A few months ago, I reviewed a new E.P. release by a local (New Jersey) band, The Cynz. They have that driving, frenetic garage-y sound that reminds me of the earliest punk days in New York and a highly charismatic and entertaining front person in singer Cyndi Dawson. 2014 has been quite a year for The Cynz, in that they released the E.P., Five Mortal Cynz; they have a new “single” release currently available, “Mean Girls”; they’ve been playing all over the New York area and now, on October 16th, they’re slated to be the opening band for the legendary and newly-reformed Blues Magoos (yes, the “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet” Blues Magoos). Quite a moment of distinction for this band, who are currently made up of Cyndi Dawson on vocals, Henry Seiz on guitars, Anne Husick (another alumni from Band Of Susans) and drummer Bob Stockl.
I sat down to talk for a few minutes with the energetic and always-inspired Ms. Dawson; she’s interesting, passionate and down-to-earth and that combination seems to propel her along as the singer of a rock and roll band while keeping grounded when she’s not performing. So with that said, allow me to introduce you to Cyndi Dawson, talking about The Cynz…
This seems to have been the “year of The Cynz”; the last e.p.; an endless itinerary of gigs – and now this upcoming show with The Blues Magoos. That’s quite a feat. How did all this come about?
It ‘appears’ that way, but the truth is that Henry and I started working together on poetry pieces four years ago.
I had been performing as a poet and performance artist for years – going all the way back to my teens, when I worked with the Venezualan Soho artist, Rene i.a.t.b.a., in New York City, whom I met when I was in an all-girl band called “Kamikaze Kitty and the Attack Kats”. We have remained very connected all these years. In fact, he designed the cover of my most recent book of poetry, Outside Girl.
So this sudden “year of The Cynz'” is actually a lifetime of one thing leading to another. With Henry, because we have known each other since I was 15, the songs came relatively very fast and the singing morphed from the spoken word.
What shape do you feel the next Cynz record is taking? Will this next release be a full length album?
No, not as of now. Peppy Castro (of The Blues Magoos) is producing some singles for us. So we are releasing them as we complete them.
Peppy and I met when we did some shows at Sam Ash in New York City for Larry Hartke and Les July. He liked our band and was interested in recording us. He pushed my vocals to places I didn’t even know I was capable of! And he has a great punk/garage sense, so while his production style is more polished, it still rocks and sounds rich but pure.
We weren’t sure what we wanted to do with these tracks, so we decided to simply release them as singles – and have been very lucky to have had airplay with them.
Henry Seiz is a dynamic guitarist, but he also has an ear for sonics. Is he the band’s musical arranger, both on stage and in the studio?
Henry is a terrific talent. Initially, he took on the role of rhythm guitarist, because his timing is flawless and he is known as the “riff master.” Eventually, we just became a four-member band and he took on rhythm and lead.
Sometimes, he would hear my words and ideas and play – until I heard a sound that resonated for my words. Other times, he already had a riff idea and I came up with words in response. We got so in tune with each other’s minds and vibes that eventually, all of that became both of us creating together.
I play no instruments, but he swears I have a musician’s instincts!
Your energy on stage knows no bounds. Nor does your incredible enthusiasm for other bands and your championing of them. What’s your secret?
Thank you! I have always been a type-A with everything I have done – and being on stage is a purge for me; a total release.
Not only did I work in rock clubs, but I ran my own poetry and music series for five years, so I have always believed in creating community. Without more than a bunch of successful bands, there is no scene – and no scene means no venues and no one coming out. It becomes a losing situation.
I try and get out as often as time and life allows but I also rehearse, record and write, so that isn’t always possible.
Let’s go backwards – how did The Cynz come about?
As I mentioned before, Henry and I wanted to collaborate on some spoken word pieces I had in mind. One day he asked me why didn’t I just sing my words and voila! We sat in a pub one afternoon, trying to come up with band names (some of which are too risque to say) and finally decided to combine my name with the last letter of his last name – hence, The Cynz.
What was your musical background before all this?
None specifically. Except I worked in a rock club and performed with musicians for many years. I also was a dancer and was tuned into rhythms. I once took drums in junior high! (laughing)
Tell me more about Cyndi Dawson – you aren’t just the “singer in a rock and roll band”? Who influenced you?
I think of myself as both a “vessel of the Muse” AND a muse. I am both influenced by other artists of all kinds, but I have influenced others – for instance, as Rene’s model, a dance teacher, a series leader and a performer. I liken it to a ceremonial of connected souls.
I’m someone who survived a lot of not great experiences, but have had art as my outlet. I am blessed. I am grateful. I am awed many times by others.
My own musical influences are very much the bands from the late 70’s and early CBGB’s era and into bands like The Stooges, The Distillers, Patti Smith, Suzi Quatro and Genya Raven.
Doing it as much as you do; as often as you do – are there any moments you feel a need to stop and give yourself some time off from performing or promoting or any of it?
No, because when I became a mother, I took twelve years off and tried to be the mother my mother could not be – because of being left to raise three children on a hairdresser’s wage. So when the time came to pick up what I had put on hold, I felt there was no time to waste.
What are the next steps for The Cynz? Any plans to perform beyond the New York/New Jersey area and tour on a larger scale in support of the next record?
We did a short tour in Sweden with our friends The Plastic Pals (Peppy’s son Jesse played drums with us there.)
We absolutely want to do more tours. We get requests to go to Boston, Detroit, Florida, London – but these require money and we are not signed or have backing, which, I admit, we could greatly use. But we are willing!
The Cynz will be opening for The Blues Magoos on Thursday, October 16th at the Bowery Electric in New York City.
Overnight America Podcast: July 30th, 2014 – Rob Ross, Niall Stanage