The Counterfeit Gypsies
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The Counterfeit Gypsies

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"Leaping High on the Bandwagon of gypsy beat"

Melbourne-based ensemble The Counterfeit Gypsies has built up a reputation for generating mayhem on the dance floor. And members [of the audience] have the scars to prove it.
"We've broken a few legs and ankles along the way," band leader and multi-instrumentalist Brendan Rick says. "We're a sort of uptempo wild dance band. Balkan gypsy, with all the melodies that come with it as well as a heavy rhythm section."
Rick formed The Counterfeit Gypsies in Canberra back in 2001, fusing violins, flute, guitar, double-bass and drumkit with the modes and rhythms from a smorgasbord of old-world cultures and a dollop of influences as diverse as Led Zeppelin and Fiddler on the Roof.
Rick stumbled on the distinctive sound after experimenting with some of the capital's ethnic musicians.
Rick says the band's ability to remain creative and exciting while respecting the traditional tunes and structures has endeared it to a diverse audience, from the Russian, Greek, Macedonian and Ukrainian communities to the Aussie pub and festival-going public.
"We've crossed over not only folk, but played at [Melbourne rock haunt] the Espy with rock bands and filled in at more swankier ends, such as auditoriums as well."
With the bandwagon for gypsy sounds gathering pace across the globe ... Rick is happy to be on board.
"I read an article in Time Magazine a few years ago, comparing this period to the '30s and the birth of jazz. It's a lucky fluke we fell into it as the whole movement began. It's amazing how many bands have popped up since we started."
While having no regrets about shifting south to continue his career in Melbourne ("there are more live music venues in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, than all of Canberra"), Rick always looks forward to returning to the capital and the National Folk Festival. "It's very much a homecoming," he says.
Interview by Matthew Heath for the Canberra Times.
March 2008. - The Canberra Times

"Wonky Donkey – The Counterfeit Gypsies"

When interviewing the Counterfeit Gypsies at one stage, I mischievously quipped that we weren’t able to afford the genuine article.

However this is indeed a very good counterfeit, with the energy and passion of much Rom music coming through in the playing of these young Melbourne musicians.

Drawing on traditional tunes - overwhelmingly instrumentals, but the occasional ensemble vocal number is included - from Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the seven-piece group is also energised by a driving sound more commonly expected from a pub rock group.

(Though their claim of a heavy metal ethos is perhaps stretching it a little far ... thankfully! But I am reminded of the approach of Swedish groups like Hedningarna and Hoven Droven, if that doesn’t digress the musical influences a little far.)

There are freylachs, hangus and haidutchaskas here.

There are also laments and klezmer medleys.
Thanks to the Counterfeit Gypsies, we might know a little more about what each of these are - for they certainly know their stuff.

Percussion is at the centre of the group’s sound, driving along the off-beat rhythms.

It’s hard to go back to 4:4 after such a seductive introduction.

Two fiddles, a guitar, bouzouki and bass, together with flute and whistle round out the line-up.

Thus, for many tracks, there’s a transposition of Balkan brass into their sound and this works surprisingly well.

If this is counterfeit, I’d accept it any day.

The Counterfeit Gypsies have a tight and energetic sound, designed for dancing.

Live they’re a treat; here on their second CD, the fun and the fury can easily turn your lounge room into a dance floor.
- By Roger Holdsworth - Trad & Now Magazine

"The Counterfeit Gypsies - Forging the links"

They say that under the influence of the music of the Counterfeit Gypsies your feet will take you to the dance floor before your brain has even registered that they’re moving. It could well be true; there’s no denying that they unleash a seductive storm of energy with their Macedonian-Gypsy-Balkan-Eastern European music. They wield an unusual (for their style of music) collection of fiddles, flute, upright bass, guitar and drum kit; their early Canberra busking days meant they had to forego the more usual loud brass and reed instruments that would drown the others out.

While the group’s first incarnation was in Canberra, changes in that city’s venue licensing laws meant that the core members of the group had to move and Canberra’s loss became Melbourne’s gain. Counterfeit’s Brendan Rick says the move was a good one, despite some impecunious times, and the current 6-piece group was launched onto the Australian festival scene in 2001. Since then there’s been no stopping them and they’ve developed a musical style that is distinctly their own.

“I was playing with a lot of Hungarian and Greek musicians in Canberra,” says Brendan. “A lot of the musical modes and rhythms were similar and seemed to cross over and blend into each other so I thought; why can’t we have a bit of fun mixing them up? To tell you the truth, when we started I was just going by tunes, I had no idea what ethnic community which song came from; it was only later on that we actively did research and sought out the origin of the old tunes that we played.”

Brendan points out that the band’s eclectic approach to music requires the same respect for the tunes but removes some of the disciplines that a more purist approach might demand.

“Because we’re not taking the traditional slant on things we can get a lot more creative and we actually approach some of the tunes like Irish musicians do, linking up a whole lot of tunes into sets. So instead of linking tunes from Cork and Derry we link tunes from Romania and the Ukraine and Macedonia,” he says. “The tunes are very much related; historically the Gypsies and Jewish musicians traveled through all those regions, and to earn money as a musician you have to play the music of the region so there are a lot of musical links.”

The musical energy storm doesn’t only involve the audience; like all good shows there’s a constant feedback created that can have the musicians playing until they nearly drop.

“To play a big show you might need three sets of material and in the end you have so many great songs that you all want to play…a set’s only forty-five minutes, so we if put all our big, fast, exciting tunes in together and the audience starts dancing from the word ‘go’ we’re wrecked, because then we have to stay up and fast – it’s like a workout!- and if the audience gets excited we get excited and we lean more towards the excitement than to musical precision and cleanliness and then… it’s just a big party!”
(From an Interview recorded with Jan Nary at Woodford Folk Festival, Queensland Australia, January 2008) - The National Folk Festival, Australia


Appropriate Footwear - 2008
Wonky Donkey - 2004
Music to Vacuum to - 2001



The Counterfeit Gypsies, Melbourne's premier gypsy dance band, have forged a reputation as one of the country's most talented and exciting live acts. The sound is a wicked brew of hard-swinging grooves, ankle-breaking tempos, old-world melodies and extreme virtuosity.

A favourite on the Australian Festival circuit, highlight performances have included:

Woodford Folk Festival 2002/03, 2003/2004, 2007-8,
Port Fairy Folk Festival Fringe 2007
National Folk Festival 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008,
Illawarra Folk Festival 2003, 2007, 2008
Festival of Folk, Rhythm and Life 2003, 2006,
Yackandandah Folk Festival 2005, 2007
Brunswick Music Festival 2007, 2008.

In seven years of performance, this hard-working, independent band has headlined events in many of Melbourne's finest live music venues including Melbourne's Spanish Club, East Brunswick Club, the Evelyn, the Esplanade Hotel, Revolver, the Northcote Social Club and a host of others. In 2006 and 2007 The Counterfeit Gypsies were invited to perform for Greenpeace's ‘Walk against Global Warming' to audiences of over 40,000 people. The band also performed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the National Gallery of Victoria and BMW Edge series at Federation Square, Melbourne.

Alongside a busy touring schedule and performances on radio and television, The Counterfeit Gypsies have also been involved in soundtracks for film, documentaries and have even been featured in an international award-winning short animation.