Washington DC-based folk rock band Scythian loves getting up close and personal with fans. Each year, they take to the roads of Ireland with a huge group of fans, hoping to give their devoted followers a cool experience. They also enjoy themselves, adding another layer of meaning and life experience to their own careers as musicians.
“Our ‘Scythian in Ireland’ trip has become a yearly tradition, and we just returned from our 10th trip,” explained Dan Fedoryka, who plays guitar and accordion with the band. “We chose Ireland to do our fan tours because this is where it all started, with my brother Alex, busking on Grafton Street in Dublin by day and learning fiddle tunes in the pubs by night.”
This time, the event consisted of three tour buses with 135 fans. During the tour, the bandmates traveled with the group and played three shows in Ireland (Cork, Killarney, and Galway).
Fedoryka said the trip has “grown organically over the years.”
“Now we have something called ‘The Whiskey Fairy,’ who leaves a bottle of whiskey at the front of the bus, and we all bust out our 'Scythian in Ireland' shot glasses, make a toast, and sing from our songbooks," Fedoryka said. “The Whiskey Fairy has turned the trip into an impromptu whiskey-tasting trip, and attendees who buy the bottles spare no expense. This creates a lighthearted spirit of generosity, which makes time off the stage almost as much fun as time on the stage.”
Other performers considering a similar tour might want to know that Fedoryka was once unsure about it, but his fear faded quickly.
“We initially didn't know what to expect, riding on the same buses as our fans,” he explained, “but quickly learned how special this trip would be for us. The music business is geared towards fame, creating a divide between artists and fans. In a sense, this idolic divide is good for business. But we found that by traveling on the buses with our fans, this divide disappeared, and we were back to our early days as a pub band…ALL in it TOGETHER!”
Fedoryka suggested that anyone interested in getting a feel for the dynamic should check out the band's YouTube channel, where Scythian has uploaded "daily video diaries which give you a sense of how magical the trip is.
“It is our great joy to see friendships which started over this trip continue back stateside,” he added.
Fans appreciate the unique sound of Scythian music, which needs to be more easily classified and reflects a range of influences.
“Initially, my brother Alex and I started out playing just Irish music,” Fedoryka reminisced. “We were buskers playing for gas money while in school, and as the crowds grew, we started playing some bluegrass since we grew up in the Shenandoah Valley."
They eventually started dabbling in Ukrainian music since their parents had immigrated from Ukraine, and both brothers had learned Ukrainian as their "first language."
"It took a while because it felt vulnerable playing such an eclectic mix,” he confessed, “but we found that since it was an authentic representation of who we were as people, it really resonated with our listeners. We've been tempted for the sake of marketing to narrow things down – since it's genres, not eclectic, which sell – but we decided that it wasn't worth sacrificing representing who we are.” He explained that “because of this, we have so much fun onstage, and that is our hallmark."
The band will be touring less than usual this spring; for now, they'll be focusing instead on writing and recording. There are also "a couple of new babies" expected among band members during February, so it's a good window of opportunity for spending time at home before the busy schedule resumes in March. As headliners on the Irish fest circuit, Fedoryka joked that “March is kind of like a Super Bowl for us.”
Scythian will follow up the St. Patty’s season with an April event they always look forward to.
“We're pumped to be at MERLEFEST, where we'll play the Main Stage the same day as Turnpike Troubadours,” Fedoryka said. "MERLEFEST is always a highlight of our year since we get to be fans as well as performers."
Scythian – who has released a whopping 16 albums to date – is composed of Fedoryka and his brother, Alexander Fedoryka (fiddle, mandolin, bass, vocals); Ethan Dean (electric and upright bass, vocals); and Johnny Rees (drums).
The band offers a deal for new fans; instead of purchasing all 16 albums individually, the entire catalog can be purchased on a USB thumb drive in the shape of a bottle opener.
“The cost is roughly the equivalent of a tank of gas,” Fedoryka said, “so if you buy us a tank of gas to keep us on the road, we’ll give you over $275 worth of music for free.”