A life of music

Published 5:02 am Sunday, August 18, 2013

Shannon Frid-Rubin will return to Austin with the band Cloud Cult when they play with Martin Zellar at this year’s Austin ArtWorks Festival. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Shannon Frid-Rubin will return to Austin with the band Cloud Cult when they play with Martin Zellar at this year’s Austin ArtWorks Festival. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Cloud Cult’s Shannon Frid-Rubin has traveled the U.S. with violin in tow, going from Austin, Minn. to Austin, Texas and to concert venues on either cost.

She’ll take a journey home Aug. 24, as Cloud Cult will co-headline the Austin ArtWorks Festival Concert with Martin Zellar & The Hardways.

Despite traveling the world with the popular Minnesota band, Frid-Rubin hasn’t picked up much of the rock star flare.

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“She’s amazingly talented, but has the rare gift of humility to go along with that,” Minowa said of Frid-Rubin. “She’s just a perfect fit for Cloud Cult.”

And music was a perfect fit for Frid-Rubin.

An early love for music

Frid-Rubin, 35, grew up in northeast Austin near East Side Lake, the daughter of Paul and Janis Frid, who still live in town. Paul is a family counselor in Freeborn County, and Janis retired as a special education teacher at Austin High School.

When Frid-Rubin joined Cloud Cult in 2007, Janis admitted she was a bit leery of her daughter sacrificing steady work at music shops in the Twin Cities to play in a band.

But Janis and Paul have been very supportive of their daughter’s career with Cloud Cult. They traveled to both coasts, Memphis, Colorado and New York multiple times to attend Cloud Cult concerts. In 2008, Janis drove from Austin, Minn., to Austin, Texas, to watch the band at the South By Southwest music festival.

“It seems like they really have their following no matter where they go,” she said.

After all, Janis noted her daughter was always dedicated to music.

“We never had to ask her to practice,” Janis said.

Janis describes Shannon as a thoughtful, expressive and open woman who is not afraid to speak up for something she cares about.

She remembers her daughter as a typical young girl who grew up with a close-knit group of neighbors.

Frid-Rubin admits she didn’t always put a lot of effort into her studies growing up, and she’s quick to say she much preferred English to math and science.

In Austin, Frid-Rubin acted and dabbled in sports, playing tennis and softball.

“I was just awful … I just wasn’t any good at sports,” she said with a laugh.

Music, on the other hand, was a different story, as she was always dedicated to the violin.

As a teen, Frid-Rubin remembers often driving around Austin and talking with her friends, often going to sit at Todd Park after picking up a Big Gulp at Kwik Trip. She even remembers one instance of her car battery dying when she and a friend were talking in a cemetery, and she had to call her dad, Paul, for help, needing to explain they were just talking.

Growing up in Austin, Frid-Rubin played mostly classical music. She started playing around age 10 and took lessons at Ellis Middle School from Sue Radloff, with whom she would continue to take private lessons. She also played in Austin High School’s orchestra with Phil Burkhart, who she said introduced her and the orchestra to composers like Tchaikovsky.

Frid-Rubin also played in a string quartet in high school and performed at weddings and around town. She graduated from Austin High School in 1996 before briefly attending Viterbo University in La Crosse, but she later quit and moved to Twin Cities and started working. She later earned a degree in music management in hopes she would select music for films.

Yet Frid-Rubin yearned to play live music. She saw a Craigslist advertisement for Cloud Cult, which was looking for a violinist. Her induction into the cult didn’t come easy: Though everyone was very kind to her during auditions, she was nervous to audition for the group of strangers.

“I had absolutely no idea at my first practice with Cloud Cult that I’d be capable of developing such meaningful connections and relationships with each member of the band as well as some of the fans who have shared their inspiring stories with us,” she said. “It’s a pretty amazing thing and I’m forever grateful.”

After a few auditions, she officially joined in 2007 and started playing on the tour to support the album, “Meaning of 8.” She first recorded with Cloud Cult on “Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)” in 2008. Frid-Rubin admitted it was intimidating to join the band after other band members had already bonded, but she quickly fit right in.

“They made me feel like family right away,” she said.

Shannon Frid-Rubin in the Coffee House on Main, downtown Austin. Frid-Rubin is a member of the band Cloud Cult which will play at this year's Austin ArtWorks Festival. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Shannon Frid-Rubin in the Coffee House on Main, downtown Austin. Frid-Rubin is a member of the band Cloud Cult which will play at this year’s Austin ArtWorks Festival. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

‘Kind of surreal’

Band leader Minowa started writing music in 1995 and got a band together in the late ‘90s. Since, Cloud Cult has become a bit of a musical chameleon, performing many styles of music.

“It’s kind of all over the place,” Frid-Rubin said. “Craig likes to use the word schizophrenic because it’s very up and down. We have very mellow songs, and then we have very hard, driving electronic songs, so it’s kind of all over the map.”

After joining Cloud Cult, the Austin native found herself performing in the same venues where she’d watched concerts in her youth. In high school, Frid-Rubin remembers seeing the Minnesota Orchestra perform at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. In 2010, she took the stage herself.

“It was just really surreal to be able to play on the stage,” she said. “It was awesome.”

With Cloud Cult, she’s played around the nation, from Basilica Block Party to the Coachella Music Festival in California. Each of those places come with a story, as Frid-Rubin speaks fondly of playing to energetic crowds at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City and other hot venues.

Nothing quite compares to a hometown crowd, however. It’s in Minnesota where Cloud Cult feels at home.

“The First Avenue shows are always just amazing, and the energy is really intense. It makes for a really good show.” Frid-Rubin said.

‘They just keep getting better’

Frid-Rubin is proud of her work with Cloud Cult, as the band’s influence and rhythm increases with every new release.

“When Light Chasers came out in 2010, that was my favorite Cloud Cult album,” she said. “But then ‘Love’ was released and now that’s my favorite album. In my mind, they just keep getting better and better.”

Frid-Rubin speaks positively of the album “Love,” largely because of the recording process. On prior albums, band members would travel to the studio and record separately. But on “Love,” the entire band congregated at the Minowa farm and spent a few nights recording, hiking and spending time together.

“We just got to bond quite a bit,” she said. “We had fires at night and sang around the campfire. It was just really fun.”

Cloud Cult is a more hands-on band than most. Chances are if you’ve ordered a CD or other merchandise from Cloud Cult’s website, it has come from Frid-Rubin. Along with performing, Frid-Rubin also handles all of Cloud Cult’s merchandise and ships merchandise out of her home.

When “Love” was released earlier this year, she shipped more than 1,000 albums.

“That was kind of a task at hand for me and my husband, but it was fun to be able to do, and you really get to know the fans on a personal level being able to do that,” she said.

Family focus

The band work has slowed a bit as the members have married and devoted time to their families. Frid-Rubin married Dave Rubin at the Hormel Historic Home last year, and the two live in Minneapolis where Dave works at law firm Briggs and Morgan.

When she’s not rocking with Cloud Cult, music is still a vital part of Frid-Rubin’s life, as she teaches private violin lessons at the Music Lab in the Twin Cities. Cloud Cult is an influence even there. She even gained one pupil after a fan approached her following a Cloud Cult concert at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

Frid-Rubin also plays violin and backup vocals for two other bands in the Twin Cities.

While some bands tour for up to a year at a time, that will likely never be in Cloud Cult’s future. In the past, the band has toured for about five weeks at a time, but now the group opts to tour for about a week at a time, as the band focuses on family.

Cloud Cult

Cloud Cult

“It’s pretty mellow,” Frid-Rubin said.