updates.

11/1 – Norwalk, CT @ Wall Street Theater
11/2 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
11/3 – Boston, MA @ Royale
11/4 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
11/6 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue
11/7 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom & Tavern
11/8 – Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theatre
11/9 – Charlottesville, VA @ Jefferson Theater