Birds of a feather
Margy Ford has been singing since she was a teenager. Years ago, a musician she respected pulled her aside at a show and asked her why she wasn’t singing lead. She was shocked and flattered. Although people had told her she could be a frontwoman, she was insecure and reluctant. She found it easy to hide in the background and let other personalities and voices shine. That comment stuck with her for years. In 2015, she and a collaborator—keyboard player Jon Cornell—decided to take the leap and start a band that Ford would front. She was nervous.
“I was kind of more like the sidekick one, so for me it was really scary to do this,” Ford said. “But I felt like I had to or I’d regret it forever.”
Cornell and Ford brought on Veronica Klinger, a bass player they respected from her time in the band Octarine. Cornell wanted guitarist Steve Barron after seeing him play with the band Wheatstone Bridge. Drummer Nick Ramirez was a natural fit, as he had once joined forces with Cornell and Ford in the band Candyshoppe.
The band’s name pays tribute to forensic ornithologist—or bird scientist—Roxie Collie Laybourne. Ford admired Laybourne, as she used to want to become an ornithologist herself. The band’s bird skeleton logo, the long-nosed masks its members wear and even a feather pouf Ford dons in her hair all honor their namesake.
At a recent practice, band members adjusted microphones, plugged in a bunch of cords and pedals, and started with a song called “Hard to Port.” It begins off like the background of a video game. The guitars kick in, followed by Ford’s rich voice. With each downbeat of the catchy tune—including the very catchy phrase “confidence, confidence”—the band members swayed intently as they felt the music. Ford belted out the final note of each verse. Roxxy Collie is fine-tuning pieces for an upcoming album, titled Altricial, another reference to the bird world, meaning born helpless and naked, as baby birds are.
“It’s our first album, and we’re still developing and growing,” Ford said.
The band’s sound is hard to describe, and, when pinned down, its members can’t call it a specific genre. They’ve described themselves as a mix of R.E.M., Annie Lennox, They Might Be Giants, Sex Pistols and Bach. The bandmates calls their sound a juxtaposition of creepy and cute, and there’s a dose of darkness in their lyrics.
“I think people just see the bird masks, and they hear the lighthearted sound, and they think we’re just dramatic and a little theatrical,” Ford said. “I don’t think they realize how dark it is.”
The songs are written by Cornell. Roxxy Collie gives him the chance to really flex as a songwriter.
“I’ve been in a number of bands before and only ever recorded one of my songs before this band,” Cornell said. “This is kind of a big deal for me.”
It’s big for the others, too. Klinger credits the band with a lot.
“When I’m having a bad day and I don’t want to do anything, I come to band practice and I want to live again,” she said.
And Barron and Ramirez feel this band is their religion. Ramirez said, “The band is church. I love the band. I believe in the band. The band is love.”