No More Workhorse caught up with Ryley Walker to talk about his new album, life and his love of Zaytoon kebabs!
Hey Ryley, how have you been in the last year?
I’ve been alright, I’ve managed. It’s sad to lose work but that’s a collective feeling. Overall I’m ok. I’m pretty happy to be at home right now. I’m living in acceptance of that. It’s given me time to work on a record and maintain a nice home life so I’m ok personally.
Can we go back to the beginning, how did you get into making music?
I wasn’t raised in a musical family or anything. We had classic rock radio, the Eagles and the Stones. I guess I carved my own path and became a bigger music fan through skateboarding and stuff like that. That got me into Sonic Youth. I wasn’t good at sports or anything, I liked music and movies more than any physical extra-curricular activities. So I ‘found myself’ through movies and in music. Sonic Youth was a big deal to me when I was a kid and still is. Hearing that opened up a whole lot of doors.
As far as making music is concerned, I moved to Chicago when I was 18, I grew up an hour outside. So once I had a firm footing there I met all sorts of cool people who were into weird DIY house shows. To me, a concert growing up was like you pay $50 and go to a football stadium but now you could go see it at somebody’s house, in their dirty basement! I don’t think there’s a lot of basements in Europe and in Ireland? In Midwest America there are tornados, so everyone has a basement. People would have a keg of beer and shitty bands playing. That was a big thing for me, house shows. That eventually led to playing and touring and all of that. The bands I played in never went anywhere, it was just noisy punk.
How do you feel about your early albums now?
They were the best I could do at the time, I don’t think they’re very good. They’re obviously someone trying to figure out their own voice, playing to the influences more than any personal experience built into the music. But it was fun making them, I got to tour a lot, I met a lot of people so I’m grateful for their experience. But I wouldn’t hold them up to a high standard, they’re just somebody in their early 20s who likes psychedelic folk music.
Thank you, that was good. I started putting my own voice in the music and maybe having slightly more depth in the lyrics and music.
Did it take you long to put the new album together?
Not at all. I started writing songs this time a year ago. So from a year ago to now, getting the record out is a pretty short time in terms of indie rock record cycle shit. I wrote the songs and we demoed them last summer with the band and we recorded them last fall in Portland, Oregon. So overall a quick turnaround.
Was it difficult to record with the restrictions?
There were some SNAFUs as regards travel because everybody else in the band is based in Chicago except Ryan (Jewell) the drummer is in Denver, Colorado… and I’m on the east coast. So I drove across the whole country which is insane, it’s a three-day drive straight. It’s like driving to fucking Moscow for you, or something! It’s really really far. And I did it all myself, the rest of the band flew. But that’s what I had to do to make it happen, I had to drive all the gear out there and make sure they felt safe and comfortable. We were all masked up and at a distance, I paid for rapid testing. I have to work, and I think we did it as safely as possible. It worked out.
You had John McEntire (Tortoise/The Sea and Cake/Gastr del Sol) involved?
John lives in Portland, Oregon now. He’s actually from there, he grew up there. But he also lived in Chicago for years and years. And so did I. I met him at some point over the last 10 years. Just friendly in passing, we never went out and got a beer together or brunch. But I reached out to him last year because his recording style’s great, I’m a huge fan. Stereolab and all that, I was raised on that. That clean hi-fi production is what I was after. He was the first one that came to mind so I gave him a ring and he was down to do it.
Continues in Part 2…