Feature Stories

Primal Improv Music Drives the Duo of They Say the Wind Made Them Crazy

They are like a Texas thunderstorm that slowly builds and releases intense energy.  They Say the Wind Made Them Crazy, the duo of Sarah Ruth Alexander and Gregg Prickett, has a wild sound built on improvisation and theater. You never know what you'll get from TSTWMTC.
Offstage, Alexander radiates the aura of someone that takes things very seriously. But don’t be fooled; she's also loaded with enough self-deprecating humor to have done standup in the legendary Comedy Store in Los Angeles.

“Being a comedy nerd and knowing all of the incredible performers that have been on that stage, I couldn’t resist,” she explains. Asked how it went, she confesses, “If I’d known I was going to do it, I would have had fewer drinks. I told one joke, and it fell pretty flat cause it was a Dune joke — that did have dicks in it — but unless you were are like a Frank Herbert/Dune nerd, it was a little too layered.”

Alexander's musical background is layered, too. Raised on a farm miles outside the high plains town of Childress (the parched and windswept location of the cover art for TSTWMTC's new album, Far From the Silvery Light), her formative years were spent listening to music ranging from Texas swing to gospel to Latin big band. Alexander has a degree in music from UNT, an operatic voice put to good use on this project, and skills on a wide range of instruments.

“Sarah has been on the North Texas improv scene a long time,” Prickett says.  He should know: He's played in too many bands to count,  including the Black Dotz and Dead to a Dying World.  Perhaps the most notable is Unconscious Collective, a metal-jazz trio with Aaron and Stefan Gonzalez. Pickett often dresses up in paleolithic costume during performances. "Well, when you see me in Unconscious Collective, you are seeing the real me,” he says. “The rest of the time is when I’m in costume.”
Alexander frequently collaborates with Unconscious Collective, which led to the formation of TSTWMTC. “Actually, Aaron Gonzales and [Bludded Head's] Nevada Hill were the gateway drug that led me to Gregg,” says Alexander. However, the first opportunity to play as a duo was an impromptu session during a recording session of Prickett for another band. “It was bizarre that Sarah and I just clicked immediately,” says Prickett.

In fact, Prickett is one of the very few local composers that will create musical charts to serve as the structure for performers to work from. “Having a structure or motif to improvise around gives a point of reference that can help with the focus," he says. But for this collaboration, it has not been necessary. “There is some alignment of musical sensibilities, maturity maybe, and just serendipity that just lets us improvise off each other in a way that is totally satisfying for both of us."

Far From the Silvery Light
sees its official release this Saturday at Deep Ellum's The Ochre House theater, a tiny space that should be perfect to lend extra intensity to TSTWMTC's set. “The theater creates a space that removes the social noise that is inevitable in bar venues, and is going to create a focus we will likely never be able to repeat,” says Prickett. 

Ochre House owner Matt Posey — a particularly musical director who composes all the theater's plays, as well their scores — thinks Alexander and Prickett's bond with the theater runs even deeper. “When I have watched them, I see what is essentially an acting exercise where performers face each other and just feed off what each is doing and the energy they are bringing," he says. "It’s pure theater.”

THEY SAY THE WIND MADE THEY CRAZY play Saturday, July 9th at the Ochre House Theater, 825 Exposition, Dallas. Leonard Hayward opens.
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Doug Davis