A family of second-generation Ukrainian immigrants playing Irish music; a band from DC whose members have worked hard for a decade to get where they are today; and a rocking group of musicians that will have you up and dancing for their whole show. All of these things define Scythian.
Scythian celebrated 10 years as a band last year, a decade that has seen them rise from playing the streets of Old Town Alexandria for gas money, to playing for the president and the pope. Along the way, they’ve released both live and studio albums, including their most recent, “Old Tin Can.”
They refer to their sound as “immigrant rock,” a term that reflects their family history as well as the style of music they now call their own.
“My parents emigrated from Ukraine during the Second World War,” says Dan Fedoryka, one of Scythian’s founding members and rhythm guitarist, accordionist and vocalist.
“Joe Crosby’s (the band’s other founding member, fiddle and bass player, and vocalist) mother emigrated from Austria, so we all grew up with an Old World sensibility and were exposed to ethnic music our whole lives. We have tried to stay true to our roots while becoming headliners on the Irish circuit. So you might see us play a song in Ukrainian at an Irish festival. At first, people didn’t know how to take it, but now people have come to expect it and want us to keep throwing them curveballs. We’re proud to keep our heritage alive in this way and happy that people seem to dig it.”
In addition to Fedoryka and Crosby, the band features Tim Hepburn on drums; Fedoryka’s brother, Alex, on fiddle, mandolin and bass; and their sister, Larissa, on cello. Dan Fedoryka says that playing together as a family is “one of the best things ever.”
“We’re able to anticipate each other musically,” he says, “in ways that kind of freak us out. It’s really magic. We grew up playing together as a family band, so all those years of practicing alone in our bedrooms are paying off on the big stage, which is pretty gratifying.”
Fedoryka credits the band’s three-year gig as the house band at Fado Irish Pub with making them into the live act they are today. The Fado gig led to shows at the 9:30 Club, and that got them noticed by the organizers of ShamrockFest. This year, the band returns to the festival that gave them a boost of confidence in the early days, and kept them reaching for bigger and better things.
“Scythian and ShamrockFest started the same year,” Fedoryka says, “and we played the first one when it was still in Clarendon. It’s been fun to grow with this festival, and we can say ShamrockFest gave the local boys a chance to cut their teeth by sharing the stage with bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. This let us know that we could hang in the majors and really inspired us to keep pushing.”
Last year, as part of celebrating a decade as a band, Scythian introduced two new traditions. First, they started their own roots music camping festival called Appaloosa, which takes place in Front Royal, Va. during Labor Day weekend. This year’s festival will feature 30 bands from the U.S. and Europe, as well as giving the band a chance to meet the next generation of musicians.
“We’ve set up a Heritage Music School,” Fedoryka says, “where kids will get music workshops and the whole weekend will be a giving back to the community and celebrating the good things in life – friends and family. That is really what is inspiring us and the direction we’re heading.”
Secondly, they started fan trips to Ireland. The band travels the country on a bus with fans and explores places that have inspired their music.
“It’s always great to see how our music is received by the Irish locals,” Fedoryka says, “and to have our fans interact with them is really something special. Lots of Guinness, lots of amazing music and sightseeing, and not so much sleep equals Scythian in Ireland.”
Fedoryka and the other members of Scythian had no idea that their music would take them this far, but they appreciate it all.
“We definitely had no clue that this is where we’d end up,” he says, “but we wouldn’t change a thing. We can honestly say that ‘work’ doesn’t feel like work. We feel pretty lucky.”
Scythian will be rocking the “Shamrock Green” stage at ShamrockFest on Saturday, March 12 at 5:30 p.m. Check out
www.scythianmusic.com for more info. For a complete lineup of artists performing at ShamrockFest, visit shamrockfest.com.
SHAMROCKFEST AT RFK STADIUM: 2400 E Capitol St. SE, DC; www.shamrockfest.com