Acoustic/electronic/world/folk blend Andy Robinson first earned local notice as a drummer, formerly with local progressive rockers Horsefeathers and L.A. underground groups like Elton Duck and Invisible Zoo. Now, however, he specializes in a different instrument, though he still uses sticks to play it.
“I play the [mountain] dulcimer, sometimes with my fingers, sometimes with a popsicle stick,” says Robinson.
“One of the things that first attracted me to the dulcimer in the late sixties was noter-style playing. At that time, George Harrison of the Beatles was opening up the pop music world to the delicate drones and exotic textures of the Indian sitar. I was, and still am, a Beatles fan, so when a friend introduced me to the mountain dulcimer, I fell in love with it. It wasn’t a sitar, but it was close enough for me! I was a drummer, with no prior experience with melodic instruments, and the simplicity of making up a melody on a couple of closely spaced strings and having instant musical accompaniment in the form of a droning partial chord appealed to me.”
In addition, “I play the kalimba [and] I play mostly acoustic instruments, but I really love synthesizers, with their infinite sound-making potential. I drum, I play harmonica, I loop, I sample, I sing, but I don’t sing actual words very often.”
His debut solo full-length Exotic America, an exercise in electro-acoustic Americana, was released in 2004.
Taking an experimental approach to recording, Robinson says “I like to roam San Diego’s back country with a digital recorder, sampling stuff like a dried branch tapping out patterns on a dirt road, or fence post xylophones, or a broken down piano, or a pile of pots and pans that have been left for dead. You can hear some of these things in [my songs] ‘Cartoon’ and ‘The Golden Feather.’ There is something that appeals to me about doing things the wrong way, like grabbing sounds that aren’t necessarily meant to go together and introducing them to each other.”
Robinson released his mostly instrumental full length Music Bucket at the end of 2011, featuring guest players Mike Keneally, Carlos Olmeda, David Ryan Norgren, Dennis Caplinger, Tripp Sprague, Jamie White, PJ Bovee, Coco Brown, Chuck Elledge, Nicki Elledge, and Doug Robinson.
“Once again, I’ve combined dulcimers, kalimbas, guitars, loops, samples, fiddles, saxes, pots and pans, etc., to create what I believe is a fresh blend of tuneful, upbeat music.”
“Even the cover of the CD has sort of a found object theme. Each letter in the title was taken from separate photographs I took of road signs. Usually, the results of my experimenting surprise me.”
A CD of long-unavailable Elton Duck songs was released in 2012, featuring Robinson with Mike McFadden and Mike Condello. Later that year, he reported “I’m currently working on a mini-suite of music that will be available as a download in August,” says Robinson. “I’m going to be working with a steel drum player and including some new instruments on this little three-movement musical journey, including bass dulcimer and native American flute.”
In early 2013, his track “The Open Door” was nominated Best New Age Song for the 12th Annual Independent Music Awards, with judges including Suzanne Vega, Tom Waits, Jonatha Brooke, Ziggy Marley, Judy Collins, Meshell Ndegeocello, McCoy Tyner, and Weird Al Yankovic.
His song “The Open Door” is featured in a 2013 documentary film about the non-profit organization H2Opendoors, which endeavors to bring fresh drinking water to poor countries around the world.
In early 2017, Robinson promoted the release of his Andyland album with a series of performances at area garage sales. The following year, he became an endorsing artist for a company named Louson Drums, which manufactures a wearable Cajon.
During the pandemic shutdown in summer 2020, Robinson reported "I've released another song from my album-in-process. 'I Thought I Knew America' is about how we seem to be waking up from the American Dream. Tripp Sprague on bass, Chelsey Moore on backing vocals, I play dulcimer and everything else."